Anyone in vocational ministry knows the pressure upon marriage that it can bring. As conference attendees prepared to head home to their ministries on the final day of the 2017 GARBC Conference, National Representative John Greening challenged them from Ephesians 4 and 5 that it is possible to have harmony between marriage and ministry.

There is, however, often a perceived conflict dividing marriage and ministry. Time pressures often pull a pastor in many directions, and his wife may be trying to get his attention. “It can end up causing problems within the marriage,” Greening said. “But it can also cause problems within the ministry.”

By looking to Christ’s love for the church, couples can understand how harmony can exist between marriage and ministry. “Christ is the central, focal point,” said Greening. The relationship of Christ and the church is portrayed beautifully in the physical-world picture of marriage.

The book of Ephesians begins with a breathtaking view of God’s glory, said Greening. Chapter 2 demonstrates the beauty of God’s work in bringing people into the church, along with His people Israel. Chapter 3 is like looking at the church through the perspective of a builder. Chapter 4 focuses on what takes place in the church. All of this leads up to what God says about marriage. Instead of homing in just upon 5:22–33, ministry couples should consider the entire message of Ephesians, because marriage and ministry are intended to harmonize.

“Christ sets the standard for best church and marriage standards to measure up to,” said Greening. It is imperative, as in education, that we have an objective to work toward if we’re going to grow. The objective is the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13b). He is the unifying Head. Seeking that goal will lead us to develop honesty, calmness, diligence, graciousness, friendship, and kindness (4:17–24).

It is important to learn the language of love, as 5:1–7 demonstrates, and to avoid the language of crude and unkind living. Christian lives and homes should be a source of light, because the culture is very dark in this area (5:8–14).

The classic passage on marriage, which is part of 5:15–33, is in a context that teaches believers how to walk like Christ in wisdom—wisdom about how to converse, worship, submit to one another, love, be transformed, treasure what we ought, be united, and have respect for one another.

When couples follow the portrait of Christ and His church in Ephesians, they will have harmony between marriage and ministry. They will have gospel-centered marriages. And there is hope for all believers: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever” (3:20–21). Harmony in marriage and ministry will bring God’s blessing upon both and bring glory to God.