Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5:22-33. Today marks our fourth week in our five week series on marriage. Today however will be, potentially, the most controversial. I will be introducing the topic of complementarianism, which is the understanding that in marriage, the man is the head of the household and the women is called to submit to his leadership. I have decided to stretch this sermon over two Sundays, and as I said today will be an introduction and next week we will look more at the mechanics.
There are some in this room who may push back against what God’s Word has to say to you today. Who knows, some of you may even decide to stop coming because of the scripture we will look at this morning. Having said that, my role as a Preaching Pastor does not change. As I stated at the end of last week’s sermon, it is my responsibility to preach Sunday after Sunday the words of this Book. I do not have the authority to add to or take away from the Word of God. In fact the Bible ends with these words of admonishment in Revelation 22:18.
- Revelation 22:18 – “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
So as we begin I want everyone in this room to recognize that the material for my sermon, and every sermon, is not concocted by Phil Parsons, but originates from the unchanging Word of God. We are Cornerstone Church are Bible people, not because we have to be, but because we want to be. We see this book as the words of life.
Before we begin, however, let us spend some time in review. Up to this point we have learned from the Scriptures that marriage is an institution of God. He created it, implemented it, provides for it, and joins is. God has all authority over marriage. This foundational truth will be substantially important for today’s teaching.
Second, we observed that God designed marriage for a purpose. God is not a God of chaos, but a God of order and there was a reason behind creating marriage. The purpose of marriage we saw, once again from Scripture, was for the displaying of God’s glory in the person of His Son Jesus, specifically his union with the Church. Or to say it another way, marriage was created to display the Gospel, the laying down of the Bridegrooms life for the Bride.
Last week, we continued to unpack this purpose and observed that like the Union that exists between Christ and the Church, marriages should be held together by Covenant Grace. What we meant by that was that marriage is not held together by money, looks, feelings, comfort, etc. Marriage is held together by a promise. When we marry we promise our spouse that we will never leave them, nor forsake them. This is covenant. Within this covenant the main ingredient needed to uphold the covenant is grace. We, as Christians, are to be conduits of grace. We have been forgiven greatly; therefore we must be great forgivers. And no one needs more forgiveness then our spouse.
Now, let us walk deeper into this mystery of marriage and start to examine the inner workings of this marriage covenant of Grace. Turn with me to Ephesians 5:22-33. We will read our text, pray for humility before God, and then we will unpack our text.
- Ephesians 5:22-33 – “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.”
So let us begin by reminding ourselves of some fundamental truths. First, this is God’s Word. Ephesians 5 is in the Bible.
- Proverbs 30:5 - “Every word of God proves true”
- 2 Samuel 22:31 - “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; “
- Psalm 19:8 - “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;”
Second let us recall that not only is Ephesians 5, true, perfect, and should cause us to rejoice, but let us remind ourselves that marriage is God’s institution to design it as he sees fit. If he wants to structure it a certain way, He has that right. He is God, and our role is to have faith in His Word, trust his ways and be obedient. It is not our job to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and decide for ourselves what is good and not good.
Made to Complement
With those truths under our belt, let us examine what it says in Ephesians 5. Verse 23 says, “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.” In our text we see God structuring marriage in such a way that He puts the husband in the role as leader and the wife in the role of being led. As I said, the term for this structure is called complementarianism. It is the idea that in marriage God forms man a certain way and he forms women a certain way and when joined and operating under these predefined roles they complement each other. There is harmony.
Perhaps the best way to understand the complementary roles of headship and submission is dancing. When a man and a women dance it is predetermined that the man will lead and the women will follow. No one questions these roles. What happens if the man does not lead? There is no dance. What happens if they women does not follow? Toes are stepped on.
This Biblical teaching of complementarian is not only found in Ephesians 5. We see this teaching throughout the Bible. I want to read some of those to you so you understand this is not an isolated teaching for the Church in Ephesus.
- 1 Corinthians 11:3 – “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
- Colossians 1:18-19 – “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
- 1 Peter 3:1-2 – “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
- Titus 2:3-5- “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
- 1 Timothy 2:12-13 – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve;”
And just as Paul indicates in 1 Timothy the understanding of headship and submission in marriage finds its ultimate root in God’s purpose behind the order of creation of Adam and Eve.
If you recall from our study on Genesis 2 several weeks ago, on day six of creation, God formed Adam. After forming Adam God said these words in verse 18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” What is God saying? He is saying I am going to create another being that complements Adam. That will fit, suit, come up alongside man so as to help. This was to be the role of this new creature. He then had Adam exercise dominion and authority over the animals by naming them. After which God then created Eve out of a rib of Adam. God then brought Eve to Adam and Adam exercised authority over Eve by naming her woman.
At this point I to be clear about something. Prior to Genesis 2, there is Genesis 1. And in Genesis 1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It is important for everyone to understand that both man and women are created in the image of God. Man is not superior in value, or more precious to God then women. If you don't believe me, just read the Gospel and see how Jesus interacts with women. He loves them. Man and women are equally precious in the eyes of God, but having said that he does ordain that they have differing roles.
Once again, I think it is important for us to recognize that God didn't have to structure marriage this way. He could have easily had one gender that represented the human race, but he didn't. Jesus emphasizes this in Matthew 19:4 when he says “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female .” God chose to structure the union between a husband and a wife to be such that the Man is the head and the women follows his leadership. Why? As we said two weeks ago, it was so that marriage could be a living display of the Gospel. The existence of these God established roles better display the Gospel then if they are not present.
The Cultural Problem
What I am preaching is highly controversial in this post modern western world. And as I said when I began my sermon, some of you may desire to call me sexist, a bigot, closed minded, stupid, or if you are kind you will call me old fashioned. You will argue that our society has advanced beyond oppressive gender roles and we are now enlightened and therefore liberated from the chains of male leadership.
First, let me remind you that these chains that so many of you want liberation from are God's design. They are not man's traditions, they are found in the pages of the unchanging Word of God, from beginning to end, and if you want to reject these complementarian roles, you must reject the Bible.
And this is exactly what took place when the feminist movement began in the 1800's. They rejected God's Word. A lady by the name of Elizabeth Stanton was one of the earliest leaders of the feminist movement. She called herself a Christian but she did exactly what Revelation 22 warned about and took out the text that she saw as interfering with her cause. She and some other women created what was called the Women's Bible. This Bible took out the stuff they believed interfered with their cause and kept what supported it. In fact this was a quote of Elizabeth Stanton regarding her dislike of the Bible, specifically the fall in Genesis 3.
“The whole foundation of the Christian religion rests on her temptation and man's fall, hence the necessity of a Redeemer and a plan of salvation...Women's degradation and subordination were made a necessity. If, however, we accept the Darwinian theory, that the race has been gradual growth from the lower to a higher form of life, and that the story of the fall is a myth, we can exonerate the snake, emancipate the women, and reconstruct a more rational religion for the nineteenth century, and thus escape all the perplexities of the Jewish mythology as of no more importance than the Greek, Persian, and Egyptian.”
I think it is also important for us to acknowledge that the reason you may resist this idea of complementarianism is because you have been soaking in a meta-narrative that has rejected the authority of God. People who attempt to argue against male headship and female submission have not come to that conclusion because of years walking with the Lord, it is from years of walking with the World. You are a product of the Western Culture. The removal of gender roles is a recent anomaly, limited to the last 100 years of Western Societies only. All of human history and across cultures has seen the obvious and natural reality of the God ordained dance of the man leading and the women following. The question is will you reject the reality of nature and the reality of God's Word or will you humble yourself and believe that God knows what he is doing when he designs marriage.
The Sin Problem
This leads to our next problem. Not only have each of you, husband and wife, been soaking in a Western culture that rejects God's Word, but your sinful flesh also rejects God's Word. Both men and women want to default on their God ordained responsibilities.
For the man, our sinful flesh rejects God's call for us to lead. We instead want to sit on the sidelines and let someone else carry the burden of God's calling. We have become a nation of Homer Simpsons, sitting around drinking beer and falling asleep at work. We have chosen to take the wide and easy road of letting our wives make all the calls, because it is just easier to let her have her way. You get tired of fighting so you pull back and isolate yourself right out of the relationship, until you are just a roommate sharing a home for economic purposes.
For women it is the opposite problem, instead of allowing your husband to lead, you want to rule over him. This is part of the curse of Genesis 3:16 when God says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” You can't help yourself. You want to control what your husband eats, wears, says, works, hangs out with, you name it you want to dictate it.
Both of these positions are the complete opposite of Ephesians 5. Why? Because we are sinners and but for the grace of God we are depraved and we rebel against God's truth. And what do we get out of this, we get man acting like women and women acting like men. We get families that are out of sync, and burnt out. We get midlife crisis and social affairs on facebook. We get Bruce Jenner as a hero and our youth being sexually confused. We get separations, adultery, and divorces.
We are all like Elizabeth Stanton and have created our own Bible. We are living out your marriage in any way that we see as right, not as God has declared to be right. And our way is a broken way. It is dysfunctional. It is not in accordance to how God designed marriage. If you don't believe me, just look around, perhaps even at your own marriage. This was not God's intent. God's intent was for Eve to be a suitable helper fit for him. One that compliments Him. One that dances with him. One that is a beautiful display of the Gospel.
Next Sunday we are going to take one more step and unpack what that looks like. But until then, I encourage you to spend time dwelling upon the Word of God and ask does our marriage match God's intent? If it doesn't, pray that God would give you a heart to desire to align with his will and allow him to make your marriage beautiful.