Sermon on Ephesians 5:21-6:4
Text: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — 30 for we are members of his body. 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.” 32 This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” — which is the first commandment with a promise — 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
God gave mankind a special gift on the sixth day of creation. After God formed Adam from the dust of the earth, God showed him the wonderful gift he was about to give him by having Adam name all the animals. As Adam did so, he noticed that for every one of the animals there was a mate for it. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” (Genesis 2:20) Then, God created a woman for the man. When God presented her to Adam, this was the first marriage. God also told them to “Be fruitful and increase in number.” (Genesis 1:28) With this God was bestowing the blessing of children. We note that this was on the sixth day of creation, when everything was perfect. However, as soon as sin entered the world, the perfect state of the family was shattered. Ever since then, people have tried to figure out how to restore the blessings that come from family. Go to any bookstore and you will find many books about how to do this. You can listen to things such as “Family Talk Radio,” or other resources. While these may have many good pieces of advice, it only makes sense that we should go back to the one who created the family and learn what he has to say about the subject. This morning, we look at GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS FOR FAMILIES. 1. Husbands And Wives and 2. Parents And Children.
Before we get to what to do, we want to be reminded of why we want to do it. We don’t just want to do this so that we have a peaceful home, although that is a wonderful blessing. Rather, we are reminded to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is all done as a way of saying thank you to Christ for all that he has done for us. Because we have not always been the best husbands or wives, because we have, at times, disobeyed our parents or not trained our children as we should, we should have been eternally cut from the family of God. We would have faced his eternal anger for all the sins that we have committed. However, Christ came to rescue us from our sins. He lived a perfect life in our place. One example of this is the way that he was always obedient to his parents. He was obedient because we were not. Then, he took that life of perfection and sacrificed it on the cross to pay for all our sins. By his resurrection, we know that we are right with God. When the Holy Spirit created faith in our hearts, we became his children. Now, we want to thank him for all that he has done for us. One of the ways is found in verse 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We worship our God, we show reverence to him as we carry out the roles in the family in which he has placed us: husband, wife, parent, child. With that as the background, we want to spend a few moments on each of these positions and see how we can serve our God as we serve one another.
First, Paul addresses wives: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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.” (Verses 22-24) The role that the wife is carry out in service to the Lord is to submit to her husband. Most of the time when we hear the word “submit” it has a negative connotation. It carries the idea of knuckling under, of being some sort of slave. There are times when submit does mean that you must obey every order, such as when a sergeant tells a private what they are to do. The private has no choice but to obey. Here the idea is different. In this case, submission has to do with order. This is the order that God established on the sixth day of creation. Remember that God said that he was going to make a “helper” suitable for Adam. Godly submission means to acknowledge that the husband is to be the head of the family. So, the husband is to be the head, the “buck stops with him.” Obviously, in love for his wife, he will consult her in the various decisions. Nor does he have to make every single decision. There are some that he can well relegate to his wife. However, he is to be the leader. Please note that, if the decision that he makes proves not to be the wisest, it is not the wife’s role to say, ‘I told you so. If you would have done it my way, everything would have turned out right.’ He probably knows that already. When that does happen, the wife can carry out her role by being supportive.
Paul gives this example of this godly submission: “As the church submits to Christ.” Why do we submit to Christ? It isn’t because we are afraid of him. It isn’t done out of obligation. It is because we love him, and we know that he is always looking out for our best interests. This is the role that God has in mind for wives in a happy home. Wives submit to their husbands, because they trust that their husbands are looking out for them and because this is pleasing to God.
What does God say to husbands? “Husbands, love your wives.” (Verse 25) ‘That’s it? Do you mean all I have to do is love my wife? Of course, I love my wife. I took her out for dinner for our anniversary. I think I even told her that I loved her somewhat recently!!’ Gentlemen, as we read the rest of Paul’s words, I think you will find there is a little more to it than that. In fact, Paul gives husbands two examples of the type of love that they are to show to their wives. First, Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Husbands, you are to love your wives in the same way that Jesus Christ loved you and me. Note that Jesus didn’t love you and me because we were so lovable or that we were so special. He loved the unlovable. He loved us so much that he willingly laid down his life for a world of people that hated him. Only when we understand how much Christ loved us, despite our failings, can we, in turn, love our wives, despite their failings. Christ’s love for us was and is a self-sacrificing love. Jesus gave everything for us. He did not hold anything back. Some romantics will tell their wives, ‘I would die for you.’ Be a real man and tell your wife, ‘I will live for you.’ Put your wife in such high regard that she cannot doubt your love for her. Christian husband, love your wife.
Paul uses another picture to help husbands see the type of love that they are to have for their wives. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he writes, “He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body.” Paul points to a self-evident fact. People work hard to take care of their physical needs. If the body is hungry, we feed it. If is it sick, we nurse it back to health. If it is tired, give it rest. Paul says to Christian husbands, ‘You have an obligation to take care of the needs of your wife.’ As a husband, you have an obligation to do more than make sure that your wife has the things she needs to live. You are to be concerned with how she’s doing, how she’s feeling. As the head of the house, you have an obligation to make sure that she has time to spend in God’s Word. You are to care for her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This is all a part of the love that Christian husbands will want to show their wives out of reverence for Christ.
Next, Paul turns his attention to the children of the family: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” — which is the first commandment with a promise — “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (6:1-3) First, Paul tells children to “obey.” The Greek here has the idea of a continual obeying. You are to always obey them, not just when you feel like it or it’s convenient for you. You are to obey, even if it’s something you don’t particularly like doing. Children are to obey their parents.
In addition, as Paul quotes from the Fourth Commandment, children are to “honor” their parents. This means that when parents tell their children to do something, they are not to whine about it or try to get out of it. Honoring parents also means that children are to give proper respect to their parents. If they say, ‘No,’ to something that is asked of them by their children, they accept that answer. They are not to keep hounding Mom and Dad so that, just to quiet the child, they give in. They are not to play one parent against the other, by going to one that might say ‘Yes,’ when they know that the other will say ‘No.’ That is not showing respect to your parents, because you are doing something to harm the companionship blessing of their marriage. Respecting your parents also means that, when they say, “No,” to your request, you do not mope around, with a black cloud hanging over your head, letting everyone know just how upset you are at the injustice of everything. Respecting parents also means that you speak well of them. That is not the popular thing to do. When you get together with others, especially in the teen years, it’s a common thing to talk about how your parents just are not with it. Look at the silly things they wear and the dumb things they watch on television. Look at all the things that they have said that you can’t have, which everyone else has. Look at all those rules that they have for you that no one else must follow. Yet, remember this. God wants children to respect their parents, not just when they are with their parents, but even when they are out of earshot. Honoring our parents is honoring God.
Finally, Paul turns his attention to parents. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (6:4) Note that Paul is primarily addressing fathers, since they have been charged with being the head of the household. However, as the helper to the husband, the wife is also vested in carrying out this command. What is the most important job for parents? It is true that parents are to supply everything that their child needs for this life. By the way, it’s everything that they need, not everything that they want. A good parent knows the difference and will try to instill that knowledge to their children. However, as important as that responsibility is, it’s not the most important. Rather, it is to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The most important thing that a parent can give to their child is to teach them about Jesus and what he has done for them. All the other earthly things are blessings that come from God, but if they don’t know about Jesus, they have nothing. Jesus said in Mark 8:36, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” All the other things in life are nice, but they are temporary. A person’s relationship with God goes on for eternity. The Christian parent will do their best to make sure that their child knows Jesus. They will make sure that they hear about him, whether at home or at church. They will also do their best to model Christianity in their lives. Children learn just as much, if not more, by watching us. As Christian parents, we want to be good examples for our children to follow. Christian parents want to train and instruct their children by disciplining them when they have done wrong. We don’t do this to punish the child, but to teach them right from wrong. Christian parents also want to build up and encourage their children as they try new things. Christian parents honor God as they bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Unfortunately, we have failed to carry out our respective roles perfectly. Husbands and wives have been selfish in their dealings with one another. Children have disobeyed their parents. Parents have not always been the type of role models that they should have been. With these and all the other sins that we have committed, we come to our God in confession. How blessed we are to know that on the cross Jesus paid for these sins, as well. As we are reminded of this wonderful forgiveness, we then ask God to help us carry out the roles that he has given us in our family. We pray that he would help us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Verse 21)
We know that God is extremely interested in families. After all, he gave this blessing to mankind when the world was still perfect. He wants us to enjoy this gift that he has given, so he teaches us how to do this. He gives instructions for the happy home. It is a home where the wife is submissive to her husband and the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the Church. It is a home when the child is obedient and honors their parents and when the parents make it their number one priority to tell their children about their Savior. We pray that God would bless our families with his love. We are thankful that God gives us this opportunity to worship him as we carry out the roles assigned to us. May our families echo the words of Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Amen.
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