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Ephesians 5:22-33: The Mystery of Marriage Print E-mail
Sunday, 31 December 2017

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As we reflect on 2017 and think ahead to 2018, many of us are perhaps thinking about resolutions for the new year. Maybe we are starting a diet on Monday. Maybe we are starting a new Bible reading plan (you can join with us for the Daily Feast!) Maybe you have some financial goals or work-related goals for the year. Maybe you have some financial goals or church-related goals for the year. Can I make a suggestion for what I think could be one of the most important resolutions you could have for 2018? Here it is: ĎI resolve to do all that I can to have a marriage that displays the gospel.í How many of us would commit ourselves to that in the coming year?

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Paul gives us some important teaching on marriage in our passage this morning. He finished up his list of how we should be filled with the Spirit (v. 18) by telling us that we should be submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (v. 21). He goes on to give three specific ways for this to be applied: marriage (v. 22-33), family life (6:1-4), and slaves and masters (6:5-9). Wives, children, and servants are all called to submit in different ways. Of course, submission is not popular these days. But we must remember that these are all ways that we are filled with the Spirit and those that are called to lead are given great responsibility as well. The Lord did not give us these commands to devalue people or hold them back, He gave them for their good, for all of our good. If we donít see that, then we have not yet understand the intent of the passages. He begins with marriage. And I want to say from the beginning that these are hard commands that Paul is giving to husbands and wives. Letís pause even now to ask the Lord for grace and strength to obey. Likewise, if you are single, stay with me. There is application for you in these verses as well. So then, how does Paul teach us to live out the gospel in our marriages?

Wives submit like the Church (v. 22-24)

The command for wives is found in verse 22. Look at that with me. The wife is called to submit to her husband and to respect him (see v. 33). Again, building upon his call for us to submit, Paul now applies that specifically to wives. She is to do this as to the Lord. I think this is important to remember: the wife does not submit because the husband is always worthy or deserving of that, she submits because she is filled with the Spirit and understands her calling from the Lord. If submission is only contingent upon the husbandís perfect obedience, then very few wives would need to submit. No, the wife is called to submit willingly and graciously because she is submitting as to the Lord.

Paul gives further explanation in verse 23. Look at that with me. The reason why a wife is called to submit to her husband is that he is the head of the marriage just as Christ is the head of the church (see 1:22-23). You see in this that the wife does not have different value, only a different role to play. The husband plays the role of the head (more on this in a moment) and the wife plays the role of the church. He states this clearly in verse 24. Look at that with me. Already we are seeing that the marriage relationship is pointing to something greater, namely the relationship between Christ and the Church. Thus, the wife is called to play the role of the Church by submitting to her husband.

But what does this look like practically? Again, it is easy for us to see this as negative and chauvinistic. But that is not the intention of the passage. As a follower of Christ, I do not view my submission to Him as negative. Likewise, His call on me to submit to others who have authority over me is not to put me down or keep me in my place. His call is good and loving. In the same way, His call for wives to submit is good and loving as well. No woman is called to be a doormat. That is not what is meant by submission. Rather, she is to see her husbandís headship and leadership as a blessing for her and the home. So then wives, let me try to give you some practical ways to approach this. First, look to Christ (and not to your husband). I promise you that your husband will not always play his role faithfully. Donít view that as an excuse for you to be unfaithful to your calling. Rather, submit as to the Lord. Second, work hard to communicate respect, especially with your speech and tone. Be aware of what your tone communicates. Likewise, be careful in public settings to avoid disrespecting your husband in front of others. Third, when your husband is struggling to love like Christ, seek to encourage him without nagging. Pray for him. Keep submitting to him (unless of course he is asking you to sin). Seek to win him over without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Ask the Lord to give you grace to obey!

Husbands love your wives (v. 25-30)

Before we think that the wives only have a hard command concerning marriage, look at what Paul calls for the husbands to do in verse 25a. Husbands you must love your wife as Christ loved the Church. We are called to love and lead. Our role in marriage is to love like Christ. Paul goes on to talk about what that love looks like. Look at verses 25b-27. How much has Christ loved the Church? He gave Himself up for her! He came and lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead. He did all this for our sanctification, for our purity and holiness, for our cleansing. Jesus bore the wrath of God in our place. He took our punishment so that we could be forgiven and new. Through faith in the gospel, we are washed and will one Day stand before Him holy and without blemish. This is how much Christ has loved us! Husbands, you are called to love your wives with the same sacrificial love of Christ. You are to give yourself away for their good, namely for their sanctification and holiness. You are to spend your life seeking their spiritual welfare. This is the role that you are called to play in the display of the gospel.

Paul tells us even more how to do this in verses 28-30. Look at those with me. Paul uses the analogy of our care for the body and tells husbands to love their wives in the same way that we take care of our bodies. Most of us put on warm clothes this morning to protect our bodies against the cold. Most of us to do not stick our hands into an open flame. Most of us try not to walk into oncoming traffic. We take care of ourselves. Do we take care of our wives in the same way? Do we protect them, not just physically but spiritually? Do we look after them and care for them? Do we seek their good in all things? This is how Paul tells us to love.

So what does this look like practically? Let me just offer a few suggestions. First, when it comes to leading your wives, start with the small things. Make a decision about where the family will eat. Not a selfish decision but a decision. Make a decision about where you will live and how you will educate your children. You donít have to make the decision by yourself and you must not make a self-serving decision, but you must make decisions. Be the head of your home.

Second, provide spiritually for your wife and children. If I had a sign up sheet in the back for a work day here at the church, I bet I could get most of the guys in the church to sign up to work all day. If I had another sign up sheet for teaching Sunday school or learning how to lead family devotions, I fear it would not be as full. Men want to work. Yet, they often want to work hard at the wrong things which causes them to end up being lazy in the best things. We will spend all day working in the yard, but cannot find the time to lead the family in Bible reading. We will get up and get to work and work hard for 8-10 hours during the week, but we cannot make it to church on Sunday, and when we do, we cannot wait to get home. Donít make the mistake of working hard for all the wrong things. Work hard for the spiritual well-being of your wife and family.

Third, once you start working hard for the spiritual good of your family, keep working hard. Strive for consistency. You take the lead in getting the family to church. You take point in family devotions. You make sure that date night happens. And then do it all again the next week. Truth is, your career might suffer. You might not get that next promotion. You might never break par or spend as much time in the deer woods as you would like. But let me ask you this: how has Christ loved you? What sacrifices did He make for your salvation? In light of that, are you not willing to sacrificially love your wife?

Reason: Marriage displays the gospel (v. 31-33)

These are hard commands! They are made easier when we commit to helping each other obey, but they are still hard commands. So why is it so significant that we obey them? Look at verses 31-33. Paul supports his teaching on marriage by quoting from Genesis 2:24, which was the institution of marriage. And how does he comment on that verse? He tells us that the purpose of marriage, even from the beginning, was always to point to the relationship between Christ and the church. God created marriage to display the gospel. That purpose remained a mystery until the coming of Christ, and then it became clear. Yes, we get married for love. Yes, we get married for companionship and children and all the wonderful things that come with marriage. But the primary purpose of marriage is to display the gospel. That is why you should seek to obey these commands, as hard as they may be. Resolve to display the gospel faithfully in 2018!

The reason for marriage is to display the relationship between Christ and the church. Each spouse is called to play a unique role in that display. The wife plays the role of the church and the husband plays the role of the Church. Neither will be perfect and therefore both must be willing to show grace. But our prayer is that we can display the gospel to our children and families and neighbors through our marriages. Husbands and wives be committed to this. Single people be committed to preparing for this and/or encouraging others in this. You can play a part in this display of the gospel by helping parents and praying for newlyweds. If you are here today and have never believed in Christ, married or single, I want to remind you again how much Christ has sacrificially loved you. He gave Himself for you at the cross. Turn from your sins and trust in His sacrifice for you. My hope is that our marriages at Trinity will faithfully display the gospel. I pray that we will show the world the loving and joyful relationship between Christ and His Bride. May we labor in His grace toward that end in the coming year. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 12 January 2018 )

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