Ephesians 5:18-33 - Marriage

November 05, 2023


So I've spent a long time in ministry working with youth, which was fantastic. If you had asked me when I was twenty-something, I would've said that I wanted to be a career youth pastor. I wanted to retire at sixty-five, still playing dodgeball and going to summer camp. And my wife never believed me and like many things my wife was, right.

Now, when I was a youth pastor, I had a lot of students who told me, and I think it was a community I lived in, but they told me that they wanted. To spend their twenties discovering who they were before they got married. And this sounds really wise. We hear this a lot of the time in culture, that your twenties should be used to travel.

It should be used to get educated, to establish a career, to have some financial stability and wait, delay marriage until you truly understand who you are. Now, there are some definite drawbacks to that, and the advice, well, it sounds pragmatic. I think it's generally a bad idea. Now, I don't think we should rush into marriage and I've rushed into my sermon and I'm realizing there are children here.

So kids just know marriage is important. You should get married at the right time, not too soon. Not anytime soon, but definitely don't delay it forever, but what we won't delay is you going to Sunday school. So head on off to Sunday school with your teacher.

Okay. What was I saying? Marriage. We don't want children to get married lesson one. One of the reasons why I don't think it's wise to delay marriage, to discover yourself is because when you're married, that's when you're really gonna discover yourself. Like, how many of you have gotten married and been like, whoa, is it just me?

No, it was not just me. It's a universal experience, right? Marriage is perhaps the greatest tool for self-discovery. If you wanna know yourself well. Commit to a relationship with someone who's going to hold up a mirror to you and make you take a look at things that you might not want to see. Matt, this isn't the sermon for tomorrow.

One of the hardest things about marriage is confronting your own flaws. Amen. And imperfections. Not that I have any. Wow. Because the problem is in marriage, in a relationship with somebody who you love, you're gonna see how all of your shortcomings impact that person and those shortcomings that drove your parents crazy.

Sorry mom, they brushed aside. Suddenly when they're impacting your spouse, they resonate a little bit deeper. When you're dating. You can hide the messy parts of yourself more or less, but in marriage, the hiding is over because in marriage we're called to be naked and unashamed. But often our sinfulness gives us a lot to be ashamed of.

We're transparent, we're known by our spouse, and there are things that we need to deal with in the daily shared life. Our truest selves are revealed. Marriage exposes. The rawness of our selfishness,

Paul knew that this human selfishness is found in all relationships. It impacts all of our relationships, particularly in marriage. And so when Paul set out to offer instruction for Christian households, he challenges the selfishness and he guides us to a better way, a way that acknowledges our sinful self.

But then helps us to mature, grow, and ultimately to have a better marriage, to be a better person, to be more like Jesus. So now as we stand before the wisdom of scripture, we can find ourselves wanting to hide from its truths. Those of you familiar with the household code in Ephesians five and six might know that Paul urges wives to submit in this passage.

And our reaction to this verse might be resentment, confusion, dismissal, or perhaps you're cheering. You're like, yeah, Matt, tell my wife to admit.

If you're hoping that I'll put your wife in her place, you're gonna be disappointed. God, in his infinite wisdom did create a divine order within marriage. We see it established right at the very beginning. It wasn't good for Adam to be alone, so God gave him Eve to be a helper to him. Now, one of the things that we see in Scripture is that God created man to be in his own image, but it took both man and woman to reflect that image of God into the world.

It's not good for the man to be alone. He can't accomplish his job of revealing who God is to the world without his helper, without Eve. Both are created in the image of God. Both have the same value and worth, but there is a headship that Adam has that husbands have now. That's hard for us in our society 'cause we have seen how that idea has been used and abused.

And while I think we're living in a time that's better for women than other times, it's still not a great time to be a woman in many ways in our world. And that's because men come in with selfishness, sinfulness of all kinds. And we make it really difficult for women in our world. Yes,

Christian marriage should look different from the marriages that we see in the world. But when we see the statistics on Christian marriages, they're not that much better than the world we divorce at practically the same rate, and we know that many women are trapped. In marriages that they would love to get out of, but they feel compelled to stay because of their religious faith.

We're doing something wrong. What we're doing wrong, I believe in part, is either not knowing what scripture says or flat-out ignoring what scripture says. We've created God's design, his good design for a partnered marriage. Into a marriage that is demonstrated with a me first approach. It's all about what can I get out of this instead of how can we serve each other?

Oftentimes we approach marriage with this idea that it's about our happiness, it's about our fulfillment. God actually intends for marriage to be about our holiness. There's a difference. Because if you want to be happy in marriage, you're gonna pursue your holiness in marriage.

But if you pursue your happiness first, it's gonna be a disaster. Now, before we really dig in to this passage, I want to begin with a pivotal sentence in this chapter that takes what we were talking about last week, and then it's going to frame what we're talking about this week. And if you don't understand this.

You're gonna misunderstand what follows. It's a powerful instruction to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now in Ephesians, this isn't a suggestion. It's the foundation for everything that follows. This is key because it's the Holy Spirit's presence that enables us to live out what comes next. You can't have the ideal marriage unless you're living filled with the Holy Spirit.

Because without the spirit, you're going to get everything else wrong. But with the spirit, you're going to find the strength to live, love, and submit in a way that honors God and each other. Paul with clarity and urgency commands us in Ephesians five 18, he says, and don't get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the spirit.

So here Paul's comparing two influences. He has wine in the Holy Spirit. They seem very different. The heart of the matter for both is control, right? Who or what is controlling your life? The truth is that any substitute for the Holy Spirit is going to be disastrous. Drunkenness leads to a loss of control.

While being filled with the spirit leads to fruits that reflects God's character. And one of those we see out the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians is self-control, love, and service. When someone is under the influence of alcohol, it shows right, like we know and so should the influence of the Holy Spirit.

When somebody's filled with the Holy Spirit, we should know it should be clear in their behavior. Especially in the context of relationship. Okay, so if Paul is framing this all under what's controlling you? How do you know if you're controlled with the Holy Spirit? How do you get filled with the Holy Spirit?

There's not a magic formula to this, but it takes, as a life anchored in faith, you need to avoid what grieves the spirit. You need to let Jesus's words fill your hearts, and you need to persistently seek the spirit in prayer. Because that's what paves the way for him to work in you. You have to be invested in asking the Holy Spirit to fill you, and it's not a one-time event.

It happens over and over again as you say, Lord, I need you. Fill me. Fill me with your spirit. That's how we stay filled, overflowing the Holy Spirit, ready to love and serve as Christ loves the church. And so what does this look like? Paul then tells us what this looks like in the next section of verses He says.

Speak to one another in songs, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart. Just nice, not your vocal cords. 'cause I can't do that with your heart. To the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

So we have five key words in this passage. You have speaking, singing. Making, giving and submitting. These actions all serve as the evidence of the Spirit's presence within us. And what's interesting is these words are about our relationship with God, but also about our relationship with each other. In chapters four and five, Paul has outlined how a life led by the Spirit is marked by unity.

This is not a new concept. As we've seen over and over again in the book of Ephesians. Christians are not to go it alone. We're to build each other up through encouraging one another in shared praise and worship, and giving thanks and submitting to one another out of awe for Jesus. Our deep respect and admiration for Jesus should lead us to willingly put others first.

This is what the Holy Spirit helps us to do. Submitting to one another doesn't mean giving up who we are or following orders against our will. Instead, it's about choosing to show love and respect and putting the needs of others before our own, within our Christian family. This kind of caring action sets the foundation for how we should treat everyone in every kind of relationship.

So before Paul talks about how we should act in our marriages with our kids. At our jobs, he tells us that we need to learn to follow each other's lead in church. Now, this idea might seem strange because many people think being in charge or having power is more important than being humble and helping others.

But in God's family, we're asked to do this too. We're asked to be humble, to put others first, not because we have to, but because we want to out of love. And we do this with the help of the Holy Spirit who helps us do things that don't come naturally, like putting others first isn't. It is not easy to put others first.


It's not easy to serve others. This is what it means to follow Jesus and to lead others in his way. Leaders in the church are to live out this kind of service. Take Paul for instance. He called himself a servant to everyone because he wanted to bring people to Jesus, so he was a servant to everyone. Why?

Because of Jesus. Husbands will soon see or also told to love their wives deeply, to the point of giving up their lives for them. Just like what Jesus did, it's all about Jesus. Amen. What Paul teaches us here is that this kind of serving each other is all about showing how much we love and honor Jesus.

Jesus is the boss. He's the one in charge, and because we respect him, we should be happy to serve others. When we do this, we're living out the kind of life that Jesus wants for us, it's a life full of love and putting others first. Now Paul moves on from this foundational call for mutual submission. And now he's gonna transition into his version of the household codes.

Paul gives us two different household codes, and Peter, a third, excuse me. All household code codes that we see in Scripture are countercultural for their time and place. Household codes. I was about to say cold because that's what we're living through right now is we have a household cold, but household codes were commonplace in this society.

Okay. And Paul's version. And Peter's version as well is about spirit-filled living the culture at the time. On the other hand, it was super hierarchical. With men being in charge and women and children having little to no power or rights. However, in the family of God things were meant to be different.

But what we see here is that Paul doesn't just eliminate the household codes. He doesn't say ignore all that cultural stuff. Rather he transforms them. His codes don't focus on what wives, children's, and slaves were supposed to do, but instead on what husbands, fathers, and masters were to do. And what he instructed was radical at the time because what Paul taught us is that true leadership is not about power and control.

So for a society where people were suffering under the control of evil, selfish men, this is radical because what Paul's calling us to is service and selflessness. Paul shows that through Jesus we can rise above the societal expectations and become true servants to all. So with that understanding, let's continue into verse twenty-two, and I know these words can hit our modern ears like nails on a chalkboard, but stick with me.

Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He's the savior of the body now as the church submits to Christ. So also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Now we're gonna skip to the end of the chapter, verse thirty-three.

It says, to sum up each one of you is to love his wife as himself. The wife is to respect her husband.

The word submit has some serious baggage in our culture. We hear, submit, and we think of oppression. We think of inequality. But hold on. This isn't about a man lording power over his wife. No. This is about a spirit-led mutual respect and love that mirrors Jesus and his church. So when Paul speaks to wives saying, submit to your husband as to the Lord, we've gotta understand that the whole life is a call to submission.

We already saw that in verse twenty-one, submit to each other. The whole Christian life is about submission to each other. It's not about power plays or dominion. This isn't the submission of defeat. It's a submission of one of mutual respect and honor. And now Paul's really gonna go after the husband here, the husband.

What is he to do? He's called to die to self for his bride, like Jesus did for the church. A husband is called to put his wife first, always aiming to lift her up, to serve her, to cherish her. When the Bible talks about head, it's talking about authority. Yes, but it's not the I'm the boss. Do what I say.

Authority. It's really about responsibility, guys, if you're the head, your model isn't some power hungry. CEO, this isn't a dictatorship. Your marriage is a call to Christ-like servant leadership. It's about. Jesus washing his disciples feet. It's about laying down your life for your wife, just as Christ did for his bride.

The church that's the kind of head we're called to the husband's rule. His head isn't about bossing around. It's a call to sacrificial love, to putting her needs above his own. This kind of headship, it has boundaries. It has God's boundaries. It's never selfish. It's always selfless. It's about serving, not being served.

What about wives? Submission here isn't about being less than. It's about a powerful choice to support, to respect, to follow the lead of a husband who's following Jesus. It's a dynamic duo of love and respect that mirrors Jesus in his church. Now, we've seen this twist, haven't we? We've seen headship abused, and that's not the gospel.

Paul is clear. Headship is not a license for abuse, and submission is not a call to silence. Ladies, hear me? You are not doormats. You are called to silence or you are not called to silence. A mission to sin. You have a voice. Use it to encourage, to challenge, to spur your husband on to godliness. Amen. Men can't do it alone.

They need a helper. As some of you women know and men, you are not dictators. You are to love like Christ. Loved the church. Fiercely. Tenderly, sacrificially. Now, why does Paul call wives to submit and husbands to love? Because in God's economy, these are two sides of the same coin. To submit is to choose someone else's will over your own.

To love is to put someone else's needs. Before your own. It's about sacrifice and surrender, and that's what makes marriage gospel-centered. Husbands, you should not need to ask your wife to submit

if you need to do that. If you're constantly asking your wife to submit something has gone wrong.

Let's continue. Husbands love your wife just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his wife, loves himself where no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it just as Christ does for the church. Paul's laying down a revolutionary idea here. It's particularly radical for the culture of his day, and it's still radical for our day. He tells husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

That's a love, that's sacrificial, that's selfless. It's not about dominion, it's about devotion. In the Roman world, men had power, ultimate power over their households, but Paul flips the script. He says, no, don't Lord your power over. Your wife. Love her. Care for her. Elevate her and why? Because that's how Christ loved us.

His church pure, without spot or wrinkle, Christ doesn't just save us. He sanctifies us. Now we can't miss the dance of mutual respect here. Submission isn't a one-way, street, gentlemen, verse twenty-one has already set the stage submit to one another. So when wives submit, it's not about inferiority, it's about interdependence.

And when husband's love, it's not a mere feeling. It's an active, ongoing self-giving action. This isn't your everyday kind of love. This is Golgotha love. This is Jesus whipped, nailed, pierced because of love. He was a sacrificial self-emptying love, a foot washing love Jesus. Our king, our head showed us authority.

Soak in humility, drenched in love, so men listen up. It's your call to die. Not a physical death, but a dying to self. It's about putting her first, your schedule, your ambitions. They all take a back seat. This love is about giving yourself away daily for her sake. It's about saying no to lust, to anger, to pride.

It's about being faithful, holy, fiercely, unconditionally. So how do you love your wife? Lemme break it down. Be ready to lay everything down for her. Elevate her being above your own. Take care of her like she's your own flesh. A wife will never fear submission to a man who loves like this.

Barriage isn't for the passive. It's for those who serve actively, who love like Jesus. Like the famous love passage we see in one Corinthians 13. It's a love that's kind, that doesn't envy, that doesn't boast, that isn't proud, and it's a love that's done in the attitude of Jesus, who, him even being God, humbled himself, becoming obedient to death for us.

That's our model. That's our standard. That's the Christ-like love we're called to embody every single day. And here's the big concern for Paul and Ephesians. He cares about what the world sees when they look at us. And Paul knows that this isn't just about marriage. It's about mirroring Jesus to a world that's watching when husbands love like Jesus.

When wives honor like the church, we live out a divine love story. It's not about societal roles, it's about serving like our Savior. Why did Paul single out wives to submit and husbands to love? Perhaps because both were stepping into new identities. Women at this time were experiencing newfound freedom in their relationship with Christ, and men were learning to love or to lead with love instead of authority.

Each directive cuts against the cultural grain at the time, and today to reshape the marital covenant spotlighting a radical Christ-centered equality. Every part of this passage is pointing us to Jesus. It's not just an ancient text. It's our marching orders to love, to serve, to sacrifice. That's the calling we have.

That's the mission, because in everything, absolutely everything comes back to Jesus. And Jesus's love is not just about the warm, fuzzy feeling. It's about sanctification. It's about making the church holy, spotless without wrinkle. It's a sanctifying love. Paul talks about cleansing her with a washing of water by the word.

Now we're not just speaking about a superficial cleanup. This is a deep, transformative cleaning, positional sanctification. It's about being set apart, pristine, blameless, and how does Jesus do this? Through watering the word, don't get it twisted. This isn't about baptism. We're talking about not just baptism.

Paul's alluding to a spiritual cleansing, like the practice of a premarital bath that happened in the ancient near Eastern cultures before marriage. It was the custom for the bride to be made ready for her groom. This cleansing though is through the word, the gospel that brings life-altering purity in the Christian Church.

In our experience of sanctification, we're not cleansed in preparation for the bridegroom. We're cleansed by the bridegroom or cleansed by Jesus. So what does this mean for us husbands, you don't get to atone for your wife's sins. That's Jesus's job. You can echo his sanctifying love. Are you loving your wives in a way that makes them more like Jesus?

Or are you the hurdle they're jumping over to get to him?

Too often men are the hurdle that their wives have to jump over to growing Christlikeness. Men. The love that you're being called to isn't passive. It's active, sacrificial, and intentional. You need to love your wife. Like Christ loves the church. Jesus's headship was about care, not control, about taking responsibility, not seizing power.

Then you are to be the pastors of your home. You are to shepherd your family the flock that the Lord has entrusted to you. You need to be concerned about her spiritual well-being you need to be in the word. You need to talk the word. You need to live the word together. You need to know where your wife stands, theologically, spiritually, where she stands in service, in community, and in relationships.

You need to turn tune into her fears, her dreams, her struggles. You need to be her shepherd. You need to be her champion, her unwavering partner in this journey of holiness. So let's be men who leave a legacy of Christ-like love imprinted on the hearts of our wives and children.

Stay with me. We're gonna continue on to Ephesians verse twenty-eight. In the same way husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, he who loves his wife, loves himself, where no one ever hates his own flesh or provides and cares for it just as Christ does for the church. Since we are members of his body.

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So love your wives like your own body. You don't neglect your hunger, your pain, or your need for rest. So why would you ignore the needs of your wife, your own flesh and blood in this one flesh mystery of marriage?

This is about satisfying love. I said that marriage isn't about your happiness, so let's be clear. This isn't about selfishness or diminishing the value of our wives. If you're one flesh, then loving her is loving yourself. It's not just about making sure she's fed and safe, it's deeper. Are you feeding her soul, her passions, her dreams?

Are you keeping her safe? Not just from the physical harm, but from doubts, fears, and insecurities. Remember when Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. That wasn't to throw away line. That's the heart of the gospel, smashing the cultural norms of power and selfishness. Your wife isn't property.

She's your partner. She's your equal, the clearest picture of heaven's harmony on earth. So husbands take a hard look. Are you nourishing her body, mind, and spirit? Are you cherishing her? Noticing her, affirming her worth? As we finish the chapter, Paul says this, he says. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ in the church.

To sum up each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. This isn't just romantic poetry. It's a divine mystery. It's profoundly true Paul's painting a picture of Christ in the church using the canvas of marriage. And we all know that marriages can be messy. Mine is, but in that imperfect dance between husband and wife.

There's a glimpse of something holy, something eternal there.

This mystery is profound. Paul says, he's talking about a secret that's been hidden for ages that's now unveiled in the gospel. This isn't just about a man and a woman saying, I do. This is about Christ, saying I have to the church. We're talking mutual love, loyalty that doesn't quit a loving headship that's more about kneeling down to serve than standing up to be served, and a loving submission that's freely given, not forcibly taken.

We're talking about riches bestowed upon us, not in silver or gold, but in grace and mercy. We're talking about an intimacy that goes beyond flesh and bone. It's soul, deep, spirit united, a oneness that can only be explained by the cross itself. This profound mystery. It is the gospel. It's Christ self-sacrificed, his relentless pursuit of his bride, the church.

That's the picture, the real love story. Every marriage, every covenant bond points to that great love story. So let's live our marriages in a way that what people look at us, they can't help but think about the way Christ loves his church. So what does this mean on a practical level? Husbands and wives, you're gonna know each other really well in the context of marriage, and you are going to get to know yourself really well in the context of marriage.

Seek each other's sanctification. Leave each other to confession, to repentance. Build each other up in faith, in the fruit of the spirit. Pray for one another. Your marriage has a divine purpose beyond your happiness. Your marriage is about your holiness. You are partners in that task. And men, yes, you are the shepherd of your home.

You are the head of your home. But please care for your wife. Seek her opinion because you need her. It wasn't good for the man to be alone. Your wife has gifts that are valuable and you should be seeking her opinion. You should be seeking her counsel and in a perfect situation, ninety-nine 0.999% of decisions that need to be made are mutual.

And then on that point, 0, 0 0, 1% chance where you guys can't come to an agreement and a decision has to be made. You ultimately are responsible, but what that might mean to be a loving, sacrificial shepherd is to say, I'm gonna pick your way, and if it doesn't work, it's my responsibility to sacrifice your preference, but to take on all the responsibility of that decision.

Tracy and I have had very few conversations where we've disagreed at that level.

This shouldn't be a normal thing. Seek each other's well-being, and really the attitude that you should have is to always defer, always prefer the other person's preferences. That's what's mutual submission is about. I don't know if in your house it's like my house, but we're constantly trying to decide what to have for dinner and because we both work, we probably order DoorDash a little bit too much.

And I know what Tracy likes. She likes Mexican food and she knows what I like. I like pasta. And so in our marriage, I should be fighting to have Mexican food because I know that that's what she wants. That's what will bless her. And she should be fighting to have pasta, and she knows that's what I want.

We should be seeking the others good in all things. That's the attitude of marriage that we should have. And when your wife is sick, you get to order Italian food because she's not eating anyways and it's great.

But if you're going into your marriage like a selfish jerk, you got problems. Because that's not what scripture is painting a picture of here. The other thing I'll say about this passage real quick before we close is that this is an ideal situation that Paul's describing here. Both people in this scenario are Christians.

This is the ideal. There are going to be times when your spouse is not living up to these ideals. You might find yourself in a marriage where your spouse isn't a Christian, so you don't follow your spouse into sin. You don't allow your spouse to lead you astray, and if your spouse is abusing you, you don't have to submit.

You go and you get help. That's right. You go and you protect yourself and you protect your kids. One of the things that drives me crazy about scripture and people is that sometimes we'll read these passages and we'll read them too simply, but the way you understand scripture is by looking at the full counsel of God's word and understanding it off of the back of each other.

So if you are looking at this passage and you are asking your wife to stay in an abusive situation because you're the head, you're wrong. That's right. And if you're a wife who's being submissive in an abusive situation, out of respect for this verse, God bless you. But don't stay. Get help, get help. Your pastors, your elders, your friends.

We're here to help you and hopefully to restore things back to this ideal, but don't allow a Simplistic reading of scripture to trap you in an unideal situation. Because scripture is supposed to call us to something greater. They call us to embody to the world the picture of Christ, and we're not supposed to do this alone.

Look at what started this conversation. It was about being in a community that worships together, that serves together, that submits to one another. So commit yourselves to a community and pursue your marriage in the context of a Christian community who can support you to do the really hard thing of marriage.

It's hard. It's hard. It's fun sometimes, but it's hard a lot of the time. We need each other. We need each other, and the only way we're gonna do it is with each other. And by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Will you pray with me?

Father? I wanna live in the ideal. I wanna be in a marriage where I am so filled with the Holy Spirit that Tracy doesn't need to worry about what kind of man I am.

And Lord, I want Tracy to be so filled with the spirit that I can trust her opinion, her counsel, like Matt, you need to rewrite that sermon. Lord, my desire is that all of us would live and this ideal that only comes from us relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. So, Lord, would you fill each and every single one of us here today with your Holy Spirit?

Lord, would you transform our marriages, our familiar relationships, our friendships, our relationships with our co-workers, our relationships with their neighbors? And would you exhibit in our relationships a Christ-like love? Lord, may we be a church that's known for our love, a love that inspires, a love that inspires people to find the love that we experience in our relationship with you.

First and foremost, I pray Amen.