************ Wedding Sermon on Ephesians 5:21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 14, 2008
Wedding Message for Robert Godfrey & Catherine Veenendaal
Passage: Ephesians 5:18-33
Text: Ephesians 5:21
Robert & Catherine, family & friends:
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
"Submit." Robert, when you hear that word "submit" I want you to think of the Padres and pizza. Catherine, when you hear that word "submit" I want you to think of ice-cream and tea. And, if I was to give this message a title I would call it "Padres, Ice-Cream, and Submission."
"Submit." That word submit is powerful. It means to lose or surrender one's own rights or will. It means to give precedence to others. It is not that submissive people think less of themselves; rather, they just think about themselves less. They put the other person before themselves.
"Submit." In the Greek the word is a participle that should be translated as "submitting." It calls for continuous action, not a one time act. You are always and continually to submit.
"Submit to one another." Who is it that we are to submit to? The Bible tells children to submit to their parents. Slaves are told to submit to their masters. Wives are told to submit to husbands. Christians are told to submit to one another and to their God-appointed leaders. The church is told to submit to Christ.
We can extend this idea of submission to life today. An employee is to submit to an employer. Students are to submit to teachers. A soldier is to submit to a commanding officer. A people are to submit to its government.
Of special interest to us today is that husbands and wives are to submit to one another. Which means, Robert and Catherine that you are to submit to one another.
Those who do what Paul says, those who submit, don't submit because they have to, but because they want to. In the original Greek the verb submit is in the middle voice. Literally, it means "place yourself in submission." There was a time when a slave had no choice about submitting to a master, but once that slave became a Christian he or she wanted to submit. There was a time when wives were treated as a piece of property and had no choice about submission, but once they become Christian they wanted to submit. For the Christian, submission comes from the inside rather than the outside. The submission is a voluntary choice rather than a legal requirement. Paul was after a spirit of humility by choice and not by coercion. Paul, in other words, was pro-choice when it came to submission.
What does this voluntary submission mean for marriage? It means, Robert & Catherine and every other married couple here, that you adopt as your own the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the other person. It means you lay aside your own selfish desires for the good and for the sake of your marriage partner. It means instead of seeking your own happiness and fulfillment you seek the other person's happiness and fulfillment in your marriage. It means you put the other person first.
Let's apply this voluntary submission to every day situations in life. This means, Robert, that you put Catherine and her desires before pizza. This means, Catherine, that you allow Robert his occasional cup of $5 Starbucks Coffee and don't make him always drink your tea. This means, Robert, that you let Catherine pick the TV program rather than watching Padres baseball. This means, Catherine, you give up that new pot or pan or skillet so Robert can get that set of commentaries he has had his eye on for the last 4 years. This means, Robert and Catherine, that when the extended family get together for vacation, you are willing to admit Disney is not the only vacation destination. Bride and groom, voluntary submission means you are willing to do something that you may dislike just because you know your spouse or family delights in it.
"Submit to one another." When Paul applies this to the marriage relationship, he instructs the wife to be subject to her husband as the church is subject to Christ, its head. Paul says, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Paul also instructs the husband to pattern his love for his wife after the example of Christ's love for his body, the church. Paul says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." In marriage this requires that the husband and wife serve each other, give of themselves for the sake of the other, and put the other person first.
"Submit to one another." What a beautiful thing – what is more captivating than a Christian husband and wife submitting to one another? What is more captivating than a couple in love seeking the good and happiness of the other person?
And yet, I need to ask, what is harder than submission? You see, submission is contrary to the nature of fallen people; it is contrary to the nature of sinful persons. We all rebel against submitting ourselves to others. It just is not natural. Fallen creatures are self-centered, me-centered. Fallen creatures look to their own happiness and fulfillment first. Fallen creatures think about themselves first. Submission is totally alien to such people. This failure to submit is one of the reasons so many marriages today end up in divorce.
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Notice, Robert & Catherine, why you are to submit to one another: "out of reverence for Christ." Notice, Robert, you aren't told to submit because Catherine is perfect – though you would be hard-pressed to find a better woman. Notice, Catherine, you aren't told to submit because Robert is such a worthy, deserving, righteous, and upstanding model of godliness (though he strikes me as such a man). No, you are to submit to one another "out of reverence for Christ." Because of Who Christ is, because of the place He occupies in Your life, because of what He has done for you at the cross and the grave, you are to submit to one another.
Herein lies the secret to submission. What is impossible and unnatural for sinful, fallen people is possible for those Who know and love and serve Jesus. Robert & Catherine, because I know that you love Jesus I know you will submit to each other. And, because you know Jesus, I know that in your marriage you both will be like Jesus Himself.
Don't forget what it means to be like Jesus. Jesus submitted Himself to the will of God and went the way of the cross and the grave. Jesus submitted Himself to a servant nature and washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Jesus, the King of the universe, practiced humble and voluntary submission.
By coming to Jesus, by making Him the center of your home, the Master of your lives, the Lord of your marriage, you will be like Him and you will be able to submit to one another.
Let me conclude with one final thought. Again, it requires an understanding of the Greek language. I said that word "submit" is 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."
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.
Robert & Catherine, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Because you do this – and I have every confidence you will – yours will be a happy, fulfilling, and God-glorifying marriage.
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