Ephesians 5:22-33 Spirit Filled Living In The Home

Our text this morning is found in Ephesians 5:22-33,

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

This week I met with Preston and Mariah who will be getting married in less than a month. They told me that they wanted to have Ephesians 5:22-33 used during the ceremony. They said that they wanted everyone to know that they are having a Christian marriage. Because of our cultural apprehension to this text I was encouraged that they have made this a priority in their marriage.

I wondered if their zeal for this passage would wear off after they experience together some of the difficult challenges that husbands and wives face in a marriage?

I cannot look into the future and see how Preston and Mariah will be applying Ephesians 5:22-32 within their marriage in the years to come; but I can share with you an example of a couple who desired to have a marriage that reflected what we find in Ephesians 5:22-33.

In 1855 Charles Spurgeon wrote a letter to Susannah Thompson one month before they were to be married. In it Spurgeon says these words,

How I love you! I long to see you; and yet it is but half-an-hour since I left you. Comfort yourself in my absence by the thought that my heart is with you. My own gracious God bless you in all things, - in heart, in feeling, in life, in death, in Heaven! May your virtues be perfected, your prospects realized, your zeal continued, your love to Him increased, and your knowledge of Him rendered deeper, higher, broader – in fact, may more than even my heart can wish, or my hope anticipate, be yours for ever! May we be mutual blessings; - wherein I shall err, you will pardon; and wherein you may mistake, I will more than overlook.

What a beautiful letter from Charles to Susannah. (Is this a letter to Susannah or a prayer to God?)

After being apart for only half an hour, Charles wrote to Susannah and penned this letter. In it,

  • He desired that God’s blessing would rest upon her.

  • He desired that her faith in God would flourish.

  • He prayed that her love for Christ would deepen.

  • And he assured her that their union would be one of mutual blessing.

How would they be a blessing to each other?

  • When Charles would sin, she would pardon.

  • When Susannah would make a mistake, he will more than overlook it.

Great marriages are not produced by perfect people. Marriages are blessed when two imperfect people are lavish in pardoning sins, overlooking faults, where forgiveness is granted often and where new mercies are extended each day.

Charles and Susannah experienced many hardships during their marriage. Spurgeon was burdened in his ministry, he struggled with depression and he had physical ailments with gout. Susannah was an invalid for most of their marriage and for fifteen years she never left their home.

One might wonder if Charles and Susannah’s love and respect for each other would endure?

We may wonder if their passion ever become cold?

Or wonder if their faith and devotion to God and each other would ever weaken?

Fifteen years into their marriage, in 1871, Spurgeon wrote to Susannah these words, “No one knows how grateful to God I am for you. In all I have ever done for the Lord, you have a large share. For in making me so happy you have fitted me for service. Not an ounce of power has ever been lost to the good cause through you. I have served the Lord far more, and never less, for your sweet companionship.”

Even after Charles’ death, Susannah testified to the beauty of their marriage. She compiled the letters that Charles had written to her and put them into an autobiography. In that book she wrote these words,

“I have been trying in these pages to leave the ‘love’ out of these letters as much as possible, lest my precious things should appear but platitudes to my readers, but it is a difficult task; but little streams of tenderness run between all the sentences, like the singing, dancing waters among the boulders of a brook, and I cannot still the music altogether. To the end of his beautiful life it was the same, his letters were always those of a devoted lover, as well as a tender husband; not only did the brook never dry up; but the stream grew deeper and broader, and the rhythm of its song waxed sweeter and stronger.”

Charles and Susannah‘s marriage is a profound testimony to this generation that husbands and wives will thrive when they decide to obey Ephesians 5:22-33.

Because of our culture, you and I may struggle with some things that we see in this text. But I would like you to keep Charles and Susannah in mind.

As you look at this text, hold on tight to the conviction that every rule, every testimony, each precept and every commandment of God is perfect and can revive the soul. (Psalm 19:7-11)

  • The rules of the LORD are true and are to be desired above all other things.

  • They are sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

  • And in keeping God’s word there is a great reward. [We may struggle to obey Ephesians 5:22-33 if we look for our reward from our spouse; but our reward is in obedience to the Word of God.]

When we come to a text like Ephesians 5:22-33 the devil would seek to distract, discourage, and dissuade our hearts from obeying and responding in faith. Spurgeon always believed that where there is much sweetness in a text there will be many flies and wasps there to turn us away from it. And perhaps that is what is happening with our text today.

The Context:

In Ephesians 1-3 Paul has spoken about how through Christ we now have peace with God.

In Ephesians 4 Paul has talked about how through Christ we now have peace in the church. But what is the point of all of these things if there is no peace in the home?

If our homes are full of strife and contention, then you will soon find it in the church as well.

If the grace of God is to be seen in our lives, then we must know how we are to behave at church, at home and at work.

In Ephesians 5:22 the word ‘submit’, which means to be subordinate, or to be subject to someone, is not in the Greek. In the Greek it simply says, “Wives to your husbands, as to the Lord.” It was added by the translators from the context to bring clarity. Therefore, the previous context is very important to Paul’s train of thought as he writes these words.

Paul has previously encouraged believers to be wise and to understand what the will of the Lord is. He has encouraged believers that they are to be filled with the Spirit. As a result of being filled with the Spirit a believer will speak the word, sing praise to God, be thankful in all things, and they will submit to one another out of reverence to the Lord.

It would have been so easy to have read Ephesians 5:15-21 and to not have paused long enough to ask what it would look like for each of us to submit to another. Therefore, it is good that Paul begins to use the next twenty verses to apply this in three specific situations: in married life, in parenting and in our vocations.

Let us also consider the structure that Paul uses as he addresses these three groups. When addressing all three of these groups he always begins by addressing the person who is to be submissive; and then he addresses the other person. He addresses wives, and then the husbands; the children, and then the parents; and then the slaves, and then the masters.

‘The Command To The Wives’ (22-24)

In Ephesians 5:22 we read, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Let me draw your attention to a five observations.

#1 It is a command for ‘Wives submit to your husbands’. This is an imperative in the Greek. The wives are not forced to do this; rather, it is a volitional act of the will to obey this command. Ephesians 5:24 says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands”. The church is not forced to submit to Christ; believers submit to Christ by an act of their will. So also, the wife is to submit to her husband.

#2 There is a definite article before ‘wives’ in the Greek. “The wives” are to submit to their own husbands. Paul is addressing all Christian wives. No wife is exempt from obeying this command. Every Christian wife is given this command regardless of her age, education, occupation, social status, maturity, affluence or her cultural context.

#3 Notice the difference between the word ‘submit’ in Ephesians 5:22, and ‘obey’ which is used in Ephesians 6:1, 5. Children are to obey their husbands and slaves are to obey their masters; but wives are to ‘submit’ to their own husbands. Wives are to recognize the authority structure in a Christian home and submit to their husband. However, wives are not to obey their husbands if they are instructing them to do something that is against what God has commanded. In Acts 5:1-11 Sapphira should not have went along with her husband Ananias. Because she lied to the Holy Spirit she was punished also for that sin.

#4 The command to ‘submit’ does not mean that the woman is in any way inferior to the man. She is to submit to her husband because of the authority structure that God has ordained. Consider 1 Corinthians 11:3 where Paul is addressing these same issues between a husband and a wife. Paul says, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Christ is not inferior to the Father, but He submitted His will to what the Father wanted Him to do. Similarly, wives are to submit to their husbands as Christ does to the Father.

#5 Wives are to ‘submit’ to their own husband. Wives are not commanded to place themselves under the authority of every man. It is only within the covenant of marriage that a woman is to submit to her husband.

  1. And she is to submit to her husband as to the Lord – In our Thursday morning Community Group we are going through the book of Job. One of the things that Job has done to keep the faith in his suffering was to see the Sovereign hand of God behind everything. When a wife chooses to submit willingly to her husband, God considers this as an act of submission to Jesus Christ and He will bless her for her obedience.

  2. Wives are to submit because her husband is the head. The husband carries the responsibility and the leadership role in the home. The husband is to protect his wife from any danger; just as Christ leads and protects the church.

  3. Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything; as the church does to Christ. A wife is to be willing to be submissive in every area. However, if the husband does not submit to Christ and is sinning then the wife should not submit to him in that area. (1 Samuel 25; Nabal and Abagail – Abagail acted wisely towards David and Nabal) Just as when the church submits to Christ many blessings come; so too, if a wife will submit to her husband God will bless her.

The command that is given to the Husbands (25-33)

In Ephesians 5:25 there is another definite article before ‘husbands’. Paul is addressing every believing husband. Paul is giving the husbands the command to love their wife. No husband is exempt and there is no excuse for disobeying this command.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Christ does not demean or criticize the church.

Paul does not command the men to be the ‘head over their wives’ or to ‘rule harshly and pridefully over them”; but they are to ‘love their wives’. The command is not to rule, command, to subject her or to dominate over their wives. They are to love them.

Love is the theme in this section and this word shows up six times. (Agapeo)

  • This love is not based on any merit.

  • This is an unconditional love

  • Husbands make a choice to love their wives even if they do not respond

Husbands are to love their wives in such a way that she becomes the person that God desires her to be. This reflects the way Spurgeon spoke in his letter to Susannah.

I once knew a lady who was married for many years. Everyone thought that they knew who she was and what her personality was like. However, when her husband died she became a different person altogether. All of a sudden she was happy and was free to become the person that was suppressed by her husband for all of those years. It is the husbands role to love his wife and provide the godly environment so that she can become more Christlike. And it would be very embarrassing for any of us husbands if our wives were happier if one day we were gone.

There are four attributes concerning the love that a husband is to express to their wife.

  1. A husband is to be willing to give up his life for her. Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”. What type of love did Christ display towards the church? He loves us with an unfailing and steadfast love. (Romans 8:35 - “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?”)

  2. Husbands, are you sacrificing for your wife with your time, affection, finances, giving up hobbies, and prioritizing appropriately where she is concerned?

  3. A husband is to sanctify and purify his wife. Ephesians 5:26, “...that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”.

  4. The loving husband is to lead the family spiritually so that the whole family grows and matures in the Lord.

  5. A loving husband will never seek to have the wife do anything that will tarnish her purity and blamelessness. He will never knowingly expose his wife to anything that will put a blemish upon her mind and soul. Paul speaks of this type of love when he speaks to the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 – For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

  6. The loving husband will seek to present his wife to Christ in splendor and in purity. Her life is to be a reflection of his loving leadership. Ephesians 5:27, “...so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

  7. I once saw a youth pastor at a bowling alley leap over chairs to get the images off of a television set that was playing before the kids. Husbands should be aggressive to sanctify their families and to protect them from harm.

  8. A husband ought to love his wife as they care for their own body. Ephesians 5:28-30, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” In marriage, the two have become one and so the husband loves and cares for his wife as he would his own body. The Lord cares for His church and the husband are to reflect this same care for his wife.

  9. A husband is to love his wife with an unbreakable love. Ephesians 5:31, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Christ will never forsake the church, and the husband should never forsake his wife.

Conclusion/Application

There will be times when husbands and wives will wonder if they can obey these commands. The thought of submitting to your husband, or to continue to love your wife, may seem impossible to do.

#1 Every husband and wife needs to be filled with the Spirit and remember that the Spirit to be able to do do this consistently through them.

#2 It is always helpful to remember what Christ went through for you and I. Louis Berkhof wrote, “We are often inclined to think of the sufferings of Christ as limited to His final agonies. Yet His whole life was a life of suffering. It was the servant-life of the Lord of Hosts, the life of the sinless One in a sin cursed world. The way of obedience was for Him a way of suffering. He suffered from the repeated assaults of Satan, from the hatred and unbelief of His own people, and from the persecution of His enemies. Hos loneliness must have been oppressive, and His sense of responsibility crushing…It was only by entering into the very trials of men that Jesus could become a truly sympathetic High Priest, ‘able to succour them that are tempted.’”

The LORD will indeed help us in our marriages.

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