A Great Mystery (Sanctity of Marriage, #11)

I must apologize for my lack of writing over the past…month?!?!  I can’t believe it’s actually been that long, but life has been busy and blogging has fallen to the back-burner.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you about some of the things I’ve been able to do over the past month–a conference I attended, a Bible study I’m a part of, and the Pro-Life Rally I went to in Austin, Texas last week.  I can’t wait to share all the things I’ve seen, experienced, and learned–but since I still need some time to process through all of that information, I’m going to finish up my Marriage series before moving on to those things.  And yes–I said “finish”!  There are only two more passages to cover in the series, and I’m so excited to be able to finally pull the entire series together and find the “big picture” of how God designed marriage!

Today we’re going to look at what might be the most famous marriage passage within Scripture.  And yet surprisingly enough, it’s a passage I failed to understand until just before my marriage.  Ephesians 5 is frequently used to teach wives to submit, and a husband to love and lead.  About two years ago, I heard a sermon by Dr. Russell Moore (at the time a Professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and now the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission).  Through this message, I realized that this passage goes so much further than just a set of rules for husbands and wives to follow.  In fact, there is a much deeper purpose for these roles of authority and submission!  It was his sermon that started to re-shape the way I thought about marriage, and about the Christian walk as a whole.  This passage became the basis for our wedding ceremony, and the concepts it presents have radically transformed the way I think about life.  I hope you, as well, will be challenged through this passage to model your entire life not after a set of rules–but in a way that gives ultimate glory to God Himself.

Ephesians 5:22-33 says:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 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. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 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.”  (NKJV)
 
You’ve probably heard the passage before, and if so–the first few things it shows are probably exactly what you’ve learned.   They are the basics of what most Christians teach about marriage.  Wives-Submit and Respect.  Husbands–Love and Lead.

45.  A wife is to submit to her husband.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

We see yet again a call for wives to submit to their husbands in everything.  Personally, submission would seem much easier if Paul hadn’t added on that last phrase–“in everything”.  But the truth is that I’m actually not submissive at all when I pick and choose the things I will submit to.  Submission to my husband means that I honor his decisions.  I don’t try to micro-manage or control his behavior.  Of course I can ask for the things I want, but I must trust and honor his decisions.  Period.  I’m truly blessed that my husband gives my desires and opinions great weight whenever he makes a decision.  He also gives me the freedom to make some decisions on my own.  However, it’s not my place to push my decisions through, or try to make my husband choose my way.  Submission, by its very definition, must be total submission.  This means I submit when he makes huge life decisions.  It means I will submit when he makes decisions that affect our future children.  It means I submit when we are choosing a movie, or finding a parking space, or planning a budget.  Submitting in the “big stuff” is not enough in and of itself.  God calls me to submit “in everything”.

46.  A husband is to sacrificially love his wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 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. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…”

As a woman, I don’t write about this often.  I write for women, and although Scripture gives guidelines as to how a husband should treat his wife, Scripture is also clear that a woman is not to tell her husband how to treat her.  Scripture says that a husband should love his wife as he loves his own flesh.  He should be willing to completely give himself up for her.  He is to love her unconditionally, with the same intensity by which Christ loves the church.  When a husband loves his wife with such a great love, she will be much more likely to respond to him with respect and submission.  However, just as she will fail in submission many times, he will often fail to love his wife so selflessly.  When he fails, a wife should continue to treat him with loving respect, and pray for God to lead and guide her husband in a way that will help him love her well.

To any men who are reading this, I am not called to teach you.  But I do ask you to dive into Scripture to discover how God would have you love your wife!  I pray that you will find the wisdom to love her well, and to love her so deeply that she will know that you would gladly give your life, for hers.

47. Marriage represents the gospel.

All throughout this passage is a recurring theme.

  • Wives are to submit “as to the Lord”.
  • Husbands are head of their wives “as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”
  • Wives are subject to their husbands “just as the church is subject to Christ”.
  • Husbands are to love their wives sacrificially, “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 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.”
  • A husband “nourishes and cherishes” his wife, “just as the Lord does the church”.
  • We are to “leave and cleave” to our spouse BECAUSE “we are members of [Christ's] body, of His flesh and of His bones.”
  • After all of these guidelines about marriage Paul says, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

I have to admit I was blown away when Dr. Russell Moore pointed out Ephesians 5:32, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  I had always believed this passage to be about marriage, but Paul specifically states his topic in verse 32.  He’s speaking not about marriage, but about Christ and the church!  It turns out that although marriage is addressed in this passage, it is presented as a picture of the relationship Christ has with the church–his bride.  Submission, love, and respect are principles Scripture gives us for our marriages, but they are not end goals.  They are a means to an end.  By living out those principles, we reveal the true story of Christ.  A husband’s sacrificial love places on display–for all to see–the sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross.   A wife’s respect and submission to her husband is a picture–a living tutorial–of how to surrender one’s life to Christ.  Marriage, when lived out God’s way, puts the gospel on display for the entire world!

Practical Application for the Believer:

As we choose to do marriage God’s way, let us remember that our marriage is not about us.  It’s about God’s glory!  The witness of our marriage will serve to share the gospel with those around us.  Even when words fail, our marriage is still a bold witness to a dark world!

Thanks for joining me for my study on Marriage, and  be watching for Part 12, where we’ll be looking at Marriage in I Peter.  In the meantime, check out my other posts on marriage here, and as usual–don’t forget to leave your feedback!

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