Hi, Pastor Ken here with the Monday Marriage Message, thanks for joining me.
As I mentioned last week we are going to begin looking at an entire selection of scripture having to do with marriage and will continue for as many episodes as necessary to inspect it and glean from it what we can. I am more than sure that I will be unable to pick any branch clean and note every truth contained therein, but I look forward to the process of doing the best I am able. I am cognizant that God’s word says that His ways and thoughts are immeasurably higher than mine, but I am equally aware that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells me that all scripture is useful for teaching us how to live…and that certainly includes our marriages.
The scripture I have chosen to begin with today is a very familiar passage. I have utilized it often in my own teaching on the subject of marriage and it is probably the most used by others for that purpose as well. In fact, Ephesians chapter 5 is highlighted in many bibles as the marriage chapter. We usually look at verses 22-33 of that chapter for instruction on marriage, but for the purposes of our study of this passage, I want to begin with verse 21. In this first episode dedicated to this particular passage, I will read the passage in its entirety, and then we will begin to digest it from the beginning. In subsequent editions, I will simply pick up where we left off the week before.
Ephesians 5:21-33 as read from the New King James Version.
21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Beginning with verse 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. I think it highly important to start here rather than with the ensuing verse. When people read this passage of scripture beginning with verse 22 the erroneous understanding that can emerge is that wives alone are required to submit. Nothing could be further from the truth. No wonder wives throughout history have resisted this scripture! When taken out of context it appears to make her and her alone responsible to live subject to another. I have heard it taught that the pushback that wives exhibit to verse 22 is a manifestation of the curse resulting from the original sin of humankind. This idea comes from what God said to Eve recorded in Genesis 3:16 To the woman He (God) said: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. I believe that we often look at the “curse” that we read of in Genesis chapter 3 incorrectly. I think it is perceived by many as God essentially saying to Adam and Eve, “You have broken my rules so now I am angry with you and am going to curse you as a punishment for your disobedience”. This is not at all the spirit of the passage. Chapter 3 begins with a description of the serpent (Satan) deceiving Eve, and Adam deciding to go against the instruction God had given him, as he joined her in rebellion against God. Surprisingly, we do not see as we might expect, an angry God. The scripture tells us that God (who by the way is omniscient) came that evening seeking to spend time with Adam and Eve, as He did every day. After Adam who was hiding with Eve, disclosed what transpired, God acted in love. He did not kill Adam out of anger, instead, out of love He killed another of His creation, an animal, shed its blood to make a covering for Adam and Eve and the recognition of their nakedness and vulnerability that sin had exposed. God then cursed the serpent…and explained to Adam and Eve how the consequences of their selfishness and distrust of Him would now impact their lives. After this description of life going forward, His mercy on them was further exemplified. Genesis 3:22 tells us that because God knew that Adam and Eve had now experienced evil, He was concerned that if they ate from the tree of life, they would be trapped forever in their sinful condition. To guard them from this irreparable danger, God lovingly put them outside the garden where they would be unable to access potential eternal life separated from Himself.
I mention all of this because sometimes people get the idea that God was mad at Adam and Eve for ruining His perfect plan and in anger, He cursed them by making theirs and every subsequent marriage a contentious relationship. It can be deduced (though I believe incorrectly) that marriage has to be problematic and inherently difficult because of ‘paradise lost’. Yes it is true that while in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect unity, perfect equality, together perfectly reflecting the character and qualities of their Creator God. There they acted, spoke, and lived in perfect harmony under the leadership of God. In that place, all was in perfect order, man and woman together on equal footing under the authority of God. As a result of their sin and their understanding of good and evil they did have to be placed outside of the Garden for their own protection as I explained a moment ago. One of the consequences of living outside the Garden was they could no longer walk daily with God, looking to Him for their collective leadership. With a continued need for order, for all things operate correctly under the constraint of order, God chose the first created, Adam to have responsibility for the wellbeing of his wife Eve. This less-than-perfect order of Husband, lord over wife, and wife, subservient to her husband was necessary because the perfectlydesigned order had been broken by Adam and Eve’s selfishness and distrust in God’s direction. It remained so until Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice for their and our sin and made a way for the relationship between mankind and God to be restored.
Under the new covenant, human beings are again able to walk daily with God. Husbands and wives can once again operate in equality, together looking to God for the headship of their marriages. We still reside in a profoundly fallen world and perfection will not be possible until God creates the “New Heaven and the New Earth” described for us in Revelation chapter 21. However, God once again desires husbands and wives to act as completely equal partners following His lead and reflecting Him as they were originally created to do. The Apostle Paul speaks of this restored equality in Christ in Galatians 3:28, and yet the order outside of Eden remains in effect. Paul is not saying in that scripture that we are no longer men or women, or that there are no longer those who are in authority over and under the authority of others, He is simply making the point that in Christ we all have equal status. It is the same Paul who wrote what we are studying here in Ephesians 5:21-33. What this means is that the order God set in place after the fall remains, but the restored equality we have in Christ should also impact our marriages.
This understanding is actually clarified for us if we begin reading this portion of scripture from Ephesians 5 starting with verse 21 as I suggest we should. 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. When we begin here we see clearly that in Christ, submission in marriage is a two way street. The husband and wife’s equality are exemplified in that they are both required to submit to one another. The phrase “in the fear of God” suggests this state of marital equality to operate under the headship of God, as originally designed. As we continue next time, we will discover practical ways Paul suggests that we can submit to one another best. I hope that this new format is as much a blessing to you as it is to me. I am thoroughly enjoying the process of the Holy Spirit connecting the dots as we work our way through this passage offered to us to develop marital oneness.
Questions to answer:
What are your thoughts about the loss of perfect equality between Adam and Eve being one of the casualties of their sin?
In light of that, when you consider Jesus being the perfect Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world, what effect should a personal relationship with Him have on restoring marital equality and unity?
What difficulties do you recognize sin has caused you and your spouse to have operating in perfect equality, unity and harmony?
Actions to take:
Commit to reading Ephesians 5:21-33 at least 3-5 times per week during the course of our study and ask God to reveal even further truths to you that can impact the way you and your spouse interact with each other and with Him.
So now, in awe of God, and as an act of renewed equality and unity found in Christ, submit to one another…and Go Be Awesome!
Allow me to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! In light of the holidays, which are no doubt offering many of us opportunities to be busy spending time with friends and family, I will not be podcasting next week. I will look forward to continuing our study of Ephesians chapter 5 in the New Year, see you then.