Ephesians 5:25-26 (NIV)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….
I hope all those who are fathers and grandfathers enjoyed a Blessed Father’s Day!
As we finish this week of examining the gift of fatherhood and the roles that men have been ordained by God to fulfill in His Kingdom … we turn our attention to the position that afforded us the honor and privilege to become a father – the role of husband. The relationship that a husband and wife … father and mother … have with each other greatly influences the role each partner plays in the development of their children and the capacity of their children to fulfill the 5th commandment of God – “Honor your father and mother.” If the relationship between parents is unhealthy, strained, uncivil, fractured, or out of balance, the fall out upon the minds and hearts of their children is inevitable. I’m not talking about the natural disagreements that arise in the course of normal human relationships (for we were all uniquely created). These are generally negotiated and resolved within the bonds of love. Rather, I am speaking to the visibility of a relationship that no one would characterize as honorable or pleasing to God … where unity has been lost or displaced with self-centeredness, covetousness, worldliness, bitterness, malice, etc.
Now, I realize there are many human factors and dynamics that enter into the covenant relationship of marriage; but my thoughts today are directed at men and our God-ordained responsibilities for the union of our bodies with another. And I believe the inspired wisdom that Paul brings to our attention here should direct the approach of our hearts to the covenant of marriage. After all, God made a covenant with those whom He chose for salvation … and gave to His Son, Christ Jesus, to receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. He has been faithful to us; and that truth, in itself, should dominate the heart of every man to whom God has entrusted the precious gift of a woman to have and to hold from this day forward. Men, when two became one flesh, we made a vow … we made a covenant with our wives to be united to our own souls … and to be faithful to them in all things. If you can receive it, then I ask you to consider this: If there is a schism in your marriage relationship … then I encourage you to look intently into your own heart and soul. Why? Because I believe there you will find something that you can change or correct … actionable steps … spiritual surgery to foster the restoration, healing, and strengthening of the intimacy you both were created to experience. Yes, whether we realized it at the time or not, we made a promise to be like Jesus in our relationships with our wives. And whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Indeed, that is the standard that the Apostle Paul is exhorting us to achieve here…. Let’s look at it further in context:
Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, having cleansed her by the washing with water through the Word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 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 their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of His body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Cf. Genesis 2:24) 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
The passage begins with this instruction: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The text and the context are absolutely clear! The foundation of the covenant relationship we share with our wives is out of reverence for Christ Jesus. Did you see it? “Reverence for Christ Jesus!” You must see this truth and it must abide in your heart more than anything else! You cannot love your wife in the manner God has ordained for you if you do not have reverence for the One who created you and redeemed you and commanded you: “Love one another as I have loved you.” How did Jesus love you? Unconditionally! Sacrificially! Yes, if you and I (men) want marriage relationships that our children will see as genuine … the kind they will readily respond with honor for their father and mother, then we as the heads need to self-examine our hearts. As David (a man after God’s own heart) wrote in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Let there be no doubt: True love for our wives begins and flourishes with our reverence for Christ Jesus!
And while Paul speaks to women about their responsibilities in the covenant of marriage, I truly believe that he wants to emphasize the God-ordained role of the man to LEAD the relationship. And he uses the relationship between Christ and His Church as the metaphor and example to help men understand this critical mindset. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The text does not say, “similar to” the way Christ demonstrated His love for His Body. No, it instructs: “JUST AS!” The pattern and the example have already been demonstrated. The question for us, men, is whether we intend to identify with what Christ has revealed to us and to emulate it in our marriages?
The profound mystery Paul referenced is found in the inspired narrative written by Moses and recorded in Genesis 2:18-24 – where God creates a woman from the man to be his helper!
Genesis 2:18-24 (NIV)
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
I had never thoughtfully considered this passage until now … and I am flooded with thoughts and applications of the metaphor Paul uses when he states, “But I am talking about Christ and the Church.” Think about it. If Christ is represented by Adam and the Church is represented by Eve; then the pattern of the woman taken from the man makes sense. The Church, the body of Christ, was formed out of Christ Himself. Another perspective is that God brought the Church to His Son to be His helper … even though His helper came from within Him. Jesus is the Head of and united with His Body … just as Adam and Eve became ONE flesh. And as Christ determines how His Body should function, so men are charged with the functioning of their marriage! I can see it in my spiritual mind … but it remains a profound mystery. Like many things, I can understand “how” this makes sense … but like many things, I do not understand “why” this makes sense. But the connection points me to the greater weight of the parallel that has been drawn for me: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Just as I am united with Christ and abide in Him … so I too am united with my wife and she abides in me. And because she abides in me, I am responsible for her … just as Christ is responsible for His Body.
Well, those are my thoughts as this Father’s Day comes to a close. As I survey all that is going on in our nation and our world; the more I am convinced that many of the problems we face are the consequences of innumerable men not fulfilling their God ordained roles of Provider, Protector, and Priest. We have been called to be the leaders of our homes! And the first relationship in which we exercise that authority is within our marriages. It is the foundation of all enduring relationships that will follow. We have to get that one right … if we want to have relationships with our children that will lead them into their own covenant relationships with God … and eventually their own spouses and children. Oh, there is so much more that could be said here, but I will end with this time-tested observation – the greatest testimony and the best gift you can give your children is a Christ-centered marriage. Why? Because your children will learn that the most intimate relationships they will ever experience in life begins with reverence for Christ Jesus. And in my estimation, that gift is absolutely priceless.
Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. ~ Proverbs 9:10