Marriage exists for God more than it exists for us. The major problem in every marriage is sin, but the solution is our Savior. Wives give a picture of the church to the world and husbands give a picture of Christ to the world. As Christ relates to the church, the husband is the head of his wife. As the church relates to Christ, the wife is the helper for her husband. This picture has been designed by God, but has been distorted by sin. In this episode of the Radical Podcast on Ephesians 5:22–33, Pastor David Platt teaches Christains how to view marriage biblically.
- The glory of God is the ultimate aim of marriage.
- The grace of God is the ultimate hope for marriage.
- The gospel of God is the ultimate picture in marriage.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to 5 Ephesians. I want us to pick up where we left off in our series on Attachment, the gospel and our families.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to look at the gospel and Marriage. In the next sermon we’re going to look at the gospel and parenting. Then the gospel in singleness, which we postponed from the last sermon. Then on Father’s Day look at the gospel and manhood.
Ephesians 5 contains the longest statement in the New Testament on the relationship between husbands and wives. I don’t have to tell you that when you look at the political and moral landscape of our country today, the foundations for marriage are quickly eroding in our culture.
But my goal is not to lament the eroding foundations of marriage in our culture. My goal is to address the eroding foundations of marriage in the Church. To put it bluntly, I am convinced that we have ignored God’s standards for marriage in the Church today. And we have ignored and neglected God’s expectations for marriage in the Church today.
As a result, we sorely need, we desperately need to return to what the word of God has to teach about marriage. Now the passage we’re going to look at was written in the context of the first century, a Greco Roman culture that was self-centered, self-saturated, immoral when it came to marriage and sexuality. The words that are on the page here provided a startling contrast with the culture that surrounded the church in this day.
I want to warn you from the very beginning, the words we’re about to read provide a startling contrast with the culture that surrounds us in the 21st Century when it comes to marriage.
We need to ask ourselves the question before we even dive into this Word, because of the contrast it’s going to give between the Word and what we see in the world we need to ask ourselves a question from the very beginning are we going to submit our lives to the Word of Christ? Our marriages to the Word of Christ or are we going to live our lives and our marriages according to the ways of this world because that question will determine how we view this text.
Are we coming to this text saying, “God, you tell us what to do, show us what to do. We submit to what your Word says.” Or do we come to this text with such arrogance that we would say, “Let me see what it says and see what I think about it.” We’ve got to make sure to guard against the latter. Let’s see this text for what it is.
I want you to know why this is so important. It is directly related to what we talked about in the previous sermon when we talked about taking the gospel to the nations. I want this faith family to hear, to know that the way we approach marriage will have a direct effect on our ability to proclaim the gospel to the nations. The way we approach marriage will have a direct affect on how involved we are or are not involved in accomplishing The Great Commission in the world today. I want to show you why that is in this text.
Before we read it though, let me just remind you where we were two sermons ago when I reminded you of and we talked about womanhood. I’m not claiming to be the expert on marriage. I am not claiming to be some character who has it all figured out or at least thinks he has it all figured out. I’m not claiming that I have experienced everything there would be in marriage in my whole nine years – I think it’s nine. Yes, nine years in marriage. I’m not claiming that all of us have the same circumstances and situations represented when it comes to marriage.
I know that there are such an infinite number of scenarios represented and I’m praying that God would take the truths of His Word, the authoritative truths of His Word and by the power of His Holy Spirit apply them to each of the circumstances represented and the Holy Spirit is good for that. He is good for that. The Holy Spirit is good for showing us how this Word applies to our lives.
The good thing is we’re going to look at these truths and you’re going to leave and the Holy Spirit will go with you to show you how these truths look in your lives. So with that understanding let’s dive into Ephesians 5:22.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph. 5:21—33).
Ephesians 5:22–33 and Foundations…
Now I want to take this text and divide it into three areas. I want us to look at some foundations that are fundamental for understanding Ephesians 5, the Biblical worldview when it comes to marriage.
Then we’re going to look at some specific instructions based on those foundations that are given in Ephesians 5 and then we’re going to close by focusing on just a couple of different conclusions when it comes to how to put this into practice. So we’ll start with foundations and this is vital. We can’t go to the instructions part until we get the foundations part until we’re on the same page here.
The Glory of God is the Ultimate Aim of Marriage
Foundation number one: the glory of God is the ultimate aim of marriage. The glory of God is the ultimate aim of marriage. Everything in Ephesians 5 revolves around the glory of God. Specifically the glory of God in Christ. Look at verse 22: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). It comes back to your submission to the Lord. Verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Verse 29: “No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph. 5:29).
This permeates this whole passage. Everything comes back to Christ. Everything comes back to displaying the glory of Christ, imitating Christ, obeying Christ. Doing what we do in marriage as to the Lord, for the glory of God and Christ. The glory of God is the ultimate aim of marriage.
To put it a different way, marriage exists for God more than it exists for you. Husbands, wives, marriage exists for God more than it exists for you. I want you to let that soak in for a moment and I want you to think with me why this is so important.
You don’t have to walk very far into the local Christian bookstore to find a whole section on marriage and family. A plethora of books and resources on marriage and family. The Christian marriage marketing business is booming. Books, seminars, conferences, all talking about how to have a better marriage. What’s interesting though is the marriage rate continues to decline as the divorce rate continues to rise. The picture of marriage in the church continues to decrease, continues to be devalued. It makes one wonder. What does this mean?
Well I don’t want to draw too much of a cause-and-effect picture, but the reality is it shows we are grasping, we are looking for ways to be happy in our marriages. But the question I want to ask is what if we’re looking in the wrong place? What if we’re going to books, conferences and seminars and experts in this and that to help us when it comes to marriage and along the way we’re bypassing the Expert who has given us His Word on marriage.
I’m not saying books, conferences or other people are in and of themselves a bad thing, but to the extent to which we go past this Word in search of other resources to help us because apparently this word is not enough for us that we have missed the point and this thriving book, conference, seminar, circuit may not be a sign of health in the church when it comes to marriage. It may, in and of itself, be a sign of disease in the church when it comes to marriage because we are looking beyond.
We find ourselves constantly grasping beyond what the Word has shown us about marriage. I want to remind you that God is the Lord of marriage. He created marriage. He knows marriage better than every therapist in the world put together. He knows marriage and He has given us in His Word what we need when it comes to marriage. He’s given us what we need and His Word is good. His Word is sufficient.
We’ve got to be careful of this dangerous tendency to bypass the most important question when it comes to marriage. Don’t miss this. The question that will determine the state of your marriage is this question. Is God the Lord of your life? Is God the Lord of your life? Is your life, husband, is your life, wife submitted to His Lordship. This is foundational. Is your life surrendered to whatever He says. This we will do. This I will do. This we will do together.
He created marriage. He is Lord of marriage and it exists primarily for His sake. As long as the starting point in our discussions of marriage is, “What works best for me?” Then we are at the wrong starting point in Christianity altogether.
Husband or wife, if you’re starting point when you think about your marriage is, “What would work best for me?” Then you have missed the point of Christianity from the start. The question is not, “What would work best for me?” The question is, “What works best for God in my marriage?” That is a radically different question to ask and it’s not a question you will hear the world begging you to ask, encouraging you to ask.
What is best for God in my marriage because He is my Lord and He is my passion and He is my everything and everything in my life is under His Lordship and whatever He says do I will do it. Until we get to that point then no matter how many experts we talk to and no matter how many books we read we will never experience what God has designed for us in marriage. It all comes back to the Lordship of Christ first and foremost. Marriage exists for God more than, before than it exists for you. Glory of God is the ultimate aim of marriage.
Ephesians 5:22–33 and The Grace of God is the Ultimate Hope for Marriage
Based on that, second foundation: the grace of God is the ultimate hope for marriage. This is good news. The God who designed marriage, who is Lord of marriages promises to give you the grace to experience marriage as He has designed it. God’s grace, the divine resources of Heaven are available for you to experience marriage as He designed it.
People say, “Well why do we have so many struggles then in marriages?” You go to the books and the experts and you’ll find all kinds of answers. You will find well, the problem is communication problems, the problem is compatibility problems, personality problems, problems with your past, problems with his past, problems with her past, problems with your present, problems with your future. You’ve got problems everywhere. You’ve got problems financially, sexual problems, all of these different problems.
I don’t want to over simply this picture, but I think at the core Scripture says there is one major problem in every marriage and it’s called sin. The major problem in every marriage is sin. Every husband and every wife is a sinner. Wives, do not amen too loudly at that. A horrible sinner at that.
You take Romans 3:9—20 and you apply it to marriage. This is the bringing together of a man and a woman whose “Throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘…Ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Rom. 3:13—18). Does that encourage you? I’ve never heard a wedding song based on those lyrics right there. No; it doesn’t work that way.
Now this is important. This is extremely important because as long as we go to books and conferences and seminars and experts to help us deal with marriages to work on external things, until we come face to face with the sin problem that’s at the core of every single one of our hearts, then we will be putting band-aids on broken limbs every time; every time.
We don’t think like this. You know why we don’t think like this? Because the last place we want to look when it comes to problems in our marriages is within ourselves. We can find many, many, many people who will tell us the problems in our marriages have nothing to do with us. They have to do with outside factors beyond our control.
I’m not saying that it all comes back to the root of this or that, but it is very clear that there is a problem when a man and a woman come together and they are both sinful, they have remaining sin in their lives that’s going to create some issues. Until those issues are faced don’t miss it. This is why this is a good thing. This sounds kind of morbid like, “This is not very encouraging for our marriage just talking about our sin,” but don’t miss it.
When we come face to face with undeniable reality of remaining sin in our lives, even as followers of Christ, the remaining sin in our lives, a sin that is opposed to union together, opposed to that which brings the most glory to God. It’s until we come face to face with that reality, we will not go then to the solution for this problem, but when we do come face to face with that reality there’s a sin problem in you. There’s a sin problem in me. We’ve got only one place to go and it’s to Christ. That’s the intent of this picture.
Marriage is intended to drive us to Christ. What if marriage is not primarily intended to make us happy, but to make us holy? To drive us to Christ. That’s what marriage is intended to do. The major problem in marriage is sin. The major solution for any marriage is the Savior. This is why we need the gospel in our marriages. We don’t need the gospel just to save us so we can pray a prayer and move on with our lives.
No, we need the gospel every single day to empower us, to enable us, to realize the fact that the gospel is our only hope in marriage. The grace of God is our only hope for marriage. He is our only remedy. Christ is our remedy. God help us to see this. God forgive us for running right past your Word to all of these other resources. When the reality is, Christ is enough for your marriage.
Christ is enough for your marriage. I’m not trying to over simplify things, but I am saying this. If we do not go to the grace of Christ in our marriages we have no hope for experiencing what God has designed for us in marriage.
The grace of God is fundamental to this whole picture. It’s because of the problem and if we don’t diagnose the problem correctly we’ll never see the solution for what it is in Christ. Christ is enough. Christ is enough. Christ is enough. Christ is enough. I can’t say it enough. Christ is enough for our lives. Christ is enough for our marriages.
The Gospel of God is the Ultimate Picture in Marriage
This leads to the third foundation, His glory, the ultimate aim. His grace, the ultimate hope for our marriages. This is the foundation that really permeates this passage. The gospel of God is the ultimate picture in marriage. This is the core of Ephesians 5. There is a dominant correlation between a husband’s relationship with his wife and Christ’s relationship with His church that is all throughout Ephesians 5.
Look with me in verse 22 and you’ll notice. Notice the comparative words. “Wives submit to your husbands as” you might circle it, underline it, “as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:22—25).
You get down to verse 31 he quotes from Genesis 2, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Eph. 5:31). Then look at what he says. This is incredible. “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Do you realize what he’s saying there?
He’s saying that when God created marriage back in Genesis 2, He didn’t just roll the dice or draw straws or think, “Well I wonder – wonder what would be a good thing to do with man and woman. How could this thing look.” Instead He designed marriage intentionally from the very beginning – Paul says “It’s a mystery” in Ephesians 5.
It’s a mystery in that Moses and the people in the Old Testament didn’t realize the fullness of the significance of what was happening there, but when God designed marriage and He brought a man and a woman together, His design from the very beginning – this is not Paul saying Ephesians 5, you know, I’d like an illustration to help us understand marriage. No. He’s saying God’s design from the very beginning was to give us an illustration in marriage of the way Christ loves His people.
The marriage, relationship from the very beginning of time was designed by God to be a picture. God saying to the world. Catch this, God saying to the world, “You want to know how my Son loves my people, look at marriage. Look at marriage and you’ll see a picture of the gospel.”
I want you to let this soak in. Wives give a picture of the church to the world. That’s what Ephesians 5 is teaching. I want us to see both these. Then we’ll let it soak in. Wives, give a picture of the church to the world. Husbands give a picture of Christ to the world.
Your marriages, each of our marriages gives a picture to the world of Christ’s relationship with His people; an inescapable picture. By that I mean you don’t choose whether or not to give a picture. Your marriage, my marriage is giving a picture to the world.
The question is not what are we giving a picture of. The question is what kind of picture are we giving. This truth is – it’s both challenging and encouraging. It’s challenging on this level. Wives, if you sleep around on your husband you show the world that Christ is not satisfying enough for His people. Wives, if you disrespect your husband, you show the world that the Church does not respect Christ. Wives, if you do not follow your husband, as Ephesians 5 outlines here, you show the world that Christ is not worth following.
Husbands, if you desert your wives, you show the world that Christ deserts His people. You ignore your wife; you show the world that Christ wants nothing to do with His people.
Do we realize what’s at stake here? This is why that first foundation is so key. This is the glory of Christ and His covenant with His people that is bound up in the marriage picture. To think how all across our culture, not just our culture, but all across the church we are outright slandering the faithfulness of Christ with the way we approach marriage often times to indulge in a few moments of worldly pleasure. God forgive us.
This is why you stay together in marriage. Not because it’s easy. Not because it always makes sense according to your feelings. You stay together in marriage because the covenant of Christ is at stake in this picture before a lost and dying world that needs to see the love of Christ. God has said you want to see the gospel. See it in marriage. This raises marriage to a whole other level that we need to see in the church.
What’s encouraging about it, what’s encouraging about this is husbands, you have an expert. You want to know how to love your wife? You want to know how to love your bride? Look at Christ. He shows us how to do it. He tells us how to do it. His whole life is a picture of how to do it so look to Him. See Him. You don’t have to be a pioneer in this thing. You have One who’s gone before you. Who has shown what marriage looks like in His relationship with His people.
Wives, see this. That God has designed just as God has designed the satisfaction of His church to be found in a husband called Christ. He’s designed enjoyment and satisfaction for you. Now I know that some of you are thinking – some of you are thinking, “Well that’s just not what’s going on in my life right now. It’s not what I’m experiencing in marriage so what do I do?”
Again I know. I know there are so many circumstances represented and I know there are – I know there are men and women who have not shown this picture in the past and cannot undo that. Say what do you do. Here’s what you do. I want to encourage you first and foremost. Look at your past redemptively. Look at your past redemptively. Look at your past in the light of the grace of God that covers your past. God’s grace covers our past. Praise God. His grace covers our past. His grace covers our past.
But it doesn’t just cover our past. His grace empowers our present and don’t miss it. The glory of God is bound up in the marriage covenant. The grace of God is promised to enable the marriage covenant and the gospel of God is being proclaimed to the world through the marriage covenant. That means God is highly invested in your marriage covenant. He wants to give you everything you need to make this work. He puts the divine resources of Heaven at your disposal so that for His glory, by His grace you and your wife, you and your husband join together even when it’s not easy, even when it’s difficult you join together and together you preach the gospel to the world with the way you love each other. This is God’s design for marriage. It is foundational.
Until the motivating factor in our hearts is the glory of God and the gospel by the grace of God we’ll never be able to go on to what the rest of this Scripture says. In fact, if the Lordship of Christ and these foundations are not in your life, I have no doubt that you will walk away after this text in Ephesians 5 – I already know there are red flags that have gone up– you’ll walk away saying, “I don’t buy that. That’s not the answer. That would not be – that’s old-fashioned.”
The reason you don’t buy it is because you’ve not bought into the Lordship of Christ in your life. The Lordship of Christ says here’s my glory, here’s my grace available to you and here’s the gospel. I will give you what you need to make this a reality.
So what does that reality look like? Now we get into the instructions. Based on these three foundations, these instructions. We’ll divide these instructions into roles and responsibilities. It’s what Ephesians 5 does. We’ve got roles of husbands and wives and responsibilities of husbands and wives. We’ll start with the roles.
Now remember, remember when we talk about roles, God did not design marriage haphazardly. It wasn’t just arbitrary. Oh, well we’ll just kind of do this. He did all of this in a lot of these foundations. Everything is intentional.
Ephesians 5:22–33 and The Roles…
The roles: Number one: as Christ relates to the church, the husband is the head of his wife. As Christ relates to the church, the husband is the head of his wife. This is verse 23. ‘The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.’
Now I want to do a little grammar lesson here to remind you of something. Often times we confuse indicatives with imperatives in Scripture. I want you to hang with me here for a second, okay. Some of you are thinking yeah, of course. Indicative and imperatives, but you are confused over what indicatives and imperatives are.
Here’s what they are. Indicatives are statement of fact. This is the way something is. There’s no ought to in an indicative. A podium is black. A room has chairs. People are sitting in the chairs. These are statements of fact. Not, “A podium ought to be black”. It’s black. It’s indicative.
Imperatives are commands, “ought to” kind of statements. This is something you should do. You should speak from a podium. Sit in a chair. Come into a room. These are actions that we do. We ought to do. Commands.
Now, the reason I draw the difference between indicative statements of fact and imperatives, commands to do is when you come to Ephesians 5, we need to realize that there is not an imperative in this passage for husbands to be head of their wives. Let me repeat that. There is not a command anywhere in this passage for husbands to be head of their wives.
It does not say, “Husbands be head of your wife.” That’s not an imperative in Ephesians 5. Instead it’s an indicative. It’s a statement of fact. The Bible says, “The husband is the head of the wife.” Just as this podium is black, the husband is the head of the wife. It’s a reality. It’s the way God has designed it.
Now at this point I want to remind you, 1 Corinthians 11:3. We don’t have time to turn there, but you might write this down. I want to read it to you because I know that as soon as I start talking about headship that there are some of these flags going up. “What do you mean headship?”
Let me tell you what it’s not. When we get to 1 Corinthians 11:3, write that down, but what it’s not is don’t forget what’s happened up to this point in Ephesians. There’s two other times up until verse 23 Christ is mentioned as the head of His church. Christ is mentioned as the head over all of us. So this passage is not saying that the husband takes the place of Christ in a wife’s life. That’s not what this passage is saying.
This passage is not saying that a husband is infallible like Christ or perfect like Christ or supreme like Christ. Not at all. This passage is not saying that Christ is not head over a wife. Christ is definitely head over wives and husbands; all of us He is head, but the picture is in a relationship between a husband and wife, husband is the head of the wife.
Now 1 Corinthians 11:3. Look at what it says. “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). And look at this. This is why I want to draw out 1 Corinthians 11:3. “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Did you hear that? The head of Christ is God.
I want to remind you of 1 Corinthians 11:3 because this is not in any way talking about value. This is not giving a picture of inferiority and superiority. It’s not talking about worth. Galatians 3:28 makes it very clear we are all equal in Christ, together in Christ.
The reason I bring up 1 Corinthians 11:3 is because it talks about how God is the head of Christ and we know Christ is fully God. He’s fully divine. He’s not left God and the Father. At the same time, the Father is the head of Christ.
So I want to remind you if there is any angst in you, men or women, when it comes to this picture of head, man being a head, husband or husband being the head of his wife, if there’s any angst in that I want to remind you that Christ was okay with not being the head in this relationship with His Father. This is a good thing. It was a good thing for Christ and His entire life on earth that the Father was the head. He responded to what the Father was leading Him to do in His loving leadership. We’ll get to that in a minute, but just keep that in mind.
As Christ relates to the church the husband’s the head of the wife. Second, as the church relates to Christ, the wife is the helper for her husband. The wife is the helper for her husband. Now I know that we got flags going off. So I want you to turn back to Genesis.
Go with me back to Genesis 2. Way back, the beginning of the Bible, first book, Genesis 2, second chapter, first book, 2 Genesis and I want us to look at the whole picture here in the very beginning. Paul quotes from this in Ephesians 5. 1 Corinthians 11, another passage about marriage. Also goes back to this picture in Genesis 2 and 3. The reason I point that out is because the New Testament is not bringing something completely new onto the table here. It’s harkening back to the whole foundation of marriage that was started in the very beginning.
In fact, Genesis 2, God designs this picture. God designs this picture of marriage of the husband as head and the wife as helper. God designs this in Genesis 2. Let me show it to you, the picture. Here in Genesis 2 is you’ve got God who creates man. Could have created man and woman at the same time. He didn’t. Created man first. He comes to the man and God says, “You have responsibility.” Keyword: you have responsibility. “For the care of creation.” This is what happens in Genesis 2. “The care of creation and the obedience of creation.” He gives man the command. “Do not eat from this tree.” Man’s responsible for the care of the garden and the obedience of God’s creation. Man is established as the leader in this picture from the very beginning.
Then you get to verse 20. It says, Genesis 2:20,
“The man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man’” (Gen. 2:20—23).
Here it is. What he quotes in Ephesians 5, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). No suitable helper was found for Adam. God create woman. Here you’ve got this picture. You’ve got this picture of man is head and woman is helper and it’s a good thing in Genesis 2. It’s working in harmony together.
This is a man and a woman united in consuming love for each other in a satisfying way. You get to the end, “A man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” That’s Hebrew for things were going well, really well. But then you get to Genesis 3. Genesis 2, God designs this picture. Man is head; woman his helper. Genesis 3, sin distorts this picture. Sin enters the world in Genesis 3. Who does God go to first? He goes to man. Responsible for the obedience of creation. Not that woman wasn’t responsible for her sin, but ultimately the responsibility came back to the leader in this picture who had been given, entrusted with that responsibility. What happens is they’re confronted in their sin and God speaks to them.
It’s interesting. You get to verse 16. Look at what verse 16 says. It says, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children’” (Gen. 3:16). And here it is. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).
Now a lot of people take that verse and say, ‘Well this whole headship and submission thing is a result of the fall. It’s all a result of sin in the world.’ That’s not what Genesis 3:16 is teaching.
We’ve already seen headship and submission, head and helper in Genesis 2. Instead what we’re seeing here in Genesis 3, the relationship between man and woman. Obviously the effect of sin on their relationship with God was great, but it was also great on their effect of their relationship with each other. What it is in Genesis 3 is an abuse of God’s design in Genesis 2.
Now, Genesis 3, as a result of sin, this picture of head and helper that is a good picture, a great picture in Genesis 2 is now open to men who will pridefully dominate their wives and women who will reject and resist their husband’s leadership in their lives. Male chauvinism and feminism are not new things in the 21st Century. They’ve been around since Genesis 3. They are the abuses of God’s design for marriage.
There is no question. I won’t hide from the fact in any way that this design for marriage that God has and man is head and woman is helper is very much abused, even in church by supposed Christian husbands or Christian wives.
What I want us to see though as Scripture says, it is a statement of fact, Sin did not create this headship and submission picture. God created it and He designed it for good. You say, “Well what do you mean? How is that good? How is that great? How is that best?”
This is where I want us to dive into the responsibility. If you can just hang with me and see this. If you can just not rule me out at this point as well – well it is old-fashioned. This is Genesis 2. This is a long time ago that God set this up and He set it up for a reason. I want you to hang with me here because when we get into this we’re going to see the beauty of the New Testament picture of marriage and this picture of head and helper. So hang with me. See what the word is showing us here and it’s good.
Responsibility. Back in Ephesians 5. Starts with the wives. Always starts with the wives in Scripture. I’ll even throw this in as a side note. What’s interesting when you come to Ephesians 5, most of the discussion revolves around what’s said to the wives, but the reality is what’s said to the husbands is a lot longer and it’s a lot steeper, it’s a lot heavier, which we’ll get to in a second. So guys, you just wait a second.
The Wife’s Responsibilities…
Wives, wives, what does the Scripture say in Ephesians 5 is your responsibility? Number one: your responsibility is to revere Christ through submission to your husband. Revere Christ through submission to your husband. Now this word submit is obviously a word, number one, that can be abused, which I hope we’ll change that as we look at what it means in the word, but it is consistent all throughout the New Testament.
Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1, Titus 2:4 and Ephesians 5:22 all say, “Wives submit to your husbands.” So this isn’t just a tangent Paul went off on that he didn’t really mean. This is pretty intentional. The Holy Spirit is giving us this picture all throughout the New Testament.
It’s the same word. In fact, it’s the word that’s carried over from Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And the world literally means to yield to one’s loving leadership. Don’t miss what Ephesians 5 is saying here. It’s saying to wives – and it’s not just saying generically. Women to all men or any woman to every man. It’s saying a wife to your husband. Specific context there. A wife to your husband.
What Ephesians 5:22 is saying trust your husband. Yield to your husband’s leadership. Follow your husband. That’s what its saying. In the same way and the picture is – I’ll go back to what we mentioned earlier. Christ subordinated Himself, submitted Himself to the will of the Father His entire time we see Him in the Gospels. He’s saying whatever the Father says, I do. Whatever the Father tells me to speak, I speak. This is the position that Christ was in, Christ Himself.
This is not an inferiority, inequality, or coercion type issue. This is a voluntary submission. It’s voluntary trusting. Voluntary yielding and devotion to another person. It’s a good thing. Revere Christ. Out of reverence for Christ, as to the Lord through submission to your husband.
Then second, verse 33 says, “Wives respect your husband.” “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). This is so interesting. Just the wisdom of God here and I wish we had to unpack this more, but what you’ve got is you don’t even have a command for wives to love your husbands in this passage directly. Instead that’s reserved for the picture of husbands loving wives.
Instead it says, “Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). So he says, “Husbands love your wives. Wives respect your husbands.” Don’t miss what is underlying here is this picture of God who has designed men, husbands with a need to be respected and God who has designed women, wives with a need to be loved. God designs that and saying this is how you feel that.
The reality is I think if we’re honest with each other we struggle with that some. I think it’s sometimes in many cases easier for a wife to love her husband, but not respect her husband. For a wife to maybe even sit around with a group of friends and talk disrespectfully about her husband, about all the things she’s frustrated with in her husband, but then to go home and to care for her husband and do this or that for her husband because she loves him. The question is does she respect him?
Wives, do you respect your husband? Do you tell your husband what you respect in him? We have this tendency and guys do the same thing and we’ll get to that in a minute, but to give each other what we would need as opposed to what they would need.
So when it comes to marital difficulties, Scripture’s encouraging wives here you need to be loved. Your husband needs to be respected so respect your husband and the way you walk through this picture of marriage with him and build him up. Lift him up. Look for every opportunity you have, ladies, to lift up your husband. You are the helper here in Genesis 2. That’s the picture. That’s why it’s so clear here. Revere Christ through submission to your husband. Respect your husband.
The Husband’s Responsibilities…
Now, some of the ladies I know still have some of these flags up. Now look at this, husbands… Now it gets really thick. Husbands, two responsibilities. Number one: reflect Christ through sacrifice for your wife. Chapter 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). He gave Himself up.
When we deserved the wrath of Almighty God, Christ put Himself in our place, in your place, my place. He drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we wouldn’t have to. All glory be to Christ. There’s no way we are here right now if not for Christ who gave Himself up for us.
So husbands, Paul says, love your wives like that. Headship is not an opportunity, gentlemen, for us to dominate our wives. It is a responsibility. Headship is a responsibility for you and I to die for our wives. To die daily, to sacrifice ourselves.
Culture says be macho, defend yourself, assert yourself, build up yourself, look out for yourself. Scripture says die to yourself and give up yourself for your wife. Give up yourself for your wife. This is the command upon you.
Self-sacrificing love. Reflect Christ through sacrifice for your wife. Husbands, love your wives. Love you wives six times in eight different verses. Love you wife, love your wife, love your wife. You need respect. She needs love. She needs love from you.
Again, I think we have a tendency, guys, to give respect a lot easier sometimes than we give love. It didn’t take me long. Two hours alone with the kids on Wednesday night to have a much greater respect for my wife. Respect is – it’s a lot easier. Respect who she is and what she does. Do I love her? Do you love her?
You say how do I love her? How does Scripture say I need to love my wife? Well first, Ephesians 5 says love her unselfishly. Like Christ loves her unselfishly. This is a self-sacrificing love that is not based on what you get in return. This is so huge. This is huge for wives and husbands both.
Some of you, some of the ladies here, when I said wives, respect your husbands immediately you thought and have been thinking well, my husband doesn’t deserve respect. Be careful because it’s at that point that you were buying into the philosophy of this world when it comes to how you should handle marriage. You’re buying into an ideology that says, “The way I relate to my husband is based on what he gives to me, what he does for me,” and that is not biblical kind of respect and love.
The Bible says, “Wives, respect your husbands.” Not based on their performance for you. Wives, respect your husbands based on Christ’s performance in you. Based on Christ in you. It’s not wives, respect your husband; footnote, go to the bottom: unless this. It’s not what Scripture says and likewise, husbands, when it comes to loving unselfishly the world says, the world says you love your wife, husbands, for all the positive characteristics they have.
The only problem is when one of those positive characteristics is not as appealing to you as a husband anymore your love begins to fade. Your love for your wife. My love for my wife is never in Scripture to be based on positive characteristics on what my wife deserves. It is based on the love of Christ in me for her. That love does not stop. It is not dependent on what she brings to the table. Aren’t we glad, gentlemen, that God does not love us based on what we bring to the table. If we want Him to love us based on what we’ve earned, we have missed the whole point of Christianity.
The reality is if God loves us based on His grace in us, then we better love our wives the exact same way. Love her unselfishly. When those positive characteristics that once appealed to you begin to fade that’s where love becomes all the more real in marriage Scripture teaches. Love becomes all the deeper. Love her unselfishly.
Second: love her effectively. This is where it’s really interesting. Paul kind of goes off on a tangent just talking about what Christ does in His church to make her – verse 26 – “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:26—27). This is what Christ does in His love for His bride, for the church. He presents her as lovely, as beautiful. It’s the work of Christ in her.
Now, obviously there’s a difference here between what we do as husbands and what Christ does. We don’t’ die for the sins of our wives and we don’t’ have sanctifying power that the Holy Spirit has. At the same time what Scripture is showing us here is that Christ’s love for His bride has great affect and your love, husbands, for your wives should have great affect.
Husbands, love your wives in a way that increases their loveliness, that increases their growth in Christ and the loveliness and the beauty of Christ. Love her with great affect, the affect of your relationship with your wife should be evident in the way she pursues Christ. That’s what Scripture’s teaching here. This is where – it’s one of those moments. There were many of them in this previous sermon studying this text where I came face to face in my own life, my own marriage, with inadequacy, struggles.
But this picture, we’ve seen it in Genesis 2 and now here in Ephesians 5 of headship and responsibility. I believe Scripture’s teaching very clearly here that husbands, you have a responsibility for the holiness and loveliness of your wives. Husbands, you have, I have a responsibility for the loveliness and the holiness of our wives. This is a part of headship.
Responsibility before God such that when there are problems in our marriages ultimately they come back to us no matter what the problems are. I know that’s a bold statement. I want you to follow with me here though. I’m not saying that if a wife commits adultery or a wife falls into some other sin that she is not guilty before God in her sin. That’s obviously in Scripture.
At the same time, you are the head of your wife, the head of your family and as such you have responsibility for the loveliness and the holiness of your wife before God and you are accountable to God for the way you lead your wife to be lovely and to be holy.
Let me illustrate. Practical illustration. Navy ship, young sailor on the Navy ship rebelliously runs the ship into the ground in the middle of the night. Meanwhile the captain of the ship has fallen asleep on his watch. Is that young sailor guilty for running the ship into the ground? Absolutely he is guilty. Is this captain responsible? No question he is responsible for letting that ship run into the ground. That’s the picture I believe Scripture’s giving us here when it comes to headship.
Gentlemen, you are responsible and this means that if there are problems going on in our marriages we need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for them. You say how do we change that? How do we make our wives lovely? How do we help them grow in loveliness?
Not by dominating them. Not by saying, “Well I’m going to take control of this thing.” By sacrificing your life for them. This is the way Christ makes His church holy, beautiful, lovely by sacrificing His life for them. Husbands, this is what we are called to do. If you’re not experiencing troubles in your marriage now, husbands, don’t fall asleep on your watch. Don’t fall asleep on the watch God has entrusted to you to be responsible for your home and most importantly, your wife.
It is high time that men rise, step up to the table and take responsibility for what God has entrusted to us instead of making jokes about how we’re head over our wives. This whole picture of headship should cause every man to tremble before God and his wife.
Now it’s making sense, isn’t it? Isn’t it making sense? What wife would not want to follow the leadership of a husband who does these things? What wife would not want to trust one who’s laying down his life every day for her? Love her effectively.
Third: love her carefully. We need to move on. This is almost funny in a sense. In verse 28 and 29 in this same way, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). It’s almost like he appeals to the egotistical nature of man. He’s like, “You know how you love yourself? You know? Love your wife like that and things will be good.” He kind of almost appeals to that.
But he says, “Here’s your own body. Love your wife. Feed her. Care for her.” Two words in the New Testament, original language of the New Testament. First one, how do you love her carefully? First, nourish her, feed her. The language is emotional in the Greek, even evocative here. Nourish her and second, cherish her. Care for her, comfort her, be warm with her. Husbands do not be harsh with your wives. Scripture says do not ever, ever, ever be harsh with your wives. Be warm with your wives. Comfort your wives; cherish your wives.
This is why Scripture obviously sees… God knows that husbands, there is a propensity in us to have a prideful domination when it comes to this picture of headship. The Bible says to us you care for her, you comfort, you cherish your wife. Do not lead her in a way that debases her. You lead her in a way that treasures her. You lead her in a way not that she feels humiliated. Lead her in a way that she feels served by you. Cherish her, nourish her.
Next, last, love her completely. This is the picture of Genesis 2:24. Man, I wish we had time to unpack this, but it’s the one flesh meaning of marriage. Marriage is not a joining of two worlds. Please here this. Marriage is not a joining of two worlds. It is an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new world might be formed. An abandoning of two worlds.
This is your life. She is your life. She is like your own body. Joined to her as one flesh the Scripture says. So love her completely. This is the height of the second commandment in the New Testament. Love your neighbor as yourself. She is closer to being your neighbor than anybody else. So love her as yourself. Love her completely.
All that leads to these conclusions. This is the picture we’ve got in Ephesians 5.So what is the take away? How do we put this into practice? I just want to put three ideas in front of you. One to husbands, one to wives and one to both of you as maybe one practical step you can take from this point.
Husbands, Out serve your Wife
Husbands, practical conclusion for you. Husbands, out-serve your wife. Resolve today by the grace of Christ to out-serve your wife. This is God’s commandment for you. It is God’s great calling in your life. It’s not about what’s best for you. It’s about what’s best for them. This is the moment in my study this week where I left and went to Heather and said, “Heather, how can I better serve you?” I’m not going to tell you what she said, but I will say it wasn’t what I thought she should have said.
I had a lot of good ideas for how I could better serve her and she had something else. So now I’m stuck doing what Scripture has told me to do, which is a great thing. So, husbands, I challenge you to go to your wife and say, “How can I serve you better.”
To integrate this prayer into your daily lives, God help me to out-serve my wife today. How can I out-serve my wife today? This is God’s will for your life and for your marriage.
Wives, Observe your Husband’s Leadership
Wives, observe your husband’s leadership. Observe your husband’s leadership. Now here’s what I mean by that. I know that running across some minds is, “Pastor, you don’t understand. This is actually the problem. I don’t see my husband leading in the way he should.”
So at this point I want to give you a reminder and a caution. A reminder and it’s based on what we talked about earlier. Remember your respect for your husband, your love for your husband, your ministry to your husband, your help to your husband is not based on what he brings to the table. It’s based on Christ in you.
Then second, the caution. I want to caution you ladies not to walk away from Ephesians 5, to sit down with your husband and put your finger in his face and say, “It’s time for you to step it up to the plate. It’s time for you to do this and this.” I want to caution you not to be demanding in that way when it comes to your husband’s leadership in response to Ephesians 5.
The reason is, the reason I want to caution you there is because as soon as you become demanding you are slowly going out of the role that God has intended for you, maybe quickly in some circumstances. And I want to caution you because your demands to him to lead will most likely squelch any desire in him to lead because if he were to step up and lead now it would not be because he is leading you. Because he is acquiescing to your commands.
So I want to encourage you to run to Christ and to pray, to pray earnestly because the reality is your husband cannot lead like this unless Christ does the work inside of him. He cannot do it unless Christ does the work inside of him. That means you are completely dependent on and desperate for Christ to do that in him as well.
So pray for him. Pray for opportunities to talk with him about certain things, but be careful to keep the focus of those conversations of the hope of Christ, the foundation of Christ and be careful to look for any small areas where he is leading and encourage him in those. Build him up in those. Build him up. Help him to lead in that way.
Ephesians 5:22–33: Husbands and Wives, let Christ Serve You
Wives and husbands, last word of encouragement. Wives and husbands let Christ serve you. The beauty of this picture is Christ promises to give His grace to us. Husbands, if you do not feel overwhelmed by Ephesians 5 you have missed the whole point of our time together.
The intent of Ephesians 5 is to drive us to Christ. Wives, I hope that in some sense you feel a sense of well, how can I do this, what does this look like. I hope that you in some sense feel that because that’s intended to drive you to Christ.
I’m not saying that these last few minutes we’ve had together is the end-all be-all in marriage, now everything should be okay so let’s move on to the next issue. What I am saying is that these foundations in Ephesians 5 are fundamental. They are huge and until we focus on these pray through these and let these truths drive us to Christ.
We have no hope for experiencing God’s fulfillment in our marriages. We need these foundations, these truths. God designed marriage. He knows how it should look and He designed it for His glory through His gospel and He desires for that to be reality in each one of our lives. I hope that you realize Christ wants to serve you, to enable you when it comes to this picture.
That’s what I want us to do. I want us to go to Christ. We’re going to have a time of prayer in response to Ephesians 5. If you are husbands and wives and you’re together I want to invite you to spend the next few moments praying together in light of Ephesians 5.
I want to invite you to take the hand of your husband or wife and begin to pray together in light of Ephesians 5. I want to invite you to spend this time concentrated in prayer for him or her and yourself.
If you’re a single I want to encourage you first and foremost to pray for couples in your life, to pray for couples in your life and then to pray for God’s design in your life—future spouse; God’s design for marriage in your life if that is what He has for you. What does this look like and pray for yourself and pray that God prepare you for that. God would keep your focus on His Word.
Children, students, I want to encourage you to pray for mom and dad. Pray for your mom and dad that God would knit them together in a deeper way. I know that there are hurts represented that are just uncovered in a message and a text like this.
I know that there are hurting marriages and I know there are hurts from marriages in the past.
So as we begin to pray I want to invite husbands and wives, if you would like to come on your knees together before God and say we want, we want to abide in your Word.
We need your grace to make this a reality in our lives. Maybe things are struggling some and this is an opportunity for you to put a stake in the crown and say we need you Christ. Maybe things are going really well and this whole picture has driven you back to your needs for Christ for things to continue to go well.
I want to invite you to respond to God in whatever way He leads you, especially for husbands and wives.
Father, we pray that during this time you would give us grace to see you Lord Jesus as the example for what it means to be a husband, to see your Church as a model for what it means to be a bride and God, that you would restore the beauty of the gospel in our marriages.
God, I pray that your abundant grace would transform, comfort, encourage and strengthen couples and individuals during this time as we respond in prayer, as we run to you based on Ephesians 5.