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Volume 16, Issue 3: Husbandry


Douglas Wilson

We know that the world was made by our triune God. God said, "Let there be light," and the Word He spoke was with God, and the Word was God. At the same time, the Spirit of this Word hovered over the face of the deep. The Spirit of the Word was also the Spirit of the One who spoke the Word. The Spirit who hovers is the One who interprets the Word spoken.

A superficial approach to Trinitarian thinking simply clusters things into triads. But a Trinitarian approach to living involves much more than simply counting everything by threes. At the center of this is something theologians call perichoresis. This refers to the fact that the Father indwells the Son, and the Son indwells the Father, and They both indwell the Spirit, and the Spirit indwells Them both. Within the uncreated triune God, this perichoresis is ultimate. But when God the Father sent His Son to be born of a woman, perichoretic realities came with Him. And when He made the world, that world reflected what He is like. And this means there is an application of this glorious truth to marriage.
Jesus refers to this perichoresis in His great prayer in John 17, but He does not just refer to the fact that the Father and Son are "in" one another, He also prays that this would also become a reality for all who believed in Him. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me . . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:21, 23).
This means that creatures can reflect (somehow) these ultimate perichoretic realities. Jesus prays that His followers might have Him in them, just as the Father is in Jesus. He wants the disciples to be one with one another in the Father and Son together. So what does this have to do with marriage?
Jesus is praying this way for His wife, His bride. The Father indwells the Son and the Son indwells the Father. The Son prays that His bride would indwell her husband and God together, just as the Son will indwell His bride.
Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). This happens as the Spirit strengthens us in the inner man (v. 16). At the same time, we as believers are in Christ (1:1, 3). A moment's reflection should show us that this is not a question of physics. How can Christ be in us, and how can we be in Christ as the same time? If we are putting one box inside another one, this is not possible. Two boxes cannot simultaneously be inside one another. But the Father can be in the Son, and the Son can be in the Father—perichoretically. By this, we mean there is a mutual indwelling. The Son can be in His bride, the Church, and His bride can be inside Him as well, perichoretically. Again, the meaning of this is mutual indwelling.
This is not something that we are called upon to do. It is not possible to start attending marriage conferences in order to "beef up the ol' perichoresis." These perichoretic realities are a given. If we don't understand them, we do not make them go away—rather, those realities become neglected, distorted, and abused.
When a man and a woman come together in marriage, God makes them one flesh. This includes and depends upon the sexual union, but far more is involved than just this. "And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth" (Mal. 2:15). A man who is thinking about treachery against his wife is contemplating a disruption in his own soul. He is commanded to take heed to his spirit. His wife indwells him, and he indwells his wife. This is why ungodly divorce is a form of suicide.
A man and his wife together are far more than just roommates. They are, together, a new organic unity. And so a man should look at himself and see the fact that she indwells him. He should look at her and see his presence there. We don't do this—God does. This is how He created us to live. Our duty is therefore not to make this so, but to reckon it as so, and to live in terms of it.
How is this to be done? By sinners? The only answer is the grace of God, and as husbands are commanded to look to that grace of God for their strength and help, they are also commanded to do far more than this. We look to the grace of God in the gospel for more than just forgiveness for what we have been. We are to look at the grace of God in the gospel for a picture of what we are becoming, and we are being increasingly conformed to that picture in our marriages.
We see in the gospel how the bride of Christ is in Him, and He is in His bride. They indwell one another. And so what do we do? "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph. 5:28-30).
This is a great mystery—but it is the way God is. It is the way we are to grow up into His image.

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