Christianity is founded on great theological concepts. When you think about Christianity, you think about things like grace, love, the sovereignty of God, redemption, the sacrificial death of Christ, and His resurrection from the dead. These and the many more great and high doctrines of Christianity are enough to occupy our thinking for many lifetimes. Can you ever really understand grace? Will you ever be able to know the depth of the love of Yahweh? Do you understand the providence of God over every detail of life?
We could study our entire lifetime and still never be able to do much more than scratch the surface of these great and central truths of Christianity. Even so, these things need to be studied diligently. The more we come to understand about these truths, the more satisfying will be our relationship with Yeshua the Christ.
There is more to Christianity than understanding doctrine. While we need to work at understanding the great doctrines of Christianity, we must also do everything in our power to live out the practical aspects of Christianity. You see, Christianity is not merely theological; it is a way of life. We must LIVE Christianity.
Our text in Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is showing us three areas where the reality of our faith is to be lived out. These three areas give us opportunities to show the difference Christianity has made in our lives. They are areas almost all of us have to deal with: our marriage, our home, and our work. It is difficult to see how Christianity can have any positive effect on society if it cannot transform its own homes.
As we look at these areas, you need to ask yourself some important questions. Does your relationship with Christ make a difference in these relationships? What difference does it make? How are you different in these areas from your non-Christian neighbor?
Paul begins this section by dealing with marriage. Attitudes toward marriage in our day are growing more and more cynical. One literary figure wrote: "Every man plays the fool once in his life, but to marry is playing the fool all of one's life." Evidently this man had a bad experience with marriage! With these kinds of ideas unfortunately prevalent concerning marriage, it is important that Christians recapture the biblical pattern for marriage.
In our last study we looked at Paul's command to the wives:
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 NASB
I don't want to spend much time here, but let me ask you a question: "Do you see any conditions in this command to the wives?" It does not say, "Wives submit to your husband as long as he is loving you." In a moment we'll look at the command to the husbands to love their wives, and we'll see that there aren't any conditions to that command either. It doesn't say, "Husbands love your wife as long as she is submitting to you." Wives are commanded to submit, and husbands are commanded to love regardless of what the spouse does. Your submitting and your loving are to be unto the Lord Yeshua.
So, wives are to submit, and husbands are to love regardless of what the other party does. Now, I'm sure that you're aware that marriage is much easier when both parties work at it. But no matter what your spouse does, YOU are responsible to do your part.
Christian women, do you have the power to submit to an unloving husband? Christian men, do we have the power to love an unsubmissive wife? Do we? YES! Remember that submissiveness is a result of being controlled by the Spirit:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB
Believers are to be controlled by the Spirit. Notice what Paul says about the power available to us through the Spirit:
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NASB
What does Paul mean when he says, "I can do all things through Christ"? He means that because he is in communion with Christ, the power of Christ is available to him for every need. Paul cannot do "all things" simply because he is a Christian. He can do all things because he is living in a dependant relationship with Christ. He is abiding in Christ.
Paul talked a lot about the power of Christ. Walking in fellowship with Christ gives us the power to deal with any and every situation. Have you ever seen a Christian in a very difficult situation and asked, "How can they deal with the situation that they are in?" They can deal with it because the power of Christ is available to those who abide in Him, those who walk in dependence on Him. No matter what circumstance you are facing, you have the power to handle it if you are abiding in Christ.
IF YOU CAN'T DEAL WITH YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU MUST NOT BE DEPENDING ON HIM! The secret of power in the Christian life is to walk with Christ. Paul is saying, "I can go through anything through the strength of Christ, and that strength comes from a walk of obedience and dependence." I believe that the "all things" here would include submitting to an unloving husband or loving an unsubmissive wife. We have the power; Christianity is supernatural!
Wives, we looked at your role in the family last time, this morning it's the husband's turn:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 NASB
Following Paul's instructions to the wives (5:22-24), which state that the husband is the head of the wife, you would have expected him to say next, "Husbands, exercise your headship over your wives diligently, just as Christ is the head of the church." If the wives are commanded to submit, then the husbands surely must be instructed to lead. But they are not. Instead of commanding husbands to lead their wives, Paul instructs them to love their wives. For Paul, loving takes priority over leading.
Ask many Christian husbands to summarize their biblical duty in one word, and they will most likely answer, "Leadership." But Yahweh answers the question with a different word: "love." Paul does not here, or anywhere else, exhort husbands to rule over their wives. There is no doubt that Yahweh's design for you, if you're a husband, includes the aspect of leadership. But it is a leadership that flows from love and is always tempered by tender, caring affection. The husband's proper role as a loving, nurturing head is best epitomized by Christ, who took the servant's role to wash His disciples' feet (John 13:3-17):
"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. John 13:14-15 NASB
He is Lord, but He humbly serves. So should husbands. The amount of space given to the subject and the analogy of Christ's love signifies the importance of the husband's responsibility to love their wives.
Wives, let's be sure that we understand that this verse is not addressed to you! It does not say, "Wives, make sure your husband loves you; remind him every day." This command is to the husbands. Men, this is your responsibility regarding your marriage.
"Husbands, love your wives"—the Greek word used here for love is agapao.
There is no word in our modern language which needs more interpreting than this word love. It is grossly misused today. It is used to describe everything from sleazy sexual passion to patriotic emotion. But here it is defined for us in a very illuminating phrase which is set in apposition to it—just as Christ loved the Church.
Agapao is a present tense imperative indicating continuous action. It could be translated: "keep on loving." To apply Paul's command, we must be clear about what he means by "love." It isn't referring to that overpowering feeling that swept you off your feet when you first saw her face? The verb itself seems best understood in the New Testament to express a willing love, not the love of passion or emotion, but the love of choice—a covenant kind of love. Love is portrayed as a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved.
According to the Bible, love is something you DO. So we could say that how much you love is determined by how much you do. Therefore, you can only say, "I love you" by your actions:
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:18 NASB
Contrary to this, our society teaches love is a feeling, it's a mystical sensation that sweeps over you one day and may disappear the next. As long as you feel a certain way, you're in love. When the feeling goes away, you're not in love. The Bible teaches just the opposite. Love is not a feeling. It's an action. It's something you do.
"Husbands, love your wives"—the article ho (your) before wives functions as a possessive pronoun, indicating that husbands are to love their own wives and not other women, thus reinforcing monogamy.
In Matthew 19, when Yeshua's disciples heard His teaching on the permanence of marriage and the sinfulness of divorce, they exclaimed:
The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." Matthew 19:10 NASB
But here, Paul is upping the ante—not only must a man live with his wife for the rest of his life, he has to sacrificially love his wife for the rest of his life!
This exhortation to husbands to love their wives is unique. It is not found in the Tanakh, rabbinic literature, or in the household codes of the Greco-Roman era. There is no doubt that what Yahweh is saying to husbands probably came as a surprise to many in that culture. Because we live in a different cultural situation today, it is hard for us to understand how different the status of women was when this letter was written. William Barclay gives us some insight on this matter:
Under Jewish law a woman was a thing, the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks or his material goods. She had no legal rights whatever. For instance, under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, while a wife had no rights whatever in the initiation of divorce; and the only grounds on which a divorce might be awarded her were if her husband developed leprosy, became an apostate or ravished a virgin. In Greek society a respectable woman lived a life of entire seclusion. She never appeared on the streets alone, not even to go marketing. She lived in the women's apartments and did not join her menfolk even for meals. From her there was demanded complete servitude and chastity; but her husband could go out as much as he chose and could enter into as many relationships outside marriage as he liked without incurring any stigma. Under both Jewish and Greek laws and custom all the privileges belong to the husband and all the duties to the wife. [William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), p. 161]
This was the plight of women in that society. And if, as Barclay states, "All the privileges belong to the husband, and all the duties to the wife," then husbands were not used to hearing about their duties in the marriage relationship. That is why this instruction would come as a surprise to some husbands.
Furthermore, many of these men were married to women whom they did not choose, since marriages were often arranged by the parents. The Greek writer, Demosthenes, describes the common mentality of pagan men in those days: "We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for the day-to-day needs of the body, but we have wives in order to produce children legitimately and to have a trustworthy guardian of our homes" (quoted by William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit [Baker], p. 24;
You see, this is radical. In the world which Paul was in, and the world that the Holy Spirit was inspiring these words to, this was radical, this was revolutionary! It was never heard of before. So Paul's command is shocking, but it is crystal clear. The husbands are to love their wives. They are to treat them with gentleness, not harshness. These commands were given for a very good reason. Marriage was, and is, a picture of the relationship of Christ and the church.
Many American Christian husbands think that their main responsibility is to provide an increasingly comfortable lifestyle for their wives and children. The Bible does state that a man is to provide financially for his family:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 NASB
Those are strong words. But, Paul is saying that we must provide our families with basic needs, not with all of the stuff that the world says we need to be happy. Most husbands feel that if they are providing for their wife they are loving her. But loving her goes way beyond simply providing for her financially.
In this passage Paul puts his finger on the primary role of the husband in marriage. Every man is ultimately responsible for what his marriage becomes. This responsibility revolves around his primary role; to give his wife security in his love. Most people feel their marital problems are due to an exceptional misfortune. This is wrong! Marriage problems are a result of our sin, our failure to live out these commands.
How are we to love our wives? The model and ground of the husband's love for his wife is Christ's love for the church.
"Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her"—I think that this is one of the most difficult commands in Scripture. We are commanded to continually love our wives "JUST AS" Christ loved the church. This is talking about the atonement, we're talking about the ransom payment, the purchase price, indeed the greatest price ever paid in love to purchase any bride.
The word "gave" is from the Greek paradídomi, which means: "to hand over, give over." This verb together with the reflexive pronoun "himself" stresses that fact that Christ took the initiative in handing Himself over to death. He went to the Cross a willing victim. This is what Yeshua said in:
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11 NASB
Giving His live was a voluntary act of love for the church. The love of Christ was extended to us before we requested it or changed our actions. Paul put it this way in Romans:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB
Husbands, please notice here that Christ died for us while we were still ungodly, still sinners, and still enemies of God! He didn't die for His friends. He died for His enemies. He died for those who crucified Him. He died for those who hated Him. He died for those who rejected Him. He died for those who cheered as the nails were driven in His hands. How many of us love a person when they don't love us back? How many of us love a person when they rebuke us, disdain us, detest us? And yet we should love our wives independently of whether they deserve it or not. Wives should not have to earn their husband's love.
Notice again the substitute character of Christ's sacrifice, "Christ died for us."
His love for us provided that sacrifice for our welfare. For God to forgive and accept as righteous those that have broken His Law required that eternal justice be satisfied. He could not ignore our sin or let it slide or even accept partial satisfaction of justice. The full measure of eternal satisfaction must be met or none could ever be accepted by God. The righteousness of God stood in the balance. So God took the most severe measure possible. His sinless Son accepted our sins as though they were His own, and with that acceptance He bore God's wrath in full measure against us at the cross. No greater display of love could ever be shown! No greater price could ever be paid!
This is how husbands are to love their wives. The kind of love which God requires of husbands involves sacrifice. We cannot love our wives as Christ loved the church without sacrifice.
Yeshua took our blame and bore our punishment:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
At a personal cost that we can never fully fathom, He laid aside His rights as God, took on human flesh, and became obedient to death on the cross, where He actually was made sin for us!
Do you give yourself for your wife? For that's what a husband is to do, he's to give himself. Men should protect their wives by taking their shame and sharing their pain.
Yeshua also loved the church by promising to never leave her:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," Hebrews 13:5 NASB
A wife craves the security of knowing that her husband is committed to her "till death do us part." Failure to impart this sense of security is a breeding ground for all kinds of fears and imaginations
So husbands are told to "love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." This is a deep love, a true love, a complete love, and a sacrificial love. When a husband loves his wife like this, he will have a wife who desires to submit to him.
Harry Ironside once had a recently married young man come to him and say, "I need your help. I'm in an awful state. I'm drifting into idolatry." "What's the trouble?" asked Dr. Ironside. "Well, I'm afraid that I'm putting my wife on too high a plane. I fear that I love her too much and I'm displeasing the Lord." "Are you, indeed?" asked Ironside. "Do you love her more than Christ loved the church?" "I don't think so," replied the young man. "Well, that's the limit," replied Ironside, "for we read, 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her.'" (In the Heavenlies [Loizeaux Brothers], p. 281.)
The role of the husband is to love his wife to such a degree that she feels secure in that love. Yeshua loved us with a sacrificial love. Yeshua loved absolutely. His love was without limitation, without condition, and without reserve. Love gives of his interest, time, pleasures, ambitions and friends.
Often husbands give everything but themselves. We are so self-centered and selfish that we expect our wives to pay attention to us all the time. What do we give in return? When we take each other for granted, then love begins to wither.
The command to love your wife implies that the husband is to be committed to total unselfishness in the relationship. He is told that the one "who loves his own wife loves himself" (Eph. 5:28). He is to model his actions of love after that of Christ who unselfishly gave Himself for His bride. The practical edge of such love means that the husband is on the lookout for how he can best meet the needs of his wife. He seeks to nurture her, to care for her, to help her enjoy marriage to the fullest. He labors to help her develop in spiritual and emotional maturity. His joy and delight is seeing the progress and growth in his wife.
Loving your wife demands sacrificial actions in giving to your wife. Yeshua "gave Himself" for the church. It was a sacrifice of His life and a willingness to suffer so that His Bride, the church, might be radiant with glory. Do not think that the sacrifice of Yeshua was done with grim resignation or merely out of duty. It was the unselfish heart of love that was willing to pay the ultimate price for His Bride's benefit.
There are a lot of men who would stand between their wives and an intruder to offer protection. But those same men, though chivalrous in protection, would not think of adjusting their schedule or career or outside interests for their wives. Sacrifice may come in many areas. Yes, protection of one's wife is included, but it also involves the sacrifice of his energies, goals, time, and interests in his wife's best interest.
There are two sides to love: giving and receiving. Giving love is the action side, receiving is the feeling side. God made us rational and emotional creatures. He gave us the capacity to feel loved, and, equally important, the ability to choose to demonstrate it. The question we need to answer is, "How can I show my wife that I love her?" Or to put it another way, "How can I love in action so that my wife actually senses love?"
Dr. Gary Chapman, a leading family and marriage therapists, has described in his book, The Five Languages of Love, five unique love languages men and women utilize in relating to one another. A love language is the ability to express love and concern to another person in the primary emotional language of the other person.
Have you ever been around people who were speaking a foreign language that you did not understand? You know they are communicating with each other, but you have no clue as to what they are saying. If you don't know the language they are speaking, their words are meaningless to you. What happens in foreign languages occurs with emotional languages. We may speak our emotional language, but it often comes across to other people as an unknown tongue. We say, "I love you" in our language, but they don't understand our language, so they have no clue as to what we are saying. As a result, our efforts to demonstrate love are frustrated. To avoid that frustration, we must learn the primary love language of our spouse. Your primary love language is evident in two ways: You speak it more often than other languages, and you feel most loved when it is spoken to you.
There are five ways of expressing love in action to our mate so that they actually feel loved. Affection is a great need of both men and women. Affection is one of the greatest needs that a person is born with, and one that we never outgrow. Affection symbolizes security, comfort, and approval. As we go over these five love languages, see if you can determine which of them is your predominate love language.
1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION—One way of expressing love is by building up others through verbal encouragement. Taking the time to verbally pat someone on the back is a way of saying, "I love you."
2. QUALITY TIME—Quality time means giving someone your full attention. Sitting on the couch together watching television is not quality time. It means looking at each other while talking. This requires that you invest yourself in the other person by listening carefully to what she is saying. It involves two people who are actively participating in the conversation and going beyond the fact level of communication. Some ways of doing that are through participating in similarly enjoyable activities at the same time. It may be working in the yard, it may be walking in the neighborhood, it may be traveling, it may be playing a sport, or working on a hobby. However it is translated, it means having quality time to interact together. A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. Togetherness is not just a matter of proximity, it has to do with focused attention.
3. GIFT GIVING—Impromptu gift giving (not obligatory holiday gift giving) sends a message, "I was thinking about you, I care for you." It is providing something that you can hold in your hand and saying, "This person was thinking of or remembering me." It may be a gift of something you purchased, it may be a gift of something you made.
4. PHYSICAL DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION—Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made the conclusion: Babies who are held, hugged, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact. Some people find the predominate way that they sense affection is by touch. It may be a hug, it may be holding a hand, it may be just an arm around a shoulder. For the married, this would include sex, but sex is only one dialect in the love language of physical touch. There are many more.
5. ACTS OF SERVICE—We communicate love by serving others, doing things for them that will help them out, or that we know that they will appreciate. Whenever you do something for another person beyond the normal course of events, you are saying, "I love you" in action.
Out of those five love languages, one is your primary language. One of those modes of expression means more to you than the other four, and another one means the least to you. Your primary love language is the one you most enjoy hearing, and the one you tend to speak to other people. Learning how to love your wife means learning and choosing to speak her love language.
Your spouse's criticisms about your behavior provide you with the clearest clue to their primary love language. People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love.
Men, as you love your wife, you will show forth the love of Christ for His church in a way that no sermon can equal, no other picture can compare to. Your love for her will demonstrate the great and profound mystery of the union of Christ with His people—as you tenderly nourish and sustain her, showering upon her the grace and the love which God has showered upon you. And as you give yourself to her, allowing your hopes, your desires—your life—to merge with hers you are as truly united as you are with Christ, then you will find the strength to bear with her, even when she's being unreasonable; and the ability to be patient, even when she's being a grouch. All this is love.
It is this love which Yahweh calls you to. It is this love which you are to bestow upon your wife. NOT because she deserves it, but because Christ deserves it. If you ever get to the point where you give your spouse what he or she deserves, then you have turned that person into an idol. You are expecting them to be perfect. Marriage is not about getting what you deserve—that's LAW. Marriage is about giving something that is undeserved—Marriage is about Grace. It is about portraying the love of Yahweh for His people. Don't forget, the reason why you love your wife is NOT because she is such a lovable person. It is because Yahweh has loved you and forgiven you! He has removed your sin and united you to His Son. It is He who is at work in you both to will and to do, as Paul says in Philippians 2:13, and it is His Spirit who is sustaining you and sanctifying you daily by the power of Christ's atoning blood shed on the cross.
Let me give you three actions to make a daily priority in your relationship with your wife. I think if you do these, she will feel loved.
You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NASB
"Live with your wives in an understanding way,"—Peter is speaking of being considerate. This is opposite the cave-man mentality some today would advocate. It's incompatible with the kind of independent, proud, self-absorbed machismo many seem to think epitomizes true maleness. It calls for understanding, sensitivity, and meeting your wife's needs. It involves a sincere effort to understand her feelings, fears, anxieties, concerns, goals, dreams, and desires. In short, you must be considerate.
Often it boils down to listening. You must understand your wife's heart. How can you express a sacrificial love that meets her needs when you have no earthly idea what those needs are?
The wife is "the weaker vessel," according to 1 Peter 3:7. In what sense are women "weaker?" This has reference primarily to the physical realm. Women are, as a class, physically weaker than men. Now, it is undoubtedly true that there are some men whose wives are physically more powerful than they. But that is unusual, and I believe that even in those exceptional cases, the principle still applies. You are to treat your wife with a gentle chivalry. You can do this in a thousand ways, from opening doors for her to moving furniture and doing the heavy work around the house.
We are to serve our wives with our strength. We treat them as the weaker vessel, showing them a particular deference in matters where their physical weakness places them at a disadvantage. 1 Peter 3:7 actually suggests that God designed women to be under the protection of a man, benefitting from his strength. And serving our wives by lending them that strength is one of the main ways we show them a Christlike, sacrificial love.
We're to regard our wives "as being heirs together of the grace of life." Men and women may be unequal physically, but they are equal spiritually. Treat your wife as a spiritual equal. While you're legitimately concerned with the task of spiritual leadership in your home, don't forget the responsibility of communion before God with your wife as a joint heir of His grace. Your role as her leader does not mean you are her superior. Both of you are utterly dependent on divine grace, and you are heirs together of that grace.
In the Song of Solomon, the wife says of her husband:
"His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." Song of Solomon 5:16 NASB
"This is my beloved, and this is my friend." I love that expression. She rejoices in her love for him, but it is not just his romantic devotion that thrills her. It is not his leadership that causes her heart to sing. What is it? She is glad that he is her friend. That's the kind of relationship husbands should cultivate. It is a deep sense of intimate, equal sharing of spiritual things. It is a communion together like no other relationship on earth.
The Spirit filled husband loves his wife, not for what she can do for him, but because of what he can do for her. That is exactly how Christ's love works. He loves us, not because there's something in us that attracts Him, not because He gains any benefit from loving us, but simply because He determined to love us and delights to bestow on us His favor.
To not love your wife is a sin. So you better be thanking God that salvation is all of grace. If obedience is required, you have a much better chance of getting in if you don't get married. If obedience is required, we are all in big trouble. Wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives—these are commands! To fail to do this is to live in disobedience!
It is harder to live the Christian life at home than elsewhere. Husbands can be more courteous to other women than their wives. Wives can give more deference to other men than their husbands. Familiarity breeds contempt or at least disrespect. We take each other for granted. The Christian home is the outpost of Christianity. God places us in this environment to represent Him here on earth.
If someone asked me, "How much does Christ love the church?" could I point to you? Could I say, "Look at how he loves his wife"? If someone asked me, "How does the church submit to Christ?" could I point to you? Could I say, "Look at how she submits to her husband"?
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