Sermon on Ephesians 5:21-31
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.”
I probably don’t need to tell you that the marriage is under attack in our society today. For example, look at how marriage is portrayed on the television or in the movies. Rarely do you see a loving family portrayed. Usually the husband and wife are at odds with each other. They put up with each other, making snide comments to others about their spouse. Unfortunately, these images become the model for marriages. It is a rare thing that you see a loving relationship shown between husband and wife. Where can we find out how husbands and wives are to treat one another? As with so many other questions, the answer is found in God’s Word. This morning, we are going to look at the husband and wife relationship. We will do so with verse 21 of Ephesians 5 as our theme: SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER OUT OF REVERENCE FOR CHRIST. First of all we will see 1. What This Means For The Christian Wife and then we will 2. See What This Means For The Christian Husband.
Before we go into this subject, we need to spend a few moments studying verse 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This verse gives us our motivation for the way that we will act as husbands and wives. We serve one another out of reverence for Christ. The word “reverence” has the idea of worship. Indeed, we have every reason to worship Christ. All we have to do to realize this is to take a good, hard, long look in the mirror of God’s Law. God is very clear about how he demands that we live. There are no grey areas when it comes to God’s Law. God says that everything that we do or say or even think is to be perfect. The truth of the matter is that we are not perfect. If we ever told just one little lie, we sinned. If we were ever angry with someone, we sinned. Whatever the case, we have sinned and, as such deserve to be sent away from God’s love for all eternity in hell. Yet, in his great undeserved love for us, Jesus did not want to have us separated from him. So he came to the earth and, as our Savior, did everything necessary for our salvation. He lived the life that God demands of us. To pay for our sins, he willingly went to the cross where he suffered the torments of hell for us. In glorious victory, Jesus rose on Easter morning. He did everything to save us. More than that, he saw to it that you and I were brought to faith. The Apostle Paul in our text, speaks of what our heavenly Bridegroom did for us. He “[made] her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and . . . [presented] her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” In other words, he took a filthy, ugly Cinderella (that’s you and me) and made her (us) his perfect bride by washing her and clothing her in a spotless wedding gown, namely his holiness. This fact gives us the reason why we want to serve one another. We want our entire lives to be lived in such a way that gives thanks to God for all that he has done for us. We want to worship, revere our Savior for the salvation and the eternal life that he has given us.
In our text for this morning, Paul speaks specifically to wives and husbands and tells them how they can worship the Lord, as they carry out their roles in marriage. Just a note, before we continue to look at each of these roles. When the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle to write these words, he caused Paul to address each group, wives and husbands, about what they should be doing. He doesn’t go to the wives and tell them, ‘This is what your husband is supposed to do.’ Nor does he go to the husbands and tell them, ‘This is how your wife is supposed to act.’ In other words, we are to go beyond our natural inclination, which says, ‘This is what my spouse is supposed to be doing.’ Rather, out of reverence for Christ, we are to think, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ In addition, God doesn’t allow us the possibility of thinking or saying, ‘I will do my part, when he or she does theirs. Until then, I’m going to act how I want to act.’ Out of love for Christ, I thank him for the opportunity to show my thankfulness for all that he has done for me, as I carry out my role as a Christian wife or a Christian husband.
With that being said then, we turn our attention to how Christian wives show their love for their Savior, in their relationship with their husband. Paul writes, “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.” When people hear the word “submit,” they often think of it as a negative thing. ‘I’m up here and you’re down there. You have to be obedient to me.’ In fact, the word does mean “to place yourself under someone else, to be subordinate to.” An order has been established. However, the order is not necessarily determined on the basis of quality or importance. For example, when a truck driver submits to the fourteen-year-old crossing guard by stopping his truck when the guard’s hand goes up, the truck driver is not showing himself to be weaker, less intelligent, less gifted, less important, or in any way inferior. He is, however, submitting. The driver recognizes that because of the order of authority, established by the government for the good of drivers and pedestrians alike, he must submit to the will of the crossing guard. Submission has to do with order, not value.
That is exactly the point that Paul is making as he writes, “For the husband is the head of the wife.” He is not saying that there is greater value in the husband. Rather, he is to be the head of the household. This order was already put into place in the Garden of Eden, when the world was still in its perfection. God said, as he got ready to create this wonderful creature for man, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Note the word “helper.” Paul writes, “wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” This means that the husband is to be the head, the leader. You cannot have a two-headed creature. In nature, you call such an animal a freak, and it does not live long. 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 already knows that. When that does happen, the wife can carry out her role by being supportive.
For motivation, Paul gives wives this example, “as the church submits to Christ.” We, Christians, willingly submit to our Savior. We do not resent his leadership. We know that he cares for us. He showed that when he suffered and died and rose again to save us. We also know that he will not ask us to do anything that is not in our best interests. This is the trusting relationship that we have with our heavenly Bridegroom. This is the example of the trusting submission that Christian wives are to show to their husbands. Because they care for you, you submit to them. Because they are to have your best interests in mind, you submit to them. It is not a slave/master type of submission. It is not a parent/child type of submission. It is a submission that is done out of love for Christ and out of love for the husband. This is what submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ means for the Christian wife.
This brings us to the husband’s role. How are they to show their love for Christ in their relationship with their wife? Paul tells us, “Husbands, love your wives.” ‘That’s it? 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’s a little more to it than that. As a matter of fact, Paul gives husbands two examples of the type of love that they are to show to their wives. First of all, 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, in spite of our failings, can we, in turn, love our wives, in spite of 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.
Yet, there is something that both husband and wife will have to confess. Neither has always carried out the role that God wants us to do. Sometimes Christian wives do not want to be in the helper role. They prickle under the headship of their husband. Sometimes Christian husbands do not love their wives the way that they should. They become selfish or lazy. May God help both husband and wife to see when they have fallen short of the standards that he has set for them. Go to God and confess your sins against your spouse and know that in Jesus Christ that sin has been forgiven. Then go to your spouse and confess your sins and ask for their forgiveness. I know there is the old saying that “Love means never having to say, ‘I’m sorry.’” I’ve never bought into that. I feel that, in a Christian marriage, there will be times when, out of love for your spouse, it is a God-pleasing thing to go to them and ask for their forgiveness. May God help us to give that same assurance of forgiveness that we have heard from our Savior.
Please allow me to elaborate one more thing about these God-given roles of wife and husband. The more that each spouse carries out their role, the easier it is for their spouse to carry out theirs. The more that the husband shows this self-sacrificing love for his wife, the easier it will be for her to willingly submit to him, because she knows he has her best interests in mind. The more that the wife willingly submits and supports her husband, the easier it will be for him to be the type of husband, who is willing to be the head and to love his wife. Each one feeds off of the other. Then you will have a successful and happy marriage. That, my dear friends, is such a rarity in our world today. If you have been blessed with a spouse, take time to thank God for this precious gift. If that loved one has entered glory already, thank God for the time that he gave you. If you have not yet been blessed with a spouse, pray that God would bring a godly person into your life.
As Christians, we want our entire life to be one that thanks God for all that he has done for us. This morning, we have had the privilege of looking at some special areas in which we can show our love. God help the Christian wives and husbands in their roles. May he shine upon them with the fullness of his love. Amen.
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