************ Sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 15, 2000
"Submission and Love"
Topic: Husbands and WivesDo you know what both of these examples illustrate? They illustrate instances of disobedience to what the Word of the Lord says in Ephesians 5.
Subtopic: Duty of Husbands
Title: Failing to Follow God's Leading
Albert loved the Lord. Because he also loved his children he wanted them educated in the Lord's ways in a Christian school. He didn't know how he could afford this but he made a commitment at their baptism already to do all in his power to give them a Christian education. Unfortunately, Albert's wife vehemently disagreed with him. Every time he brought up the matter of Christian education she made life miserable for him and sometimes even locked him out of the house. Albert's kids are grown-up now. None of them have had the benefit of a Christian education.
"Mommy, how come daddy never goes to church with us?" More than one little voice has wondered this. And, as mommy reads the Bible and prays, the same voice wonders why daddy never does these things either.
What does the Word of the Lord say about the two examples I have just mentioned? We have to say that Albert's wife does not following the Lord's leading because she refuses to acknowledge Albert as her spiritual head. And, the dad who doesn't go to church or read the Bible, he is not following the Lord's leading for his marriage either because he is not being the spiritual head of the home. God's will and God's leading is that the husband, in a loving and sacrificial way, is to provide spiritual leadership to his wife. And, God will and God's leading is that the wife is to submit to her husband's spiritual leadership.
Let me say from the outset that this sort of teaching is not popular today. Not only is it misunderstood by the world, but it is also twisted and distorted by the world. I think here of the jests and even the mocking that happened in 1998 when the Southern Baptist Convention announced that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." The world, you see, thinks equality of worth requires equality of function and equality of work and equality of authority. The world thinks the church contradicts herself when she says husband and wife are of equal worth before God yet the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to submit to her husband.
I Spirit-Filled People
A Let me start off by saying something the Baptists did not say. And that is the words of verse 21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
It is most unfortunate that our English Bibles are divided into chapters, verses, and headings. I say that because our chapters, verses, and headings lead us to separate what Paul says in verse 21 from what Paul says in verses 22-33. When we don't see the connection of verses 22-33 with verse 21 and before, then we miss the point and even wreck the point that Paul is making.
So what is Paul's point in verses 21 and before? What I am about to say is not obvious from our English Bibles. Only those with an understanding of the Greek language are able to see this point. Paul says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." That word "submit" is actually the participle "submitting." Now, a participle depends on a verb. So we have to look earlier in Ephesians for a verb. We don't find a verb in verse 20. Nor in verse 19. We have to go all the way back to verse 18 to find the verb that the participle "submitting" hangs upon. There we find the verb "fill." Paul says, "be filled with the Spirit." Or, "be under the control of the Spirit."
B "Be filled with the Spirit." In the verses that follow Paul tells us four things that show we are under the control of the Spirit.
1. Verse 19a - "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."
2. Verse 19b - "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."
3. Verse 20 - "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. Verse 21 - "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Do you realize what submitting shows? Submitting shows you are filled with the Spirit of Christ. Submitting shows you are following the leading of the Spirit. Submitting shows you are living as born-again children of God. Submitting shows yourself to be one of Christ's true disciples. Even though the world mocks and scoffs at submission, submission is something we are all called to do.
Now, in the verses that follow, Paul tells us exactly what this submitting stuff means for husbands and for wives.
II The Husband: Loving, Sacrificial Leadership
A What is God's will for husbands? God's will for husbands is that they are to be the head of the wife. But we need to make sure we know and understand exactly what headship in marriage is. Let's start out by saying what it isn't. There are some husbands who think that headship gives them total control over their wives and children. In the name of headship they are but tyrants who often brutalize and abuse those who are closest to them. Much to the church's shame there are far too many Christian husbands who have this kind of view of headship. They exercise total control over their wives and keep them under their thumbs. But no concept of headship can be further from the Biblical ideal than this. Husbands with this attitude are not showing themselves to be Spirit-filled. Husbands with this attitude are not remembering verse 21: "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Let me tell you right now, if your marriage is marked by tyranny and domination then you as a couple are not following the Lord's leading.
B There has been much discussion as to the precise meaning of the Greek word translated as "head." Some say it means "source of" and others say it means "authority over." As is usually the case in such arguments, both sides are correct and the Greek word carries overtones of both. We come to this conclusion because of Christ. Paul says to us,
(Eph 5:23) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.As head of the church Christ is not merely its source but also its Lord. He gives the church its life and also rules it. The husband is the head of the wife in the same way as Christ is the head of the church. Accordingly, the husband is both the source of and has authority over his wife.
C The husband is head of the wife. This refers, first of all, to a headship of rule. In other words, the husband has authority over his wife. But this is a spiritual authority, what we know as a direction-setting authority. The husband, in other words, is responsible to and before God for the direction the family takes. Someday he will have to answer to God for the spiritual lifestyle of his family. Someday he will have to answer to God for the frequency or infrequency of family devotions, attendance at worship services, giving of time and money to the church and kingdom, and the kind of education his children receive.
The husband is head of the wife. This means it is he who is first of all responsible for whether the family pursues a materialistic or a religious vision of life. It is he who is first of all responsible for whether the family pursues a life of pleasure or whether it pursues Christ. It is he who must set the standard for other family members to follow in pursuing the kingdom and its righteousness.
Topic: FathersHow true it is. So fathers, husbands, what are you passing on to your children?
Title: Dusty Like You
Pastor Jerry L Steen shares this story:
At the first church that I pastored, I had the job of mixing feed to supplement my income. For a period of about two weeks, each day that I came home from work, my two boys, ages 2 and 3 would look at me, smile, and would say, "Boy, dad, you sure are dusty!" I would reply, "Yes, I sure am dusty." Then I would get cleaned up.
I didn't think too much of this until I was washing my car and saw my oldest son doing something very strange. He was picking up the gravel and stones that were in our drive and rubbing them into his pants. I asked him, "What are you doing?" He replied, "I want to be dusty like you dad!"
I realized that if a child would look up to his father for being dusty and want to copy his father, a child could look up to his father and follow him for anything.
In his "Focus on the Family" film series, Dr. James Dobson raises the point that it is especially the father who has an effect on the spiritual values of his children. In terms of faith, religion, and values, fathers generally have a far greater effect on children than do the mothers. And, a recent survey clearly supports this.
Topic: Parental DutiesThese statistics speak for themselves – Dad is the head of the home! That is why the example of a father is more important than all the efforts of the church and Sunday School and Christian School. Parents, especially you fathers, never under-estimate the power and influence of your example on your children.
Subtopic: Instruction of Children
Title: Statistic: Following Parents to Church
If both Dad and Mom attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, 15%. If neither attend regularly, only 6% remain faithful.
Husbands and fathers, you are the head of the home. I hope you realize your great responsibility as head of the home. And woe to you if you send your family down the wrong path.
D The husband is head of the wife. This refers, secondly, to a headship of source. The husband, in other words, is the source supplying the wife with the sustenance, energy, and guidance necessary. The image that Paul uses is that of a body.
(Eph 5:28-29) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church ...Husband and wife are a unity, they are one flesh. So the husband who loves himself – and we all do that quite naturally – will love and care for his wife.
The husband's goal, like Christ's with the church, is to make his wife radiant, holy and blameless, without stain or wrinkle or blemish (vs 27). The husband, as head, is to enable his wife to grow and mature in Christ. The husband, as head, is to seek his wife's best interests, seek her spiritual growth, and seek to encourage her to exercise all her gifts in the service of the church and kingdom. The husband, as head, is to encourage his wife to be everything the Lord wants her to be.
E The real focus of our passage is not on the headship itself, but on the way it is to be carried out. Of the 12 verses of our passage, 9 deal with this concern. Again I say what I said before: the husband's headship is not to be exercised in a domineering, dominating, abusive sort of way in which the wife has no personality, thoughts, feelings, or identity of her own. Over and over again Paul wants to impress on husbands that they are to be like Christ. In exercising their headship, husbands are to be like Christ. They are to show themselves as being Spirit-filled. They are to remember verse 21: "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Men, if you are to follow the Lord's leading in your marriage, you are to be like Christ. Men, if you are to follow the Lord's leading in your marriage, your headship is to be exercised in the same way as Christ's.
What is the Lord's leading here? In three separate statements the Lord tells the men what he expects of them as husbands: love her, love her, love her (vs 25, 28, 33). A husband is to exercise his headship in and out of love. And in this love he is to be like Christ. Paul says,
(Eph 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ...
In His great love for the church, Christ gave of Himself. He gave of His body and blood upon the cross. Likewise, says Scripture, the husband, in his great love for his wife, is to give of himself. He is to sacrifice for his wife. He is to serve his wife. In other words, God's leading in marriage is for the husband to take the lead in exhibiting Christ-like behavior of service and self-sacrifice. God's leading in marriage means that in exercising the responsibility and authority of headship the husband must take the lead in being like Christ.
How many husbands are like this? How many husbands make sacrifices for their wife? How many husbands take the lead in imaging Christ? I told you a couple of months ago about Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary. Robertson's wife gradually succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Early in the disease, Robertson decided to resign his presidency of the flourishing college and seminary he had nourished for nearly two decades. He chose to care for his wife. It was his privilege and his duty as head to do this. "Why?" you ask. Because he was supposed to love her, and give himself up for her, "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Again I ask, how many husbands are like this? Within the church there are too many widows. I'm not talking about women whose husbands have died. I'm talking about golf widows, or hunting and fishing widows, or work widows, or even church and kingdom widows. These women have husbands who spend all their time and energy on their recreation and sports, on the church and kingdom, on the job or career, and have no time or energy left to give of themselves for their wife. If that is the state of your marriage, let me tell you, you are not following the Lord's leading in your marriage.
Four or five years ago TIME magazine carried the story of one of the most successful mutual-fund directors of our time. Under his excellent management customers received 20%+ on their money. In a few years he built up the fund from a few million to a few billion dollars.Now I don't know if this man is a Christian or not. But he certainly sounds like one for he was exhibiting the self-sacrificing love of Christ Himself for the sake of his family.
He stunned the investment world by announcing his retirement. His reason: he wanted to spend more time with his family.
To sum up, God's will, God's leading, in marriage is that the husband should exercise a direction-setting role. He is to encourage and sustain his wife in her walk with God. And this headship is to be carried out in a loving, self-sacrificial way. If this is done, then the husband shows himself to be filled with the Spirit of Christ.
III The Wife: Gracious Submission to Husband
A God's will, God's leading, in marriage is also that the wife is to submit to her husband's headship.
(Eph 5:22-24) Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
What is this submission? Are we to think of the wife as a slave, cowering in fear before her husband? Is his every wish to be her command? Is she considered to be an inferior and he the superior? Is she supposed to offer her husband a blind obedience? The answer is no, no, no, and no! Husbands and wives with this attitude are not showing themselves to be Spirit-filled. Husbands and wives with this attitude do not "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Let me tell you again, if this is the pattern in your marriage then you are not following the Lord's leading in your marriage.
B Paul says, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." In other words, submission – like headship – is to be Christ-centered. The wife submits to her husband's leadership not because her husband is so perfect – for he isn't. Not because he is so strong – even though he may be. But for the sake of the Lord. Out of devotion to the Lord. Because she is filled with the Spirit of the Lord. In other words, the wife's submission is to be joyful and voluntary. The wife's submission, like the church's to Christ, is to be heartfelt and sincere.
C This is not an easy thing that Paul is asking a wife to do. Rather, it is a tall and demanding order. Especially in today's world. It is obvious to me, at least, that many women are more talented than their husbands, more gifted, better leaders, and more spiritually mature. In today's climate of equal rights and women's liberation, it is very difficult for such women to submit to their husbands. Does Paul and Jesus actually expect them to submit? Yes.
There are lots of women who are wiser, better educated, and more successful than their husbands. Are they expected to submit? Yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Not because they have to but because they want to. Not because the husband is better or stronger but because this is God's will. Christian wives, as Spirit-filled women, are to joyfully and willingly submit to the loving, sacrificial leadership of their husbands.
The marriage relationship is supposed to model the way God relates to His people. A Spirit-filled husband is to give loving, sacrificial leadership to his family just like Christ does to the church; the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. And, a Spirit-filled wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.
A Spirit-filled husband and a Spirit-filled wife are to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
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