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A Brides Role in Marriage 11-13-2005

Notes & Transcripts

A Bride’s Role in Marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33

November 13th, 2005

Paul Van Maaren

Senior Pastor

Faith Reformed Church, Lynden, Washington

Listen to these words from the book that we love.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Usually, we expect to hear God’s words about marriage when we go to a wedding.  And then however, the pastor is speaking to the couple at the center of the ceremony.  The last wedding that I attended the pastor spoke so directly to the couple that he even stood at arms length or less to them.  And yet, as all who have been to a wedding know, though the words are for the bride and groom, they also ring in our ears and stir in our hearts as we sit as witnesses to the their marriage.  Perhaps at sometime, in all the weddings you have been too, you’ve heard these words.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

And its easier for us to hear God’s words about marriage at a wedding because there is a bride and a groom to which the words are specifically spoken.  But when we gather on Sunday its harder.  Its harder because there is no bride or groom and so many of us have felt the pain that marriage can bring.  That pain may be of a marriage that has ended in divorce, or the pain of a spouse leaving you for another.  Your dearly loved husband or wife may have passed away.  Your pain may not be heartache but headache.  You may be suffering the pain of physical abuse in your marriage.

So, this tonight, whether we are married or not, for general or very specific reasons, we may want to tune out and say, “Hey this doesn’t apply to me, why should I listen?”  Go ahead, listen.  For God has given us humans marriage.  And through marriage we have something concrete that helps us.  It helps us understand how all believers, including us stand in relationship with Christ.  Because we are Christ’s body and we are his bride.

As we have gathered here this morning, God’s words about marriage are not just for married people but for all of us who are the body and the bride of Christ. 

Consider this:

Our church ministry will only be as strong as our family ministry.

And our family ministry will only be as strong as our marriages.

We can walk in very dangerous territory if we read any Bible passage out of its context.  And unfortunately our passage this morning has been severely read and out of its context for some time.  Verse 21 becomes the lenses, by which we read the portions that follow.  Verse 21 reads,

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

However, before we go there let just make some very general observations.

The first is to notice what this passage does not say.  It does not say, “Husbands, make sure that your wives are being subject to you.”  It just doesn’t say it.  My grandma can’t stand this text.  Because for, dare we say centuries, it has been understood and misapplied.  Wives have responsibilities.  Husbands have responsibilities.  And neither spouse has the responsibility of making sure the other is carrying out each ones responsibilities.

Second, we should count words.  In the Greek NT text, from which we translate our English translation, there are 144 words to husbands and 47 to wives.  That is over 3 times more to husbands than wives.  Perhaps you grew up in a place and time like me, where all that we heard was “Wives, be subject to your husbands.”  What happened to all the words spoken to men?  They’ve been ignored for the sake of making sure our wives are subject to us men.

Finally, this text is often used as part of the argument against women in ministry.  But it simply is not.  When we look at the whole of the text from verse 21 to verse 33.  It plainly is not about women in ministry but about marriage.

This passage contains instructions for Christian wives and Christian husbands on being subject to one another in marriage.

Together, lets take a walk through the text from beginning to end.

As we have seen already in verse 21, it is the lenses by which we need to see through to understand the rest.

Let’s go back and read verses 22 through 24.

When we read and hear the words “ submit,” all kinds of meanings conger up in our minds.  Subjection, obedience, duty, compliance, and being restricted, because we’ve been formed understanding it this way.  The title of the message today may have evoked similar feelings.

At the core of these instructions for marriage is the example of Christ and the church, his bride.  When wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands, it is modeled after our own surrendering to Christ as the head, over us.  Do we find it hard to submit ourselves to Christ?  Our first answer is no.  Our surrender to Christ is better described as voluntarily yielding in love to his headship. 

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

This brings another question for all of us.  Are you, am I, living life subjected to Christ in everything?  Much of difficulty in this passage comes as a result of our own resistance to live in submission to Christ.

Let’s continue on with verses 25-32.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

Let’s take a break here for a second.  I like to ask all the men gathered here with us a few questions.  You don’t have to raise you hand or anything.  Just answer the question for yourself.

1.     Did you take a shower this morning before coming to worship?

2.     Did you in the last two days comb your hair?

3.     Did you at any time in the last day look at yourself in the mirror?

Now the point in all of that is not to check up on your personal hygiene.  It is to show that we love and take care of our bodies.

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

Gentlemen, you’ve got a responsibility to your wife!  As Christ loves and cares for us, who are his body, so we should also love and care for our wives.  Care for her body!  Submit yourself to her and see to that that she is being loved by you.  She is giving away headship to you and you have a new responsibility for that.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.

Just under your submission to Christ is your submission to your wife.  You are joined to her as one flesh.  Husbands and wives are like one body, one flesh.  So take care of your body! 

Love her,

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.

Present her like

the church to yourself and to the world radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Tell her she is beautiful.  Don’t be impatient if she needs to work on her hair longer than you do.  Have you ever asked her how she knows that she is loved?

Gentlemen, we have a responsibility to our wives.  It is to love them as Christ loves us, his bride.  It isn’t forcing her into submission, it isn’t being selfish.  It is listening to her, complimenting her, looking out for her best interests.

Before Courtney and I moved to Michigan, to seminary.  A pastor in Pella, where we lived, would ask me whenever I saw him, “Are you loving Courtney as Christ loves the church?”  How would our marriages change if we and our buddies asked one another this question?  “Are you loving Mary as Christ loves the Church?”

In the end husbands, we who are the bride of Christ, must subject ourselves to our wives.  We do this by following the example Christ has set for us.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Being subject to one another is not just for marriage.  It goes into all of our relationships.  Children and parents, employees and employers, neighbor to neighbor, believer to believer.  We are to voluntarily submit ourselves to one another.  It is coming down to what Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but, whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel save it.  Who are you living for?  Jesus Christ?  Or yourself?

So, lets take some actions steps.

1.     Wives, let go.  I know that is hard because we all need to look out for ourselves.  In marriage your husband is given responsibility of leadership. What can you do to encourage him to lead?  Ask him how he can best be supported by you.

2.     Husbands, your love, attention, and care are for your wife.  Her welfare is your responsibility.  Ask her how you can love her better.  What things does your wife care for the most?

Before we pray you’re going to have the opportunity here and now to ask one another these questions.

3.  Finally, have you surrendered your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ?

We can’t be subject to our spouses or to others if we are not subject to Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus died for our sins.  Paying the price we could not and making the atonement before God for our sins.  Yet, we carry around areas of our lives or our lives in their entirety unsurrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  You know, in this passage, it is easy for us to forget that believers in Jesus Christ are the bride of Christ.  So being the bride we are called to be subject to Christ.

So, lets take a few quiet minutes and talk to your spouse, pray together.  If you don’t have a spouse seek the Lord and ask him what areas of your life he seeks surrender from you.  I’ll close us with prayer.

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