Sermon: Marriage, God’s Great Illustration (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Marriage, God’s Great Illustration (I)

Ephesians 5:21-33

Ephes. 5:21 (ESV)

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephes. 5:22-33 (ESV)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

[25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  [28] In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  [29] For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  [30] because we are members of his body.  [31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

To begin the message for this morning, I want to make things clear.  Today we are targeting the ladies within our church.  Next week will be the men’s turn.  I wanted to address the complete text at each sitting so we have the context.

Paul has spent time laying out for us doctrinal truth to influence our thinking and now we are being called through many different texts of Scripture to practice what we know to be the wonderful truths of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Last week we learned that Paul compared the Christian life to a walk.  He compared it to a consistent walk in this world.  One way he declared that we can be consistent is to walk in the Spirit’s control.  We are to be filled with the Spirit.

Ephes. 5:18-21 (ESV)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,  [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,  [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  [21] submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Also, remember from last week when I said that in the same way that wine affects a drunken person, so when we’re filled with the Spirit, we should be influenced by Him. Now, he addresses what being filled with the Spirit or walking in the Spirit looks like in specific situations.

Today, we are going to look at what a godly wife who is walking in the Spirit looks like.  Even more specifically, I want us to see how this is a picture of Christ and the church.

Ladies, whether you’re married or about to be married or someday hope to be married this sermon has much in it to be applied.

There are various motives one may have when looking at a text like this.  One motive might be to look at these verses and say, “If I follow these verses, my marriage will be good or better or even great.”  So, you can follow this text to have a better marriage.  That would be a good thing but it wouldn’t be the best thing.  The truth is, you can obey these verses and still have a terrible marriage.  Because, as hard as you try and as much as you’d like, you cannot change your husband.  So, this verse may give you a better marriage but then again they may not.  They could even make your life and your marriage even more miserable.  Secondly, one can follow these verses to glorify Christ even more.  This is the best motivation.  People will glorify your Lord and Savior as they watch you as a wife submit to your husband.  The key here is to remember that you are not first and foremost obeying these verses to have a more pleasant marriage; you’re obeying these verses because Christ commands you to and so that your marriage relationship will better picture the relationship between Christ and the Church. The end of these verses and the end of being a godly wife is not to have better marriage but the glorification of Christ. The prime product is that Christ is glorified the by product is that God would, in fact bless your marriage relationship with your husband.

If a wife is to walk in the Spirit this is what it will look like when wives walk in the Spirit.

Ephes. 5:22-24 (ESV)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Martin Luther called these types of texts the Haustafel in German which means House Table. What Luther meant by this is that these are the verses that hit us close to where we live.  These verses are verses that should be so common among God’s people that they’re like the dinner table.  These are some of the most profitable verses in the Bible because they live with us every day.

1.  Command to Submit (Ephesians 5:22)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Paul here has moved from general call to submission for everyone to the specific submission of wives to their husbands.

Ephes. 5:21 (ESV)

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

There is a sense in which we all submit to one another.  We are to all serve one another within the church.  We learned that last week as well.

Mark 10:41-45 (ESV)

And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  [42] And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

While Jesus was on earth, He showed us what service and submission is all about.  He was in submission to the Father.

In a general sense, we are all to be submitting to and serving one another.  Yet, there is an order in which God Himself has set in place that we are to follow.  If we follow these commands, the Lord will bless.

Now, as we move to a more specific example of submission let’s look to what the Lord has to say through Paul.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

In a specific sense, wives are to submit to their husbands as an act of service. What does that mean?  What Paul has in mind here is that a Christian wife’s submission to her own husband is an act of obedience to the Lord.  It does not mean that wives are to submit to their husbands in the same way in which they submit to the Lord.  Here’s what I mean… Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth.  His words are authoritative.  He is to be the authority.  He is perfect in every way.  On the other hand, God has not made perfect husbands.  A husband’s authority is not the issue in submission for his wife.

Again, a wife is to submit to her husband as obedient service to Christ not out of obedience to her husband.

2. The Basis for Submission (Ephesians 5:23)

Why should wives submit to their husbands?

One answer to this question is because the Bible says so.  But the Bible also gives us more reasons than that.

[23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

The reason a wife is to submit to her husband is because there is a created order that God is maintaining.  While the husband’s authority over his wife is not a perfect example of Jesus’ authority over the church, because husbands are fallen and tainted with sin and Christ is not.  There is a sense according to these verses where the husband is in authority over his wife.

1 Cor. 11:3 (ESV)

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

In this verse from 1 Corinthians Paul uses the word “head” to explain the roles that each is to have. This role order goes way back to creation.

Genesis 2:21-23 (ESV)

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. [22] And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. [23] Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man.”

God has set in place headship.  Christ is head over the church.  The Husband is head over his wife.

So submission of a wife to her husband has nothing to do with her husband’s performance.  She is commanded to submit whether her husband is worthy of it or not.  Even if someone is married to a lost husband this command is still to be carried out.  The reason this does not depend on your husband’s performance is that you’re not submitting because he necessarily deserves it but because it is a command from the Lord and He is worthy of your obedience.

3. The Nature of Submission (Ephesians 5:24)

What does submission look like?

[24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

In explaining what submission is, I want us to first see what submission is not.  It does not suggest spiritual inequality.  Both men and women are on the same footing before God.  Both bear the image of God.  Both are given spiritual gifts for service.

Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In other words, men and women are of equal worth to God.  One thing we need to get here is that equality of worth does not mean equality of roles.

Wifely submission does not mean that wives are slaves to their husbands.  Wives submit to your husbands in everything except sin.  While you are to submit to your husband your supreme allegiance belongs to Christ.

What is submission?

Submission is voluntarily placing oneself under another’s authority.  The church operating properly places itself under the Lord’s authority.  He is our head.  He is the One whom we listen to and obey.  It’s easy to do this when we understand that Jesus is the bride groom and the church is the bride.  He is perfectly loving and caring.  He always has our best interests in mind.

Paul says that marriage is a picture or an illustration of Christ and the church.  As wives voluntarily place themselves in the role of follower they are better picturing the church that is to follow Christ.

In the everyday world of marriage, it could work like this…

In reaching a decision both the husband and wife sit down to discuss it.  Both weigh in on what they believe the right thing is.  Most of the time an agreement is met.  However, in those times when an agreement is not reached, the wife out of submission to her husband submits to his headship and supports him in his decision.  We’ll learn next week that it is the husband that’s held accountable for his family not the wife.  So, if the husband’s decision is a bad one he is the one that will answer to God.

There is one thing to also keep in mind.  Even is the wife is right and the husband is wrong in a particular choice that’s made for the family, when the wife submits out of reverence for Christ, that decision will have the blessing of God because of her submission.

Case Study-

Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [2] And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, [3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” [4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. [7] Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

One reason that the man is the head of the home is the created order.  It doesn’t specifically say but I believe part of it is that God gave man the commands before the woman was created.  God spoke to Adam and said don’t eat of this tree.

Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. [16] And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  [17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

In this account Eve did not submit to Adam and the all of humanity has since suffered the penalty.

What could Eve have done differently?  How could she have practiced our passage today?  How could she have submitted to Adam her husband?

I believe her proper response should have been to turn to her husband and say, What do you think about what the Devil is telling me? She didn’t submit and Adam wasn’t the head of his wife and Satan exploited them and sin entered the world.  She didn’t defer to her husband but usurped his authority as head and Adam let her.  She could have turned to Adam and stepped back and sort of forced him to lead.  However, she thought she could handle being the head.

If submission sounds good to you as a Christian wife but you’re just not sure where to start, start by stepping back and allowing your husband to lead.  I’ve counseled many couples who needed to practice these biblical principles.  The wives almost unanimously would say their husbands just won’t lead and so they had to take charge.  I respond by saying no you don’t.  You’re creating an unhealthy relationship when you take charge.  I tell the wives to step back and the husbands to step up.  Start with something small.  Sit down together and acknowledge the need to begin practicing these biblical concepts.  Remember start with small decisions and work on consistency in the small areas.

Next week we’ll continue by looking at the husband’s role and we’ll continue our case study on Adam and Eve.

As you begin practicing these truths in your marriage, you will begin to better picture Christ and the Church.

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