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Ephesians 5 describes the roles of a husband and wife within a marriage. This message explores these roles as God designed them to be, pointing out common misinterpretations of what this passage says about love and submission. With relevant examples and a discussion of our marital responsibilities, this message will help you better understand how our marriages are to mirror the vast love God has for us through mutual submission and Christlike behavior.
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
Minister: Kristen, wilt thou have this man to be thy husband, and wilt thou pledge thy troth to him in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with him and cherish him according to the ordinance of God in the holy bond of marriage?
Kristen: I will.
Minister: Wilt thou, Jefferson, have this woman to be thy wedded wife? Wilt thou comfort and keep her in sickness and in health? Wilt thou provide her with credit cards and a four-bedroom 2-1/2-bath home with central air and professional decorating, a Mercedes-Benz, two weeks in the Bahamas every spring? Wilt thou try to remember the little things that mean so much, like flowers on her anniversary, a kind word when she's had a rough day, and an occasional, "Gee, honey, you look pretty today"?
Wilt thou be understanding when she is tired, headachy, or upset about something, when she feels ugly, or when she has a big pimple on her chin? Wilt thou not be such a pig when you shave and shower? Wilt thou listen patiently to long stories about kids' colds, kitchen tile, clothes, shoes, makeup, hair, sore feet, and decorated checkbook covers?
Jefferson: I will.
[End of video]
Makes you think, doesn't it? I guess. I'd love to have known that was all in the vows before I got up here. If you've been to weddings over these last number of years, you might have noticed a shift in vows. There has been one. It may be fairly subtle, but it has been a shift nonetheless. It's a shift that affects something that's very near and dear to God, which is, specifically, the institution of marriage. As Gloria Steinem said, yeah, marriage is a great institution if you want to spend the rest of your life in an institution. She doesn't understand what it is that the Scriptures describe as the supreme human relationship.
The shift in vows has been simply this. When you marry Jack and Jill, you say, "Do you, Jack, take Jill to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others? Jack, will you keep Jill to be your lawful wedded wife as long as you are given life? Will you?"
That's the way it used to be, but what has been changing is that many folks… When you go, you'll hear it this way: "Do you, Jack, take Jill to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and will you keep Jill only unto yourself as long as your love shall last?"
Do you see the difference? When we hear that, a lot of times we kind of go, "Wow, that's great: as long as their love shall last," but what it's communicating is, "You know what? I'm in this thing as long as it's easy, as long as the cost (the output) justifies the benefit (the input) I receive in return. When it gets too difficult, I'm out of here. I'm moving on."
It reminds me of a cartoon I saw of a young man who was next to an older guy who was a little bit nervous getting ready to get married. He didn't know why. He said, "Why are you so nervous?" He goes, "Well, because I'm getting married tomorrow." The young kid looked at him and said, "I understand, man. Seven or eight years can be a long time."
A lot of folks get into marriage because they have this ideal of what their relationship is going to be like. They find out that the ideal turns into an ordeal, and then they want the new deal because their love no longer lasts. Love is the most elastic word in the English language. It is a word that typically is used to describe the welling up of emotion or how we feel, at least that's what our world wants you to believe. It's not the biblical definition of love.
The biblical definition of love, the only true definition of love is that love can be defined not even in our love toward God… It says in 1 John, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins." Love, biblically, is a verb that describes how you will to live, not an adjective that describes how you feel.
So when I marry guys and gals, I always say to them at some point in that ceremony, "Look, Jack, when you tell your wife you love her, when you slip that ring on her finger, when you take these vows, what you're saying is, 'Love to me, as a follower of Christ, is not how I feel for you in this moment. Love for me is what love has been in terms of God's outpouring of it to me. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous, does not brag, and is not arrogant.'"
"I'm telling you that love doesn't act unbecomingly," he should say. "Love is not provoked. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love does not seek its own. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices always in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. My love for you, because it's God's love for me channeled through me to you as I avail myself to him, never fails. So as long as I'm here in this vessel, I give my life to you."
That, biblically, is what ought to happen when you step up to the plate in marriage. It can get a lot more ugly and a lot worse than even what that movie preacher intimidated Kevin Bacon with. It ought to make you pause and go, "That's what I'm signing up for? Not as long as my love shall last, not as long as it's easy, but as long as I have a heart that's kicking I will pursue you with that kind of love."
That's what we're going to look at today in this last little part of this three-part series that dealt with why marriage is such a big deal to God. We've talked about this. In the very first week, we talked about how marriage is a big deal to God because, specifically, marriage is God's effort to mirror his image to a world he is desperate to reveal himself to.
Marriage is a big deal to God because he wants to use it to multiply a godly heritage of Christ followers through which one day his glory would be restored and through which evil would be ultimately defeated. It's a place where God had determined that the world would be managed best as a reflection of his sovereignty and order. It's a place where his most cherished creation could ultimately be refined, mutually completed, if you will.
Let me talk about that before we move to this last one. We talked about mutual completion last week, and it's worth sticking in right here, because I know I have some friends out there who are single who are like, "Oh, great. So marriage is a place that God wants to complete me. Marriage is an outgrowth of the fact that God observed that it's not good for man to be alone. He knew that. He let Adam discover that. So what about me?"
I did a message a long time ago when I was focusing more on loving some of my single friends that was called The Complete Single: Option or Oxymoron? Here's the answer to that. It is an absolute option. If you were here last week and you're not married and you say, "Okay, so I'm incomplete as a single. Is that what you're telling me? If marriage is where God wants us to mutually complete one another because it's not good for man or woman to be alone, what about me?" here's what I want you to understand about last week as we move forward. It's very key to who we are as a body.
First, you can be single and still be both a completer and be completed. Now how is that? It happens this way. In the context of relationships… The Scripture says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." As David and Jonathan completed one another, covenanted with one another… "I will love you and serve you and be faithful to you. David, when you offend me I'll tell you." "Jonathan, when you hurt me I'll let you know."
"We're going to go through this life together, and when we disappoint each other, when it hurts more to love you than I benefit from loving you, I will not go away, because part of my task as an individual is to help you be the man God wants you to be." The first three decades of my life I was a single man, but I will tell you something. I was a completed individual or I was in the process of being completed. I was surrounded by other men who were very committed to me and who did not leave me because I was a difficult guy to be a friend with. They were faithful to me.
I had as many of those guys as I could stand with me in my marriage, because they represented the man I had become by the grace of God as they efforted to let their iron slam up against mine in a painful way sometimes, as chunks of metal would fall to the ground as a result of the colliding of our lives. They were completing me, and I was just as committed to completing them.
As a single person, in the context of relationships, you can absolutely be a completer. In fact, when we fail in that way with one another, when we fracture in our friendships, when we fracture as a body and move away, it hurts one of God's great purposes in our lives. It says in the Scripture, "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom."
So don't separate yourself when it hurts. Stay there and be a completer. Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God, to grow and serve others, and to be transformed ourselves, as we observed a while back in the Lord of the Ring series. In fact, there are folks who as they get closer to us and are encouraged by what's happening within the context of our community here at Watermark… They start to join us and start to become part of the body.
When it gets to the time of the year, as we're quickly approaching… We all go through this time where we evaluate how we're doing as followers of Christ in different areas. We self-diagnose, if you will, how we're doing in our commitment to God, his Word, his purposes, and people, our competency in doctrine and the way we do life, the way we are connected with other people in authentic relationships and contributing with our gifts and resources that God gives us, and how we're investing the creativity God has instilled in us based on how we're shaped.
We evaluate that, and we let others come alongside of us and see what we think of ourselves who know us well enough to either validate or challenge that. There are people who get close enough to us, think they want to be a part of this body, and they get to that point and go, "You know what? I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to have that kind of conversation. If that's what you think I need to do to be a part of a body of Christ, then I won't be a part of this body of Christ," and they separate, because in their mind, they tell you, their relationship with God is a very, very private thing.
It is a spiritual myth, in fact, that your spirituality is to be private. It is a very personal thing, but not private. You can be an individual who is not married and be completed by other people, and you can be an individual who is not married and be committed to completing others, shepherding them through life. Likewise, it is also very possible that you can be an individual who is married and be neither complete nor a completer.
You just get in that marriage and say, "Hey, hey, hey! We don't go there. Even though we're married now, I'm not going to change. I'm not going to talk about that. That's a nonnegotiable," or "Don't mess with me here" or "I'm going to come back at you strong if you want me to talk about this." In fact, there was an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond that somebody recently showed me, where Ray's brother had married a rather difficult woman, and she was being rather abusive to him and also caustic and unkind to Ray's particular family.
One time, after an episode of this, Ray's brother turned to this woman and said, "Hey, you know what? I need to ask you to stop that." Everybody was stunned, because he had never done this before. "You need to apologize to my brother for what you just said and the way you treated him." She looked at him like, "What are you talking about?"
He said, "You know what? A lot of folks want to love you, want to move close to you, but the way you treat people makes it hard to do that. You know what? You've got to stop treating me that way," and in this humorous environment said, "You've got to ask them for forgiveness for the way you've been treating them." The very first words out of her mouth were, "I want a divorce," and there was a big laugh track that came over it.
What she was saying was, "Hey, hey, hey! This is the way I deal with life, and if you're going to make my life have to change and you're going to complete me and make me a person who gets outside or downwind of myself and starts to see myself for who I really am, I'm out of here, because that's not going to work for me." She, in a sense, was a married person who was neither a completer nor was she being completed.
We have many couples that are around our circles that just go, "No, no, this is the way it's going to be. We're going to stagnate right here," until it gets too painful, and then they want out. When you run away from marriage, which is the most intimate… All God is saying in Genesis 2 is the most intimate of all human relationships, the culmination, the one with the greatest, if you will, covenant to stay together is marriage.
So to leave that relationship and divorce yourself from that sharpening grieves God deeply, because he cares about you and wants to move you toward him, in the same way that it hurts God when you leave the friendships he has given you. Ben Franklin is the one who's quoted as saying, "Be slow in choosing your friends, and be even slower in losing them." That's a good word, because they are there to complete you and make you more the man or woman God wants you to be.
So, to my single friends, I will offer to you: you have the opportunity I have. It's a matter of obedience. Will I be committed? Will I work through the messiness of the collision of life in relationships to make this thing work? Now why is it so important that we do that one in closing last week? Simply because of this. God knows he needed to call us to that, because in the context of life, women have no desire to be called a nag and, frankly, men have very little desire to be held accountable, and that is a very dangerous combination.
What happens is the guy will let the woman know, "Hey, hey, hey! Whoa! Lay off. I don't want anything to do with that." They play the old Mark Chesnutt song. "'It's too hot to fish, too hot for golf, and too cold at home.' That's why I'm here at this bar drinking with some other folks. It's a little friendlier place." They say, "If you don't make that a fun place for me, I'm going to get out of there." What the Lord is saying is, "No. I want individuals who are committed to each other, who won't run away. Don't intimidate the woman, men. You need to be held accountable."
Guys typically will level off or they will try and get the temperature dumbed down to the lowest common level of acceptability, and women typically will go, "All right. I guess I can take it there." The guys will push to go lower. The women will try and drag it up without being a nag, and the guy will take it lower so he can have life on his own terms. God says, "You're both wrong. Woman, I want you to call that man to be fully availing himself to me in every way that he should, and you do that in a loving way, not in a way that has to be nagging. There's a way to do it without being called that contentious woman."
That's what we talked about last week, and it's a big deal to God not to lose that. It gets us to the next one, the last one I want to focus on today. There's something in marriage that God says is significant to him, and it comes up here: it's his place to model Christ's love for the church and the church's right response to Christ's love.
Whenever I marry a couple, one of the things I like to say to them is, "Jack, in the days ahead, your life is going to change. Your friends are going to call you and want you to go out and play and hang out and maybe go hoop it up or go catch a game or go do this or have dinner later, do something after work in the way you used to do, and you're going to look at them and say, 'Well, before I do that, I want to check with Jill.' They're going to say to you, 'What are you talking about? Who wears the pants in that family? Who's the man there? What do you mean you're going to check with Jill? I thought you were the leader.'
You should respond to them, Jack, by saying, 'Well, I wear the pants in my family, and I am the leader, but because I have chosen to love my wife, to be yoked with her in oneness, to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind to consider her as more important than myself, I am choosing to honor her and value her by sharing with her what I think might be life-giving to me to make sure it's life-giving to her, and then I will get back with you as to whether or not I will do that.'"
He should continue and say, "And, by the way, even though I don't need to do that, if you will, because I am not tied to some ball and chain, I have chosen to give myself to her, and the way I pursue her and love her and honor her and value her and am concerned with her is a picture…a tainted picture but a picture nonetheless…of God's love for me. He doesn't need to pursue me. He doesn't need to love me. He doesn't need to factor in what is best for me, but you need to know something: my God does that, and he chooses to love me, and I hope you see a tainted picture of his incredible outpouring and consideration of me and his effort to love me in the way I effort to love Jill."
"And, Jill," I will say, "there will be days ahead when your friends will say, 'What in the world are you doing? Why do you make such an effort for that house to be a place of delight to your husband? Why do you take such joy in knowing his favorite meals and surprising him with them? Why do you care for your body the way you do in order to give him every opportunity to enjoy the wife of his youth? Why do you effort to make your words complimenting to him and motivating him by your respect for him? Why do you do that, woman? Get free. Haven't you heard Helen Reddy talk about, "I am woman; hear me roar"?'"
Jill should respond and say, "If you knew the way Jack loved me, if you knew the way he cared for me, if you knew the way this man efforted in his life to care for me, to serve me, to delight in me, and to honor me, you would know it's the joy of my heart to respond to that with everything I have. I'm not doing this out of fear that he'll leave me if I don't; I'm doing this in response to the incredible outpouring. If you knew Jack, you would know why I'm doing this."
"By the way," she should continue, "my response to Jack is a picture…a tainted picture but a picture nonetheless…of why I do what I do in my relationship with God. I don't do what I do for God because I'm afraid he's going to leave me; I do what I do for God because I'm understanding of all the love he has poured out on me, the incredible care, concern, grace, blood, and sacrifice at Calvary that he poured out over me.
The reason I do what I do in response to Christ is not because I'm going to lose him if I don't but because I am compelled by his love to honor and serve him and steward my life before him. My love for Jack in response to it is a picture…a tainted picture but a picture nonetheless…of a right way to respond to perfect love. See the picture?"
When you ask most folks what it takes to earn God's love, the reason they have an answer that is related to works is because that's their understanding of how relationships work. They think they will pass God's acceptance test if they do enough to make them attractive enough to him, because that's the way they see human relationships, in brokenness and selfishness, operate.
"I will be yoked to you as long as it is mutually beneficial to me. I will love you if you work for me, if you perform for me, if you pass the median for me. Then I will be with you." They don't see the primary model God has given the world to understand what real love looks like, which is self-willed surrender initiated by grace in an unconditional way toward one who by faith responds to it and celebrates that mutual love for one another.
This is most fully explained and told in Ephesians, chapter 5. If you have your Bible, flip there with me. What I want to do is walk you through very quickly what's going on here. I want to take you back and remind you what God said way back in Genesis 1. He said, "I'm going to be sovereign over my creation. I am King over all. I am sovereign over humanity. Within the context of humanity there are going to be male and female, and order is going to be there, and I will have them together rule over the world/animal kingdom."
We saw that was God's intended order, where there wasn't abuse in those areas of leadership but there was clearly, just like the Father, in a way, rules over the Son, the Son does nothing but that which is in concert with the Father's will, and the Spirit does nothing except that which exalts the Son, yet there is no loss of dignity, essence, or Godness, if you will, in any members of the Trinity… There is mutual completion, companionship, submission, and love with all of them being equally, eternally part of the Godhead.
Same in the context of humankind with male and female and in relationships of order. The man is the head. That's not his rank; it's his role. The woman is the completer, the helpmeet. It's not her rank; it's her role. Together they will rule over the earth. That's God's intended order, but you find out in Genesis 3 something happened. You have the animal kingdom/world who tells humankind, specifically female, what to do, and she tells male what to do so they can then know the difference between right and wrong so they can tell God what they're going to do and make their own rules and their own standard.
God says, "You know what? What you don't understand is that that's not going to fly." You'll notice it's a complete inversion of what was revealed by God as the right way to live by faith. So at the end of Genesis 3, it comes back and shows that, "No, I still am sovereign over you, but now there's going to be conflict between us in our relationships. Because there's a conflict, man, between you and me, there's going to be a conflict between you and woman.
There's going to be a continual war now between you and the world because you've given yourself over to it. You're going to find out that world is not your friend, so you're going to pay for that in that way, as you have to toil in ways I didn't intend for you to toil as sin has been introduced." Now watch what happens as God anticipates the healing of these relationships. He did it right there in Genesis 3 by offering a sacrifice that the man and woman accepted by faith to cover their sin.
By grace they did not physically get extinguished in that moment, though spiritual death was on them, and by faith they reunited themselves to God as he sought to restore the world and restore that relationship. It moved toward an ultimate anticipation where one day God would bring one who would be sacrificed for them: himself, as a great expression of his love. Even though the world despises him and rebels against him, he continues to pursue and initiate all the way to a cross.
So in Ephesians you have this, elaborated on by Paul. "Guess what. The relationship between God and humanity has the potential to be healed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through a faith response to it. As you, man, come to me and take your heart of stone and I replace it with a heart of flesh, you can then begin to love the way I designed you to love initially that's not self-centered but others-centered.
You can begin to love woman again, not in a manipulative, ruling way, not in a destructive way, but in a healing way that would bring her back to you. That sin that brought isolation… Now the power of my love can transform you, live in you, and allow you to have this renewed miracle relationship, where you show forbearance to one another in love. With humility and gentleness, you walk worthy of the calling with which you've been called, which is to say you follow the servant example of your leader, Jesus Christ."
So there's healing now between male and female as they connect with God and are diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Guess where there's still enmity, war, and hatred, though: between us and this fallen world who wants to destroy our relationship with one another and wants to keep us from having a relationship with God. Even when by faith we move into a relationship with God, he wants to tempt us to move away and not do all things according to his will and make us useless before him.
He doesn't mind you showing up in a church to have a Christian wedding, but he desperately wants to keep you from having a Christian marriage. He doesn't mind you making a profession of faith, but he wants to keep you from having a possession of his Spirit in a relationship with God, because he knows what it'll accomplish when we live the way God designed us to live.
Now let me just show you in Ephesians, chapter 5, what's going on right here. Most of Paul's letters to churches have this format. The first half of them, or a large portion of them, deal with what is called orthodoxy, things that are central and true to the faith. In Colossians 1 and 2, for instance, he talks about the incomparable Christ, the greatness of what God has done, how you don't want to budge off. You don't need to go look outside the Bible for information.
Then he comes in chapters 3 and 4 and talks about what's called orthopraxy. "You want to be orthodox in your beliefs. Now I want you to be orthodox in your being." He says in Colossians 3:1, "If, then, you have been raised up with Christ, seated at the right hand of God, where Christ is, set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth." Then he spells out what that looks like in chapters 3 and 4.
Same thing in Romans. He goes through 11 chapters of orthodoxy, who we are, how we have left God. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus." "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
He declares how man is won back into a relationship with God through the cross alone. "Therefore," it says in Romans 5:1, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." He bangs this into our heads for 11 chapters, and then in chapters 12-16 he says, "I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, respond to that. Live differently in light of who you are and what Christ has done. We can restore the relationship, so you should look different."
Guess what happens in Ephesians: the exact same thing. Ephesians 1-3: the supremacy of the love of God, how he pursues us, initiates his love for us, is unconditional in his care for us, is sacrificial in what he did to accomplish his love for us, how he draws us near him. Then he gets to Ephesians 4 and says, "Therefore, walk worthy of the calling with which you've been called, showing forbearance to one another in love," after he tells you to walk with humility and gentleness and patience, "and be diligent to preserve what God has created."
He tells you in Ephesians 5 how to do that. He says, "Don't be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the power of God's presence and Spirit." A continual yielding to. We just did three weeks on that not long ago where we talked about what that means. "I must decrease; he must increase." What does a Spirit-filled person look like? They look like, it says, somebody who speaks differently. They speak to one another in edifying ways that build each other up, that declare the goodness and greatness of God, and they call one another back to that.
They are people who are filled with gratitude, always giving thanks to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. That's what Spirit-filled people are about, and guess what else Spirit-filled people do: they love the way Christ loved. They are subject to one another in the fear of Christ, if you will. They do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but they, with humility of mind, consider one another as more important than themselves.
They do not merely look out for their own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. They have in themselves the same attitude which was also in Christ Jesus, it says in Philippians. Now hang with me, because marriage, he's about to show you, is the ultimate expression of this transformation that takes you from this life where there is ruin and recklessness and "I'll do this as long as it works" to model what real love looks like.
We get to this verse in Ephesians 5:22. It's a verse that is engraved in granite in every abusive home in the world. It always starts in chapter 5, verse 22. They don't ever put verse 21 in there. They don't put 5:18-21 in there. They just start right here: "Wives, be subject to your husbands." It's like, "Heel, woman!" That's the idea.
You have all kinds of ladies, like Gloria Steinem and many, many others, who go, "That is exactly why I won't go to that church. That's exactly why I won't read that book, and that's the trouble I have with these right-wing fundamentalist jerks, because to love my man that way is self-destructive, and I will not do that." Well, it might be destructive to love certain men that way or to let yourself be put under certain men who don't understand a biblical view of love, but understand the context of that verse.
First of all, an interesting aside. Do you know that the words be subject are not even in that verse, if you go back to the original Greek? If you read the original Greek, it would literally say, "Be subject…" It is there in verse 21. "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, your own husbands, just like to the Lord."
What's the importance of that? The implication and the reason, if you look at your Bible, those words are in italics is to help us in English understand what's implied there. They've put them in there, and rightly so. "Just like you're to be subject to one another in the fear of the Lord, wives, you be subject to your husbands." That's the context. It's appropriate that's there, but it's not just a verse that can ever stand alone. That's my point.
You can never quote Ephesians 5:22 with the words, "Be subject" in it without appropriately quoting 5:21, because those words are only implied there; they never stand alone. That is huge. In other words, a woman is never told to be a lapdog for an abusive male. She is told in the context of a restored relationship, where Jesus Christ reigns in authority in the life of that person who is head, who has learned by the grace of God to live as Christ lived, which is not to take his authority and lord it over those who are underneath him, and is subject to her best interests…
"In that context, women, you too, then, in fear of Christ, let your man be who I've created him to be in the created order: the leader of this loving home." Then it goes on to say why. "Because I've put order here. Like there's order in all things, there's order in this relationship." He says, "The husband is the head of the wife, just like Christ is the head of the church, Christ being the Savior of the body." In other words, Christ was the leader of allowing the church to become all that the church should be.
He says, "But as the church, women, is subject to Christ in his leadership to help love and steward and cherish this group, you ought to also be following your husband's leadership in everything as he seeks to exalt Christ in the context of your relationship where there is mutual submission, mutually edifying words that are wrapped in a life of gratitude before God that they could share life together."
It gives basically two verses there to the women, and then he's going to lay nine on the men. He says, "Women, that's how you ought to live in response to that man as the model of what it looks like to respond rightly to a love that is defined by a proper compelling to grace." Here's what it says to the men. Watch this. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church…" I'm going to talk to you about that in detail in a moment.
"…and gave Himself up for [the church] , so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church…" So you should love your wife that way.
I'm going to come back to some of the stuff I just read, but in verse 31 he says, "** For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh ***."* What does he do? Because of the cross, he goes back and quotes the relationship he intended man and woman to experience back there in Genesis 2. Well, what's significant about that? It's before Genesis 3. What's significant about that? That's when sin entered into the world and fractured the relationship God intended between man and woman.
But God in his grace, through what the cross has accomplished, the indwelling of his Spirit, a reunion with the God who made you, man, can allow you to be the man you need to be to have the relationship that will bring about oneness that God intended. Then he says, "This mystery [I'm talking about] is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." In other words, when men and women live together as God intended, it is a picture, a model, of biblical love.
When you get a relationship where the person in authority is abusive or dominating or deserts because it's not easy anymore and you fracture that or when you get somebody who takes the love that's there and takes that grace and runs with it with licentiousness and exploits this servant-focused love, it destroys the right picture of how a believer should respond to God. When you have a believer who bows his neck, stiffs his neck against the sovereign love that's being put at it, it destroys the picture God intended.
But when you have a man who dwells and cultivates faithfulness and is consumed with nourishing and cherishing and valuing and protecting and stewarding everything in his life and power in order that that woman might be all God wants that woman to be, it's a beautiful thing, even as God does for us. When that woman responds to that man and says, "What can I do to honor you, respect you?" it's a picture of how a believer should respond to God. Not with a leash, not with fear but compelled by love.
When that picture is distorted, it makes it hard for the world to understand how God is a God of grace, and it makes it hard for the world to understand why grace must be responded to and dealt with this way. Let me tell you why men introduced religion to this world. Men introduced religion because we were fearful that you couldn't control people just by proclaiming irresistible, Christlike love.
They told you, "If you preach grace the way the Bible teaches grace, people won't come to church. People won't steward their life. They won't steward their resources. We will go out of business as a faith." So we have developed all of these sacraments you must do, all of these little widgets you have to accomplish, all of these functions you must perform, and if you stay rightly related to us long enough, maybe we'll let you in.
Do you see how this dysfunction and distortion of what God intended relationship to be has factored not just to destroy lives and families but also the very faith Jesus Christ died to establish? Now let me just take a moment here and walk you through the job description. The role is who he is, if you will. The responsibility is what we do.
The role of the man is to be head. The role of the woman is to be a completer. The responsibility of the man, the job description of the man looks like this. It is consistent with the way Christ loves the church. Are you ready for some adjectives I've put down that I think describe Christ's love for the church?
It is unconditional. Martin Luther said, "If the world had treated me as it has treated God and I were him, I would have kicked the vile, wretched thing to pieces." But that's not the way God operates. God demonstrates his love that while the world is treating him in a rebellious, sinful, stiff-necked way, he dies for it, because he loves it unconditionally.
It is constant. It doesn't move and shift. There's no shadow in it. It is complete. There is no part of his eternal power, strength, and entity that is not focused on loving the world and calling the world and the church, specifically, back into relationship with him. It is sacrificial. Christ gave his life for the church. Selfless. He did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, even to the point of death, it says in Philippians, chapter 2.
It is endless and eternal. He will never stop loving us. It is an initiating love. He doesn't wait for us to clean up and get pretty; he pursues us while we're still running from him. It is a love that is defined only with great patience and forbearance and longsuffering. It is tender. It is unshakable. Nothing can separate us from it, it says. Nothing. In all of that, it is perfect.
All right, guys. There's your job description. It ought to overwhelm you, but when you stand before that woman at the altar, you say, "I will purpose to love you. I will be the man God wants me to be, and this will define my life." All right, ladies. Are you ready for yours? This is what God says a woman's job is. It is best described by the way the church ought to respond to your love for Christ. So when you think about how a woman should live in marriage, think about how you should respond to God's love for you. Here are some words.
It's responsive. Women are responders. There are many times that my wife will look at me or say things to me and we get in this little deal, a circle, as we've shared, where we're starting to do this around each other. One of us has to break out of this cycle of self-centeredness and self-justification.
Typically, when I or, to my shame, sometimes she says, "Hang on. I'm going to start loving you even though I don't feel like loving you right now. I'm going to start being kind to you instead of trying to get on top of you with the last remark," it allows that other person to respond in a way where you start to now unpack the baggage you're creating.
It is respectful. The way men define love is with that word respect. If you ask a man, "What ultimately would make you feel loved by a woman?" it will, in some form or fashion, describe that word. "The beginning of wisdom…" If you want to take this out of that, to love God. "…is the fear of the Lord." That idea of fear is the idea of respect. Allow God to be who God is and love him for it.
Thirdly, obedient. You're going to respond rightly to that in the context of the relationship. Submissive. We've already described that in detail. Humble. Your desire is not going to be to supplant that one who's loving you that way in a specific role that God hasn't called you to but accept the role God has given you. Adoring. You can almost put worshipful if it wouldn't be too painful for you to swallow in that moment.
It is full, which is to say there's no lacking. Like we sang in that song. "Everything I do is for you." It is devoted. Full devotion is not something just for the varsity believer, for the special wife. It is what the wife, the believer is. Lastly, it is completing. A woman is a completer to help the man be what the man wants to be.
Now here's what I want to do very quickly. Women, that's your job description. Now which of these two do you think is more difficult? To be a responsive, respectful, obedient, submissive, humble, adoring, fully devoted, completing spouse or to be unconditionally loving, constant, complete, sacrificial, selfless even to the point of death, endlessly eternal, somebody who initiates no matter what the feedback you're getting somewhere is, with great patience, tenderness, unshakability, perfection to love that way?
How many think the women's job is harder? How many think the men's job is harder? All right. To have to live exactly like Jesus lived. How many of y'all really want me to move on and you're not going to participate no matter what I say? Thank you. Well, I'm going to tell you something. If you were having to vote… Do it one more time. How many of y'all think the men's job is harder, to have to live perfectly like Christ lived? All right. How many of you think having to respond to that is harder? Just a couple. Very few.
Well, I'm going to make a case that the few are absolutely right. The woman's job is much, much harder, and I'm going to make a case and explain to you why. When couples come into my office or I talk to friends or when I think of my own life, and I say, "My wife is not responding the way I want my wife to respond right now. She is not respecting me or loving me. She's not humble before me. She's not adoring. There's no devotion here. There's no intimacy. There's no pursuing me. There's none of that."
I kind of go, "Will somebody please fix her, read her job description to her, call her into account, go over her 5C form one more time, and make this thing happen?" If somebody had any wits about them when they sat there with me they'd say, "Todd, let's just start right here. A woman is a responder, and she's in your home underneath your leadership. Now here's my question." My wife has been kind enough, shall I say, to observe this to me a few times.
She says, "This is your home, big boy. This is your team. You're the head coach. You're making this happen. This is the way your players are playing underneath your coaching right now." I go, "Well, I'm not just coach; I'm owner. I'm going to start firing some players if you don't start performing." That's what I usually say. That's not what I say.
What I need somebody to do is sit down with me and say, "Okay, Todd, let's take a look at this. You said your wife is not responding the way she should, and your wife gets her job description…how? Your wife gets her job description according to the Scriptures in the same way a follower of Christ responds to Jesus Christ. Okay, you are that follower of Christ. Correct? Okay.
So are you modeling for your wife what it means to be responsive to Jesus, respectful of him, to fear his Word, and to grieve over sin? Are you obedient to Christ in every way? Are you submissive to him completely? Are you humble before him? Are you an individual who is adoring of Christ, that your life would be defined by worship? Are you full and completely focused on what would honor Christ with your life? Are you a devoted person?
You don't need to complete him, by the way, because he is God. How are you doing on those things? Because, Todd, I'll tell you, if you're doing those things, guess what you'll look like. You'll look like this. You will be a man who will be unconditional in love because you respond to love the way he loves. You respect him by imitating him, by allowing his Spirit to dwell in you. You will be constant in your love for those who are around you.
It's the first commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, all the law is accomplished. It is complete in your life. It's not when you feel like it; it's what you do all the time. It is to be sacrificial in your life. Are you about others or are you about you?
Does your wife feel right now like this is your world and she's just living in it or does she see you focusing on her, tenderly caring for her, attentive to her needs, feeding her, nourishing her, cherishing her, valuing her? That's what Jesus would do. Have you loved her to the point of shedding blood? Would she describe your love for her as unshakable, endless, and eternal?
Do you initiate with her all the time, not just when she looks good or feels good? Todd, would you say that because you're a person who is responding rightly to God's love and being conformed to his image and obedient to him in Christlikeness you are doing all that perfectly?" What am I going to say? "No, I'm not."
What they should say to me at that point is, "Well, let me ask you a question, big boy. How hard would it be to respond as a responsive, respectful, obedient, submissive, humble, adoring, fully devoted follower of Christ if your God was moody; if your God every now and then did stuff from selfishness or empty conceit; if your God every now and then said, 'You know what? I'll do it in public, but when we get alone, it's me, God, you, Todd. Let's get in order right here'; if you called out for him to nourish you, to be there for you, and he wasn't there all the time and you had to start to fight for yourself and fend for yourself, that he wasn't bringing you abiding presence and peace? What kind of person would that be to have to respond to that kind of God?"
You know what, men? Let me ask you a question. Do you have a covenant spouse, Jesus Christ, who is unconditional, constant, complete, sacrificial, selfless to the point of death for you, endless and eternal, initiating with you with great patience, tender, unshakable, and does that perfectly over you? Do you? Yes, you do. Do you see how hard it still is to respond rightly to that? And we wonder why our wives have a hard time with their moody head, with their self-vested head. It gives you a different respect for the call on their lives.
Now, ladies, it's still your call, but guess what God wants you to do. He knows you have some work to do with us, so he says, "Don't accept it when they start to push you down to define the way God is going to live in your home this way. You say, 'No. I love you enough to help you be the man you said you wanted to be,'" which is like these words behind me right now, from unconditional to perfect.
"I'm going to extend you grace, honey, because I know God is not done with you yet, but part of extending you grace is I'm going to stay with you and love you and push you back in the context of community toward this end. I love you enough to help you be that man, and as you become that man, I'll get to have an easier time being this woman. Right now, the hardest thing for me to do as a woman is to point out to you that you're not that man. That doesn't mean I can't be this woman. That's my business before Christ, but I will call you and love you to be that man." How genius is God?
Now, there is so much stuff in Ephesians 5 that I can't unpack. I want you just to get the big idea. Do you see what happens when marriage becomes not "Till death do us part" but "As long as our love shall last"? It shatters the whole thing and introduces all kinds of bedlam, not just into the family community but into the doctrine of the church, because we think, "Hey, you have to be oppressive to keep people hanging around. You have to guilt them into submissiveness." It absolutely blasphemes the love of God, and it absolutely burdens people in the church.
Okay. I'm not a genius, but if I knew, theologically, that marriage was God's way to mirror his image to a world he's desperate to reveal it to; if I knew that marriage was God's way to multiply a godly line through which evil would one day be defeated; if I knew marriage was God's way to allow his people to most effectively manage the world as a reflection of his sovereignty and order; if I knew marriage was the ultimate expression of human relationship and, as such, is God's primary place to refine and mutually complete his most precious creation; if I knew marriage was God's place to model his love for a lost and hurting world so they might respond to him and be restored to a place of joy and I was God's enemy, I'd come at marriage with everything I had, and I would destroy it with every creative element I could destroy it with.
Anybody see that going on? I do. I have to tell you something. Our Enemy is not an idiot. God's Enemy is not an idiot. When I got married, I had a friend come up to me and say, "Todd, I want to tell you that if you choose to get married, and I know you, and you want to have the kind of marriage that is going to honor Christ and be all God wants it to be, you need to get ready, because the Enemy is going to take dead aim at you. You have a fine pair of crosshairs painted right there on your back." So he said, "Get ready."
It reminded me of a Far Side comic. You guys might have seen this one. Two deer are hanging out in the woods, and one of the guys has a bunch of fur on his little crest that's in concentric circles. His buddy is looking at him, saying, "Man, bummer of a birthmark there, Hal. You have a target on you." It really is this idea. How much do you think the Enemy hates your marriage? Do you know what kinds of marriages he delights in? Abusive marriages.
Do you know what kinds of marriages he delights in? Marriages that are mutually full of toleration, where isolation is happening, where there's no real love and intimacy in the home. He doesn't care if you divorce. Do you know that a marriage that stays together with isolation and bitterness and rancor and a lack of love is just as useful to the Enemy as marriages that end in divorce? Do you know that God does not call you to not divorce but calls you to pursue oneness with one another?
There is no doubt that there is tremendous fallout when there is divorce, but do you know the dysfunction that comes out of homes that's almost as destructive when Mom and Dad are at each other's throats all the time, never share life and intimacy, never hug and embrace each other, never build each other up, never work through conflict, never create a security in their home, where there's an absent dad, even though they're still sharing the same tax form that they submit? Do you know the Enemy delights, for obvious reason, in bad marriages?
Here are a couple of points of application as we wrap this up. First, your mate is not your enemy. When I got married to my sweet wife, she was the apple of my eye. She was the sum of all of my desires and dreams. I was so proud to be married to Alex. I was so thrilled for that wedding day. I loved to go places with her, be seen with her.
There have been times in our marriage when I have looked at my wife and gone, "You know what? I get along with almost everybody in the world but right here, right now, you." She looks back at me and says, "Oh, really? Let me just tell you, I don't know anybody who drives me as crazy as you do." I look at my wife and say something like, "Hey, look, I do. I get along with a lot of people a lot of places, and I come home for this little bit, and it's just like, gosh!"
That's a real shame, because when I try and intimidate my wife that way… I truly don't know anybody who doesn't like my wife. I know a lot of people who don't like me. A lot of you don't like me, and I understand that, but I don't know anybody who doesn't like my wife, but I still sometimes try and work her over that direction. I get to this place where I'm starting to go, "You know what?"
There have been a few times where our marriage has been at a place… And I've asked her this. I go, "Do you kind of hope the plane goes down? Really, honestly, do you?" What I'm saying is, "I don't think I'd blame you right now, and I hate that. I don't want you to marry quickly and with great joy six months after my funeral. I want you to go, 'I can never find a guy who will love me that way.'"
Let me tell you something. That motivates me. I don't want some sucker wearing my clothes and playing with my toys. It had better be at least two years, Alex. I'm just telling you. But there have been some times when she felt like, "I wouldn't have to look long to get at least one more rung up the ladder than this." What she's communicating in that is, "You know what I think right now? You're my enemy. You're my problem." And I'm looking at her going, "You're the problem. If you would just change, my life would be better."
What the Enemy has done is he has gotten us licked. Why? Because Proverbs 19:14 says, "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord." In other words, what's implied there is it's a gift from God. And what does the Enemy do? He's a liar. When he can convince you that his greatest gift to you is the greatest thorn in your flesh, he has your fanny whupped. Do you understand that?
If I take God's gift that he's pushing toward me and go, "Get away from me! I want nothing to do with that. In fact, God, curse it and make it die," then I'm in huge trouble. Your mate is not your enemy; Satan is. Now I know what some of y'all are thinking. "Well, then she's doing a very effective job of channeling him these last couple of years." That's right, and so are you. Why? Because you're not an Ephesians 5 person, being filled with the Spirit.
If you're not filled with the Holy Spirit, you're going to be filled with another spirit. But that's not your enemy. The problem is the Enemy has the one you love living in a way that it's your job to complete them, to dwell there, to make them all God wants them to be, to pursue them through the pain in the context of community, and don't ever think your mate is your enemy.
Secondly, you need to be well aware that your marriage does not take place on a romantic balcony. It doesn't. It takes place on a spiritual battlefield. I made the case that I'm an idiot and if I had anything to do with being an enemy of God I'd go right after marriage, because if you destroy the marriages of Watermark Community Church, guess what you destroy. You destroy Watermark Community Church.
If you destroy the friendships between singles in this church where they get bickering at each other with rancor and slander and malice, guess what you destroy: Watermark Community Church. If you get God's churches through pride and competitiveness and pettiness warring with one another, where God says there should be oneness, one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God, guess what you destroy: the thing which God said the very gates of hell would not stand against. The stakes could not be higher.
I would go right after relationships and destroy them. We need to be well aware that our marriage is not just a matter of dating and keeping ourselves sharp and loving and wooing and romancing. We ought to, but we'd better be dead aware that our battle is not against anything less than the spiritual forces of darkness which reign in this world.
That is why, if you read Ephesians, when he gets through telling you how to be filled with the Spirit and how to relate that to a relationship where there is a man and a woman, a parent and a child, a master and a servant, he then says, "You need to be aware of this. There should be mutual submission and love and right response and care and others-centeredness in all three of these relationships, in the headship of each of these.
Don't hurt her. Don't exasperate. Don't exploit. You're going to be tempted to do that, because you're a sinner living in a sinful world, but be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. You should put on the armor of God so you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the Devil. Why? Because there's still a war between you and the world, and he's going to try and get you to act in a way that's not Christlike with one another."
I told a young bride this one time in our premarital counseling, and she said, "Well, what are we doing getting married in white? We ought to get married in fatigues and camo. That's how we ought to go to the altar." I said, "You know what? You're exactly right. You're getting ready to go to war." If you think it's hard to be a faithful single person, buckle up, because when you step into that deal where you go before people and go public that you're going to love in a way that reflects Christ's love for the church…
If I was the Enemy, I'd go after that model, and he's coming after you. You have a fine birthmark painted on your back, and he's coming after you hard. So do you want to know what you have to put on to make it work? The armor of Christ. Next week, I'm going to go to Malachi, and guess what I'm going to tell you. What is the opposite way of saying marriage is a big deal to God? Somebody state that in a negative. "God hates divorce." And who doesn't? Who doesn't hate divorce?
Seeing that it is central to all that is true of what God said he's going to use to defeat the evil which destroys us, that relationships are at the very epicenter of all that God says is what he's going to use to explode goodness on this earth he created, to restore righteousness where evil has entered in, who doesn't hate it?
Notice he's not going to say next week, "God hates divorcees. God hates those who have failed, broken marriages." No. He hates the ravage it has caused his church and his most cherished creation. You're going to be shocked next week the context of why God hates divorce: because he's such an others-centered, loving God. It's not because we've destroyed his theology. You're going to find out in Malachi it's about the way it affects those he loves.
He hates divorce because he knows what it does to us. He knows what it does to him, but he can deal with that. So don't be shocked next week when you walk in here and we are very clear about where God stands. Do you know why I spent these last three weeks on this? So you could go, "Well, me too, brother. Me too."
So what do you do? Here's my call to you. After I talk about that text next week, the week after that we're going to spend one week talking about what to do to isolate-proof…not divorce-proof, because God does not call you to not divorce, he calls you to oneness…to isolate-proof your marriage. Some very simple, very short… One week on "Here are some things we need to all be about."
Let me tell you something. Don't wait for two weeks. If your marriage is getting on thin ice, if you have a relationship with a friend, a roommate that's about to shatter and break, get help now. Come to us now. Say, "Would you guys start talking to us now? We might kill each other, not carve the turkey but carve each other on Thursday." Get help now.
I want to tell you something. I thank my wife again for being willing to be up here last week. This is not a church full of pretty people whose marriages all work except yours. This is a church full of people who want to mirror God's image, multiply a godly heritage, manage his world in a way that reflects his sovereignty, mutually complete one another, and model his love. Would you join us in this arena of grace where we will be committed to each other, support one another, pray for one another, counsel one another, rebuke one another, and love one another, as is appropriate?
Father, would you do that? For your great glory and our incredible good, we ask that you would give us a focus and a fervency toward our marriage which, Father, would allow the world to watch it and go, "You know what? There's a picture there that I kind of recognize. What is it? There's something there that I long for. What is it?"
And it would be more than just the expression of human love; they wouldn't confuse it for just simple romance but that we could begin to declare it as what you see here, a shadow, a picture, a tainted picture but a picture to be sure, that they would, God, begin to see what real love is, from unconditional to perfect, from responding to completing, and that they would long for that relationship, not with a human being but with the God who by grace gives that gift that we might share.
When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".