************ Sermon on Ephesians 4:2-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This wedding sermon was preached on May 23, 2009
Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ben & Kelly, you have picked an absolutely wonderful text. And I know why you picked it. Remember what you told me in our first pre-marital session – that you wanted to work on patience and humility. Your text is not only a challenge the Lord lays before you but it is also a promise He makes to you.
The Apostle Paul's main point, his main concern, is that you "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit" (Eph 4:3). Notice, you are not called to make every effort to make yourself one – that is something God has already done when He brings you together as husband and wife. What you are called to do is to "make every effort to keep" this unity that God has made. Christians are not to make unity but to keep or guard the unity God has made in joining us together.
What kind of advice can I give you so you can do this? Let's start off with various words of advice I found in one of my files:
"The husband who wants a happy marriage should learn to keep his mouth shut and his checkbook open." – Groucho Marx
"The key to a healthy marriage is to keep your eyes wide open before you wed – and half closed thereafter." – James Dobson
"The calmest husbands make the stormiest wives."
"A joint checking account is never overdrawn by the wife. It is just under-deposited by her husband."
"Only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other, to let her have it." – Lyndon B. Johnson
"Keep the unity of the Spirit," says Paul. I think we can easily surpass the pithy statements of the world. Negatively, this means you are not to break the unity that is yours. Not by divorce, not by separation, not by fights, not by quarrels, not by jealousy and fits of rage and dissension, not by holding grudges and nursing your anger, not by adultery or violence or any kind of abuse.
Positively, and this is where your wedding text comes in, you are to display three attitudes, three virtues, all of which promote your unity as husband and wife in the Lord.
Ben & Kelly, the first virtue you need to have, the first attitude every married couple here needs to have, is humility. "Be completely humble," says your text.
"Be completely humble." This is the opposite of pride. Christians know they are not to think overmuch of themselves. Christians know they are not to be braggarts – either about themselves or their children and grand-children. For, the person who is full of pride is completely self-centered. The person who is full of pride spends most of his time thinking of himself. The person who is full of pride, in other words, breaks the unity God has established.
"Be completely humble." At all times and in all places do not think overly much of yourself. At all times and in all places be humble. At all times and in all places build up the other person instead of yourself.
Most people at the time of Paul viewed humility with dismay. Humility was something shown by a social inferior to a superior – a slave to a master, a soldier to an officer, a prisoner to a guard. In the eyes of the Roman and Greek world, humility was equated with weakness; it meant a lack of power or money or social status.
The best example of humility, of course, is the Lord Jesus. If ever there was one Who humbled Himself, it was Christ. He did not grasp His equality with God but made Himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant, by being made in human likeness, by being obedient to death – even death on a cross.
To keep the unity of the Spirit, to keep your unity as husband and wife, Ben & Kelly, you need to be completely humble. Follow the example of Christ.
Second, you need to be "gentle." Gentleness is the opposite of self-assertion, rudeness, and harshness. It suggests having one's emotions under control. Instead of dealing harshly with one another, you are to be gentle in your attitude and gentle in your behavior and gentle in your talk.
Again, this attitude or virtue is needed because its absence breaks the unity God has established between a husband and wife. Very few things, for instance, can create disunity as quickly as harsh and rude language. You know what Proverbs says:
(Prov 15:1) A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Very few things can create disunity as quickly as being harsh and rude in your behavior and attitude.
Jesus is again the example we can follow. Do you remember what Jesus said about Himself?
(Mat 11:29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Jesus describes Himself as gentle. He kept Himself under control.
To keep the unity of the Spirit, to keep your unity as husband and wife, Ben & Kelly, you need to be gentle. Follow the example of Christ.
Third, you need to be "patient." To be patient means you are long-suffering. Its opposite, of course, is impatience or an absence of long-suffering.
Why is it that tires go flat when we are in a hurry to keep an appointment? Why does the vacuum cleaner stop working the day company is coming? Why do you discover at 2 o'clock you are out of a vital ingredient for brownies you have to have ready by 3 o'clock? Why is the plane delayed as you wait at the airport for 2 or 3 or even 5 extra hours causing broken engagements or changes in plan? Why does something break down on Sunday morning when you are rushing to make it to worship? But more important, why are we so unhappy and frustrated and impatient when these things occur? Or, why is it that we can be so short and abrupt with loved ones while we have endless patience with co-workers or supervisors?
Again, this attitude or virtue is needed because its absence breaks the unity God has established between a husband and wife. Very few things, for instance, can create disunity as quickly as being abrupt and impatient with one another.
There is an Old Testament phrase that is used more than once to describe God. He is "slow to anger" (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nah 1:3). He is patient. And, we are being called to be like Him.
Ben & Kelly, attitudes of humility, gentleness, and patience promotes unity among Christians – and among wives and husbands too.
Your text also tells you the beginning point, the starting point, to having and showing these three virtues to one another. It says, "bearing with one another in love."
The starting point to humility, gentleness, and patience is love. The love Paul is talking about is love for others, a love which makes you give and sacrifice for the sake of others – even as Christ sacrificed Himself for us. If you don't have this love, then you will not and cannot be humble, gentle, and patient. If you don't have this love, then you cannot possibly keep the unity that God has blessed you with. Without love, says Paul, in another place, "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal ... I am nothing ... I gain nothing" (1 Cor 13).
Just like humility, gentleness, and patience have a starting point – love – so love has a staring point. And, that starting point is Jesus. "Love comes from God," says the Apostle John (1 Jn 4:7). And, "We love because he first loved us" (I Jn 4:19).
Your home, Ben & Kelly, needs to be centered on Jesus. He needs to be the head of your home and the Master of your married life.
Starting with Jesus, then, you have love. And, having love, you are able to be humble, gentle, and patient with one another. And, being humble, gentle, and patient with one another you are able to keep the unity God has blessed you with. As I said – a challenge but also a promise.
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