The Christian Family: Wives (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | 2013-08-04


21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  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. (Eph. 5:21-24) 


The couple sat quietly together in the den, each absorbed in their own thoughts. It was so quiet in fact even the ticking of the clock on the mantle sounded like a sledge hammer accentuating the silence that now separated them. They had made it through their evening devotions, but both still sensed the tension between them. Their devotions had been pretty erratic over the past year. And they had argued after supper over whether or not they had time to do them tonight. Both were feeling generally frustrated with the other the past few months. And wouldn’t you know it, the reading for tonight had been from Ephesians 5.21-33. They had read this passage – and others just like it – so many times before.

“Yet,” he thought to himself silently as the clock hammered away, “she still doesn’t get it!” “If only she would show me the respect I deserve, I would love her as Christ loved the Church.” “She just doesn’t seem to notice all the things I do to protect and provide for her and our family.” “And she’s always pushing me. I know I’m slow sometimes, but why can’t she wait for me to lead when I’m ready?”

Her thoughts meanwhile had drifted back to her childhood. She remembered again her dream of marrying that white knight who would carry her away, shower her with undying affection, and live happily ever after with her. She knows now that was just a girlish dream, but she can’t help wondering again, “Will he ever understand me and what I really need?” “He seems so distant most of the time, absorbed either in his work or his hobbies.” “It seems the only time we talk is when we’re arguing about money or when he is ‘in the mood.’” “Sometimes it feels like he doesn’t have spiritual bone in his body. Why do I always have to ask him to lead the devotions or to pray for me and the kids?” The clock continued to hammer away in the silence.

Simultaneously – they prayed in silent exasperation – Lord, please fix him/her!

How often have some of us felt similar tension and frustration, more or less? How can we, like this couple, find help and renewed hope for our marriage relationships in spite of sometimes differing expectations, financial pressures, arguments, varying levels of commitment, or worse? Where can we find the answers to our questions, the solution to our dilemmas? Where can we find someone to fix him or her???? Well, we won’t find it in the yellow pages or on Angie’s List.

Only Christ can help us and give us renewed hope in spite of the difficulties of marriage in a fallen world. This is not a how-to message – 10 steps to make your marriage better so you’ll be happier and less hassled. It’s a call to embrace the divine order God has established in his world, in marriage, and a call to follow the divine example of Christ and his Church.

Enabling us to embrace the divine order for Christian marriage

Submission is not a popular concept these days. Over the last several decades, it’s taken on the exclusive meaning of abuse of power, domination and oppression of the weak. In a fallen world, it’s true that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But submission to an absolutely just God is very different. 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice… just and upright is he. (Deut.32:4) 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves their lives… (Ps.72:13-14)

As we said last time, Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (v 21) is a means of being filled with the Spirit. Submission to one another in God’s appointed order is a means of redeeming the time, of walking wisely in God’s ordered universe.

In the wisdom of God, there is a divine order of authority that begins in the Godhead himself. The three persons of the Trinity are “the same in substance, power and eternity.” Yet among the Father, Son and Spirit there is an order of authority. The Father has authority over the Son, and the Father and the Son have authority over the Spirit. Christ, though equal with the Father, wisely, willingly, obediently and redemptively accepted his position in submission to the Father. At the creation Christ said, 27 When he established the heavens, I, [wisdom] was there; 30 I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always (Prov.8). During his earthly ministry Jesus said, 34My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (Jn.4:34) Even on the night before his death on the cross, he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Yet, not my will, but yours, be done.”  (Lk.22:42) There is both authority and submission in the divine order of the Godhead.

There is a God-given order in the church as well. All its members are equal in value to God.neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. (Gal.3:28) Yet each has a different function in the Body of Christ and there are different levels of authority. He has appointed some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints (Eph.4:11-12). He has appointed elders as overseers and deacons for compassion and service, (Phil 1.1) Every part works together to make the whole body grow, yet we are all under the headship of Christ. (Eph.4:16)

There is a God-appointed order in marriage. The husband and wife are equal in value to God, yet they have different functions and authority. The husband is to be the spiritual leader or head, and the wife is to respectfully submit to his leadership as to Christ.

There is a God-given order for families. Children and their parents are of equal value to God. Yet God has given parents the responsibility and authority to raise their children in loving nurture and discipline. And children are to obey their parents in the Lord.

There is a godly order in the workplace. God has ordained that some would be masters or bosses and some would be slaves or workers in various periods of human history and various cultures. Yet slaves, masters, bosses and workers are equal in God’s sight.

There is a God-given order in the nation and the community. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution… emperors and governors are sent by God to punish evil and reward good. (1 Pet.2:13-14).

See how marriage fits into God’s orderly plan? See how Christ embraced his own submissive role and the great blessing that resulted from doing so. Wives, embrace the divine order and your own role in it.

Enabling us to follow the divine example of Christ and the church.

Returning to our couple from earlier, why should this wife submit to her husband’s God-given authority? He obviously has problems. For two reasons. First, she should submit to her husband “as to the Lord.” The wife’s submission to her husband is one aspect of her love and obedience to the Lord. She demonstrates her trust in Christ by submitting to her husband. She knows her husband is far from perfect, yet because she trusts in Christ to divinely work through him, she accepts his authority because it comes from Christ. She trusts Christ in him.

Submission is defined as grateful acknowledgement of another’s care and leadership. The submission of a wife is not mere obedience as it is between parents and children or between slaves and masters. It’s described here also as “respect” in verse 33. It is an attitude of deference to the husband’s appointed role as leader, understanding that he too is under a chain of command as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Co. 11:6) So first, she submits to her husband “as to the Lord.”

Second, the wife in our couple should submit to her husband in order to imitate and illustrate the Church. God’s purpose for Christian marriage was not merely for our happiness. God’s purpose for marriage is to point people to Christ and his Bride, the Church. The first marriage in the Garden of Eden pointed forward to the covenant relationship that would one day be established between Christ and his church. Every Christian marriage today should point people back to Christ’s saving work on the cross. That’s where the covenant relationship with the church began. That’s why he is called the church’s Savior here. And every Christian marriage should also point people forward to Christ’s return, to the consummation of the marriage of the Lamb and his Bride.

The wife’s role in marriage is not to fix her husband, but to illustrate the church, the Bride of Christ. What a high calling, to represent the Bride for which Christ gave his life, to illustrate to a watching world the Bride which Christ is purifying and making ready for her glorification. Can the wife in our story do it perfectly? Can you who are wives in our congregation do it perfectly? No, Eve couldn’t do it in a perfect world. But with Christ’s help, wives, as you submit to your husbands, even though they are imitating Christ imperfectly, you can see beyond their imperfections to the perfections of Christ. You can even see past your own imperfections to the perfections of Christ’s glorious Bride. May we, by submitting to God’s divine order, and by following the example of the Lamb and his Bride, give honor and glory to Christ our Savior forever and ever. Amen.ler of your people.'”

Categories: 2013, Ephesians, Ephesians: The Christian's Inheritance, Sermons

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