Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of His Body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
There are some things in the Bible which a lot of modern people (who still call themselves Christian) do not believe. They have ways and means to discredit it. Take abortion for example. Nowhere in the Bible does it support the idea that a woman is in charge of her own body and that it is alright to kill the unborn child. Yet notably, some leading Catholic politicians disagree, even though their Catholic superiors denounce them.
Likewise, what about women pastors? The Bible tells us in Hebrews that the pastoral office is an office of authority, and 1st Timothy tells us that a woman is not to have authority over a man. Yet how many (and not just modern churches, but some old-line fundamental churches) have a woman pastor?
Still another example—(and we could name many, many more!) is the idea that homosexuality is a natural and therefore an acceptable lifestyle. Yet both Testaments say the opposite!
Now we will look at our text. Years ago, when I taught adult confirmation, I would spend a lot of time on this subject. The Bible does say, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…” But—that is taking it out of its context!
The first verse in this topic is, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Biblical submission is not a one-way street!
Consider this verse: “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.” Question: how does Christ rule His Church? Not with a whip or a rod! Not by demanding His way! But simply by His voice (as it is recorded in Holy Scripture.) In His own words, “‘So Jesus said to those who believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
Now my question is: where do we start? With the fact that He earned the right to be our Savior and our Teacher? Or do we start with the fact that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God? Both are necessary, and if we understand and believe these two things, then we approach the Bible—not to understand or to reason it out—but to accept. As Isaiah put it: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
As someone once said, “There is a God, and I am not God.”
And that is the attitude we must have as we approach the Holy Scriptures. So again—this time in context: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” If the wife is to be subject to her husband, then logic says the husband must rule his wife. But what does our text say, not rule, but love and how? As Christ loved His Church and gave Himself up for her. So put away the whip. Put away the harsh demands. Put away any idea of slave and master. Take on the idea of a loving shepherd who loves and defends his wife.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Jesus sacrificed His life for the Church. Husbands are to sacrifice their lives for their wives.
An example: It is the end of the year and the family bills are all paid and the check book is balanced and a surplus is found of $1000! Great! Money to spend on something not so needful! So, the husband, the head of the house, says, “I want to buy ABC.” But the wife says, “I want to buy XYZ.” Now the Biblical principle! Who gets to buy what? If the idea is that the husband is to sacrifice himself for his wife—she gets what she wants.
“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.” Likewise Husbands are to act the same toward their wives. Present is a public idea. How do I describe (present) my wife to others? I do not say anything bad about her. And as I present her to myself, I dwell on her good points, not her bad or weak points. St. Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” That works for anything but especially in marriage. After all, you are going to spend a life time together. And by the way—what does the Catechism say? “Always put the best construction on everything!”
Then there is this: “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 their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—” Why does St Paul say this? The first answer must be—because the Holy Spirit led him to. The 2nd answer is because the Bible says, “They are no longer two but one.” The longer you are married, the more you understand this. You become inseparable! I find I can’t really enjoy something unless I can share it with others, especially with my wife.
The most important part of our text is the 2nd part of this verse, “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.” That is what it is all about. It is not whether or not I get to boss my wife around or at the end of the year she gets a new sewing machine or a fur coat—it is about love, love for Jesus, love for each other and love for our spouse. Jesus says, “If you love Me then keep My commandments….” and then He adds “and they are not burdensome to keep.” It isn’t a burden to honor God’s Name nor His day. It isn’t a burden to try to keep the other seven commandment—in fact, we feel badly when we do not. And it isn’t a burden to love our spouse and to do the things to make them happy.
I’ll end this sermon by sharing something a woman shared with me many years ago when I worked in the missile industry. She said, “When I was first married, I thought I was the luckiest woman in the world. After a few years, I thought he was the luckiest man in the world. After a few more years, I wondered how we put ever up with each other.” Maybe that is another way of saying, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
So, husbands, love your wives and wives, love your husbands, and fellow Christians, love one another even as Jesus as loved us. (By the way, Jesus called it the New Commandment!) Amen!
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