EPHESIANS-SERIES NR 10
Theme: Christian life at home
Scripture: Ephesians 5: 22 – 6: 9
The letter to the Ephesians consist of 6 chapters that are neatly divided into 2 parts: Chapters 1-3 = Explanation of how God saves sinners with Jesus’s redeeming work on the cross – by grace alone, without any helping human hand. Chapters 4-6 = The very practical way in which that salvation influences the daily life of the believer. The result is that a saved person does not want to think/reason/speak/act the way unsaved people do. Inwardly changed. A Christian lives differently to a non-Christian.
One of the most difficult places to live this new life, is inside your closest family circle/marriage – where everyone knows you, where you cannot pretend, and where you can be misunderstood very easily, and where you are under a magnifying glass. How easy it is to have a double personality: a committed Christian outside the home, but a totally different being inside the home. An angel outside, a devil inside.
That is what 5:22 – 6:9 is dealing with. The families inside a community are the cells out of which the body of a community is put together. Healthy cells will result in a healthy community. It is impossible to emphasize enough the importance of a healthy family circle/marriage. It is here where children are shaped for the rest of their lives. The fruit with which father, mother and children function outside the house, is determined by that which they experience inside the home.
There is only one way to have a successful family circle: Under the influence of the Holy Spirit and focussed on the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not help to be merely “religious/church members“. Every member of the family has to make sure that he/she lives in a living relationship with the Lord, Spirit-filled and focused on Christ.
It makes a big difference within the family when the members come to faith within the framework of God’s covenant. The principles according to which they are living and the different roles of each member of the household, are totally different to that of the world’s ideas – the way in which the unsaved person arranges his family life and which can daily be seen on TV.
It is very important to see that what the Apostle Paul is saying about marriage and family, has everything to do with a Spirit-filled and Christ-focused life (last week’s message).
When he summons Christian women in verse 22 to submit to their husbands, he has said just previously in verse 21 that everyone must submit to one another, meaning: to SERVE rather than to be served. And that again flows from verses 19&20 where he says what the signs of a Spirit-filled life will be, namely: No complaining or negativity, but praise/thanksgiving. And that again follows on verse 18: “Be continuously Spirit-filled/life under His influence/control”. (Last Sunday we looked at the meaning of that).
Therefore: The submission of a wife to her husband within marriage, and everything Paul is saying up to 6:9, are part of the fruit of a Spirit-filled life. In other words: The marriages and families of Christians are from A to Z a work of the Holy Spirit. Either that, or nothing.
And when the Spirit is working and exerting His influence, what happens? Everything you do (your whole life) you want to focus on the Lord Jesus (John 15:26/16:14). And look closely at 5:22 – 6:9: every single thing that Paul is saying about marriage and family is focused on Jesus (almost every verse): VERSE 21: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ; VERSE 22: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord; VERSE 25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church; CH 6:1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (children of believers are part of the covenant); CH 6:4: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord; CH 6:5: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ; CH 6:9: Masters, do not threaten your slaves, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven!
When the Holy Spirit has the influence over your life, He turns your focus on the Lord Jesus the entire time. And that makes the marriages and families of Christians unique and successful.
It is perfectly clear in this passage that the Apostle Paul is talking about marriage in the true biblical sense of the word: Lifelong union between one woman and one man within a lawful marriage. Permanent, monogamous, heterosexual.
Let us speak plainly here: The Scriptures do not give any substance for extramarital cohabitation – whether it is young people or older people who have been married before. It is, and remains – in the eyes of the Lord – a wicked and immoral relationship, no matter how clever we reason about it (1 Cor 6: 9-11). And it is a very serious matter in the eyes of the Lord. Very serious.
Nowhere in the Bible is marriage a private decision taken between two people. It is always an official and public union with the approval of the broader family. Promises are made in front of witnesses and often a bride-price is paid (Old Testament).
Think of Ruth and Boaz who were married at the city gate in the presence of the elders (Ruth 4: 1-13). A lawful union is formed that brings about lifelong responsibilities and one had to bind oneself to it in the presence of witnesses, of whom the living God is THE Witness (Mal 2:14).
In the bright light of the Word of God, everyone who is in a living relationship with the Lord, should defend the institution of marriage with all their might, condemn and oppose cohabitation and immorality and as far as is possible, combat and boycott all films, EVERYTHING in the media and online, in the strongest terms.
Have you ever wondered why the heterosexual, monogamous marriage is the institution that the Lord wills, and why any other form of sexual relationship is wrong in His eyes?
Verse 25 gives the very profound answer: Marriage between one woman and one man is the earthly portrayal of the Lord Jesus’s relationship with His church-of-believers! It is a lawful, unbreakable relationship.
In marriage the man is the portrayal of Christ and the wife the portrayal of the church. That is why the marriage is holy and must not be broken!
In the same way that Christ and the church each has their own role within the union, the man and wife also have their own roles within the marriage.
Think about what the role is of the Lord Jesus Christ: First, Christ and His church are indestructibly and eternally one – members of His body (v30). Second, He cares for His church. He takes care of them. Third, He loves His church with a selfless, sacrificial love – so much so that He literally gave His life for them – not for all people on earth, but given specifically for the CHURCH. Fourth, He is the Saviour of the church – He delivers the church from sin/death/danger etc. Fifth, His love for the church purifies the church and cleanses them so that they can be more and more like Him.
What about the church? What is the role of the church?
The church willingly submits herself to Him. Follows Him. Follows His leadership and authority. Puts Him ahead of herself. No slavish submission. How can the church be a slave of Someone who gave His life for her? No, but in the way members of a team follow their captain (otherwise the game will turn into chaos) the church realises that Jesus is the captain – as any team must have a captain – and they follow him/her!
Therefore, what is marriage? Marriage is an earthly portrayal of Jesus’s relationship with His church.
That is why Paul repeatedly says: the wife/husband must do so-and-so AS Christ and the church does.
What is the HUSBAND’S role? The same as Christ’s in the Christ-church-relationship: First: husband and wife are indestructibly and eternally one – members of one body. Second: the husband cares for his wife. He looks after her. Third: he loves his wife with a selfless, sacrificial love – so much so that he would literally give his life for her. Fourth: his love purifies the wife and strives to help her become more and more Christ-like.
And what about the wife? She willingly submits herself to her husband. Follows him. Follows his leadership and authority. Puts him ahead of herself. No slavish submission. How can a wife be a slave of someone who sets her ahead of himself? Like members of a team follow their captain (otherwise the game is chaotic) the wife realises that her husband is the God-given captain – as any team must have a captain.
When husband and wife are saved in Christ and are Spirit-filled, their marriage-relationship shall look and function like that.
There is of course other members in the household as well. Children. Included in the church by means of God’s covenant. Slaves also, in the households of that time. And in some of the households, the husbands were masters of slaves. The husband often had 4 roles: Child of God, husband for wife, father of children, employer and owner of slaves!
One can just imagine how everyone in the household will want to live if fallen human nature was sitting on the throne: a) Wives rebellious towards their husbands, b) husbands dominating their wives, c) children rebellious and disobedient, d) fathers unreasonable towards their children which causes them to become rebellious and aggressive, e) slaves only obedient when they are being watched, e) owners treat their slaves unfairly. The result? Chaos and grief – as it is in many households at present. Because the Holy Spirit is not allowed to exert His influence. The wrong king is on the throne.
But just look what a radical turnabout in people’s lives with the Lord Jesus on the throne: In Christ saved masters who own Christian-slaves realise that they are both living under the throne of óne Lord and live and treat their slaves on the basis of Christ’s attitude.
Christian-slaves start to do everything as for the Lord, not to win the favour of their owners – only appearing to be obedient. The Christian-employee’s new Holy Spirit-filled life influences his work circumstances and his attitude towards his Christian-employer.
Fathers’ discipline over their children is filled with the attitude of Christ and therefore is not unreasonable. Children start to submit themselves to their parents and become obedient – as if they are serving the Lord himself, because the Lord gave and set the parents over them. Children, just think how you will behave towards/speak to your parents once you realize: it is as if I am serving the Lord himself…
Always just think about Christ’s relationship with His church, and you will understand all marriage- and family-relationships, because His relationship with His church is a portrayal of earthly relationships. Jesus (portrayal of: the husband of the wife, father of the children, employer of the employee) and the church (portrayal of: the wife of the husband, children of the parents, employees of the employers).
The result of it all? Healthy families. Not perfect families, but healthy families. Healthy families make for a healthy community. The more satan and his demons work to destroy it, the more we should work to bring it closer and closer to the Biblical model – because the Holy Spirit who dwells in His children, is much stronger than any evil power.
Translated by Marthie Wilson