A Marriage Mystery!
Reading Ephesians Ch. 5v22-33.
Whenever you talk about the relationship between a husband and wife, you must always deal with prevailing attitudes. Our attitudes and understanding of what makes a good marriage and of the roles of husband and wife may or may not be right. Even in Christian circles, we have come to accept the attitudes of our culture without critically examining them in light of Scripture. On the one hand, there is the male chauvinist pig movement masquerading as manliness. On the other, there is the women's lib feminize movement masquerading as freedom. Both are dead wrong.
What goes on in your home? Several years ago, a Dennis the Menace comic strip illustrated how some of these attitudes manifest themselves. Dennis is having cake and milk at the Wilson's. Mrs. Wilson is washing the dishes while Mr. Wilson is trying to read a newspaper. Dennis wonders aloud why Mr. Wilson never goes to work. Mr. Wilson explains that he is retired. “Retired, is that why you loaf all the time?” Dennis asks him. Mr. Wilson tells Dennis since he has worked hard for so many years he has earned the right to loaf. This makes Dennis wonder why Mrs. Wilson also doesn't retire. He has never seen her loaf. Mr. Wilson responds, “She can't retire because she never worked.” But Dennis has seen Mrs. Wilson always cooking or washing or sewing and he can't accept that answer. “That's different,” Mr. Wilson explains. “She's a housewife! If she retired who'd do the housework?” Dennis asks, “Couldn't you help?” “Dennis! Are you trying to make trouble?” Mr. Wilson shouts. Mrs. Wilson finally intervenes, telling her husband not to yell at Dennis. “He's right and you know it!” In the next frame we see Dennis walking up to his mother in her garden. When she asks what the Wilson's were arguing about, Dennis says, “I don't know. I headed home `cause I didn't want to get involved!”
There are probably a lot of Mr. Wilson's out there who think they have the biblical understanding of the wife's role. But do they really? On the other hand, there are many wives who have also gone to an unbiblical extreme. We may choose to go to these extremes, but if we want to experience God's ideal for marriage, we must be committed to a thoroughly biblical model.
1. A Wife’s Respecting Her Husband’s Position! v22-29:
a. Listen To This Exhortation: v22.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
Now here is a text often taken out of context and which has caused many husbands to bring their wives into a state of resentful rebellion. I guess, standing all by its self this text seems arbitrary and unfair, but no text of Scripture ever stands alone. This verse has a very powerful injunction before it v21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” No husband and especially no preacher have the right to leave that text out when thinking about such a powerful exhortation to a wife. The context leans heavily on the Holy Spirit’s ministry and instruction for mutual submission and for Holy Spirit in filling which of course is the blessed oil that makes the machinery of marriage run smoothly. No loving husband or faith preacher should over look the fact that the Biblical teaching off Ephesians Ch.5v22-29 has two dominate truths, submission and love. In Ephesians Ch.5v22 the Greek word translated “husband” is the word “aner.” This word is often translated in the New Testament “man” and the Apostle is simply teaching the wife to submit herself only and always to her own man. The point here is, the husband is to be just that, a man! The wife is being taught here to submit to her man, her husband, “as unto the Lord” which lifts this teaching to an altogether more heavenly plane. Why, think about it, what woman having met and fallen in love with Jesus would not willingly do anything for Him? All of the women you come across in the New Testament loved and honoured Jesus, what honour he displayed, what thoughtfulness, what kindness and love he continually displayed.
b. Look At This Example: v23.
“The Husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and is the Saviour of the body.”
God has brought into being a hierarchal structure which is universal. Paul reminds us, “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians Ch.11v3).
Such a structure is I believe seen also in the unseen spirit world. There we read of principalities and powers, the rulers of this world’s darkness, and wicked spirits in high places. We read of Satan as the prince of the power of the air who rules over fallen demonic forces. There are also hints of hierarchy in the ranks of un-fallen angels, thrones and dominions, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim. Actually, wherever you read in God’s Word you discover God does all things decently and in order, God brought order to this world, sin brought chaos, look back as far as creation, God invested the first man with the position of headship. God then created the first woman investing in her the position of a subordinate, notice; not a subservient, in relation to man. Adam was made to be ruled from his head; Eve was made to be ruled by her heart. Guess what? Satan beguiled Adam and Eve to switch roles. You see Satan aimed temptation at Eve’s mind and caught her up in an intellectual debate as to whether she should obey God or not. Of course, that led Eve into confusion of mind, which totally deceived her leading her to drag Adam into an emotional flurry and although the Bible says Adam was not deceived his emotions directed him altogether wrong leading both he and Even to walk into Satan’s trap. Listen, listen dear folks, God has an order and we should follow it closely otherwise we too can be led astray.
c. Learn Form This Expectation: v24.
“As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing”
The marriage relationship takes a very high ground and is not to be treated lightly. The relationship between Christ and His church is quite, quite, unique.
The story of Adam and Eve bring us back in time and gives us a wonderful illustration of how the church was formed. Adam was place into a deep sleep according to the will of God, it was then God opened Adam’s side and extracted from him that, which was needed to create his beautiful bride. What an illustration of Calvary. On that old rugged cross the Lord Jesus entered into the sleep of death according to the will of God and when that Roman soldier plunged the spear into the side of our precious Lord Jesus out flowed water and blood, the elements that made possible the creation of the church, His precious bride. For that reason Paul can equate the whole concept of marriage in the Lord on such a high platform. The marriage relationship is so unique and just as sacred as the relationship between Christ and His church, leading us surely to understand that all marriages must be lived on the very highest spiritual plane.
There is a story about a man and wife who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary-fifty years of married life. Having spent most of the day with relatives and friends at a big party given in their honour, they were back home again. They decided, before retiring, to have a little snack of tea with bread and butter. They went into the kitchen, where the husband opened up a new loaf of bread and handed the end piece (the heel) to his wife. Whereupon she exploded! She said, "For fifty years you have been dumping the heel of the bread on me. I will not take it anymore; this lack of concern for me and what I like." On and on she went in the bitterest of terms, for offering her the heel of the bread. The husband was absolutely astonished at her tirade. When she had finished he said to her quietly, "But it's my favourite piece."
2. A Husband Responding To His Wife’s Passion! v25-29.
So that we present no inequality let me use the same outlines.
a. Listen To This Exhortation: v25a “Husbands love your wives”
The word love here is the Greek word “agape” which means the very highest and deepest kind of love, its love irrespective of rights. The word brings with it the idea of extolling a person. When a wife knows her husband loves her in this manner, that is loves her irrespective of rights, loves her above and beyond all others, she knows no resentment over responding in the very same manner.
“Husbands love your wives” we should take note is a command, we are apt to thing of love simply in terms of emotion, well, we cannot command our emotions, they most definitely seem to have a mind of their own and come into play very often when we are not expecting it so and in a manner we had not thought might happen. The Holy Spirit is relating love to the will rather than the emotions. Interesting! You see, if love can be commanded, it stands to reason we cannot attribute it completely to the emotions. The emotions we attribute to falling in love can fluctuate quite a lot, can they not? Sometimes even fade away altogether. A husband comes home and says to his wife, I am sorry dear I just don’t love you any more, I just can’t help it, poor me, it’s out of my control I have in fact, fallen in love with another. But you see the word “agape” refers to a love principle, a love principle that can be commanded and therefore controlled. Men, work at loving your wife, always!
b. Look At This Example: v25b-27.
“Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that is should be holy and without blemish.”
The kind of love Jesus Christ had for the church is the kind of love we are called upon to display for our wives. Wow! What a challenge. What kind of love did Jesus Christ have for the church? “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John Ch.15v13).
I am perfectly sure any woman who knew her husband was willing to sacrifice himself in every respect for her would respond to that love in a wholly complementary way making that marriage union one to be delighted in continually. The husband is to let his wife know that his love for her is of the highest quality and whatever happens in their lives no sacrifice would be too great on his part.
On June 18, 1940, the Times of London published the last letter a young airman wrote to his mother. Pilot Officer V. A. Rose-Warne had written: "The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice." If that is true, then Christ's life outdistances all others if measured by his sacrifice. Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
That’s the kind of love a husband is to display to his wife, which will in turn present his wife to the world at large as the most beautiful creature of all times. What about it men? Marks out of ten, how did you do?
c. Learn From This Expectation: v28-29a.
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it.”
Watch the Apostle move here from the bride to the body and from the body to the bride. He moves from a man and his wife to Christ and His church, from the church as a bride to the church as a body. The roots of this illustration are as deep as the origin of the human race. John Phillips in Exploring Ephesians.
Men, think very hard about the standard of love we are to display to our spouse, surely it is most challenging. We are to love our wives with tenderness and care in the very same way we would look after our own bodies. When tiredness, hunger, pain takes hold what do we do? Well, we cannot just do nothing, that can be dangerous and painful and just as we lovingly care for our own bodies we must according to Paul’s injunction so care for our wives. And that is just simply sanctified common sense. I am so thankful the Lord has allowed me to have my wife to this point in time and my prayer is that my dear wife will be spared as the lord spares me so that together we can be a testimony to the blessings and glory of God. Would it not be a delightful thing having lived all these years together we would be taken together! Well, that of course is in the Lord’s hands!
When Ruth Bell was a teenage girl going off to Korea for schooling from her childhood home in China she fully intended to be a confirmed old maid missionary to Tibet. But she did give the thought of a husband some serious consideration. She wrote the following list of particulars:
"If I marry: He must be so tall that when he is on his knees, as one has said, he reaches all the way to heaven. His shoulders must be broad enough to bear the burden of a family. His lips must be strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no, and tender enough to kiss. Love must be so deep that it takes its stand in Christ and so wide that it takes the whole-lost world in. He must be active enough to save souls. He must be big enough to be gentle and great enough to be thoughtful. His arms must be strong enough to carry a little child." Ruth Bell Graham: A Time for Remembering.
3. A Couples Relationship To Marriage Principles: v30-33.
a. Ponder This Amazing Declaration: v30.
“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones”
Surely, one of the most potent statements every made by any servant of God. this Trinitarian thought on the Body, flesh, and bones highlights, like no other statement the absolute oneness there should be between the Lord and His and the Church and its Lord. As the vine is dependant upon the branch to bear some fruit so the branch is absolutely dependant upon the vine for its substance, strength and support. It is quite simple for us to recognize how badly believers require the Lord but then to turn the process around and know the Lord requires His Body, the Church. In some thrilling and precious way the Lord need His Church to fulfil His will. So Paul opens up for us this amazing revelatory insight. The body, flesh and bones were necessary if a person is to function correctly. A body without bones just does not work as it should and bones without flesh would simply be a skeleton, and both bones and flesh will not work without a healthy body, the one was meant for the other. That of course is what Paul is teaching here, the Lord and His people are unworkable without each other. Wow! Working in unity and harmony the Church and its Lord function well apart; they are helpless.
b. Process This Agonising Departure: v31.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh”
Sometimes the leaving of home and parents can be an agonising departure however much we love the one we marry but, every woman needs her own home and every man needs his own space. If our ideas and our ideals are going to work out then it’s necessary for a woman to be queen in her own castle and the man be king in his own castle. This of course does not mean we desert our parents, often we have to look after them because of age or illness or indeed because we want to. None-the-less God has ordained that the unity of a man and his wife be worked at and maintained at whatever cost. Marriage is the obvious beginning of an absolutely new life, and nothing must come between that beautiful independent new-growth. The very same principle is applied to Christ and His church, when we are joined to the Lord in spiritual matrimony; we give our troth, or pledge our allegiance, to our lovely bridegroom and nothing, but nothing should distract us from giving Him pride of place at all times and in all circumstances. We are most certainly not to be enamoured with other attractions, even those who were nearest and dearest to us, give them their honoured place yes, but first and last place must be to our beloved!
c. Practice This Awesome Doctrine: v32.
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church”
It is most interesting how the Apostle uses the word mystery so often with respect to Christ and His church, and rightly so. From ages past this had been a secret hidden from all but now and for ages to come this was a mystery revealed to him (Ephesians Ch3v9). The Hebrew people believed it to be absolutely inconceivable that any others than themselves should know anything about God, now though, Paul has revealed to him that the Gentiles should share in this wonderful blessing of God. The middle wall of partition has been broken down, which now allows those who have been afar off to draw near to a Holy God. How dare you! What an idea! Paul is saying, listen, listen, this is a more wonderful concept; Christ has become the head of the Church and is destined to become the heavenly bridegroom and wed the international bride. Although it may surprise some of you, the more we practice this awesome truth, the more we will understand the mystery now revealed, and what a blessing the working out of this precious doctrine will be to all.
d. Pursue This Acquired Decision: v33.
“Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband”
Paul is making the point, this is something that should be worked at, “so love his wife as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband” even you do not completely understand this mystery of this new revelation, at the very least you will understand the illustration I am giving you concerning husband and wife. What the Apostle wanted them to understand about the marriage union was it has to be worked at and the outcome would be a loving Christian family. What the Lord Jesus Christ wants is that there be a loving, daily worked at, union, seen by all in sundry as a witness of a union that is so different to anything else in this world, a witness that is inviting and one that attracts others.
A young woman in England many years ago always wore a golden locket that she would not allow anyone to open or look into, and everyone thought there must be some romance connected with that locket and that in that locket must be the picture of the one she loved. The young woman died at an early age, and after her death the locket was opened, everyone wondering whose face he would find within. And in the locket was found simply a little slip of paper with these words written upon it, "Whom having not seen, I love." Her Lord Jesus was the only lover she knew and the only lover she longed for. - R.A. Torrey in a sermon, "How to Be Saved" (The Best of R.A. Torrey, comp. by George B.T. Davis). Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 4.