For the last several months we have been working our way through the book of Ephesians because it’s so foundational, so practical, and covers so much of the range of Christian life. We have found ourselves now in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, in a section that deals with marriage. We’re going to be looking at that this morning, with particular attention to the husbands. So this is your day, men, to hear from heaven about your responsibility as a husband. But before we get there I want you to turn to Genesis chapter 2, Genesis chapter 2, and I’d like to lay a bit of a foundation so that we can understand what we’re up against in the current world that we live in—the fallen world—with regard to marriage.
In Genesis chapter 2 and verse 18 we have the inspired record of the creation of woman. And I just want you to follow along as I read, starting in Genesis 2 and verse 18: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
So in Genesis chapter 2 God basically creates a man, and then from that man creates a woman and inaugurates what Peter calls “the grace of life,” which is marriage. And marriage in Scripture has a number of purposes. One, companionship. And that’s what you see here. Man needed a helper suitable for him. Marriage also has the purpose of procreation. Back in chapter 1 it says, in a broad sense God created man in His own image and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” So God’s design for marriage is companionship and children.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 we find that God’s design for marriage is also moral purity. We are instructed there about the fact that you must marry rather than to burn. That is to say rather than having unfulfilled natural sexual desires, you need to marry. So it’s God’s design for moral purity.
But I think in the broad sense marriage is, with all of that being true, also it is a place which is most defined by extensive experiences of love—love for one another, love for children, love for grandchildren, love for great-grandchildren, love for extended family. It is really the core of human love. And a marriage should, then, be the best gift. It should be the gift that keeps on giving. It gives love to the two that marry, and then it adds to that love with children, and then it adds with spouses, and then it adds with grandchildren, and then it just keeps on adding more and more fulfilling relationships of love.
That was God’s design. And in the beginning it was a beautiful relationship, and verse 25 of chapter 2 sums it up by saying, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” There was no such thing as a perverted thought or an evil thought of any kind in their mind. No shame.
But then we come to chapter 3, and in chapter 3 we are introduced to Satan, the serpent, who comes and tempts Eve to distrust God, to actually believe that God was flawed, that God didn’t want her to eat of the fruit because she would have the knowledge of good and evil and she would be like God, and God didn’t want anyone intruding into His territory; and so in a very flawed way He had restricted her from something that was good. She bought the devil’s lie, and in Genesis 3:6, she “saw that the tree was good for food”—that’s the lust of the flesh—“and that it was delight to the eyes”—that’s the lust of the eyes—“and that the tree was desirable to make one wise”—and that’s the pride of life, the three basic categories which define our temptation.
So based upon the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, “she took from its fruit and ate; gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, they knew they were naked.” All of a sudden shame appeared. We don’t know the exact thoughts that were in their mind; but they were corrupted, they were perverted. Even in that marriage they felt embarrassed by their shame and guilt and “sewed fig leaves together made themselves loin coverings.” They realized, as the only two people in the world, that their thoughts could be corrupted if they were exposed to nakedness. Clothing came into existence at this point. God actually clothed the by the sacrifice of a lamb, demonstrating that the only covering for sin would be such a sacrifice, and namely and ultimately the Lord Jesus Christ. From that point on clothing became the barrier, the normal human barrier, to lust and shame. Any society that begins to sink into the morass and the depths of sin will begin to expose itself in nakedness and ultimately, as we have seen, proliferate pornography and nakedness everywhere, as it finds its contentment and its satisfaction in what is offensive to God.
So now there’s shame; and beyond the shame, there’s a curse. God says to the man in verse 9, “Where are you?” And then He confronts them both. First to the woman, He says, “You are cursed”; verse 16, “[You will experience] pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; and yet your desire will be for your husband”—this isn’t a desire for him that’s healthy, this is an impulse to overpower him, to rule over him, to usurp his leadership—“and he will dominate you.” And so you have the conflict of marriage in the Fall. The woman seeks to overpower the man; she seeks to operate independently, as if she were the leader, which she did in her succumbing to temptation without the protection of her husband. And the husband will then dominate her. And so you have the abuse of that relationship going both ways.
In addition, we read in verses 17 to 19 that the ground is cursed, and man is going to toil all the days of his life to subdue the ground to be able to produce survival. So there’s not just going to be the bliss of the garden and two innocent people enjoying everything about a perfect marriage, there are going to be all kinds of complications. In addition to that, Satan is going to come after the man and the woman: verse 15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.” Satan is going to come against marriage, against the woman, and eventually Satan is going to come against the ultimate seed of the woman, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
So marriage has really fallen on disastrous, disastrous ground from innocence without shame. There has been a reversal of roles: She acts independently of her husband, and he succumbs to her temptation to join her in the sin. By the time you get to chapter 4 the impulses of the fallen human beings are working and been passed on to the next generation of Cain and Abel, so that you have fratricide, the murder of the brother: Cain kills Abel. And then not long after this you run into polygamy in the early chapters of Genesis, and then perverted sex, and then adultery, and then homosexuality, and then fornication, and then rape, and then prostitution, and then incest, and then seduction, and you’re not even out of the book of Genesis.
All of this comes because of the Fall. Two cursed sinners creating more cursed sinners creating a cursed society under the control of Satan and exposed to all manner of temptations and corruptions, struggles to find the meaning of marriage. Sin attacks marriage, selfishness attacks marriage, Satan attacks marriage, society attacks marriage. And early on in Genesis the attack is so successful, so disastrous, that by the time you get to chapter 6 God drowns the entire world, drowns the entire world because the thoughts and intents of their hearts were only evil continually.
So the bliss of that first marriage was lost in the Fall, and it didn’t take very long before God literally drowned the entire world, with the exception of Noah’s wife and their sons and wives. Eight people survived. But when Noah came out of the ark we found out very fast that he was a sinner, and that sin had not been extinguished, but sin had survived the Flood because there were eight people who were sinners who came out of the ark. And so immediately there were more of these same kinds of perversions. In fact, some of the ones in the list I gave you came after the Flood; most of them actually did.
So marriage has grave difficulty in this kind of setting. Let me say it again: Sin attacks marriage, selfishness attacks marriage, Satan attacks marriage, and society attacks marriage. So marriage has a hard road, even though it is the grace of life. Its destruction is constant, and it’s exponential.
Not too many years ago, even in our society, we could look back and say people honored marriage. Not anymore. Marriage is largely irrelevant to this young generation coming up. We have seen the destruction of marriage by all kinds of things. I don’t need to go through the litany of those. The all-out assault on marriage is just satanic and sinful. We are living in the era of almost a pre-Flood kind of society, where we wouldn’t be surprised to see God judge again, this time by fire.
So marriage, God’s wonderful creation, the grace of life—can it be saved? Let’s go back to Ephesians 5. Let’s go back to the beginning, in a sense, of what God intended: restored in Christ, restored in Christ. Let me read chapter 5 of Ephesians starting in verse 22 and down through verse 33. This is the divine design and order for a marriage that can be, in spite of fallenness, a grace of life.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
Now backing up to verse 18 just to remind you, those who are Spirit-filled, verse 18—“filled with the Spirit”—those who are joyful worshipers, verse 19, those who are constantly thankful, verse 20, and those who are mutually submissive are the ones who are going to enjoy the richness of marriage as the grace of life. Last week we talked about the wives; this week I want to pick it up at verse 25 and the duty of the husband. And it’s so simple and impossible to misunderstand one command: “Husbands, love your wives.” Nothing about authority there. Nothing about dominance. Nothing about ruling. Nothing about subjecting. Nothing about commanding. “Husbands, love your wives.”
That defines the kind of headship in a marriage that God desires. Obviously it’s never abusive, it’s never overbearing, it’s never inconsiderate, it’s never thoughtless, it’s never harsh, it’s never unkind, because it is defined as love. And this is the highest and noblest of loves. The verb is agapaō, that love which is the love of the will, which transcends all other loves, which by its own nature is selfless and sacrificial.
So husbands, it’s pretty simple. The responsibility is to love your wives. That’s the command. And this is to be generated by the husband. Understand, the command is to the husband to love. It says nothing about the wife—whether she’s lovable or not, or whether she’s occasionally lovable or rarely lovable or never lovable. Doesn’t change the command, because the command is to love your wives. And that is the reality. And the kind of love, again, is the highest and noblest and purest and best love.
Now let’s define that, and we’ll allow the Spirit of God to do that for us in a way that is just really overpowering. What do you mean, “Love your wives”? Oh, this is what I mean; verse 25, “just as Christ also loved the church.” Wow, that sets the standard pretty high.
“Love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” What kind of love was that? Well, He proved His love for us while we were enemies. He loved us when we were unlovable. He loved us when we were rebellious. He loved us when we were full of hatred. He loved us when we were wretched, vile, sinful. That’s the kind of love. This is not love that is won by the object, this is love that is given in spite of the failures of the object.
Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed preacher in the fourth century church, wrote this: “Hear the measure of this love. . . . If it be needful that you should give your life for her or be cut to pieces a thousand times, or endure anything whatever—refuse it not. . . . Christ bought His church and brought His church to His feet by His great love, not by threats, nor any such thing. So do you conduct yourself toward your wife.” He understood exactly what this is saying.
“Love your wife.” How? How do I love my wife? What do you mean by that? “I mean love your wife as Christ also loved the church.” That’s the model and that’s the pattern, and no less than that.
Now this is just stunning in the context of the people of Ephesus and the Roman world because Roman law basically treated women as if they were slaves; they were less than human. In fact Cato, writing Roman law, says this: “If you were to catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you may kill her without a trial. But if she were to catch you, she would not venture to touch you with her finger; she has no such right.”
Oh, that’s the role of women in ancient Rome. So what God is saying through the apostle Paul is shocking: “Love your wives,” and love them “as Christ also loved the church.” This sets the standard so high.
There are several considerations with regard to defining this love over in 1 Peter 3, if you look at it for just a moment, 1 Peter 3:7. You get a little more insight into it, and we looked at this briefly last week. “You husbands in the same way”—and these are some of the ways that love expresses itself—“live with your wives,” first, “in an understanding way”—this love demands understanding; “knowledge,” some translations say: knowing her sensitivity, knowing her feelings, knowing her needs. This is not some macho, independent, insensitive kind of dominance we’re talking about. But rather, it is living in a way that displays the fact that you are in touch with the depth of her understanding, her feelings, her thoughts, her desires.
Secondly, it calls not only for such consideration but even for chivalry: “as with someone weaker, since she is a woman”—not weaker intellectually, not weaker in terms of wisdom, not weaker in any spiritual sense; but by God’s design man is stronger. He is the protector. He is the provider. He is the source of security and strength in the union. She should know that. She should feel protected. She should feel secure. You are her knight in shining armor.
And then thirdly, not only consideration and a measure of chivalry, but you should “show her honor.” So this love encompasses showing honor “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” In other words, you’re treating her like a believer. You’re treating her like it’s the communion of the saints. “This is my beloved, my friend,” it says in Song of Solomon. And that’s the kind of expression: “This is my beloved, this is my friend; we are heirs together of the grace of life. We share commonly in the grace that God has extended to us in Christ, and by which He has brought us together in this union.”
So we are to love our wives in a way that expresses the understanding of who they are, expresses their need for strength and security, and expresses the common communion as heirs together in the kingdom of God, so that we defer as we would to any other believer, Philippians 2, considering others better than ourselves. That’s how you treat each other in the kingdom.
So this is the biblical definition. We are to love in the way Christ loved the church. Go back to Ephesians in chapter 5, and I want to kind of break out what Paul says here; it’s very simple.
So what does it mean to love the way Christ loved the church? OK, he’s going to tell us. First, verse 25, He “gave Himself up for her.” He gave himself up for her. That’s where it starts. It is self-sacrificing love.
The Spirit-filled husband loves his wife, not for what she can do for him but for what he can do for her. That kind of love seeks only her joy, only her fulfillment, only her spiritual benefit. That’s how that love works. And that’s the way Christ loved, right? Philippians chapter 2, He didn’t hold on to what He had in glory—equality with God—but He took on the form of a servant and humbled Himself to death, even death on the cross. Why did He do that? It was condescending sacrifice for the objects of His divine love.
A real love is never tyrannical. A real love is always sacrificial. This is a Christlike love. You have to find every possible way that you can demonstrate setting yourself aside for the sake of your spouse. It’s love that is that selfless.
In John, a couple of passages in John 13. It was an upper-room moment where Jesus had expressed His love. John 13 begins, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the max”—He had maximum love for them. They weren’t very lovable; they were all arguing about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom. Nobody wanted to disqualify himself by washing somebody else’s feet. They all thought they were too good for that, so they didn’t do that, which was a common courtesy that should have been done before such an event, such a dinner. And because they refused to do it, Jesus steps up—and you know the story. He washed their feet. He humbled Himself to wash their feet.
And toward the end of the thirteenth chapter in verse 34, He says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” What was the way in which He had just loved them? By washing their feet. That’s what He’s referring to. “Even as I have loved you, you love one another.”
And then He says, “By this all men will know that you’re My disciples, if you have love for one another.” And what He means by that is the definition of love is humble service to someone else, selfless sacrifice for someone else.
Over in John 15 on that same occasion, verse 13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends.” So it starts out: Love washes someone’s feet, and then love gives up its own life. Peter calls it ektenēs love, “stretched” love. It stretches as far as it needs to, to embrace its object.
It really involves the death of self. This is a key to a good marriage, is the death of self, particularly the death of self in the husband so that he is characterized by the love that is defined in Scripture in 1 Corinthians 13. You remember this, right? “Love is patient”—think of this in your marriage: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” OK, that’s divine love. That’s the kind of love that’s “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” through salvation, and that is how a husband is to love his wife.
And by the way, all of those things that I read out of 1 Corinthians 13 are verbs—verbs, not static nouns. He’s not describing love as if you could take a snapshot, he’s showing it as if it’s a video. It’s a way of life. It’s help and humble service as a continual flow of life. That’s how husbands are to act toward their wives. Just pulling out one of those characteristics in verse 5: “[Love] does not seek its own.” It does not seek its own. In the language of Philippians 2, considers others better than itself.
So when a man is Spirit-filled, when a man is filled with joyful praise, when a man is characterized by constant thankfulness, when a man has a submissive heart, he will love his wife enough to sacrifice for her, to sacrifice for her continually. So this softens the authority that the Lord is talking about when He says wives are to submit, because they are submitting to one who totally sacrifices himself to lead them and provide for them.
Death to self is critical. And that’s a spiritual reality, right? “Take up your cross and follow Me. Die daily. Be crucified with Christ. Look not on your own things.” This is really the starting point of this kind of love. You’ve got to do away with yourself. You might think about it this way; here’s how you could describe dying to self.
“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set aside, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself but take it all in patient, loving silence, that is dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance, when you can stand face-to-face with folly and extravagance and insensibility and endure it as Jesus did, that is dying to self.
“When you are content with any food, any offering, any clothing, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in a conversation or record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. When you see another prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God why your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less importance than yourself and humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion and no resentment rising in your heart, that is dying to self.”
I read that to you because I want you to understand the range of dying to self is vast. So first of all, if you’re going to love your wife as Christ loves the church, it’s a sacrificial love. Secondly, it’s a purifying love. Go down to verse 26: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
This is the model. This is the standard. You are not only to sacrifice for her, but you are to be the instrument that God uses to sanctify her, set her apart from sin, which means you don’t lead her to do things that are sinful. You don’t hit the hot buttons that start arguments because you’re angry and trigger hostility with her. That’s inducing sinful response. Why? Because you are committed, as Christ was, to the glory of His church. I love that: “the church in all her glory,” endoxon, all her splendor. The word could be translated “real beauty.” And the real beauty of a woman is that inward beauty, right? That’s back to 1 Peter again: not the clothing that she wears and the jewelry, but the hidden beauty of the heart.
So you are concerned with her true beauty, which means you’re concerned with her true purity. You desire that she be without “spot”—“stain” is the word in the Greek—“or wrinkle”—which means a flaw—“or any such thing.” You don’t want anything to mar the beauty of your wife; and the beauty of your wife is defined at the end of verse 27 as “holy and blameless.”
You are an instrument of her sanctification. That’s why I said that week, marriage is just really the husband doing anything and everything that brings joy and spiritual benefit to his wife. It’s a simple idea. You are to be used by God to cleanse her, and particularly “by the washing of water with the word”—that’s the cleaning agent. John 15:3 says it’s the Word that cleanses us. Titus 3:5, “The washing of regeneration” by the Word.
Christ purifies His church by washing His church with the Word, and that is the role of the husband: to be the cleansing instrument, using the Word of God to wash his wife so that her true beauty can be seen. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy word is truth.” The Word is the sanctifying agent. The Word cleanses. Christ loves His church enough to sacrifice Himself for it, and to then go on cleansing His church so that she would be without spot or wrinkle, and holy and blameless. What a beautiful picture of how a husband is the sanctifying instrument of the Spirit of God for his wife.
So sacrifice and purity mark Christlike love. And there can’t be any less standard than this. Christ is the standard, and His love for the church.
There’s a third thing to say about this. We are to love our wives not only in a sacrificing and purifying way but in a caring way. And that’s what we see in verses 28 to 30: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.” In other words, you are one flesh. You’re to love your wife as your own body. “He who loves his own wife loves himself.” In other words, if you want the best for yourself, then love your wife because you really are inseparable from her. And her contentment and her reciprocating love will be your greatest joy.
“No one ever hated his own flesh,” verse 29 says, “but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” And here, we’re back to Christ again: In the same way that Christ cherishes and nourishes His church, in the same way that He desires the best, that He offers continual care.
You know, I think about the fact that He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. I think about earlier in the book of Ephesians: How much does Christ love us? He loves us enough—if you look at chapter 1—that He “chose us . . . before the foundation of the world,” that He adopted us, that He redeemed us, verse 7, that He forgave us. And all of this “He lavished”—“He lavished on us.” This is lavish care. We have been blessed, verse 3, “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” That’s what this is talking about: Bless your wife, sacrifice for her, be a purifying instrument of God in her life, and lavish her with all possible blessings.
Marriage is difficult; we get it. We all have the same challenges. Society strikes against us, Satan’s coming against us, our own flesh makes it hard. But here are the patterns; and the assumption is, if you are commanded to do with your wife what Christ does in loving His church, that you have the power to do that. And of course, Romans 5 says, God has shed His love abroad in your heart through His Holy Spirit.
What does it mean, then, to care for her? It means to make sure that she has everything that meets her needs—not necessarily wants, not outrageous and outlandish desires, but that she is fully provided for, protected, preserved, cared for with all those things that rightly should be expected. What you would do for yourself, you would do no less for her because you are one flesh. “Nourish” is the idea of feeding. “Cherish” is the idea of warming with body heat. So you provide everything that she needs, and you provide the security and the warmth of ongoing love and affection, and you do this because Christ is your example.
Now there’s one more characteristic of this love; it is a purifying love, it is a sacrificial love, it is a caring love, and go down to verse 31: It is also an unbreakable love. And here is a quote from back in Genesis 2; we read it earlier: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is an unbreakable love, an indivisible love. You “become one flesh.” One is the indivisible number, right? That’s why God hates divorce. What God has joined together, don’t let man separate.
This is to be the kind of love that Christ has for His church, and Romans 8 says, “[Nothing can] separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Right? Romans 8. It’s that same kind of love. It’s the kind of love that leaves behind—strong word, means to abandon parents—and then cleaves, proskollaō. It literally means to be glued to, to be stuck to. Not stuck with, but stuck to. Its design by God is to be an unbreakable love. So this is how husbands loves their wives.
Now if you’re looking at the idea that a husband has authority, what you may have thought in the past about what that means—and you may have chafed against that kind of authority—whatever authority and responsibility for leadership a husband has is to be defined as sacrificial, purifying, caring, and unbreakable. And unbreakable means fidelity and faithfulness, fidelity and faithfulness. I said recently to a couple—speaking to the man, I said, “Your integrity and your fidelity is her security.” So the husband is to be the one who makes sure the bond is never broken. So this is how marriage can be what God wants it to be.
Obviously there’s still going to be issues. That’s why the New Testament is full of all kinds of other commands, right? And if you’re deviating from living a godly life, if you’re deviating from walking in the Holy Spirit, if you’re deviating from having the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control—if you’re functioning in fleshly ways, it makes this impossible. But the Word of God is saying it’s not only possible, it’s commanded; and you have, in having the Spirit of God, all the resources you need to see it fulfilled.
Now there’s one final point here that just sums up what we’ve already said, and it’s in verse 32. I described the manner of love like Christ had for His church, but here’s the motive, here’s the motive. Obviously there’s a motive for your own self-fulfillment, for your own well-being, for your own joy, for your own happiness—and by the way, for the happiness of your children. Your children are only going to be as happy as you are content in your marriage; you set the tone. If you love the way Christ loved the church, men and women, if you submit the way the church submits to Christ, your children will be in the most healthy environment to most readily embrace the truth of the gospel.
But there’s another thing besides just having a happy home that comes with this, and it’s in verse 32: “This mystery is great”—this is a secret now to be revealed, not revealed before in Scripture. What is the mystery? The mystery is, “I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” The mystery is this: that Christ and His relation to the church is the symbol that is demonstrated in marriage.
So you have a responsibility not only for your own joy and happiness and that of your children and everybody else who intersects with your life, but you’re given a responsibility to show the world the relationship between Christ and His church as demonstrated in your marriage. Think about that. Think about that responsibility, that that is the motive. And if you come short of that you have failed in what is a great, great opportunity. It’s a great, sacred secret, now revealed, that Christian marriages can demonstrate to the world the relationship between Christ and His church. Submissive, obedient wife, fulfilling all the responsibilities of love for her husband and her children; a loving husband who’s sacrificial, purifying, caring, and faithful; this is the picture of marriage that demonstrates the relationship of Christ to His church. I guess the question in the end, then, is we need to ask ourselves, the closer people get to our marriage, do they get closer to seeing the relation between Christ and His church? Because that’s the responsibility.
It’s a high calling. Being married is a very high calling. It’s the grace of life. Don’t embark upon it lightly; but when you do, understand that as a believer you have now been given the responsibility to unfold the mystery of the relationship between Christ and His church, so that marriage is not only in itself a marvelous reality, but it is symbolic of the work of Christ and His love for His church. So we have to think about whether our marriage demonstrates that.
And that takes us to verse 33, and this is just a summation. After all of this, “Each individual among you”—let’s get back to the beginning—“love his own wife even as himself”—and we’re back to love—“and the wife must see to it that she”—not “obeys,” but—“that she respects her husband.” What we’re talking about in a marriage is not dominance and submission; we’re talking about love and respect, OK. We’re talking about love and respect. Those are the defining summary words: love and respect. Love and respect will make a blessed marriage and a wonderful testimony of Christ and His church.
Father, we come to You now, at the close of our time together, thankful that You have led us into the truth again. Thank You for marriage. Thank You for all those who are here married. Lord, help all of us to live the principles of marriage that have been laid out so clearly for Your honor and glory and joy, and so that we would even be a testimony of the reality of Christ’s love for His church.
And I pray for those who struggle in their marriage. I pray, Lord, that Your grace would be abundant, that they would find their way to obedience and to being filled with the Holy Spirit, joyful worship, constant thanksgiving, and mutual submission, so that their marriages can be everything You want them to be. May we never be looking for someone who is perfect, may be never be dissatisfied with the partner You’ve given us, but may we rejoice with full joy. May we always live in the wondrous reality that God has given us the partner He has given us to love as Christ loved the church, and to respect as the church respects its Lord.
We look at this society around us, and we understand that this is far, far away from any thought that is captured by this contemporary culture, where everything is selfish, everything is gratification, much of gratification without responsibility. Lord, may Grace Community Church be a place where virtuous marriage is visible for its purity and joy. That would be our prayer. Give us greater love and respect for each other because it honors Your name; and it’s in that name we pray. Amen.
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