Marriage - The Bible Way

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Ephesians 5:21-5:33

Groucho Marx once said, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution.”

Many have kind of negative attitude towards marriage don’t they? Someone once said, “in the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks and man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.”

Rodney Dangerfield said, “My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday.”

Henny Youngman said, “My wife and I have the secret to making a marriage last. Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant for some good food. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.”

On July 29, 1981, one of the most highly publicized and glamorous weddings in history took place. Britain's Prince Charles married Lady Diana in a ceremony watched by an estimated audience of 750 million people worldwide. 4500 pots of fresh flowers lined the route to St. Paul's cathedral. 2500 people crowded that grand church where more than 75 technicians with 21 cameras worked to enable the world to watch this wedding. For many people, this was a modern fairy tale. A royal prince weds a lovely lady in a grand cathedral surrounded by adoring subjects. They were the envy of millions. They were rich, young, handsome. It was a "marriage made in heaven." Sadly, we know that the fairy tale became a nightmare. The couple grew more and more distant. Affairs ensued. The storybook marriage made in heaven eventually collapsed into adultery and divorce. It takes more than a prince, a lady, and a palace to make a happy marriage. As someone said, "marriages may be made in heaven but the maintenance must be done on earth." For marriages to survive, they require regular maintenance. They require effort.

But more than that, they require a certain kind of effort. We must do the right things to have a successful marriage. God's Word tells us what those things are. God presents His program for a happy marriage in the Scriptures. Marriage works well only when we pay attention to the roles and responsibilities God has mapped out for us.

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul gives us the picture of a Christian marriage. In this key passage about marriage, we see the God-given roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives.

Eph. 5:19-21 "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God."

Paul has been describing the Spirit-filled life. In vv. 19-21, he uses several descriptive participles to define the activity of the Spirit-filled life. One of those activities, found in v. 21, lays the groundwork for what follows. Spirit-filled believers submit to one another because of Christ. They humbly seek to serve one another. In what follows, Paul describes how this mutual submission is played out in the home.

I. Wives submit to your husbands (vv. 22-24) "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."

Biblical submission described. \Because so much of the church has long disregarded the full teaching of Scripture, many believers find some of its truths to be unfamiliar and even hard to accept. And because the church has been so engulfed in, identified with, and victimized by worldly standards, God’s standards seem out–of–date, irrelevant, and offensive to modern mentalities. His way is so high and so contrary to the way of the world that it is incomprehensible to many in and out of the church.

But in matters of role and function God has made distinctions. Although there are no differences in intrinsic worth or basic spiritual privilege and rights among His people, the Lord has given rulers in government certain authority over the people they rule, to church leaders He has delegated authority over their congregations, to husbands He has given authority over their wives, to parents He has given authority over their children, and to employers He has given authority over employees.

The wife is not commanded to obey (hupakouō) her husband, as children are to obey their parents and slaves their masters (6:1, 5). A husband is not to treat his wife as a servant or as a child, but as an equal for whom God has given him care and responsibility for provision and protection, to be exercised in love. She is not his to order about, responding to his every wish and command. As Paul proceeds to explain in considerable detail (vv. 25–33), the husband’s primary responsibility as head of the household is to love, provide, protect, and serve his wife and family—not to lord it over them according to his personal whims and desires.

Your own husband suggests the intimacy and mutuality of the wife’s submission. She willingly makes herself subject to the one she possesses as her own husband (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3–4). Husbands and wives are to have a mutual possessiveness as well as a mutual submissiveness. They belong to each other in an absolute equality. The husband no more possesses his wife than she possesses him. He has no superiority and she no inferiority, any more than one who has the gift of teaching is superior to one with the gift of helps.

Eph 5.23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. /

The wife’s supreme motive for submitting to her husband is the fact that he is her functional head in the family, just as Christ also is the head of the church (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 1:18; and see Eph. 1:22–23). The head gives direction and the body responds. A physical body that does not respond to the direction of the head is crippled, paralyzed, or spastic. Likewise, a wife who does not properly respond to the direction of her husband manifests a serious spiritual dysfunction. On the other hand, a wife who willingly and lovingly responds to her husband’s leadership as to the Lord is an honor to her Lord, her husband, her family, her church, and herself. She is also a beautiful testimony to the Lord before in view of the world around her.

Eph. 5.24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. /

The supreme and ultimate model of submission is Jesus Christ Himself, who performed the supreme act of submission by giving His own sinless life to save a sinful world. Christ is the Savior of the body, His church, for whom He died on the cross. He is the perfect Provider, Protector, and Head of His church, which is His body.

Jesus Christ is the divine role model for husbands, who should provide for, protect, preserve, love, and lead their wives and families as Christ cares for His church. Wives are no more to be co–providers, co–protectors, or co–leaders with their husbands than the church is have such joint roles with Jesus Christ. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

To follow God’s plan for the family not only is pleasing to Him but is the only way to godlier, happier, and more secure homes. His plan is neither for the exaltation of man and suppression of woman nor the exaltation of woman and suppression of man, but for the perfection and fulfillment of both man and woman as He has ordained them to be. Such perfection and fulfillment is made possible by the filling of the Holy Spirit.

II. Husbands love your wives (vv. 25-33) 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

II Timothy 3:1-5 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

In that awesome list of sins there are several—such as disobedience to parents, lack of love (the Greek term, astorgos, refers to lack of natural affection for one’s family), and brutality—that are directly undermining the home today. But every sin that weakens the individual also weakens the home to some extent; every aspect of ungodliness weakens the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and brothers and sisters. The home has become fair game for every deceiver, every sexual pervert, every exploiter, as Satan mounts his great attack on that foundation stone of society.

Man was created first and was given headship over the woman and over creation. But their original relationship was so pure and perfect that his headship over her was a manifestation of his consuming love for her, and her submission to him was a manifestation of her consuming love for him, No selfishness or self–will marred their relationship. Each lived for the other in perfect fulfillment of their created purpose and under God’s perfect provision and care.

Marriage was corrupted because both the man and the woman twisted God’s plan for their relationship. They reversed their roles, and marriage has been a struggle ever since. Women’s liberation reflects the woman’s distorted desires, and male chauvinism the man’s. The unredeemed nature of both men and women is to be self–preoccupied and self–serving—and those characteristics are no basis for harmonious relationships. God’s way to successful marriage focuses on what husbands and wives put into it, not on what they can get out of it.

Young women who are virgins and husbands who are faithful to their wives are looked at askance and laughed at. Sexual purity and marital fidelity are standard fare for jesting in comedy and talk shows. It is difficult enough to make marriage work under the curse when most people recognize and seek to follow God’s standards for morality and marriage. It is immeasurably more difficult when most people mock those standards.

Satan knows by experience that when the home is weakened, all of society is weakened, because the heart of all human relationships is the family. The curse hits mankind at the base of its most needed human relationship, the need for men and women to have each other as helpers suitable for living productive, meaningful, and happy lives on earth. The world, inspired and led by Satan himself, tells us that meaning and happiness are found in serving and indulging self, in being free to express sexual desire however one wants—though promiscuity, unfaithfulness in marriage, partner swapping, homosexuality, bestiality, or any other way. And when men and women take that deceptive bait, they join Satan in undermining and destroying every meaningful and truly satisfying relationship in their lives—sexual as well as all others. And they bring on themselves the destruction and disease that God has ordained as the consequence of such sins.

Obviously no sinful human being has the capacity to love with the divine fullness and perfection with which Christ … loved, and will forever love, the church. However, because a Christian has Christ’s own nature and Holy Spirit within him, God thereby provides for husbands to love their wives with a measure of Christ’s own kind of love. The husband who submits to the Lord by being filled with His Spirit (v. 18) is able to love his wife with the same kind of love Jesus has for His own bride, the church. The Lord’s pattern of love for His church is the husband’s pattern of love for his wife.

A husband is not commanded to love his wife because of what she is or is not. He is commanded to love her because it is God’s will for him to love her. It is certainly intended for a husband to admire and be attracted by his wife’s beauty, winsomeness, kindness, gentleness, or any other positive quality or virtue. But though such things bring great blessing and enjoyment, they are not the bond of marriage. If every appealing characteristic and every virtue of his wife disappears, a husband is still under just as great an obligation to love her. If anything, he is under greater obligation, because her need for the healing and restorative power of his self-less love is greater. That is the kind of love Christ has for His church and is therefore the kind of love every Christian husband is to have for his wife.

The Good Samaritan’s expression of love to the man who was beaten and robbed was based on his own generous character and on that man’s severe need. Whether the man deserved his care did not enter into the picture. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet because He loved them and sought to serve them, not because they deserved even that most menial of services. He loved them despite their selfishness, pride, ambition, self–indulgence, jealousy, and fickleness. No doubt He felt great sorrow and pain because of their continued selfishness after three years of being with Him in intimate fellowship. But He did not love and serve them on the basis of those feelings but on the basis of His own loving nature.

Therefore the Christian who loves because of what other people may do for him or because they are attractive does not love as God loves. The husband who loves his wife only because of her physical attractiveness or pleasing temperament does not love her as Christ … loved the church. The husband who loves his wife for what she can give him loves as the world loves, not as Christ loves. The husband who loves his wife as Christ loves His church gives everything he has for his wife, including his life if necessary.

If a loving husband is willing to sacrifice his life for his wife, he is certainly willing to make lesser sacrifices for her. He puts his own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare aside if that is required to please her and meet her needs. He dies to self in order to live for his wife, because that is what Christ’s kind of love demands. That is his submission.

God’s new people, the church, are brought into His kingdom and His family through faith in Christ. He is the Bridegroom and they are His bride (Rev. 21:9). A husband’s greatest motive for loving, purifying, protecting, and caring for his wife is Christ’s love, purifying, protecting, and caring for His own bride, the church. Christian marriage is to be loving, holy, pure, self–sacrificing, and mutually submissive because those virtues characterize the relationship of Christ and the church.

When Christian husbands and wives walk in the power of the Spirit, yield to His Word and His control, and are mutually submissive, they are brought much happiness, their children are brought much blessing, and God is brought much honor.


Wives, if your submission to your husband was the only indicator to others of the relationship of the church to Christ, what would it communicate? A voluntary, joyful following of His leadership?
Husbands, if the way you love your wife was the only indicator to others of Christ's love for the church, what would it communicate? A selfless, sacrificial, tender love for her welfare?

There may be some husbands and wives here today that need to swallow their pride and confess their sins to each other. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a distant, lifeless marriage was transformed into a vibrant, loving marriage? It can happen. May God make it happen for every marriage here today.

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