Some excerpts from David Platt's excellent book Counter Culture:
"This mystery of marriage is profound, and it refers to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:32). The Bible teaches that God created marriage not as an end but as a means to an end. God created the marriage relationship to point to a greater reality. From the moment marriage was instituted, God aimed to give the world an illustration of the Gospel. Just as a photograph represents a person or an event at a particular point in history, marriage was designed by God to reflect a person and an event at the most pivotal point in history. Marriage, according to Ephesians 5, pictures Christ and the church. In the picture of marriage, God intends to portray Christ's love for the church and the church's love for Christ on the canvas of human culture. God designs husbands to be a reflection of Christ's love for the church in the way they relate to their wives. Christ loves, leads, serves, protects, and provides for us, and we gladly submit to him in the context of close relationship with Him. God established marriage at the beginning of creation to be one of the primary means by which he illustrates the Gospel before a watching world. The first sin occurred not as a reaction to a generic temptation but as a response to a gender-specific test. The serpent's design in deceiving the couple in Genesis 3 was a deliberate subversion of God's design in creating the couple. In Genesis 2, before God has even created the woman, God tells the man not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God thus entrusts the man with the responsibility of carrying out the divine command. Yet in Genesis 3, the serpent approaches not the man but the woman. He converses with her while the man does nothing. Instead of taking responsibility for protecting himself and his wife from temptation, the man sits silently by - like a wimp. Then, when God confronts him in his sin, the man has the audacity to blame his wife. You can almost imagine the adversary laughing as he thinks, Now I've created confusion that will forever muddle their marriages - a confusion that will also ruthlessly misrepresent the Gospel. For husbands will waffle back and forth between abdicating their responsibility to love and abusing their authority to lead. Wives, in response, will distrust such love and defy such leadership. In the process they'll completely undercut how Christ's gracious sacrifice on the cross compels glad submission in the church. Headship is NOT an opportunity for us to control our wives; it is a responsibility to die for them. This means, husbands, that you and I don't love our wives based upon what we get from them. That's how the world defines love in marriage. Husbands, love your wives not because of who they are, but because of who Christ is. He loves them deeply, and our responsibility is to reflect his love. We do live to serve them and to see them grow in Christlikeness. We are accountable for loving our wives in such a way that they grow in loveliness. Just as Christ takes responsibility for the spiritual health of His church, we have responsibility for the spiritual health of both our wives and our marriages. The Bible is not saying a wife is not guilty for sin in her own life. Yet the Bible is saying a husband is responsible for the spiritual care of his wife. When she struggles with sin, or when they struggle in marriage, he is ultimately responsible. For this reason, God calls a man to "nourish" and "cherish" his wife, "just as Christ does the church" (Ephesians 5:29). The language of Scripture here is evocative. A husband is to treasure, encourage, build up, and comfort his wife. He is to take the initiative in tending to his wife, not waiting for her to approach him and say, "There are some problems in our marriage that we need to talk about," but going to her and saying, "How can I love you and lead our marriage better?" Husbands, realize what is at stake here: you and I are representing Christ to a watching world in the way we love our wives. If we are harsh with our wives, we will show the world that Christ is cruel with his people. If we ignore our wives, we will show the world that Christ wants nothing to do with his people. God's Word is subtly yet clearly pointing out that God has created women with a unique need to be loved. In all of this, the world witnesses the first spineless abdication of a man's responsibility to love, serve, protect, and care for his wife. Stories of such spineless abdication are all too common among professing Christian men and their marriages today - husbands who have refused to take responsibility for loving, serving, protecting, and providing for their wives in every way possible. That same job often prevents him from providing for her spiritual, emotional, and relational needs. He manages to maintain his physical presence in the house while creating emotional distance from his wife. He never asks how she feels, and he doesn't know what's going on in her heart. He may think he's a man because of his achievements at work and accomplishments in life, but in reality he's acting like a wimp who has abdicated his most important responsibility on earth: the spiritual leadership of his wife. This is the story among many men who have decided to marry, not to mention other men who have ignored marriage altogether. Men in their twenties and thirties who dwell in perpetual adolescence that revolves solely and selfishly around them and what they want to do. Such warped pictures of singleness are yet more evidence of the tendency among men to abdicate the responsibility God has given them to love a wife in a way that displays Christ's love for the church. One of the effects of sin in Genesis 3 is the tendency for a man to rule his wife in a forceful and oppressive way that denigrates woman's equal dignity with him. It is as if a man says, "Okay, I'm not going to be a wimp; instead, I'm going to dominate my marriage." This is one of the primary reasons why submission and headship are such unpopular and uncomfortable terms for us today - because we've seen the dangerous ways these ideas have been exploited. We think of men who selfishly use their wives to get what they want when they want it no matter how their wives feel or how their wives are affected. This, of course, is NOT how Christ loves the church and is nowhere close to what the Bible means by submission and headship. Yet this is exactly what many men are communicating to the world about submission and headship. Part of why God made us male and female is to pursue marriage over and above the comforts of this world and our careers in this world. I have yet to meet a wife who didn't want to follow a husband who was sacrificially loving and serving her. Marriage exists even more for God than it does for us. God has ultimately designed marriage not to satisfy our needs but to display His glory in the Gospel. When we realize this, we recognize that if we want to declare the Gospel, we must defend marriage. The only true marriage in God's eyes remains the exclusive, permanent union of a man and a woman. As spiritual darkness engulfs the Biblical picture of marriage in our culture, spiritual light will stand out even more starkly in the portrait of a husband who lays down his life for his wife and a wife who joyfully follows her husband's loving leadership. We have much reason to be confident in the resilience of marriage as God has defined it. After all, it has been around since the beginning of time. Moreover, marriage will be around at the end of time. Marriage is a term that transcends culture, representing timeless truth about who God is and how God loves. The call and challenge for us is to live according to such truth in the time and culture in which he has placed us.