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Good morning. Today we want to talk about marriage. That’s why I’m up here! We want to talk about the mystery of marriage because that’s what the Apostle Paul talks about in Ephesians 5, the passage we’re studying today.
But before we go any further let me just say that we realize that many of you are not married. You’re single and we want to be sensitive to that. So our prayer is that those of you who aren’t married would learn from this passage and be able to pray better for those who are married at Valley View. And we also hope those who are married in our church community would be praying for those of you who are single.
That’s right. So let’s start with a question, first for the husbands who are here. Husbands, who taught you how to be a husband? Think about that. How did you learn to do what husbands do? And while we’re at it, wives who taught you how to be a wife? How did you learn what wives are supposed to do in a marriage?
It’s my guess that no one sat you down and said, “This is Husbanding 101 or this is Wifing 101. Let me teach you this course. And if you pass it we’ll go to Husbanding 201 and Wifing 201.” No. That’s not how it works. That’s not how we learn to be husbands and wives.
Bruce and I have been doing pre-marital counseling together for a lot of years and we’ve observed that most, if not all, of the couples we counsel have learned to be husbands or wives by watching their moms and dads or other parents they knew. And sometimes that’s good. And sometimes that’s bad. And often it’s a mixture of both good and bad. But most of what we learn entering into marriage is caught and not taught. It’s modeled for us growing up in our homes.
Which is why the Scriptures address the roles of husbands and wives in passages like the one we’re going to look at this morning. God wants us to know what it looks like to be husband and what it looks like to be a wife if we claim to be followers of Jesus. How does our new identity of being “in Christ” affect the way we relate to our spouses? What does it mean to follow God’s example in a marriage and walk in the way of love as husbands and wives?
Remember that’s how Paul starts this whole section of his letter in Ephesians 5:1, Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love. So today we continue our series in Ephesians called Becoming Who We Are with a look at marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33 (p. 816).
Let’s start by reading the passage straight through. Ephesians 5:21-33, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Verse 25, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body.
Verse 31, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
What does it mean to follow God’s example and walk in the way of love in a marriage? It means submission, headship, and respect. Notice Paul begins this section with a call to mutual submission in verse 21. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
I think the word “submission” has gotten a bad rap over the years because it’s been misunderstand. The Greek word for submission is hupotasso. It literally means “to come underneath.”
It’s not a statement of greater or lesser value. In fact, it implies equality. In other words, if I submit to you I choose to come underneath you. And if you submit to me, you choose to come underneath me. The word assumes that we are equal in value.
For example, Jesus submitted to the Spirit. Is the Spirit greater than Jesus? No. Jesus submitted to the Father. Does the Father have more value than Jesus? No. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal in worth. Submission assumes equality. Husbands and wives have equal value.
When I think of submission, I think of mutual support. My role is to support Bruce and Bruce’s role is to support me. There’s a story in the Old Testament where Moses is praying and he can’t hold his arms up any more so two friends come underneath him to support his arms so that he can continue to pray. That’s what Jesus wants us to do in our marriages, come underneath and encourage each other.
And this was radical in that culture where women were devalued, certainly by today’s standards. Women had no rights. Women couldn’t support themselves financially. Women couldn’t be witnesses in court. They had no voice. But what I love is that Jesus gave women a voice. He gave women value. And now Paul continues to value women by giving them the choice to submit and support their husbands as husbands submit and support them. The goal is to out serve each other.
So submission is a mutual thing. It’s not a woman thing. It’s a man thing too because submission is a God thing. Jesus modeled submission when he left his Father and all the perks of heaven and came down to serve us.
I like how Jill Briscoe describes the submission of Jesus as our example, “When the Son of God came to earth he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He submitted himself to his Heavenly Father. He laid down his rights to the throne room. And God walked down the stairway of heaven with a baby in his arms and laid him on a bale of hay setting the world on fire. That’s submission.”
So marriage is about mutual submission, submission first of all to God. He’s number one in our lives and then to our spouses. Bruce and I like to tell couples, “If you love Jesus more than your spouse, you will love your spouse more than if you love your spouse more than you love Jesus.”
So Paul says, wives submit to your husbands because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Is mutual submission and headship a contradiction? No, not at all.
Is the husband the head of the wife? Absolutely. But not in a domineering, controlling sense. Not like a bad boss. The husband is the head of the wife the same way Christ is the head of the church. And how did Christ express his headship?
Look at verse 25, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Christ displayed his headship by sacrificial love. He is the ultimate servant leader. He died for the church. He gave himself up for the church to make her holy, clean, and radiant.
Guys, leading our wives doesn’t mean bossing our wives around. No. Leading our wives means serving our wives and laying down our lives for them ten minutes at a time. That kind of headship, that kind of leadership makes submission a joy for them and respect a given. That kind of headship makes a radiant wife.
So mutual submission recognizes that the husband is the head of the wife because he leads her with sacrificial love and gives her every reason to respect him. And when that’s happening in a marriage it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for his bride, the church!
So we’ve looked at submission, headship, and respect. Now what does this all look like in a marriage? How does this get lived out? It looks different in every marriage, because every couple is different. This is what it looks like for us. There are areas where I take the lead in our marriage and Bruce is fine with it. One is in the kitchen, but I would resign at any time. I do the menu planning, the grocery shopping, and the cooking. Pretty traditional, I know.
Are you going to tell them that I do the cleaning up? That’s how I come underneath and serve you!
I take the lead in decorating and home improvements. That’s something that I often have a vision for and initiate discussions about. If it were up to Bruce we’d be frozen in the eighties when we got married. That’s just not something he thinks about a whole lot.
What’s wrong with the eighties? I like the eighties. We got married in the eighties. It was a great decade!
I take the lead in finances. Every marriage needs a book keeper. And the book keeper is usually a control freak and I confess to that. But every day I record the finances and make sure that we’re doing the best we can to steward our money well.
I’m usually the one to initiate discussions about vacations because I love to plan trips and make memories as a family. If I wasn’t a pastor I’d probably be an unemployed travel agent. Anybody, remember those?
And sometimes vacations are a stretch for me because our family didn’t vacation much and Bruce’s family did. So that’s when I need to listen to him and not get stressed out. I need to trust him that we can handle some of these things financially which reminds me that listening is a big part of submitting to one another. If we don’t listen to one another it’s very difficult to come underneath and help each other.
We’re constantly in process when it comes to listening to each other. Sometimes it feels like we take three steps forward in this area and then two steps backward. Communication is key.
Yes communication is key and sometimes after a long day of interacting with a lot of different people it’s difficult for me to listen to Jennifer. And when that happens she can shut down. And I can send a message that what she has to say is not important. And that can cause conflict in our marriage.
Another area where we’ve teamed up over the years is with our three children. When they were young, we made the choice to home school them until third grade. I’m a trained teacher so teaching them was something I wanted to do.
So in our home school, I was the teacher and Bruce was the principal. What I couldn’t handle, I handed over to him! But seriously, we always viewed parenting as a team. That’s something we had to grow into because both of us came from homes where our moms did most of the parenting.
It was important to me to marry a woman who had her own walk with the Lord. And Jennifer did and still does. She doesn’t look solely to me to meet her spiritual needs. She loves Jesus and spends time alone with him. And I’m so glad she does. That’s part of keeping Jesus #1 and me #2.
Initiating prayer with each other is something we both do. It’s a mutual coming underneath to support each other in prayer. Sometimes Bruce initiates prayer. Sometimes I initiate. It’s through prayer that we often learn about each other’s burdens and how to bear them together.
Now what we’ve shared is true, but it’s also true that we are a work in process. We certainly haven’t arrived in any of these areas, but thank God we have a goal. And our goal is to live like Paul describes in Ephesians 5:21-33.
And when we mess up, and we do, we are both so thankful for the cross and the forgiveness that Jesus offers and that we can offer to each other throughout the journey of marriage. And remember, like Paul said, This is a profound mystery. Marriage is a mystery.
Yes it is. Thanks for listening. Let’s pray together.