Open your Bibles once again to Ephesians 5:22-32. Today marks our last Sunday in our sermon series on Marriage. We are concluding by examining the unique roles that husbands and wives are called to live out.
Let us being by, once again, reviewing what we have covered so far. First, we have seen that God is the Designer, Creator, Implementer, Provider, and Joiner of marriage. It is his institution to do as he sees fit. Second we observed that the purpose of marriage was to be a reference, or display, of the union between Jesus and the Church. We are created to image God, and marriage is created to image the Gospel.
With this in mind our marriage is to take its cues from the relationship between Jesus and the Church. The first thing we learn is that our marriage must be a covenant of grace. This means that our marriage is held together by a promise to our spouse that we will never leave them nor forsake him. This is what a covenant is. It is not a contract that can be broken, it is a covenant that lasts. We also saw that this covenant is one of grace. If we are in Christ, we have been forgiven, therefore we must forgive.
Last week we introduced ourselves to the concept of complementarianism. Complementarianism is the Biblical teaching that God has designed marriage so that the man is given the unique role of headship and the wife is given the unique role of submitting to the headship of the husband. Men are to lead their wives and wives must embrace their husbands leadership and follow.
The primary purpose of last week was to lay out the Biblical text that expressly state and teach complementarianism. I wanted you to see Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, Colossians 1, 1 Peter 3, Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2. I wanted everyone to recognize that male headship and female submission is at its core a Biblical truth. The reason I did this was because the real question is will you humble yourself to trust God’s design or will you reject God’s Word and live your life your way?
With this in mind I want you to hear these words of Jesus in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is the essence of a Biblical marriage. If you love God you will throw away your preconceived and sinful misunderstandings of marriage and obey God’s good design for marriage. You will trust His way, not the Worlds.
With that said, today we are going to unpack how male headship and female submission looks. So let us again read Ephesians 5:22-32 for the last time and examine what God’s Word says.
- Ephesians 5:22-32 – “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
We are going to begin by looking at the husband. However, wives do not zone out. Your call is to submit to all that I am about to say. Verse 23, “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” The first thing we must recognize is that this is God’s design. It is not optional. Men, this is God’s calling for you. You are to lead your wife. The buck stops with you. The minute you said I do, was the minute that you signed up for a great and awesome responsibility. This responsibility is weighty. It is heavy. It is burdensome.
If you walked out of last Sunday’s sermon beating your chest saying that you’re the man and your wife has to cater to every whim of your sinful heart, then you don’t get it. This is a daunting responsibility that no man should ever enter into lightly. We are to be head of our wives as Christ was the head of the Church.
How is Christ the head of the Church. John 17:12 Jesus prays these words the night of his arrest, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them”. Christ was given a people to guard. Husbands you have been given a wife to guard. Marriage is not a vacation it is war. We are to be on guard against the attacks of our flesh and the attacks of Satan.
After last week, I was asked by several of you about specifics. What about this and what about that? In fact, at the Women’s study the issue of finances came up. Can the women take care of the finances? These type of questions, I believe, miss the point.
Take a look at verse 24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” The two words I want us to key in on is “in everything.” There is nothing outside the headship of the husband. He stands guard over everything. Therefore, the husband is the head of the money. He is the head of the kids. He is the head of the TV. He is the head of everything. This is the point of headship.
Here is an example. I am the Jones County Attorney. I am the head of my office. In my office I have two employees. These employees have things they do. Many of those things they do with zero input from me because it is unnecessary. However, in the event that there is uncertainty in regards to their job, they both know that I am the one that makes the decision because it is my responsibility. The buck stops with me, and men the buck stops with you. Just like when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, even though it was Eve who let the sin in, Adam was called out by God first and was ultimately held responsible for the spread of sin in the world.
Now what I didn't say is that the man has to do everything. Can women do the finances, sure. Can women mow the lawn? Sure. Can women discipline children? Sure. But above all those things the man is the head. This must be lived out and displayed within the home and outside of the home SO for example, when I am at work, my wife disciplines, but my kids know that they must eventually give an account to me. It is not uncommon for my kids to ask my wife to keep their disobedience a secret. So do not miss the point and become Pharisaical.
Loving Male Headship
So how does this headship look. One word. Love. The way that men are to lead their wives is with love. Verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives.” Once again, notice this is not a request but a command. The love that is spoken here is not a feeling. It is not dependent on your emotional state. It is not dependent on circumstances, such as your wife remaining beautiful, or your wife's respect, or even your wife's faithfulness. We are to love our wives no matter what. This is covenant love.
What should this love look like? It should look like Jesus dieing on the cross. Verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The pinnacle of love is laying down your life. Christ said it himself in John 15:9, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This was the cup that Christ was called to drink from and husbands this is the cup you are called to drink from. Everything you do towards your wife should be through the filter of sacrificial love.
So what does it mean to sacrifice? Verse 28-29, “In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church,” Husbands are to sacrificially love their wives by nourishing and cherishing.
When we hear these terms, nourish and cherish we automatically think physical provisions, and I don't think this is wrong. For there is no doubt that the husband should be providing for his family. Some of the strongest words are reserved for the dead beat husband.
- 1 Timothy 5:8 - “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Men if you physically can provide for your wife and your choose not to, and instead you have her go to work as you sit around, you should be ashamed of yourself. It is time you man up and accept your duty. If you don't, there is a question as to whether you truly are saved.
However, there is more than physical needs in the mind of Paul when he speaks about nourishing and cherishing. The word cherish in Greek is thalpō which is used one other time in the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 when Paul is talking about new believers, “But we were gentle (thalpo) among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Therefore to cherish your wife is to value her at the same level you value your children. Husabnds should see our wives as precious gifts of God and therefore care and provide for her in a tenderhearted way.
The word nourish in Greek is ektrepho. It is used one other time in the Bible in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So to nourish your wife is to invest in their lives so as to transform them into maturity. What kind of maturity are we talking about? Lets look at verse 26-28.
- Ephesians 5:26-28 - “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives”
The goal of a husband's sacrificial love is your wife's holiness. Men, are you hearing me? The end goal of your headship is not the American Dream. The end goal is not Leave it to Beaver. The end goal is the splendor of your wife as she stands before God. The burden that God lays on you is for your to lay down your life so that your wife lays down her sin.
How are we to do this? Just as Jesus did. Verse 26, “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” A husband, above all, is to be a Pastor of his home. Men, if you are married you have an obligation to make your home one that is drenched in the Word of God. Men, you are the ones who should be opening God's Word every morning with your spouse and washing her. Men, you are the ones who should be ensuring that your family gets to Church every Sunday morning to hear the Word preached. Men, you are the ones who should be giving up Tuesday nights to allow your wife to attend Women of Courage. Men, you are the ones who should be on your knees praying that God would give your wife a hunger to hear from God. It doesn't matter if you are a reader or not. It doesn't matter if your wife is more Biblically literate than you are. Your duty is to nurture her to holiness.
So in summary, husbands your are called by God to lead your wife. This leadership is a sacrificial leadership. One that puts them before you, and one that points forward to a goal. The goal of the holiness of your wife. This is God's design for you.
Ladies, your turn. As I desired to make clear last week, the Bible is explicitly clear what the role of wives is. It is a role of submission. This word, submit, causes strong emotions. My guess is that some of your ladies can feel your flesh rebel as you read God's Word.
But let us remind ourselves that as Christians, our lives are defined by submission. We as Christians are told to submit to our authorities (Romans 13:1-7). We are also told to submit to the elders of the Church (Hebrews 13:17). Ultimately, however, we are told to submit to the Lord. James 4:7 explicitly says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” How many letters did Paul start by calling himself a slave to Jesus? A life of a Christian is a life of submission.
But it does not end there, for Jesus himself submits to the Father. John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” When Jesus says he does the will of the Father, he is not saying that he is not God, or that he is of less value than the Father, he is merely saying that his role is to do the Father's will. Likewise, the Holy Spirit likewise submits to both the Son and the Father. We discussed this last month. The Holy Spirit is the proceeding power from both Jesus and God the Father. Submission defines the relationship of the Trinity. So I want us to be clear that submission is not a dirty word, it is a word that is at the core of how reality exists.
In regards to submission, I think it is helpful to see this in terms of leading and following. As I said earlier, the Husband has the burden of leading his wife, and the wife has the responsibility to follow his lead. This may seem trivial, but this is important, because so few wives actually follow their husband. Imagine if Jesus did not follow his Dad's will. Everything would have fallen apart. Likewise, imagine if at work, you stopped following your bosses commands. You would be fired. Having said that most women refuse to follow their husband. You will follow the advise of your parents. You will follow the advise of your friends. You will follow the advise of Dr. Phil. Wives, you must recognize that your role is one that submits to your husband, and this must be your default. This must be automatic. You must respect his God given role. It is not something you pick and choose. Your are to regularly image forth submission. This means you have to humble yourself and be vulnerable. You have to give your husband permission to fail, and let me give you a spoiler, he will. But the point is not to live a flawless marriage, it is to live a Biblically harmonious marriage. Remember, the primary purpose of marriage is to display the union between Christ and the Church. If you continue to try to lead, you are destroying the picture and instead displaying the actions of Satan, not the Bride of Christ.
Now, let me be clear about two things. First, submission does not mean silent. Don't forget that your role as a wife is as a Helper. If you see your husband moving in the wrong direction, you do not sit back and watch the train wreck. You can engage, but you need to do so with a spirit of submission, not Lording over. If after a discussion, you still do not see eye to eye, the husband is the one who has hold of the reigns and you must let him steer the horse, otherwise you both will eventually go over the cliff.
The second thing I want to be clear about is that this does not mean that your are to submit to your Husband when his will is against God's will. Above all of this discussion on marriage is our walk with the Lord. Your ultimate call is to do God's will. If your Husbands will comes into conflict with God's will, then God wins. For example, if the Husband refuses to go to Church, you still go. If your husband won't read the Bible to the kids, you do it. If your husband wants you to do something immoral, you refuse. The bottom line is that Biblical submission is not complicated, but because of sin, it can be difficult.
Imagine the Image
So in closing, I want to say this. The life of a Christian is a life of faith. Not only faith in Jesus Christ, but faith in all that God commands and promises. The question in regards to marriage is do you believe God? DO you believe that His way is above our way? Do you believe that he knows what he is dong when it comes to marriage? Do you believe that He is good? Do you believe that his Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Do you believe that if you submit to him, your marriage will bear fruit for His glory? The question is not what the Bible says, that is abundantly clear. The question is will you trust in the Lord?