BIG IDEA: Gospel marriage has been around since the beginning. What does it look like, and why is it so important?
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:21-32
The book of Ephesians relates God’s plan for creating a new society by his grace and for his glory. It is “…doctrine set to music. Just as [Paul] proclaimed God’s order to the post-Augustine Roman era which was marked by a process of social disintegration, so Ephesians is today the most contemporary book in the Bible, since it promises community in a world of disunity, reconciliation in the place of alienation and peace instead of war” (John Mackay, President Princeton Theological Seminary, 1948).
- Marriage is universal: Every culture, every age, every nation, every human being knows something of marriage. Everyone does marriage. This makes it the greatest connecting point across people groups. It’s the best analogy because everyone has some idea of marriage, which leads us to believe that God must have had a purpose in designing marriage. Why else would it be such a universal institution? So, what is it that God is trying to communicate to us through Marriage?
- Christians have to get marriage right because if we don’t, then we make improper statements about who God is, what he’s like, and how he relates to us.
- Marriage is the most important of relationships because it talks about the most important of things, God. We cannot approach it carelessly.
- Submit to one another: Last week, we talked about how we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Well, Paul tells us that one of the ways we are to be filled with the Spirit of God is to submit to one another. This is part of our job as believers living in this world.
- “Household code” This passage of scripture is often referred to as the “Household Code.” When we ask the question, how do we order our family relationships in this world that God has created? This is part of the answer. An improper ordering of our family relationships will hinder the work of the Spirit in our community.
- You must be filled with the Spirit in order to do marriage well.
- Our time, place, and city often challenges or changes the idea of marriage: But what is God trying to reveal about marriage in its totality? It’s a beautiful picture, and we need to pay attention.
- There are two primary categories for Gospel marriage: Gospel marriage only works when 1) submission and 2) sacrifice are happening simultaneously in a marriage.
- Submission: the verb in the text actually references the verb in v. 21. It’s our job as Christians to submit to one another and to Christ. Submission is for all Christians regardless of your marital status. We are called to submit to one another.
- Submission on the part of the wife to the husband was very standard practice in antiquity, so Paul isn’t talking about anything new here.
- “Submit” doesn’t mean “obey.” Paul uses the word “obey” for children and slaves/employees, but he doesn’t say that wives should “obey” their husbands.
- Submitting means coming under the leadership of your husband with respect and trust (Col. 3:18). This kind of submission is voluntary. It’s not blind obedience. Wives are to choose to submit to their husbands. The husband doesn’t have the right to domineer or force his wife to submit to him. It’s her choice. God wants us to do this because he wants us to recognize the order in which he has set up marriage from the beginning.
- Paul isn’t telling the Ephesians to continue living the status quo. No, he’s actually presenting a counter-cultural idea of the roles of the husband in marriage. Paul instructs the women to look at how they respond to Christ and let that be their model for how they respond to their husbands.
- Women: if/when you find a man who loves the Lord, wants to obey God, and wants to lead and love as God does, you are going to want to voluntarily choose to let him lead, to empower him as he empowers you in your marital roles.
- Paul doesn’t condition the woman’s response on her husbands’ perfect obedience to Christ, but he certainly doesn’t suggest that wives should follow their husband’s leadership into sin or abuse.
- Inevitably and conditionally, this submitting will be dependent upon the husband’s ability to love his wife in the way God intends. It takes both sides for this dance to work.
- Sacrifice: Pay attention to the length at which Paul addresses the husbands. He has a lot more to say to them. Perhaps because what he calls them to is so radically counter-cultural to the way they had been living and behaving in marriage up to this point.
- They are to love their wives just as Christ loves the Church. Talk about a high calling: Christ gave everything up for the Church.
- This is not normal in the context in which Paul is writing. It was revolutionary.
- Umbrella analogy: we use umbrellas to protect us from the rain. In this same way, the husband is the “head” of the wife, which is to say, the husband protects her so that whatever happens underneath the umbrella might thrive. Being the “head” is like being the roof so that whatever happens in the house beneath the roof can be as good as possible.
- Husbands, you’re called to take it on the chin for your wife and your family. You’re called to be over them in a way that allows them to become everything they are meant to be. It’s physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational protection. It’s not an easy job, but it’s an incredible honor.
- V 28 and 29: husbands are to love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies. This is like saying that his wife is physically a part of him. They are the same. They are of one flesh. The husband is called to be as in touch with his wife as he is with himself, to know her so well that it’s like his head is on her body. He must know her. It’s a lifelong adventure to know her so well.
- Men, are you ready to love a woman this way? To care about them more than you care about yourself? And not just say it, but actually live it. You won’t be able to do it on your own. You must be filled with the Spirit of Christ to love your wife like Christ loves the Church.
- Isn’t this outdated? No, this sacrificial love isn’t outdated, but the first part of these verses do stir up difficulty. Everyone loves the part about sacrificial and unconditional love, but we don’t like the part about submission. That’s outdated. But that’s not how the Bible works. You can’t have one with out the other. Resurrection doesn’t mean anything without the Cross and vice versa. You have to have submission and sacrifice together to make true Gospel marriage.
- Husbands, love your wives this way.
- Wives, come under your husband’s leadership.
- The Dance: If you have one, but not the other, it doesn’t work. If the husband is doing his best to lead and love in a Christlike manner, but the wife isn’t willing to come under his leadership, the husband will grow weary of trying. If the wife is voluntarily submitting to her husband as the Church does to Christ, but the husband never loves or sacrifices as Paul talks about, then she will grow weary. But when both work, it’s a beautiful dance that will begin to feed into itself.
- “This mystery is profound”: marriage is actually just a picture of something much greater: Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus is our umbrella/roof: We are all exposed to the wrath of God, but God sent Jesus to become our roof, our covering, our umbrella that we might thrive and live the full life that God intended for us both on earth and in eternity.
- The Christian must live a life of submission and sacrifice. We submit. We voluntarily put ourselves under the covering of Christ, and when we do, we experience the eternal thriving under his leadership, but it’s only possible because of the sacrifice of the Cross. It’s both/and. They work together to create this beautiful life.
- The two most important relationships: It makes sense that when God orders the most important relationship that he designs that relationship to work in the same way as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot experience the joyous glories of the Cross unless you come under the place of covering.
- Marriage is a witness: If you do marriage this way, the world will take notice. They will look and say, “wow, where did you learn to do marriage like that? It looks like it’s working.” At the end of the day, it’s not just about a good marriage. It’s about witnessing to the world of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and if we don’t get to work leaning how to submit and sacrifice and do this dance well, they will look at us and say, “they’re no different than us.”
- If God has asked you to be married, there is nothing that you can do that’s more important than learning how to live an example of Gospel Marriage.
- Women: you will not experience the joyous glories of gospel marriage unless you find a God-fearing man who himself is under the headship of Jesus and come to a place in your own heart where you are willing to voluntarily come under his leadership.
- Men: how many of you are ready for this kind of responsibility? How many of you are ready to be this kind of covering, this kind of husband? Are you filled with the Spirit of God, ready to put someone else before yourself in every way? So many men in our culture and in the church aren’t even close to being ready for this level of sacrifice. There’s a lot of work to do. It’s an enormous privilege and an even bigger responsibility.
- What will you do to get ready to live into these roles that God has designed? We have got to challenge and support each other in order to come to a place of glorifying God and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the way that we love one another.
Want to study this topic more?