Archive for the ‘Controversial’ Category

 

Ephesians 5:22-33

Let’s read the portion of Scripture that we’ll be spending a fair bit of time investigating and implementing over the next several weeks.  Ephesians 5:22-33.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I want to start, this morning, considering marriage today… and the affect that it has or may have on the next generation. Look around you at all the children.  The way you live your life, the way you live with your husband or your wife has profound impact on your children and grandchildren.

Marriage’s Effect on the Next Generation

John MacArthur, in his book (written in 1981) “The Fulfilled Family” says,

I’m concerned about today’s marriages. Each year several million couples pledge themselves in marriage, vowing to love each other for better or worse. But many of those marriages will end in divorce. That contributes to the problem of unwanted children. There are as many abortions by married women as non-married. Couples often don’t want children. One-third of all couples in their child-bearing years have been sterilized. Why? Because children interfere with divorce. If you don’t have children, you can leave easier. Children get in the way.

We have a generation of children growing up in families that are in chaos. Many children are saying to themselves, The last thing I want to do is get married. I don’t want to repeat this mess. They’ve lived in chaotic and totally unfulfilled families, so they don’t want anything to do with marriage. But they want to fulfill their sex drives, so they go from person to person with no commitment. The next generation may never get married.[1]

How true.  Marriage is undoubtedly in trouble.  Even marriages that do hang together are often characterized by adultery, unfaithfulness, lying, cheating, loss of respect, loss of trust, pride, self-centeredness, materialism, laziness, and loneliness. Our nation is a mess, but the sad thing is that those characteristics have crept into the church. Believers are having marital problems, too. However, you’ve probably heard… and I think I’ve quoted things that I have read before, saying that divorce rates among Christians are the same or a bit higher than non-Christians.  Well, that needs some explaining… because it really depends on your definition of “Christian”, or more accurately… whether the persons calling themselves Christians are actually “in Christ.”  Do they take their faith seriously?  Do they regularly attend church services?  Do they study and apply the teaching of the Bible (all of it, not just where marriage is concerned)?  Here’s some truth coming from non-Christian sociologists. W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that…

“Active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.”[2]

Did you get that?  If you “play” at doing church… if you “play” or “dabble” in walking with Christ… you are not seriously pursuing Jesus and His Word, than you are 20 times more likely to get a divorce than those who do not claim any sort of religious affiliation!!  That, church, should sober us up really fast!!

So, the answer is not more counselors, more marriage seminars, or more books on marriage; the answer, and it makes a complete sense when you think about it, is more GOD!!! Just as Paul has already said in Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit”, which we’ve learned is giving more of yourself to Him, not you getting more of Him. So, when that is accomplished, when you give God more of you, God Himself will produce in you the virtues that make for a meaningful marriage. Oh yes, people are good at patching up symptoms, but we are not so good at dealing with reality. What we need to do is back up and look at God’s principles.

And that is what we are going to do, starting this morning.  Now, that we have taken a moment to consider marriage today we are going to consider what marriage was like back when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in and around Ephesus.  And then, second, we are going to look at a wonderful picture of marriage recorded for us in Scripture that is done like Paul talks about here in Ephesians 5:22-33.

The Condition of Marriage in Paul’s Day

I think that you will find it surprising how closely marriage in and around the time that Paul penned these words resembles marriage and society today.  Let me fill you in.

1.The Jews

The first thing we must understand is that the Jews had developed a low view of women.

To them, women were servants. In fact, when a Jewish man would get up in the morning, he would pray, “God, I thank You that I’m not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Amen.” In Deuteronomy 24:1 Moses says that if a husband found “no favor” in his wife because of some “indecency”, he could divorce her.

Some rabbis interpreted “indecency” as adultery (because the word literally means “nakedness”) and said that was the only grounds for divorce. But others said that “indecency” could be anything from spoiling the dinner to not being as pretty as another woman. Basically, the two views among the rabbis about the proper grounds for divorce were: (1) adultery only; and (2) for any reason at all. When those two choices were offered to the people, which do you think they accepted? By the time of Jesus and Paul, the Jews were divorcing their wives on any given whim.

2.The Greeks

The Greeks were worse than the Jews. In the Greek world, there wasn’t a legal procedure for divorce, because it wasn’t necessary. Wives only cleaned the house and had legitimate children. Demosthenes, an Athenian orator and statesman, said,

“We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; and we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately and being faithful guardians for our household affairs.”

Because Greek men found their pleasures outside of marriage, fornication and prostitution were rampant. And according to historians, Athenian society was also dominated by homosexuality, lesbianism, and pedophilia (the sexual abuse of children).

3.The Romans

The Romans were even worse than the Greeks. Divorce was not the exception but the norm. Jerome, an ancient writer, tells of one Roman woman who married her twenty-third husband—and she was his twenty-first wife! Marriage in Rome became nothing more than legalized prostitution. In other words, you could get married when you found someone you wanted, stay until you got tired of her, dump her, and then marry someone else. Rome also had a rampant women’s liberation movement. Women didn’t want to have children because they thought it hurt their looks. Woman wanted to do everything men did, so there were women wrestlers and women fencers. According to Juvenal, the first- and second-century Roman satirical poet, women joined in men’s hunts “with spear in hand and breasts exposed, and took to pig-sticking.” Then he went on to write,

“What modesty can you expect in a woman who wears a helmet, abjures her own sex, and delights in the feats of strength?”[3]

That was the condition of marriage when Paul wrote:

Ephesians 5:22 (ESV)

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

We need to understand that Paul was not saying, “Now, I just want to remind you of what you already know.” He was actually calling them to a new standard of living. He was telling them to live in a way they knew nothing about.

The Song of Solomon: A Look at God-Designed Marriage

While Paul is talking about the functional roles of authority and submission in the marriage relationship, and that these things are to exist in the home, he is very clear that our relationships should be bathed in love so that they melt together with mutual love and respect. This is illustrated in the Song of Solomon, where we will see a beautiful picture of a right marriage relationship. It is a beautiful example of how leadership and submission is to work, even when things go awry 😊.

Let me first start by giving you a little perspective (you may want to jot down some of these references for discovery later):

In Song of Solomon 2:3–15, the woman acknowledges her husband as the head of the home. She saw him as her protector (v. 3), her provider (v. 4), her sustainer (v. 5), her security (v. 6), and her leader and initiator (vs. 10–15).

It would be good to note that there is no oppression or tyrannical spirit in this passage. She desired his leadership, and he took the role that God had given him. Now, even though authority and submission are present, verse 10 describes it beautifully: “My beloved is mine, and I am his”.

In 5:10–16, we see a marvelous portrait of the woman’s husband through her eyes of love. She saw him as handsome (v. 10) and bronzed (v. 11), with soft, tender, misty eyes (v. 12). There was color in his cheeks (v. 13), his lips were fragrant (v. 13), his hands were bronzed (v. 14), and his stomach and legs were muscular and strong (vv. 14–15). She saw him as a strong, handsome, rugged character.

In verse 16, when he opens his mouth, he isn’t crass or rude. Then at the end of verse 16 she says, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.” She didn’t see him as a dictator; she saw him as a beloved friend. The mutuality and the spirit of love fits beautifully with authority and submission when love bathes the relationship.

I know what you’re thinking ladies… your thinking, “If my husband was like that, we’d never have a problem.” But, here’s the clincher… in chapter 5, we find that this couple did have a problem—the wife would not submit to her husband.

Let me just boil it down for you…

In verse 1 the husband comes home late at night… his wife is already in bed. He was full of love for her, and he knocked on the door, asking that she let him in (v. 2). Her response to him, however, was basically, “Don’t bother me now; I’m asleep. I’m not interested” (v. 3). But then, afterward… having heard his hand on the door, love welled up in her heart, and she felt sorry for her lack of submissiveness (v. 4). So, she got up, put her robe on, and opened the door (v. 5). But, unfortunately, it was too late—he had already gone (v. 6).

Note… both you husbands and wives… that he wasn’t demanding… he just made the request… he didn’t force himself on her. Well, as the story goes on… She panicked and ran all over the city trying to find him. Finally, she decided he was in the garden (v. 2) and found him there (v. 4). When she found him, he didn’t treat her with contempt because of her refusal.  He didn’t say, “Why didn’t you let me in?” And he didn’t get jealous of her being out and running all over the city late at night with a “Where have you been?”

No, instead, he said some of the same things he had said to her on their wedding night. In confirming his love for her, he told her that even though she had rejected him, he still loved her as much as he did the night he married her. The problem was solved, and they had a wonderful time renewing their relationship.

If I could define what we’ve been talking about here in a nutshell, I would put it this way: biblical authority or headship for a husband is:

Giving the best of all that he is to those under his care and authority.

And I would define submission in a complimentary manner:

Biblical submission for a wife is:

Giving the best of all that she is to the one that is in authority over her.

Several hundred years ago, Martin Luther described it this way:

“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

The Bible has important things to say about having a meaningful relationship: and what we will be learning as we work our way through these verses is that functionally, we must have authority and submission. When we learn the meaning of those two dimensions of truth, our families will be what God wants them to be.

So, as we wrap this up this morning I want to leave you with some questions that you can take with you and consider over the course of the week.

Does your marriage reflect a man-designed marriage… are you doing it man’s way?  Or does your marriage reflect a God-designed marriage and you are seeking to do it God’s way?

What is your reaction to God’s teaching on authority and submission?  And, are you being honest with yourself about the answer that you just gave?

I would also ask, considering what we’ve learned about marriage success and the authentic practice of our faith, are you letting God have more of you so that you are “Filled with the Spirit” and then empowered to live in this way with your husband or wife?

Please, prayerfully consider these questions as we work our way through Paul’s teaching on authority and submission in our familial relationships.

Let’s pray!

[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., The Fulfilled Family (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981).

[2] W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Williamson, “The Cultural Contradictions of Mainline Family Ideology and Practice,” in American Religions and the Family, edited by Don S. Browning and David A. Clairmont (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) p. 50.

[3] Satires 1.22–23, 61–62; 6.246–64.

 

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I recently viewed the new video from Ray Comfort called 180.

All I can say is WOW!!!