Hi, this is Pastor Ken and I want to welcome you to this week’s Monday Marriage Message. This will be the 11th and final installment in our series focusing on Ephesians 5:21-33.
We finally have reached the last verse of this chapter and this passage concerning marriage. I hope this expository look has been as enjoyable and eye-opening for you as it has been for me. Just as I did as we began this study nearly three months ago, today I will read the passage in its entirety, and we will conclude with today’s focal verse.
Ephesians 5:21-33 in the New King James Version reads as follows. 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.
Last week I made two statements that I want to take a moment to repeat here. Based on verses 30-32 I said that, “The analogy has become the reality”, and that “Marriage between a man and a woman is no longer utilized to simply describe the relationship between us and God but rather has come to define that relationship”. I feel that perhaps those statements need some clarification. In verses 30-32 Paul made three important points.
As Christ followers, we are one flesh with Christ. (Verse 30)
He connected the previous statement with God’s design for marriage to recreate a “One flesh” condition between a husband and a wife reminiscent of the literal “One flesh” condition shared between Adam and Eve. (Verse 31)
Paul reiterated that the fact that God continues to make every man and woman joined in marriage “One flesh” is “mysterious” and in my estimation, miraculous, and is only possible by the all-powerful creative hand of God, but that he was in fact writing that Christ and the church enjoys such a relationship. (Verse 32)
In light of those facts placed into evidence by the Holy Spirit as He inspired Paul to write these words, I made the aforementioned statements. In nearly every book of the Old Testament God used marriage in one form or another as an analogy of the relationship He desired to enjoy with His people. In Christ, the analogy has become the reality. No longer is marriage used by God to describe the connection He longs to have with us, marriage can now be defined by the personal relationship we enjoy with Jesus Christ. As I shared just two weeks ago, according to Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus takes very seriously the way we interact with our spouse, and considers it the way we are interacting with Him personally.
With that understanding, let’s move on to verse 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. As we interact with one another, God gives each spouse specific instruction as to how to do so. Interestingly He finishes precisely where He began in verse 21. There, the instruction is to submit to one another out of respect for God. Here in verse 33, we are told how to do that. In previous episodes of the Monday Marriage Message, I have mentioned that men and women have differing primary relational needs. As revealed before, these principal needs of love and respect are the same needs God has in order for our oneness with Him to be in good standing. In Deuteronomy 6:5 and 5:7 He commands us to love Him with all we have and to respect Him above all others. Coincidently, women are always searching to find out if they are loved and cared about for what they think, say, believe and do. On the other hand, men are created to consider at all times if they are respected for the very same things. As a result, when God mysteriously and miraculously creates of a man and a woman a “One flesh” condition, that marriage now has the same two primary relational needs as its Creator. In this way among others, that marriage now has greater capacity to fulfill its purpose and reflect the image and likeness of God.
Because God knows intimately that which He has created, He is well aware of our differing primary relational needs, He is after all, the one who wisely so endowed us. He also knows our propensity to offer to others that which would be pleasing to us. He knows that a man will have a natural tendency to show his wife his respect, because he would so highly value it if he knew beyond any doubt, that in all circumstances she respected Him. Likewise, God knows that He has created every woman in a way that will propel them to show love to their husbands. Love is the one thing above all else that she desires her husband to share with her unconditionally. God is not surprised that we will each offer that which we desire to receive. However, God wants us to submit to the other in fear of Him. Therefore, He commands the man to love and the wife to respect. In a very real sense, He is saying, “Husbands, because you love and respect me, submit to your wife and give her what she needs most. Love her by meeting her specific needs. Additionally, God implores the wife to respect her husband, to submit to him by continually meeting his primary need for respect. This action of hers is possible because of her deep love and respect for her Lord.
When husbands and wives meet the principal need their spouse possesses, they are in fact saying several important things congruent with this passage. They are recognizing that their spouse is simply different than they are and more importantly, that dissimilarity does not indicate a deficiency on their spouse’s part. Second, they are illustrating that they are willing to submit their words and actions to fulfill their spouse’s primary relational needs. Finally and likely most importantly, they do these things out of a deep love and respect for the One giving the command. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” and “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things I say?”
Correct action has little value without correct motivation. When we do the right thing but for the wrong reasons, we generally find that our inappropriate motivation either blemishes the final outcome, erodes our longstanding desire to act as we should, or both. It is crucial to understand that concept when it comes to our marriages. As people we often ask questions that illuminate a wrongly placed motive for a rightly completed action. “What’s in it for me?” this question indicates that while the action may appear to be selfless, in truth, the motivation is selfishness. “How long do I have to do this?” illustrates a selfish mindset as well as a distrust in God that His prescriptions are for our best. When I offer counsel to address a marital difficulty by submitting to God’s precepts clearly written in His word, people often tell me “I tried that and it didn’t work”. I understand they may have tried the particular action in question, but their motivation obviously wasn’t what it needed to be. When carried out with a pure motive, one of genuine selflessness and a deep trust that God knows best regardless of what worldly wisdom would suggest, a desirable result will undoubtedly be the outcome personally, in the spouse…or more likely in both.
It is God who says “Husband, love your wife…wife, respect your husband”. Do so in response to Him. Submit to one another’s needs, in the fear of God.
Questions to answer:
Have you ever considered that when you give your spouse what they need from you, you are giving God what He wants from you?
What does that understanding do to motivate you to act in the right ways?
What differences do you feel correct motivation makes to your ability to carry our correct action?
How do the above mentioned factors of motivation vs. action affect the overall outcome?
Actions to take:
Discuss each of your differing primary relational needs and why they are each so important to you personally.
Talk about some of the noteworthy things each of you have learned as the result of this expository look at Ephesians 5:21-33.
Commit to reading this passage together at least once a month and discuss its continued effect on your marriage and be willing to consider what additional changes God wants to see it bring going forward.
So now, submitting to one another by making your spouse’s primary relational need your primary concern, and doing so for the best reason in all history, because the one who died for you asked you to…Go be awesome!