Ephesians: Transformed Marriage

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff and it’s a joy to be able to share with you some super helpful words from the scripture today.  If you are here for the first time you picked a great Sunday to be here.

Why?  You ask?  Because we are studying a passage of scripture today that can really ruffle people’s feathers.  In fact – I was officiating a wedding once and the bride told me – please – she said, under no circumstance can you read this portion of scripture during my wedding.  Because if you do – one of my bridesmaids told me she would walk off the stage and out of the room right in the middle of the ceremony!

Wow!  Challenge accepted!  No – it’s all good – I can understand why someone would be offended – but my goal is that today we can read this portion of scripture and realize that once we really know what it says – it’s wise and good for our souls.  And good for our marriages.

Because today we are in Ephesians chapter 5.  Now we’ve been in this book for eight weeks now – and I so if you’ve been here you’ve heard me say these things and so let’s take a five question test –

The book of Ephesians was written by Who? Paul.

He wrote it about the year?  64Ad.  From where?  In prison in Rome.

To Whom is he writing?  The church that met in Ephesus.  What is Paul’s relationship with these people?  He started their church ten years before this letter.

How might you divide the book of Ephesians?  Into two main sections.  What the first three chapters about?  The wealth of the believer.  What’s the last three chapters about?  The walk of a believer.

So Paul is writing to help people understand the tremendous blessings they have received when they decided to trust Jesus with their lives.  Every spiritual blessing in heaven belongs to them.  And the knowledge of God’s love will overflow our banks and into the lives of those around us.

Where is the difference most obvious?   Well, in our families, and most of all – in our marriage.

Through faith in Jesus God is making us into new kinds of human beings, and the people who should benefit the most of this transformation is our families – and most of all – our spouses.

That makes total sense, doesn’t it?  So very practical of God to say – all these changes better result in a stronger more loving marriage.  It doesn’t matter if it was two thousand years ago or two thousand years from now – what Paul writes is helpful.  Because then, now, and in the future – marriage can be challenging.  It’s tough to be married.

You know it’s kind of interesting to think – that here in America in the 21st century we marry out of love.  We fall in love and we are attracted to someone and we are flattered that they love us.

But for most of history and even now in most of the world, marriages are arranged.  And they are arranged to strengthen and further the social and financial standing of a family.

And what I find interesting is that the Bible doesn’t address one or the other type of marriage – in fact-  you find both kinds of marriages in the Bible.  And in one amazing story you find both in the same family.   Jacob – meets Rachel and falls in love and her father demands he works for seven years before he will give Rachel away and the bible says – He worked seven years and it felt like just days because he loved her so much.  Awww…

But if you are familiar with the story on the wedding night – the apparently dark and moonless wedding night – it’s not Rachel who walks into the wedding tent – unbeknownst to Jacob it’s her older sister Leah!  And in the morning?  Surprise!  And Laban says – he in our culture we marry the older sister and Jacob says – basically – fair enough.  And he marries Rachel and Leah and what could go wrong?  plenty – but the point is this…

It doesn’t matter!  If you are a husband or a wife – and IF you are a follower of Jesus – these words are written to people who are followers of Jesus – they describe the kind of change that occurs when one realizes the blessings they have received through faith – then the biblical advice we are reading today will help your marriage.

Faith in Jesus assures us that God is in the process of transforming us into different kinds of human beings and that means, we can have different kind of marriages.  And what ever shape your marriage is in – it can continue to grow and become healthier and stronger as a result.

This morning as we read Ephesians 5 we are going to talk about the One-ness of marriage.  The Two-ness and The three-ness of marriage.

So let’s read Ephesians 5:21-33 and it comes with a warning that what you about to hear might at first sound offensive but stay and wait and give it a fair shake.

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Okay – let’s talk first about the one-ness of marriage.

  1. Oneness. The goal of marriage is oneness. 

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”

This is not an easy thing.  Because of what sin has done to us – it’s not an easy thing.  In our broken condition we are naturally self centered.  And you put two self centered people in a room together and then, well, the only question then is – who is going to win.

It doesn’t surprise me that Darwins theory of evolution is basically something like, the strong win and the weak die.  That’s actually not a bad summary of the condition of sinful humanity – without God it really is a survival of the fittest.

But that’s not the whole story – there is a God who can countermand the sinful nature and make it possible for two to become one.  But it requires intentionality and hard work.

I’ll tell you that my wife Jody and I shared together about his very issue back in January – and it was one of the most well received lessons we’ve ever taught.  And if you weren’t there for it, or you want a refresher – I’d encourage you to go to our website and check out on the side – look for the Refresh Series – and the first one there is the sermon on refresh your marriage.

One-ness in marriage requires work.  There’s much working against us.  And in that January sermon Jody and I shared about how – after 25 years of marriage we woke up to the reality that we were drifting in two directions.  We still loved one another, but we found ourselves on many a night with me on one side of the living room with my computer screen open – and Jody in her seat on her phone – and night time went and morning came and each day we were drifting.

Listen – I love my wife and she loves me – we really are wild about each other.  And so we know that it’s not enough to count on being wild about each other.  It takes serious work and intentionality.

So we began then, and we continue now, a weekly meeting – we call it coffee time – and we had it yesterday at the wicked Hen on Springfield – we had lunch and we went through our list of questions that are intended to make sure we are addressing how we are doing with our intimacy – our oneness – in these areas.

Financial oneness.  One of the best things in our marriage was financial peace university.  We ha a budget we agreed upon and worked on and we are miles down the road toward a healthier financial oneness as a result.

We talk about recreational oneness.  Side by Side time.  How are we doing hanging out with each other?  Having fun with each other?

We talk about emotional one-ness – how did I do last week showing you that you are my priority and teach me what I could have done better if I didn’t.

We talk about Physical intimacy.  Jody and I have a plan where I must initiate physical intimacy on either Sunday Monday or Tuesday.  And it’s a no rejection zone.  And Jody must initiate on either Wed-Sat.  And we are making sure we’re keeping our promise not to maintain our physical oneness.

Lastly Spiritual Oneness – What are we doing spiritually together.  It’s funny that this is the one that we continually have ups and downs on but each week we re-address it.

Oneness requires work.  But it’s worth it.  How are you doing with the one-ness in your marriage?  It requires intentional effort – don’t be the kind of person who is afraid to ask your spouse – how are we doing?  How can we become more one in thee areas?  Marriage is not for chickens.  Healthy marriages aren’t at least.  So muster the courage to inspect and address and plan to become one.

Second – let’s talk about the two-ness of marriage.

The goal is one-ness, but the reality is that there are two of you.

And so – oneness is the goal, but you are both unique and special individuals – and you each have different talents and quirks and needs and roles you play in your marriage.

Now I love that the Bible recognizes and honors the differences between the two – it doesn’t ask that you relinquish your uniqueness – but rather – understanding that you and your spouse are different – Paul is going to pull aside wives and then husbands for a special word to each in order to help honor the two-ness and create the one-ness.

Now – obviously – what Paul is suggesting might run smack against what our culture believes right now and what our culture here in America seems to want to suggest.  We live in a culture that appears to be trying very hard to suggest that there is no difference in any way between genders.  But the Bible stubbornly insists that there are differences.

There is no difference in worth – the bible is very clear in 1 Peter 3:7 that men and women are equal partners in the gospel.  Both are valuable and Jesus died equally for both husbands and wives. But there are differences.  And these differences should be honored and not smudged out.

So what instructions does the bible give us – is there anything specific to husbands and wives?

Paul says two things to the wives…  He tells them the goal is to become the kind of woman who will submit to her husband’s servant leadership.

Does it sound demeaning to be asked to submit?  How can the Bible say we are equal partners if the Bible also tells women to submit to their husbands leadership?

Well we see just this in the trinity.  The son submits to the father.  Jesus prays THY will be done.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t equal.

Within the Trinity we see roles – it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who died for our sins.  Different roles – but equal.  Three in one.  And in a marriage it’s two become one.

Well, remember that the verse just before it says to submit to one another.  So why then would Paul make a special word – to re-iterate it to the wives?

Well I think there is a very practical reason – to start with – there may comes times in your marriage where you have a decision to make – and you say A and your spouse says B and you work to find a solution – but you cannot agree.  You feel with all your heart that A is the right call to make.  And your Spouse thinks it’s B.

What do you do?  Maybe you agree to ask a trusted friend or family member for ideas to help resolve the issue.  But what happens in the end if it cannot be done?

The bible says, wives, out of respect for your husband and out of love for the lord – let your husband make the call.

By the way – I think this happens at least once in every marriage – and it’s one of those things that ought to be rare – but I think God does people a favor by showing them that it’s okay to relinquish a decision.

Even if in the end it turns out you were right.  And that happens too – and remember your husband is learning as he goes too.  Can you though in those moments be the kind of spouse who doesn’t rub it in, or say, I told you so?  Love doesn’t keep a record of wrong.

Every decision we make we make in the moment and we make because we thought it was right.  At that moment – you honored God by saying, okay – you make the call.

I think that the key to this is found in verse 33, where Paul says that the gospel will make you the kind of wife who respects her husband.  2. Respect your husbands.  Your husband wants to know you respect him.

Now I always hear in response to this – “well what if I don’t respect him.”  I’ll respect Him when He loves me.  I’ll respect him when he earns my respect.  It’s earned not given.

And I’d say – you don’t understand the gospel – you need to go back and study the first three chapters of Ephesians a little bit more.  Is that how God treated us?  Did God say I’ll love you when you earn it?   I’ll treat you respectfully when you earn it?

Honestly, as soon as we say “I’ll respect him  when he deserves to be respected” we’ve condemned ourselves.  Because we will never be able to apply that same standard to ourselves in our walk with God.  We will never live up to our own standards.

The twoness of marriage – wives and husbands are different.  Paul pulls the wives aside for a special word – your husband wants to know that you respect him.  Are you communicating that to him?  When was the last time you uttered those words to your husband.  I want you to know that I respect you?

Of course, Paul doesn’t stop there – he next pulls the men aside and tells them, guys – be the kind of husband who lays down his life for his wife.  Love her with a love that is self-sacrificing. 

In every possible way we lay down our life for our wife.  And so this issue – If we are asking our wives to respect our decisions, we must not be asking her to do that in order that you gain something for yourself at her expense.

This is why people cringe at this verse – because men have used this verse to gain an advantage over their wives – and they have completely ignored the rest of the chapter of Ephesians where Paul says to be the husband who relinquishes his own desires and demands for the sake of his wife.

Lay down you life for your wife.  Paul tells the men – you are chief servants in your home.  Servant leaders.

It’s an interesting term – servant leader.  But this is what Paul calls us to do in our home.  Why?  Because that term serves as curbs to keep us on track.  It keeps us from running off track.

See it seems to me that there are two great errors I see husbands make.  One is to try to dominate his wife – this guy thinks the world revolves around him.  I’m the king of my castle.  And Jesus says – no – you’re not called to be the King of your castle – you are called to be the chief servant of your home.  To lay down your life.  Love you wife and kids.

The other common error is – instead of dominating the wife, the man abdicates all responsibility of co-leading the home – and this guy turns into a passive husband who turns doesn’t care to work with his wife to lead.

This guy ends up becoming one of the kids. Listen – if you are the kind of husband ho thinks – I help out around the house – I do whatever my wife tells me to do – if she wants me to do something all she has to do is tell me – there’s a certain sadness – I mean – one of the greatest joys of parenting is the day one of the kids does a load of laundry without being told to do it.

It’s important to note that neither – submitting to your husband, or laying down your life – means you become a doormat to the other.  Rather, it speaks to the result of the work of Jesus in our heart – we love one another and love does not demand to have it’s way.

Truly – the key to this kind of marriage is verse 21.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here’s what it looks like to be a servant leader – you say to your spouse – let’s sit down and schedule our next date night.  Let’s come up with some questions we can ask ourselves on a regular basis to help our marriage be stronger.

Let’s not be afraid to ask – how can I be a better husband to you.  Give me one idea.  If your spouse asks you that then rejoice.  And be kind but truthful.

Because – here’s the deal – not only is marriage the primary theater in which our lives transformation is played out – marriage is the primary vehicle for transformation.

God uses marriage to help shape us and make us beautiful.

I don’t remember many gifts I received as a child.  But for some reason – I remember one year for Christmas getting this gift from uncle Tommy and aunt Mary Ellen.  The reason I remember it is because I think it’s the worst gift I ever got from anyone ever.

You put rocks I there and when they start they look like this….   jagged, rough, unpolished,  then you add some grit and then you put the tumbler on for like a week – and over the course of the week the rocks crash into each other and the sharp edges become smooth and eventually they become beautiful.

But as a kid I remember thinking – this is the dumbest thing ever.  But now – it’s paying off as a sermon illustration because – this is a good illustration of marriage.  We are the rocks – and the tumbler is our marriage, and the grit is life – and we tumble and crash into one another with the hope that we will make each other better.

But it’s not just the two of you in the tumbler.  God is there too.  That’s the three-ness of marriage. 

It’s you and your spouse and God – in the tumbler of marriage, crashing into one another – and over time, sometimes a long time, you become a more beautiful person.

It’s not on you alone.  It’s not on your spouse alone.  It you and your spouse – pressing in to your relationship with God – tumbling about until you shine.

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