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Christian Marriage: A Fruitful Garden Protected (Ephesians Sermon 38 of 54)

Christian Marriage: A Fruitful Garden Protected (Ephesians Sermon 38 of 54)

May 08, 2016 | Andy Davis
Ephesians 5:21-33
Sanctification, Grace, Life in the Spirit, Holiness, Man as Male and Female, Marriage and Parenting


Well, I come this morning to the first of three sermons in our series in Ephesians. We've come to the section on marriage. It was not intentionally lined up with Mother's Day, it just happened that way. And Jared, I have six points in my sermon this morning. Is that okay? So this is like two sermons I guess, two Baptist sermons, I guess. But we're going to look this morning in an overarching, overview, sense of marriage. And we're not going to get into the exegetical details of Ephesians 5, but we're going to talk some, in a big picture, about Christian marriage. And then God willing, next week we'll have a second sermon zeroing in on the wife's responsibilities in that section, that scripture. And then, the following week, God willing, we'll look at the husband's responsibilities. So that's where we're going.

A Fruitful Garden Needing Protection

And as I begin this sermon this morning, my mind goes back in time. I imagine, I don't know that this happened, but I think it must have happened back to a warm, late June day in 1863 in a Pennsylvania farm area, where a peach farmer was just walking through his orchard. I can picture this, and I've walked through orchards myself, and you just smell the fragrance of those peach blossoms and you see the peaches growing on the trees, and you just anticipate the harvest and the time when the fruit is going to get ripe. And your heart is so filled with hope. The problem was that peach orchard was near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and within a week it would be the site of one of the worst battles in history. And that those peach blossoms were going to get ripped to shreds by bullets and by artillery fire, and the peace of that place was going to be rent by the screams of agonizing wounds and men dying. And we picture that image of a beautiful garden, a rich, beautiful garden that has become a battlefield. And you think to yourself, "How could such a fruitful garden become such a battlefield?" And this is the image that's in my mind as I think about Christian marriage. 

Marriage: One of God’s Richest Gifts

And as we come to the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:21-33, I look on marriage as a fruitful garden, a beautiful, rich garden that needs protection. That it is a battlefield. And we're going to find out later in Ephesians, not yet, but maybe in the future if God gives us the time, how we are in a place of spiritual warfare all the time. And our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but it's against the rulers and the authorities and the powers of this dark age, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And that Satan has made marriage a special focus of his activity, a special focus of his attack. Marriage is one of God's richest gifts, a fruitful garden. You look at the book of Song of Solomon, and marriage, the beauties and the mysteries and the allure, the attraction of marriage is pictured as a garden, a walled garden with fragrant spices and a fruitful harvest that's to come. And it's just a beautiful picture. And so, that garden imagery there in the Song of Solomon about married love, even sexual love, that picture in the Song of Songs, I think, harkens back to the original garden, the Garden of Eden where God first set up marriage, and established it right at the beginning. Adam, the first man, created by the sovereign power of God, and God brought Eve into his life. But before that, God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:15. It says, "To work it and take care of it." Most English translations go in that direction, but I think the Hebrew more simply says, "To serve and protect it." And so, the man's job there was to serve the garden and pour his intelligence and his skill as a gardener into that Garden of Eden. It was perfect, but incomplete. And there were certain shrubs and plants that needed human cultivation.

And so, God gave to the man work to do and he was to serve that garden to the end, that that Garden could be everything God intended it to be. What a beautiful image for the man in his protection role of the garden, or his serving role, and also protection. When you think, "To serve and protect", the image of protect comes in my mind of an impending threat. You protect because there's danger. And you might think, "What danger could there be?" But by then, putting the whole Bible together, Satan had already fallen and been cast down to earth with a third of the angels, it seems, from Revelation 12. And so, Satan and the demons are coming and there's going to be a temptation and there's going to be danger. And there would be a severe threat to the garden and to the whole planet. And it was Adam's job to protect the world from that threat, to serve and protect. I've thought about that often, since I had those insights. And I said, what Adam is called to do with the garden, I'm called to do with my family, with my marriage, and with my children, to serve them and protect them. And that's what I want. My purpose in these sermons is that husbands would serve and protect their wives and their children, and that wives would fulfill the role that God has for them as well. And then we'll get to the children's section, God willing.

Marriage Under Attack in this Age

But we understand that marriage, as an institution, is under direct attack in our day and age. I don't have to elucidate this for you, you know very well what I'm talking about. You know that the idea of one man, one woman, in a permanent covenantal union, for life, is under direct attack. The Supreme Court's decision last year to allow or endorse, I don't know what verb to put, gay marriage, is I think a satanic attack on biblical marriage. I find it staggering that the justices there could so arrogantly overturn millennia of jurisprudence and common understanding of marriage, and make that decision.

In Scandinavia, in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, where gay marriage has been legal since the early 1990s, the result has been a clear decline in marriage itself. Fewer and fewer young couples even get married, they just cohabit together, they might even have children, then they move on to another partner. And so, the idea of marriage itself has become, there, it seems, passé. But this is only the most recent attack on marriage, marriage has been under attack from the beginning. But even in our own culture we see it. The escalating divorce rates is an attack on marriage. The ideas of sexual freedom, open marriage, different things, cohabitation. And then just in general, constant marital strife. Marriage is a battleground, it's a fruitful garden that has become a battleground.

No New Model Needed

Because of all of these faulty assumptions, because of various things, Tim Keller in his book on marriage related that many younger people, who we often call millennials, these would be young people who have come to their adult years around the year 2000, thereabouts, "Are increasingly skeptical about the traditional pattern of marriage, one man, one woman, and a binding exclusive covenant for life." 

Keller quotes a star of the film Monogamy. This star, a woman, said, "In this country we have kind of failed with marriage. We're so protective of this really sacred, but failed institution. There's got to be a new model", she said. Well, do you not see that that's exactly what our world is saying? We need a new model of marriage, we need to come up with something new. because that thing didn't work. Well, friends, we as Christians know very well, we don't need a new model. We need instead to live up to what God has committed to us in the Word of God. We need to live up, as Christians now, speaking as a Christian to Christians, we need to live up to Ephesians 5 marriage. That's what we need to do.

And so, that's what I want to do. And I want to go to the end of this section here and talk about what Paul says to get a sense of the importance, and the spirituality, and the mystical truth of marriage that Paul gives us there. Look at Ephesians 5:31 and 32. He says there, "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'm talking about Christ and the Church."

Marriage is a Profound Mystery

So marriage, there is a profound mystery, it is a picture of Christ's union with the Church. Profound mystery. Now, when we come to the word mystery we're not talking about something like Sherlock Holmes where you look at something and with deductive skill and reasoning you pick out the clues and you put the whole thing together. I think there's a lot of young married men that are like that. They're trying to figure their wives out. "I don't get it. I don't understand how that even happened. What just happened? Something happened. I can tell something happened. She's upset. I must have done something. I must have said something. Don't know what it is, but something happened there." So I think a young man like that, a young husband would say, "Amen, marriage is a profound mystery." That's not, I think, what Paul means there when he says that.

This is not in my outline but I'm going to go ahead and say it. Alright, you're off message, handlers running, "Don't do it." But I'll say it anyway. Here's the thing, a man is constantly studying his wife, trying to understand her. The first wife was brought by God, and He explained to Adam where she came from, because he was in a deep sleep at the time. That's kind of a symbol, isn't it? But anyway. Deep sleep, here is this woman, and he gets it and says, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Where did he get that? God told him. So here's the thing, you confused husbands, go to God. He understands your wife. She might not even understand herself. Romans 7 says we don't understand ourselves. But God knows her. That's just an aside. But what does Paul mean when he says that marriage is, literally in the Greek, a "mega mystērion", a "profound mystery"?

Mystery: An Eternal Truth Kept Hidden

What he is saying is that every marriage there's ever been, including non-Christians, any tribe, language, people, nation, any marriage, all marriages from the beginning have been a picture of Christ and the Church, whether they knew it or not. And that God, when He established marriage in the garden, was intending to give a lasting picture of Christ's union with his Church. That's the mystery. A mystery then, in Paul's way of speaking, a mystery is something hidden in God that has to do with His redemptive purpose that He is now revealing and making known in Christ. And marriage is now fully understood in this way. It's a picture of Christ and the Church. So therefore marriage is important. And it's especially under this kind of confusion, this mental fog, this spiritual fog our people are in, this culture that we're in is in. We need to live out Christian marriage according to Ephesians 5 for the cause of the Gospel. So that's what this is a call to do.

The Biblical Foundation

Matthew 19: Christ’s Teaching on Marriage

So let's go to the foundation. I'm going to step back and look biblically at marriage and just give an overview. I don't think we can go over these things enough. When I do premarital counseling, and after we've gotten to know each other, me and the couple, and we have some time to talk, the first text I go to is Matthew 19. And you can turn there in your Bibles if you'd like, or just listen. But in Matthew 19:3-6, there Jesus teaches on divorce. Now in doing premarital counseling I'm not trying to be negative. "You guys are so excited, and you're engaged, and you're looking forward. Let's talk about divorce." But I'm not trying to be negative because what Jesus does so beautifully, the divorce question comes to Him, and He answers by scripturally defining marriage. So it actually is a very good place to begin premarital counseling. In effect, I'm trying to just get out of the way and say, "I would love for Jesus to be your premarital counselor. If He were your counselor what would He do?"

And so, look what it says in Matthew 19:3-6. Some Pharisees came to him and said, to test him, they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven't you read", He replied, "That at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, 'For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, so they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate." So that's Jesus' teaching on divorce, but even more significantly, He's teaching on marriage. The question that's posed is, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" The answer's plain, Jesus' answer is plain. "No, it is not, it is not lawful." And He gives the reasons why. But the reasons just transcend the question, they just transcend. So in effect Jesus says, "If you want to understand marriage, we're going to start with scripture, you're going to start with the Bible." If we could all, in our society, agree on the inspiration and authority of scripture, we wouldn't have problems on marriage. It's because we don't, that's where we're getting into strange definitions, and we will continue to have that problem.

The Bible is the Ultimate Authority on Marriage

The basic presupposition for us as Christians is the Bible is the word of God. And you can see that that's Jesus' presupposition too, "Haven't you read?" If you want to understand marriage, you have to go to the scripture, you have to understand the Bible. And so, there are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of books on marriage, many of them are very helpful. There are lots of conferences you could go to on marriage and many of them will be very helpful. But ultimately, if I can just say, the scripture is sufficient for a healthy marriage. Scripture is sufficient for a blessed, fruitful, Christian marriage. It's ultimately all we need. I think Jesus would say that. So He says, "Haven't you read?" And it's not just any scripture. All scripture is God-breathed, all scripture is helpful. But when it comes to marriage He’s going to bring you back to the beginning. "Haven't you read that at the beginning... " So He's going to bring you to Genesis. And so beautifully he's going to bring you to Genesis 1 and then Genesis 2. 

Genesis 1: Man and Woman Equally Made in the Image of God

And you learn different lessons from each of those chapters. In Genesis 1 you learn that the Creator made them male and female. Now, Jesus doesn't quote the whole thing in Genesis 1, but you know it very well. "Let us make man in our image[, in our likeness.]” “And so God created man in the image of God, male and female, He created them.” And so, what we learn in Genesis 1 is the significance of the husband and wife, the man and the woman, first and foremost, as human beings created in the image of God. Now, we're going to learn later in the New Covenant, we also learn that they're absolutely equal. The husband and wife are absolutely equal, not only in being created in the image of God, but they’re absolutely equal in being redeemed by the blood of Christ. They're equally heirs of Heaven. And so, the first most important thing that a husband needs to know about his wife is that she's created in the image of God, and then that she's redeemed by the blood of Christ. 

And we'll get into all that. So the equality of male and female in the image of God and then later in Christ, is established. And frankly, if all we had were Genesis 1, we wouldn't actually think of any kind of differentiation of roles within marriage. It's very egalitarian. But Genesis 1 is not all we have, we also have Genesis 2. And so, Genesis 1 gives this overarching view of marriage set in creation as part of the six days of creation. Or of humanity, not marriage. Of humanity set in the six days of creation. But then we're zeroing in, in Genesis 2, on a detail. These accounts are not contradictory, they can actually very easily be harmonized. It's not written by different authors as some liberal scholars have told us. But it's just in effect like a map of the state of North Carolina, and then zooming in on the Raleigh-Durham area, let's say, or on Charlotte. Because that's a metropolitan area. You've seen that state map, so then zero on the capital or something like that. So, we're zeroing in, in Genesis 2, I would say on marriage. I mean there's other things, but more than anything by the end of the chapter, we understand we've zeroed in on marriage. 

Genesis 2: Special Roles within Marriage

So humanity, male and female, equally in the image of God, Genesis 1. But then we zero in on marriage. And within that, we are taught some very significant things. Special roles happen. "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the Earth and breathed into his nostrils and he became a living being" Genesis 2:7. So there was a time that Adam was alone. He was formed first, and then Eve, as it says in 1 Timothy 2. So there was a time he was alone, and he was walking around in the garden, and the Lord was instructing him in terms of his role. And I already quoted Genesis 2:15 where God gives him a command. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." I'm thinking that is the most well-ordered, most beautiful, most fragrantly appealing bachelor pad in history. Probably don't quote me on that. But I'm thinking there he is, he's alone, and it's a very beautiful ordered place. But there's work to be done. He said he put him there to serve it and to protect it, and “He commanded him not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when he ate of it he would surely die.” So this setting. But then comes this statement in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone." It is very vital for us to understand. We don't have to change the scripture, we should never change the scripture. But I hear it this way, "It is not good for the man to remain alone." 

It was very good for him to be alone for a while. How do we know that? Because that's how God did it. God could have created Adam and Eve instantly at the same time. As a matter of fact, if all we had is Genesis 1, we'd think that's what He did do. And he could have done that, but he didn't do that. Why? To create, I think, the headship and submission relationship that we're going to have more clearly unfolded in Ephesians 5. To establish the male-leadership. To establish Adam, not just as head over his wife, but actually that Adam as head over the entire human-race. And there's all kinds of theology that flows from that. So He establishes him there, but He makes this statement, "It's not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Also, it's important for you to realize, his aloneness was utterly unique in redemptive history. There was no other human being on the face of the earth. No one.

So I don't think it's good for us to take that in terms of a bachelor, or a single woman, and say, in reference to them, "It's not good for them to be alone." It may be very good for a man to never marry. There are some men that never marry. And it could be very good for some women to never marry, because that's what God wills. Jesus talks about that in Matthew 19. But Adam's aloneness was unique. There was just no other human being, and there was no way that Adam, alone, could fulfill the cultural mandate of filling the earth, subduing it, and ruling over it and being fruitful and multiple. He had to have a wife. And so it was not good for him to remain alone. So God said, "I will make a helper suitable for him." And so I find in Genesis 2:15, "serve and protect" is the man's calling. Genesis 2:18 is a quick take at the woman's calling, "helper suitable."

And I think those words are worthy of a great deal of meditation. And so the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on him, and He created his wife from the rib of the man, and brought her to the man. Such a picture of how God makes marriages. The bringing to is a picture to me now in this world of God's providential activity in putting couples together. And it's a beautiful thing to watch, isn't it? So, He brings the woman to the man, and the man celebrates. "This now bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." And then the statement that Jesus quotes in Matthew 19, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." And then it says in Genesis 2, "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

Scripture Provides the Permanent Definition of Marriage

Now what Jesus is doing in Matthew 19 with Genesis 2 is He's saying, "What happened then between Adam and Eve, that's the lasting paradigm for all time." We don't need a new pattern of marriage, that is it. What we need to do is live up to it. We need to embrace what God says about it and live up to it, and we will have a fruitful harvest in our marriages and our family lives. So, that's the kind of biblical foundation.

The Christian Foundation: The Spirit-Filled Life

The Context in Ephesians

Let's look at the Christian foundation. I want to go to Ephesians, and you can follow with me along in Ephesians 1 up through 5. And I'm just going to give an overview of the book to where we've come, but this time I'm going to look at it through the lens of marriage. Because this is what I'm going to assert: That marriage flourishes best in the context of the redemption worked by Christ. Christian marriage is the best kind of marriage there is, and it's established on the foundation of salvation by the triune God. So, I'm going to go back and just get a context of Paul's commands here, so we understand it. We know Ephesians breaks into two main sections. Ephesians 1-3 just basically gives us salvation through Father, Son, and Spirit. And then Ephesians 4-6 gives us “how then shall we live.” What kind of lives shall we live? And so that's what we're doing. So, in Ephesians 1-3, we have salvation. Beginning in verse 4 and 5 of chapter one, “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.” So, I'm going to say we are able to have God-honoring marriages because we have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be Christians, and we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.

And that gives us a solid basis for an excellent marriage. And then, in Ephesians 1:7-8, "In Christ we have redemption through His blood. The forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." So, I'm going to say we're able to have God-honoring marriages because we, both the husband and the wife as Christians, have been completely forgiven by the shed blood of Christ. We've been atoned for. By grace, we are blameless positionally before God. The Christian husband is blameless. The Christian wife is blameless positionally before God by the redeeming blood of Christ. So what that does is it gives a solid basis for the continual forgiveness you're going to need to give each other in marriage. It's never going to stop.

And I actually think the giving and receiving of forgiveness is very much the essence of a healthy marriage between two sinners. That we can give and receive forgiveness. It's based on the fact we've been forgiven already by the shed blood of Christ. And God has given us wisdom to understand His big picture. We get what marriage is about. We understand it's not just about me and you. Or just about me, that's even worse. That individualism, I'm seeking my own pleasure. No, no. There's a big purpose for my marriage, and your marriage. And that is in Ephesians 1:9-10, God was doing this to bring all things together under one head, even Christ. So there's this incredibly work of unification going on in the universe, and marriage is a subset of that. The two becoming one. Also, we have been given the gift of the indwelling Spirit. 

Ephesians 1:13-14, it says, "You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Who is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance, until the redemption of those who are God's possession." So, the sealing of the Spirit is essential to the Christian marriage. Each one of you, the Christian husband and the Christian wife, has the gift, the infinite, immeasurable gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. You've been sealed with the Spirit, and the Spirit is there to help you, in part, have an excellent marriage. So you're indwelt by the Spirit. Now, in Ephesians 2, we learn that each of you have been saved by grace. You were dead in your transgressions and sins, and you have a lot of bad habits. Romans 7 makes that plain. 

But because we walked in the pattern of wickedness in Satan's kingdom, we've got a lot of bad habits. We were dead in our transgressions and sins, and you're going to bring that into the marriage. Both of you is. But we've been “saved by grace through faith, and this not of ourselves, it's the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” And again, that same solid basis for giving and receiving forgiveness. I've been saved by grace. I was a tool of Satan's. I was a slave of Satan's. I did his will, and now I've been redeemed. And you can see your spouse that way too, and you can extend that grace and mercy that's been extended to you. And then in Ephesians 2:10 says, "Now that we've been saved by grace through faith, we have a life of good works to do. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them."

So, if you're married, a lot of your good works are going to be in the context of your marriage. Christian husbands, you're going to do a lot of good works toward your wife, because she's your wife. Christians wives, you're going to do a lot of good works that God's laid out ahead of time for you to do because you're a wife. And that's going to be an organizing pattern of your good works toward one another.

And then at the end of Ephesians 2, we see Christian marriage as a part of of what God's doing to build this magnificent spiritual structure. The Church of Jesus Christ, the Temple of the Living God, the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Zion. This beautiful structure that's in the heavenly realms, and living stones through conversion are being brought into that, and the structures rising and becoming more and more glorious all the time. It's a dwelling in which God lives and will live eternally by His Spirit. And so my marriage, then, serves that end. My children aren't given to me for my own personal enjoyment, but that they might be converted and be living stones in that. And my marriage is to be a platform of the Gospel, and we're to have people in our homes and lead people to Christ, because our this marriage, like this, is temporary. ‘Til death do you part.’ So it's going to serve that vision of Ephesians 2. The building of the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Church, and that's a beautiful thing. And then, in Ephesians 3, we learn that we, having been redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are infinitely, perfectly loved by Jesus. He wants you to know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And that you would know that love that surpasses knowledge, that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

So, a Christian marriage isn't two empty people clinging and clutching to each other, and trying to find meaning from each other, and then failing once you get into marriage. Like, “this person is not going to satisfy me, I'm not self-actualized by this person.” And then you're going to get a divorce and go try to find your soulmate, who completes you and all that. Jesus completes you, you're already complete. In Him you have fullness, and you're bringing that fullness to the marriage. And she's bringing that fullness to the marriage. You understand what that means? If you're single and you never get married, you're full. You're complete in Jesus. If the Lord wills to add a husband to you or a wife, He's not going to improve your fullness at all. He's just going to give you good works to do and the blessings of marriage and all that, but you're already full. And that means if you're a widow or a widower, and you may never get married again, you're not an incomplete person now. You are full in Jesus, and that's a beautiful thing.

How Then Shall We Live?

So Ephesians 1-3, a very solid foundation for a Christian marriage. But then, how then shall we live? “As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you've received.” I want a marriage worthy of this Christian calling, that's what I want. And so, verse 2-6, Ephesians 4, "Be completely humble and gentle." Might be helpful in Christian marriage. Oh, Christian husbands. "Be completely humble and be gentle, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There's one body and one spirit, just as you were called the one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all, and through all, and in all.” And so, in Christian marriage, you're already one. Live like it.

You're going to Heaven. Live like it. Live a heavenly day now between the two of you. Live as two who have become one, as we all are in the Church. That's a beautiful thing. And then Paul defines holiness. Saying, "You're not supposed to live like the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. Don't think about your life like a Gentile. Don't think like a Pagan. Don't think about your marriage like a Pagan." Christian husband, if you're going to have a good marriage, you need to be transformed. “You need to put off the old man. That old nature which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. You need to be made new in the spirit of your mind by the ministry of the word of God, and you need to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” That's how you'll be able to do your Ephesians 5 work, which we'll get to in a couple of weeks. And Christian wives, same thing. “You have to put off the old man, you have to be made new in the spirit of your mind, and you have to put on the new self which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Then you'll be able to be a Christian wife. 

The Spirit-Filled Life

And now we come to verse 18. Ephesians 5:18, "Be being filled with the Spirit." And it's directly applicable to the Christian marriage. It's dramatically applicable to the Christian marriage. What do I mean? Well, He gives this command, "Be being filled with the Spirit." Be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is a life controlled and empowered by the Spirit of God to live out these biblical principles I've been giving you. The scripture that the Holy Spirit Himself inspired. And so, to be filled with the Spirit means to be very scriptural, to be very biblical in how you live. It means to be super saturated with the third person in the Trinity, where He is just controlling your heart's and your thought's affections, and your actions. Filled with the Spirit.

The Spirit indwells every Christian, but He doesn't fill every Christian at every moment. You know that's true. And all of your marital problems come because one, or both of you is not filled with the Spirit at that moment. That's where it comes from. You will not have sorrow, and grief, and sins, and all that if you're each filled with the Spirit, for the Spirit drives out sin. So be filled with the Spirit, and as we're filled with the Spirit, we're able to do what we're called to do.

So, I want you to follow along. NIV kind of breaks it up and makes it smoother and easier to understand, but it doesn't keep the grammatical construction the way it does. "Be being filled with the Spirit," and then come a bunch of participles, what we call -ing words. -ing, -ing, -ing, -ing, -ing. So it's like, this is what I mean by the Spirit-filled life. "Be being filled with the Spirit, speaking," I'm in verse 19, "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Singing, making music to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." See, it flows from the Spirit-filled life. Just like the worship does and all the other things.

So, the submitting flows from the power of the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is one characterized by joyful worship within your own heart. Thankfulness, flowing out horizontally to joyful worship with others. But then we get to verse 21, and we get to this idea of submitting to one another. So, if I could just pause right now in the Spirit-filled life, and just say this. Do you want a flourishing, fruitful happy marriage. Christian men, Christian women, Christian husbands and wives? What I'm going to say is to be filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not magic. It involves taking the truth of God that you already know, repenting of known sin, asking for forgiveness, and praying, and by faith receiving the gift of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit. 

A Moment for Self-Evaluation

So here's just a check for you. Okay, just a check. You're in a conversation. One of those conversations with your spouse. Husband or wife, freeze-frame, just a moment. Strobe light. Bang. Right now. Are you at this moment characterized by the fruit of the Spirit? “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.” If you're not, you've sinned. It doesn't matter what your spouse is doing. Take responsibility for your own demeanor. Take responsibility for your being filled with the Spirit. And if you're not, then you need to ask the Lord to forgive you. You need to find out what you've done. Maybe you've already said some harsh things, some unkind things, some prideful things. Maybe you've done some other things. The reason we need to constantly be being filled, we're so leaky. Herbert said that this morning. Leaky. We're leaky. All right, you've leaked through sin, each of you. Don't blame your spouse.

"Lord, if you knew what my spouse was like. You wouldn't hold me accountable. It's totally his fault." Or her fault. No, it isn't. You have to give up your filling with the Spirit, ever. It's a choice you make. So if you're not at this moment filled with the Spirit in that, it's your responsibility. So ask forgiveness, and then ask forgiveness of your spouse.

To Our Non-Christian Friends

And now let me make a direct appeal to non-Christians. Could very well be there are some unbelievers here. The joy of a Christian marriage is for Christians, but it's nothing compared to the joy of Heaven. And I just to appeal to you, if you've come here today and you're on the outside, you're not a believer in Christ. You might even be in a troubled marriage, you might be in counseling, you might be contemplating divorce. There might be some abuse going on. You may be doing it, or receiving it. All I'm saying is that I have heard so many stories of how individuals coming to faith in Christ changes everything in the marriage. Changes everything. So in the name of the marriage, I'm going to go beyond that to appeal to you for the sake of your souls. Trust in Christ. God sent his Son, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross, that we might have forgiveness of sins.

An Overview of Marital Roles: Submission and Love

Not Mutual Submission

So now, I want to say a few more things. I'll give you an overview of where we're going, and then we'll be done for the day. Okay, so an overview of marital roles. The first thing I want to set aside is something that many godly men teach, but I don't agree with. And that is the idea of mutual submission. I do not think that Ephesians 5:21 is teaching mutual submission. It may seem like it is, because it says, "Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ [Or, “in the fear of Christ]”. I don't think that that's right.

They'll bring in a verse, a passage like Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility. Consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others." Well, that's a great passage, and it's great for marriage, but that is not what submission is. I would call on mutual self-denial. Mutual service. Mutual foot-washing. Mutual love, yes. But the only way we can get at mutual submission is to redefine the word ‘submission’, or ‘submit’ biblically. And that's the problem I have with those that teach it. They're emphasizing too much the one another part, and they're not studying more carefully enough the submit or submission part.

Submission biblically always has to do with God-ordained authority. Always. Every time the word is used in the New Testament, there is an authority and someone else yielding to that authority. Biblical submission then, would be cheerful yielding to a God-ordained authority, because you're mindful of God. It's in service to God. So, there's many examples of this word ‘submit.’ We see it again and again. Like, for example, in Luke 2:51, "Jesus submitted," same Greek root, "to his parents, Joseph and Mary, because he was a minor in their home. He obeyed his parents and submitted to them." He wasn't saying they were intrinsically higher or better than him. They were just parents and he obeyed the Law of Moses, and submitted to them. Their authority. In Luke 10:17, the demons submitted to the 72 missionaries that were sent out. They obeyed them, they left the people they were demonizing. Romans 8:7 says, "The mind of the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." So that, again, is not just God-ordained authority, it's God's authority in the word, and they won't submit. That's the essence of rebellion. Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone should submit himself to the God-ordained authorities, for there is no authority except what God has established." Same Greek word, submit. You're not going to find any example, at all, of submission meaning loving service or self-denial of any of that anywhere at all. And the examples that are used, like where there's a scripture reference, there's only one. It's always Ephesians 5:21. I think there's a better way to understand this. Instead, what Paul's saying to the mixed Christian assembly is, "Okay, all you Christians, submitting to one another is part of the Spirit-filled life."

How We Should Relate with Regard to Authority

Category A to Category B, in the way I'm about to give you. “Wives to your husbands. Now, meanwhile, husbands, this is how you should carry yourself. Children to your parents. Now meanwhile, parents, this is how you should carry yourselves. Slaves to your masters. Now meanwhile, masters, this is how you should carry yourselves.” I think it's just a better way of looking at it, that way you're not redefining the word submit. Frankly, I think mutual submission makes as much sense as mutual obedience. Like imagine that in parenting, sometimes we obey them and sometimes they obey us. They'd love that. Let's have Parent Obedient Day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Child Obedient Day the rest of the week. What would you kids do with that day? It'd be an interesting day, wouldn't it? What would you eat for dinner? It'd be kind of interesting. It's like, today you have to obey me, tomorrow I have to obey you.

 Well, that would be the idea of mutual submission equal to mutual obedience. I think, instead, we're talking about arranging yourself under God-ordained authority, and that is the command given to the wives. “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.” So, I'm going to give a whole sermon to that next week, and we'll talk about more about that. And then the command to the husband is love. To love like Christ does.

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Look at verses 25-30 and following, actually, go through verse 33. "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 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're members of His body.” And then these words that we've looked at, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I'm talking about Christ and the Church. However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”And as I said, God willing, we'll go over these the next two weeks.

Two Clear Implications

Embrace these God-Given Roles

Let me give you two clear implications as we finish. First, embrace your corresponding roles. I would think there are very few, especially older folks, among us, anyone of adult age that's not heard Ephesians 5 before. It's not a new thought here, it's not a radically new teaching on headship and submission, not that. Instead what this is is again, for all of us, for me, for me, it's a call from God through Paul, through the Spirit, to embrace the role that God's given you. Husbands and wives should constantly copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the Church. So wives are to take their unique cue from the Church's relationship to Christ, that's how they're to think of their relationship with their husband. And husbands are to take their unique cue from the way Christ relates to the Church, as defined here. 

And this is going to be incredibly helpful for us going forward in this age of weird gender confusion. We're having a harder and harder time defining masculinity and femininity. It's like we really don't even know what they are. And I think that for me, if you get a 10-year-old, 12-year-old boy that says to his dad, "What does it mean for me to be a man, and not a woman?" Or you could see a 10-or-12-year-old daughter saying the same kind of thing to her mom, "Mom, what does it mean for me to be a woman, and not a man?" I would urge parents, moms and dads, bring them to Ephesians 5. That's going to be your homebase for answering that question, because frankly any other attribute that you put. Like courage, or self-sacrifice, or dedication, or thoughtfulness, or any of those things are true of both men and woman equally in the Bible.

What's the difference, then? It's going to be this issue of Christ-like leadership, taking initiative to serve the Church, and lay yourself down for the Church for its benefit. That's the masculine role. And then the feminine role of responding to that kind of Godly initiative with delighted, Spirit-filled submission. That's, I think, what biblical masculinity and femininity means. So, we're going to unfold those more in the future. 

Find Delight in the Joy of Your Spouse

And then secondly, and this comes right from my mentor on these things, John Piper. Desiring God has done more for my marriage than any Christian book that I've ever read. In that, he talks about Christian hedonism, the idea is finding pleasure. What he would say to non-Christian marriages that are floundering because they're seeking pleasure and all that, and they're selfish, and the self-actualization and all that. He'd say, "Your problem is you're not seeking enough pleasure. You're setting your sights too low. There is a kind of pleasure that soars above that kind of scrabbling in the mud after selfish lust, and patterns, and all that, that just goes so far beyond that that you don't even know about. But I wish I could tell it to you. It's the idea of learning to find your joy, first and foremost, in pleasing God and being satisfied in Him vertically. But then finding your joy and your blessing in another person's joy and blessedness. 

It's like, "I am here. I'm delighted to bring the light to you. I am pleased to bless you." That's what I want. I find my pleasure wrapped up in yours. So both husbands and wives can do this, that we would find our blessedness, our highest joy in bringing joy to our spouse. That's where we're going, and we're going to find it directly in the command of the husband, very plainly. “He who loves his wife... What? Loves himself.” It's a beautiful statement. In other words, you want to be a happy man? Have a biblical marriage. Invest in your wife. Love her. Feed her. Cleanse her. Strengthen her, and she will bless you. So those are two clear implications. One application I would give is married couples, just take Ephesians 5 home today, and just read it together. And pray together. And if you need to give and receive some forgivenesses, and almost undoubtedly you will, then give it and receive it.

Don't be too prideful to ask forgiveness. Don't be too prideful to give it. Let the Lord heal your marriage. You don't have to earn your way back to obedience. Just obey. You can just step right up into a biblical marriage today. Just give and receive forgiveness, and by the power of the Spirit, may He bless you. Close with me in prayer.


Father, we thank you for the initial thoughts we've had today on marriage in Ephesians. Thank you for the way it just flows from the whole Book of Ephesians, and how the work of redemptions just, for us as Christian couples, just flows right into our marriages. Father, we are mindful of the fact that not everyone here is married. Some would like to be married. We know that others have been bereaved. Father, we pray a special measure of blessing for each of them, that they would know that their fullness is Christ. Christ is their lives, and that they don't need a spouse to be full and complete people. For those of us that are married, oh Lord, I pray that you would help us to live up to the Ephesians 5 pattern that you've given us here, by the power of the Spirit. Help us to put the Gospel on display for our watching children, that they would see what a Christ-like husband and a Church-like wife looks like. And that they would live that out. And Lord, all of us, I pray that you would fill us with your Spirit, and help us to do the good works you have for us to do the rest of the day. In Jesus name, Amen.


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