Strive for the Best--a Marriage Relationship Patterned after Your Relationship with Jesus Christ
Dear Lord, our good and gracious heavenly Father, we come before You this day to worship in Your presence. We humbly acknowledge our sins and pray that You would forgive us in accordance with Your mercy. We joyously thank You for the blessings You have showered upon us in spite of our unworthiness and ask that You would give us kind and generous hearts. Move us this day with messages from Your word, so that we might properly glorify You in our lives each day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul” proclaims the Psalmist as he considers God’s creation! God’s glory is certainly evident everywhere we look in this world. His mercy is evident in the way He cares for every creature. May we be moved to sing His praises all the days of our lives, as we meditate upon His power and love!
“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” Jesus once asked the multitudes listening to Him preach. He did not point to Mary and His half-brothers who were waiting for Him, but rather stated, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” May we not only listen to Jesus but also “do” His Father’s will!
Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ”For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.“ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
In Christ Jesus, who during His ministry affirmed the divine origin of marriage and who through His apostles defined the roles and responsibilities of marriage partners, dear fellow redeemed:
It was my privilege yesterday to officiate at the wedding of Joan Schweim and Wayne Lee. It is likewise my privilege currently to be going through pre-marital counseling sessions with two couples, as they look forward to their weddings this spring. Marriage certainly ranks among God’s greatest gifts to mankind. It should be honored and upheld among us in view of its importance to our society and held sacred in our midst in view of its divine origin. That is especially true in view of the confusion that surrounds marriage within our society today. Our society is trying to sever the institution of marriage—its definition and its design—from its divine origin. Sinful man claims the right to do with marriage what he wills. The unfortunate results of his efforts are evident all around us as holy matrimony has become anything but holy, and the landscape of our country is now littered with broken hearts and broken relationships.
My dear friends, it is important that we uphold God’s institution of marriage. That means publicly preaching and teaching the truths of God’s word concerning marriage and privately upholding those truths within our individual lives. Sadly, however, we all too often settle for less than the best. While we profess to believe and accept the truths God has revealed in Scripture concerning marriage, we very often allow the attitudes of the world to shape our actual marital practices. This ought not be! In an effort to correct this situation, where such correction is necessary, and in order to affirm and advance true biblical practice regarding marriage, let us turn to our text and review what the Spirit of God has led the apostle Paul to reveal for our benefit. Yes, l would urge each of you to STRIVE FOR THE BEST—A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP PATTERNED AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST!
Before addressing the pattern for our marriage relationships established through the apostle, however, let us consider for just a few moments two important issues: first, the world’s unfortunate caricature of biblical marriage; and, second, God’s intentions regarding mankind’s purpose in this world and its connection to marriage. When the world thinks of biblical marriage, it so often thinks of an overbearing man imposing his will on a weak and abused woman. Such a caricature misunderstands both the headship principles established by God for husbands and the biblical call for submission by a wife. Individuals living such a caricature sin against God! The biblical principle of headship for husbands does not involve the use of force, or the goal of control, or the selfish imposition of the husband’s will. Rather, as we shall review today, it involves Christ-like leadership, Christ-life love, and the acceptance of responsibility for both before God. Likewise the biblical principle of submission by the wife does not imply weakness or inferiority on her part, nor does it involve the absence of power leading to subjection. Rather, it involves the active decision of a wife to accept the order established by God for marriage—a decision made in view of her trust in God and her desire to help accomplish the goals God has for the married couple.
Now, regarding God’s intentions for mankind’s purpose and for married partners—in order to understand them, we must go all the way back to creation. God created human beings to be His representatives on this earth. God gave mankind dominion over His creation, so that we might care for it. The introduction of sin into the world did not change God’s intentions regarding man’s position and responsibility in this world, but it radically changed man’s approach to that position and responsibility. Instead of trusting in God for his personal well-being and honoring God by faithfully fulfilling his calling, sinful man mistrusted God and began seeking his own well-being. The selfish pursuit of personal desires and individual security became man’s focus, rather than the honor of God and the welfare of all of creation. While marriage was intended by God as the basic unit of society and a means of populating the earth, it was also His plan for organizing mankind’s efforts to care for this earth. He would call individuals to our various areas of endeavor—teaching, building, farming, finance—with this goal in mind that every man would have a helper—a companion, and together they would become more effective than either of them might be alone. The only change God made after the fall into sin was His decision that our ultimate future and goal as human beings would not be tied to this world, but rather to the world to come in heaven. Unfortunately, we human beings, including we Christians, often fail to see the big picture regarding God’s purpose for marriage, and so fail to see the beauty and the wisdom of God’s plan. God has great things planned for each of us to do in this world before He takes us home to heaven. Marriage is both a gift from God to us and a means by which He intended to help us become more effective in our individual callings!
Having considered those two issues, let us consider God’s intentions for marriage. Again, I encourage you—STRIVE FOR THE BEST—A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP PATTERNED AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST! Wives—submit yourself in trust and with respect to the leadership of your husbands, as you do to the leadership of your Lord! Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything…. Let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Dear Christian women, God’s call for self-submission within marriage is not, as mentioned before, a sign of weakness or inferiority. Nor is it to be imposed by husbands. Rather it is to be a decision you make in connection with your faith in God. As you submit yourself to Jesus as a member of His Church, trusting in Him both to lead you wisely and bless you richly, so God calls upon you to submit yourself to the leadership of your husband and thereby receive blessing from your Savior’s hands. Wives are called upon by their Savior to exercising a “self-submitting love” over against their husbands. The biblical concept of submission does not imply inferiority, but rather the subordination of position and will. Jesus, who is equal to His Father in power and glory, submitted to God with regard to His plan for our salvation. He accepted God’s will and accepted the position of Savior. He then ordered His life in such a way on this earth that He might provide us with righteousness while removing from us our sins. In the same way wives are called upon by God to organize themselves under the leadership of their husband, so that together they might accomplish everything that God has given them to do. Within marriage the two are to become one, making themselves stronger than either individually, and so better able to accomplish their objectives. Wise wives will trust God, honor His will, and respect their husbands, knowing that God’s plan for marriage will bring them the greatest possible blessing!
Yes, STRIVE FOR THE BEST—A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP PATTERNED AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST! Husbands—lead your wives and love them sacrificially as Christ leads and loves you! Paul writes, “The husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church…. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Christian men and, in particular, husbands—notice that both your role and the fulfillment of your responsibilities are patterned after Christ’s relationship with you. You are to lead your wife as Christ leads the Church, of which you are a part. Christ leads the Church with wisdom and grace, and with its best interests at heart. Christ is not selfish, but self-sacrificing. He does not force His will upon us, but rather draws us with His love. John writes, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), not “we love Him, because He is twisting our arms behind our backs… (or) because if we do not He will beat us up!” No, Christ has a long-range plan for each of us, and He leads us by moving our hearts with His precious word and convincing us that He is indeed trustworthy and worthy to be followed!
It is imperative, therefore, that we Christian men prayerfully approach our God so that we are led to a proper understanding of our callings. We cannot lead properly, if we do not know where we are going! Our ultimate goal is held in common—we want our wives, our children, and ourselves to enjoy the gift of heaven. While we are here on this earth, we are to seek God’s guidance regarding our particular callings within our marriages, our families, our congregations, and our community. Those callings will differ, but they will have this in common—our words and actions ought to be intended to bring blessing to others and to honor our God.
In addition, our responsibility before God within marriage is to love—to love in a self-sacrificing manner, as did Jesus, who went to the cross for us. Love is more than an emotion. It is also a decision of the will and involves the careful analysis of needs and a determined plan of action to meet needs. Jesus loved the Church and uses His word and baptism to prepare the Church for its brilliant future throughout eternity. His concern is meeting our present need and planning a blessed future. Even so, we are to love—honoring our wives as gifts given from God, recognizing that they play an important role in helping us accomplish our God-given and mutual callings. There is nothing that wives want more from their husbands than a deep, abiding, and on-going love. When you provide such love, Paul says, you love yourself, for you are one with your wife. On the contrary, when you fail to love your wife, you indeed hate yourself!
Dear friends in Christ, marriage is a divine institution, which forms the basis for the family, the basic unit of every society. Let us always STRIVE FOR THE BEST—A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP PATTERNED AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting