The Loving Marriage

Title: The Loving Marriage

Bible Book: Ephesians 5 : 22-33

Author: Calvin Wittman

Subject: Marriage; Family



Our text today is one of the most misunderstood texts in all of scripture, and that’s saying something. It has been used by different people for different purposes, often to promote their own social agenda rather than God’s outline for a loving marriage. There are many men who have taken part of this scripture, the part which speaks about wives submitting to their husbands, and tried to use it as a club to beat their wives into submission. There are many women, who, having a faulty understanding of what this passage says in its entirety, have tried to reinterpret it, ignore it or at least deemphasize it. Others, outside of the faith all together, have pointed to this text and tried to say that Christianity is oppressive to women because it tells them they are to submit to their husbands. In all of these cases what is needed in a clearer picture of what God is saying, why He is saying it, to whom He is saying it and most importantly the context in which it is being said.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of context when one is seeking to interpret and understand the Bible. Much of the misconception can be cleared away from many of the seemingly difficult passages in scripture once the context is understood.

It is absolutely necessary to understand that the book of Ephesians is written to those who are already believers. The book is broken down into two basic parts. The first three chapters of this book deal with theology proper. It tells us about who God is, about how He saved us and the position we have as members of the family of God. Once we understand the doctrinal foundations of our faith, in the last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul moves to the practical function of our faith.

In 4:1 we are instructed to walk worthy of our calling,

In 4:17 and following we are told to walk with the eyes of our understanding open, not in blindness as those who are outside of Christ,

In 5:2 we are commanded to walk in love, even as Christ has loved us

In 5:8 we are encouraged to walk as children of the light, and then we come to chapter 5, verse 15 which begins the section which leads into our text. Here in 5:15 we are told to walk in wisdom, making the most of the time God has given us because the days in which we live are evil.

Let’s begin reading in verse 15 and make our way through the end of the chapter, noting that we will focus our attention this morning on verses 22-33. (read text)

As we consider the functional aspects of a loving marriage this morning, again I would point your attention to the context. The entire context of this last half of chapter 5 is concerned with walking in wisdom. This is of utmost importance because it is impossible to understand what Paul says in verses 22-33 without a clear understanding of what he says in verses 15-21. To walk in wisdom one must not live foolishly but rather understand what the will of the Lord is; one must not be drunk with alcohol, which leads to one wasting their life instead of being wise with their life, but rather one is to continuously be refilled with the Holy Spirit, which will lead to a joy filled life characterized by praise, gratitude and humility.

So everything he goes on to say about the family is predicated upon this call to walk wisely not foolishly, to make the most of our days not to waste them and to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, exhibiting all of the attributes which naturally come as a result of that control.

So now, understanding the context into which this instruction on the family is being given, there are several things for our consideration here. We’ll follow the outline that scripture sets for us, beginning with the instruction to wives. Look at verses 22-24 & 33.

I. God’s word to Wives

Ephesians Verses 22-24, 33

Before we get started I want to encourage you ladies to be patient here. While the scripture may start with giving you advice, it quickly gets around to your husbands and if you think the burden on you is tough, just wait till you see what God has to say to your husbands.

“Wives be subject to your husbands.”

Lest you think this some aberration of scripture, this same message is found in Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and in 1 Peter 3:1, 5.

The same word in the original language is used in all of these texts to communicate this idea that wives should be subject to or in submission to their own husbands. Basically the word means to come under or to place yourself under the authority of another. In this case it means a wife is to place herself under the authority, protection, provision and love of her husband.

The passage in Colossians tells us it is pleasing in the sight of God when a wife submits to her husband. The scripture tells us the same thing in 1 Peter 3. Wives be subject to or be in submission to your own husbands. Not to someone else’s husband, not to all men or men in general, but to your own husbands. Titus 2:4 instructs women to love their husbands, something Paul does not repeat here in Ephesians.

Let’s just go ahead and admit it, and let’s not blame it on our culture, submission is a difficult thing to do, regardless of the cultural surroundings in which you live. The reason it is difficult has more to do with nature than with culture. The first sin was that of rebellion against the authority of God. God said, “don’t eat from that tree,” and Adam and Eve chose not to submit to His authority but rather to do what they wanted to do. That is the essence of sin, not to submit to the will of God but to exercise our own will.

None of us like to submit to someone else, and if we have a problem submitting to God Himself, how much more of a problem is it for us to submit to another human? And yet, within the body of the redeemed, amongst those who are called by the name of Christ, submission to authority is not only something which is to characterize our lives, it is part and parcel of what it means to be a new creation in Christ.

Authority and submission are deeply ingrained into the very fabric of God’s created order. We saw that in our study of 1st Peter and we see it here in Ephesians. 1st Corinthians 15:28 tells us that someday all things will be subjected to Christ who Himself will be subjected to God the Father. You see, the submission and authority to which God calls us is a reflection of the submission and authority which exists in the Godhead itself.

The scripture tells us that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and became obedient, even to the point of death on the cross. The Church, the bride of Christ, is to submit herself to the One who is the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself.

The clear and plain teaching here is that the marriage between a man and a woman is to mirror the relationship which exists between Christ and the church. The Church is to submit to Christ who is the head of the Church and the wife is to submit to her husband because God has placed him as the head of the family.

There are some who have tried to say that Paul was a chauvinist and that he hated women and thus he included this instruction to Titus, to the Colossians and here to the Ephesians. Of course if you buy into that line of thinking you are saying that these are not the inspired words of God but rather the insipid words of a mortal man, and that’s a huge thing to say. Others still have tried to say that this verse is somehow negated by verse 21 which tells us that as believers we are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ. Again, context is everything.

Verses 15-21 talk about the Spirit filled life and begin a larger section on submission and authority. Within the fellowship of the saints, within the body of Christ, those who are filled with the Spirit of God will, in humility of spirit, be deferential to one another and in the fear of Christ, submit to one another. But Paul moves from the church to the marriage, from the marriage relationship to the parent child relationship and form the parent child relationship to the servant master relationship. If you try to negate the command of verse 22 by pointing to verse 21, and say that husbands and wives are both to submit to each other in the same way, you would have to say that Paul is also telling parents to submit to their children and masters to submit to their slaves. And since this is clearly NOT what he says to parents with respect to children or masters with respect to their servants then we cannot negate or dilute this command for wives to submit to their husbands. We cannot pick and chose what we like and what we don’t like in scripture. It says what is says and we have to deal with it honestly.

It is not an easy thing to swallow but it nonetheless remains the truth: wives are to submit to their husbands. Ladies, irrespective of what our culture may tell you, in spite of what some of your friends at work may say, this is a command from Jesus, the One to whom you have surrendered your soul. Obedience is not optional.

Now ladies, before you take offense, you might want to take a couple of things into consideration here. This is not something to which you are to simply reluctantly resign yourself. When properly understood and employed submission is something which God intends to be a blessing to you not a burden. Secondly, like all other commands from God, this too is an act of faith. It takes great faith to submit yourself to your husband, especially when you may often know more than him and have better ideas than he has. Remember that God orders this not based on what we think but based on what He knows will ultimately be in our best interest. And His greatest blessings come to those who obey Him.

There is a second word here to wives and that is found in verse 33, where it says, “Wives respect your husband.” - Vs. 33

The word in the original language here means to revere, or, in the biblical sense, to fear, as one would fear the Lord; to have reverence or serious regard for. This reverence or regard you have for your husband is also an unconditional command. It is not based on how worthy your husband may be of your reverence or respect. It is not based on how you feel or what you think. Like the command to submit to your husband, this command to revere your husband is a directive from the Lord which you will either obey or disobey. If this tells you anything it should speak to the seriousness with which marriage should be approached.

Clearly, there are many husbands who are not worthy of respect. In fact, some of them may not be Christians or even if they claim to be Christians, may manifest no external signs of a changed life. But that is no excuse for disobedience. 1st Peter 3 tells us that your behavior, part of which is this reverence, will be one of the things God uses to draw your husband to salvation.

Again, I need to reiterate here that obedience to these commands are only really possible when one’s heart is right with God, when they have died to themselves, their pride, their agenda, their will and their self, and it is Christ who is living through them via the agency of His Holy Spirit. And as with all obedience, it requires faith…it means you must trust that if you obey Him, God will take care of you.

This is God’s word to wives, love your husbands, submit to him and honor him. These are commands from God.

But the next appeal here, in fact the next imperative or command is given to the husbands. Look at verses 25-33.

II. God’s word to Husbands

Ephesians Verses 25-33.

There are two dominant analogies which the scripture uses to describe the relationship between God and His people. One is the Shepherd and the sheep, this is clear throughout the Psalms and Jesus picks up on it in John’s gospel where Jesus is the good Shepherd. The other presents Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as the bride. That’s why we speak of the Church as the bride of Christ.

We see this imagery of husband and wife used in the Old Testament between God and Israel and it is carried forward throughout the New Testament to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church. It is against this backdrop of analogy and admonition that Paul contextualizes his counsel to husbands. He has but one specific command here, but this command is so broad and all encompassing that it covers every conceivable area of relationship between a husband and a wife. We find this command in verse 25 where the imperative command is given that a husband is to love his wife. As with the previous command, this is not optional, it is mandatory.

The word love herein the original language is the same word is used in John 3:16 where scripture says that God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to die on a cross for our sins. It is the same word which Paul uses back in chapter 2 of this book of Ephesians where after describing how lost we were, dead in trespasses and sins, says, “but God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us…..made us alive together with Christ…”

This is love in its highest expression; it is love in its purest and most unselfish form.

Paul has two ways of describing this love the first is found in verse 25 where he says that a husband is to love his wife like, or in the same manner, that Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for her. The second is found in verse 28 where the husband is to love his wife as he would love his own body.

How is it that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, loved the church?

A. A Sacrificial Love

First of all He loved the church sacrificially – For something to be sacrificial, by its very nature it must be costly. If it cost you nothing it is no sacrifice. It was no small sacrifice for the King of Glory to condescend to live as a man, to be born into the ignominious feeding trough of Bethlehem’s cave. It took a love beyond compare to submit Himself to earthly parents, to walk with all the limitations and temptations known to humanity, when it was He who spoke the very world’s into being and who formed the first man and woman into being. It was a sacrifice to live as He lived and give as He gave, and yet He did it all for love, for the love He had for the Church, His bride. It was love that led Him up from the safety of the Galilean hills to the certainty of death in Jerusalem. It was love that motivated each step along the via-dolarosa, it was His sacrificial love for you and me that caused Him to willingly lay down and allow those Roman soldiers to nail Him to a cruel and rugged cross so that with His blood you and I might have forgiveness of sins and know the joys of eternal life. This is the kind of sacrificial love Jesus had for His bride, and men, if your claim to be a Christian is more than mere rhetoric, if your profession of surrender to Jesus as Lord of your life is more than just a pretense, this is the kind of sacrifice you are to demonstrate in your love towards your wife. It is not optional; this is the command of the Lord you claim to serve. Plainly put, your love for your wife must cost you personally and deeply. It must cost you even as our Lord’s love for you cost Him. And let me add that sacrificial love is always active love, it means you have to give.

Love is an active word. In its truest form it always denotes action more than mere feeling. While there are often powerful and deeply visceral emotions accompanying love, authentic love is always demonstrated not merely declared. That’s why a man who truly loves his wife not only declares it with his lips but demonstrates it with his life. Sacrificial love is active love; it is a declaration whose truth is proved in action.

B. A Selfless Love

Secondly, notice that this love was selfless – Agape love, the kind the scripture prescribes a husband must have for His wife is selfless, that is, the one doing the loving takes no thought for themselves but is always seeking the best of the one being loved. This is how Jesus loves us and it is how we are to love our wives.

As we have noted in some of our previous messages in this series, selfishness is at the heart of all marital problems. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have had couples come into my office wanting me to help them with their marriages and after a few minutes it becomes abundantly clear that the reason they have problems is because the husband is selfish, and selfishness is evidence of spiritual immaturity, so not does he not love his wife selflessly but because of his spiritual immaturity he is incapable of leading his family has God has called him to do and the problems have a snowball effect.

Again, remember that all of this counsel, both to the wives and to the husbands, is set against verses 15-21 where Paul counsels them to know the will of the Lord, to walk wisely not foolishly and to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit of God, which brings joy, thanksgiving and humility. The point here is that if you are walking as you should be walking with God, you will find it much easier to walk as you should be walking with your spouse.

Husbands are to love their wives selflessly, and that unselfish and noble kind of love is not based on how much she deserves it no more than the love Jesus gives to you is based on how much you deserve it. Agape love is always based on the character of the one doing the loving, not the merit of the one receiving the love. And I say this because I know there are some men here who are saying, “That’s all well and good pastor but you don’t know my wife.” I may not know your wife like you do but I know that you are just as much of a sinner as she is and that in spite of your sin Jesus loves you. If Jesus has given you that love, unworthy as you are, who are you to keep from expressing that same kind of love to your wife? To whom much is given much is required. Husbands are to practice a selfless love for their wives.

Paul adds another insight to this selfless love when he says in verse 28 that a husband must love his wife as he loves his own body. Men when you take a woman to be your wife God makes the two of you to become one flesh. There is a oneness of heart and mind which should grow over the course of your life together which should motivate you to treat her at least as good as a you would treat yourself, which would do away with any form of selfishness, and because the love you have for her will cause you to always put her first, you will, in fact, treat her better than you treat yourself. This is what it means to be selfless in your love.

C. A Sanctifying Love

Third, husbands are to love their wives in a sanctifying way – This is what verse 26 says. Even as the love Jesus has for us sanctifies us, or makes us more like Him, so a husband must love His wife in such a way that it draws her closer to God, helping her continue the process of conforming to His image.

Men, God has called you to be His representative in your home. You are to guide your wife and your children down the pathway of righteousness; you are to take them on a spiritual journey which will bring them closer to the very throne of God.

If there is one area where modern day Christian men are lacking it is right here at this point. Far too many men who claim the name of Christ, live like the rest of the world. While they want to be the head of their households with respect to finances and decisions, they have abdicated their chief responsibility before God, which is to be the priestly figure who leads His family, intercedes for them and demonstrates for them that in this life we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

I am grateful that we have many men in our fellowship who are stellar examples in this area but I must confess that there are many of you who miserably fail at this point. Your wife should not be the spiritual leader of your home, that is a role God has assigned you and therefore it is a role for which you will be held accountable.

So husbands are to love their wives sacrificially, selflessly and in a sanctifying manner. But there is one more thing here I want you to see. Look at verse 33.

After repeating that a husband is to love his wife as he loves himself, Paul tells the wives, as we have already noted, that they are to respect their husbands.

Since the greatest responsibility is always upon those who are in authority, this says husbands need to be men worthy of respect. Men, your wives may love you but not respect you. They may feel very deeply for you, have great hopes and dreams for your life together but because of the way your live, because of the things they see you watch on television, on the internet they may not respect you. They may love you but because of the way they see you treat the waiter at the restaurant or because of the things you say about other people when it’s just the two of you, or the way you look at other women, they many have no respect for you.

Earlier I noted that this reverence, fear or respect which your wives are to have for you is not to be based on how whether or not you deserve it, and this remains true. But the point I am making here is that if you are the man God wants you to be, if you are continuously being filled with the Spirit, if you are walking wisely not foolishly, if you are a man of integrity, you will make it a whole lot easier for your wife to respect you.

Be a man worthy of respect, not just when others are looking, but at all times, and you’ll find your wife and family will give you the respect you desire.

III. A call to Response

All of this teaching is good and fine but what good does it do if you are merely hearers of the word and not doers? What good does it do you to know something if you never put it into practice? So, how do I put this into practice?

Remember, when we began our study this morning we noted that all of this advice is given within the context of the spirit filled life. That means that for this to work in your life as God intends for it to work, you need to have come to a point where you have giving your heart and your life to Jesus Christ, where you have accepted His forgiveness of sins, surrendered your life to His control and allowed Him to place His Holy Spirit inside of you. When that happens things will begin to change in your life, you will begin to understand spiritual things and to see the wisdom in God’s counsel.

Perhaps you are here this morning and you have never come to know Jesus as the Savior of your life. You’ve been living life like you want, according to your rules and desires and at the end of the day you’d have to admit that you’ve made a mess of things. Jesus is in the business of healing that which is sick, mending that which is broken and restoring that which is in disrepair. If you want Him to bring health and life to your marriage this morning, you’ve got to begin by allowing Him to work in your heart. A marriage can never be any more like Jesus than the two people who make up that marriage. You need to surrender your life to Jesus today.

Perhaps you are already a Christian and this morning God has shown you how far you are living outside of His plan for your marriage. And if you’d be honest you’d have to admit it’s because you are not walking in the fullness of His Spirit. And this morning, God is calling you to recommit yourself, to surrender once again, everything you are and ever hope to be. He is waiting here for you. Waiting with open arms to receive you and restore you to that place from which you have fallen.

Perhaps you are here this morning and you simply want someone to pray for your marriage. In just a moment we’ll have a hymn of response and give you a chance to come to this altar where someone will be waiting for you to put their arm around you and pray with you.

Would you bow your heads and close your eyes for just a moment, as the Spirit of God moves in this place.

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