If marriage is the fusing together of two sinners—if that’s what marriage is, then conflict is inevitably part of marriage. Unmet expectations, communication issues: “He’s supposed to be like this.” Or, “I thought she was going to be like this and do these things!” Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I had no idea he was such a slob, or that he’d forget to take out the trash literally every Thursday morning for the entire duration of our marriage.” There is conflict in marriage. Marriage is sometimes hard. It’s not easy. Oftentimes, the conflict that comes, and especially the conflict that lingers is due to having an unbiblical understanding of what marriage is.
God created marriage—we see that in the bible as early as Genesis chapter 2—and so it makes a lot of sense to look to God and his Word to find out the true heart of marriage. So, our goal this morning is to spend a few minutes digging into Ephesians chapter 5, seeing the heart of marriage as God defines it, and maybe addressing some common misunderstandings, and then we’re going to spend 15-20 minutes hearing from three couples who have been married for 50 years.
If you’d turn with me to Ephesians chapter 5. In the blue New Testaments, it’s page number 99. John Tudhope is going to come read verses 22-33 of Ephesians 5. And, just so you know, John and Carole have been married 52 years, 3 months, and 26 days, which is pretty cool. Ephesians 5:22-33. John, take it away.
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.
Thank you John. Today we’re answering one question:
What does a Jesus-Centered Marriage Look Like?
4 answers summarizing the text we just read:
- We see our marriage as a reflection of the Gospel.
We must start with our conception of marriage, how we see it. Most modern marriages are born out of a desire for companionship and personal happiness. We think this relationship will make us happy. That’s why most marriages happen. That’s the main reason outside the church, as well as inside the church.
Scripture, though, gives a very different picture of the purpose of marriage. Marriage is not primarily about bringing two people happiness, though it can bring joy, obviously. Instead, it’s about glorifying God in a relationship that reflects the Gospel. So what does it mean that your marriage could reflect the Gospel? It means that the covenant you have made with your husband or wife, is similar to the covenant that Christ has made with us, His church.
The union of Christ and the Church is the paradigm for Christian marriages. It is our model. It’s what we should be aiming for. So what I’d like to do now is move into what Paul writes specifically to wives and to husbands. What does it look like for the union between wives and husbands to reflect the union between Christ and the church? Let’s talk about wives first, since Paul starts with wives:
- Wives reflect the Gospel by submitting to their husbands.
That is straight from verse 22. I didn’t soften the language or anything. Wives, by putting yourselves under the servant leadership of your husbands, you can reflect the gospel in your marriage. That’s what is meant here by submission.
We’ll get to the husband’s command in a few minutes, but I want to be so clear from the beginning that this is a command for the wife. This is not a command for the husband to demand submission from the wife. Each of these commands—one to wives and one to husbands—is a command to the wives and the husbands, respectively. These are duties that God gives each, not rights that each demand of the other. To be specific, as we’re talking about wives, there is no place in Christianity for oppressive husbands. That is not what Jesus wants in a husband, nor for a wife to have to submit to an oppressive husband.
Instead, wives are to submit to the servant leadership of their husbands. Paul summarizes this submission in verse 33 by saying it a bit differently, that the wife should “see that she respects her husband.” So, respect. It’s probably not surprising for you to hear that one of the things that almost any man desires is respect. I think, generally, we’re kind of geared that way. We want and maybe even need respect. And part of that respect involves the wife letting the husband lead in the home.
I know submission is a controversial topic, but I want to make sure we realize that this command for wives is not demeaning in any way. There is no difference in equality between men and women. But, just because we’re absolutely equal does not mean that we don’t have different roles in some areas. Husband and wife are complementary, meaning they both together make up the whole of the marriage covenant. Even though they’re completely equal, they each have their own roles. And these have nothing to do with stereotypical roles and differences, like “I mow the lawn, and she cooks the food.” That’s fine if you do that, but that’s not what this is speaking to. This is speaking specifically to the servant leadership of the husband, and the wife respecting that leadership.
This can be more difficult in some situations than in others. And, to be clear, if your husband is abusive in any way, you need to get help immediately. What Paul says here does absolutely nothing to condone or promote an oppressive or authoritarian attitude in the husband. In fact, it does quite the opposite, which we’ll see now as we turn to the husband’s command. So, men, how do we reflect the Gospel in our marriages?
- Husbands reflect the Gospel by loving their wives like Christ loved the Church.
Husbands, or future husbands: I want you to notice in Ephesians 5 how many verses are devoted to your duties as husband. 9 verses, compared to 3 for the wife. And, really they are well-summarized in Vs. 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
There is no more difficult command given to husbands in the entire Bible. Love your wives as Christ loved the church! Do you understand how high of a calling that is? Do you understand what that means? We’re to give our lives for our wives! That’s what it means to be a Godly husband!
As the “head” of the household, according to vs. 23, this doesn’t just refer to authority or leadership as in making major decisions for your family. In fact, the GREATEST way for you to lead your wife is by loving her like Christ loved us. This is when the submission of the wife really comes into focus! If you are loving your wife like Jesus loves the Church, you will make it easier for her to respect and submit to your leadership.
So, Paul writes that the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is head of the church. Now, just for clarity here: that’s an analogy. This doesn’t mean that I’m Jesus to Lauryn, or like she has to treat me like God, no no no! So if THAT’S not what this analogy means, how are these two similar for husbands? The Christ/Church relationship and the Husband/Wife relationship? Well, there’s 2 main ways the husband leads his wife and family like Christ leads the church:
1. Spiritual leadership– Jesus provides spiritual leadership for the Church. Husbands, similarly, are to provide spiritual leadership in the home. So, here’s the question: husbands, are you stepping up and following Christ so that your family can follow you? Are you helping your wife grow spiritually? That doesn’t mean that you have to be a Bible scholar, or even that you have to be farther along than her. It just means that you’re stepping up and pursuing this, no matter where you’re at. This also doesn’t mean you’re constantly asking her, “Did you read your Bible today?” We’re not our wives’ spiritual referees, but we are to lead by example! Do you help or do you hinder your bride’s spiritual growth? We can lead in such a way that we’re enabling our wives to grow and thrive spiritually and in every other way. So, husbands, are you doing that?
2. Presence and Love– Christ is present in our hearts, and he absolutely loves us. We’re to do the same as husbands. Husbands, are we present and do we really love our families—our brides in particular, even more than our kids? Do we express our love for our children and for our brides, not just with words, but with our actions!? We will encourage or hinder the faith of our families by either reflecting the love of Jesus or by not reflecting the love of Jesus. Your wife will be encouraged to follow Jesus if you are loving her like Jesus loved us. Your children will more easily believe that there’s a Heavenly Father that loves them, if their earthly father so obviously loves them. There’s a precedent set for that. It makes sense to them.
So, spiritual leadership, presence, and love. That’s how the Church/Christ relationship is similar to the wife/husband relationship. We love our wives as ourselves, because part of being married is becoming one. Paul goes on to make that exact point in verses 28-32 that we read, which for time’s sake, we won’t dig into today. But, a closing thought with this question, “What does a Jesus-centered marriage look like?” #4:
- These commands are not contingent upon the other’s performance.
This might be one of the most practical points we can see in this text today. Neither the command for the wife to respect and submit to the husband’s leadership, nor the command for the husband to love his wife like Christ loved the church—neither of those are conditional! Wives, you’re not to respect your husbands only IF he’s the perfect husband. Or only IF he doesn’t do dumb things. We all know that that’s just not going to happen. Husbands, we’re not to love our wives AS LONG AS they meet our expectations. That’s not a Gospel-Centered marriage.
One of the most detrimental ideas within modern marriage is that it’s somehow this 50/50 kind-of contract. If you meet my expectations, then I’ll meet yours. I mean, if you think even for a second, that “I’m going to serve him as much as he serves me,” or “I’m going to serve her as much as she serves me,” you will NEVER succeed in doing that! Why? Because human beings are naturally selfish! It is practically inevitable that we will think we’re serving and loving more than the other person. Why? Because, in our minds, we always make a bigger deal of the good things we do.
A marriage centered on the Gospel, centered on Jesus, is not “50/50, you give as much as they give.” Instead, it’s “I’m going to give-give-give-give-give no matter what I get in return.” THAT is a Gospel-centered marriage! And I’ve said this before, but listen: Wives, your fuel for loving and giving yourself to your husband, no matter what he gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return. Husbands, your fuel for loving and giving yourself to wife, no matter what she gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return. We have received more than humanly imaginable. And now we give out of the overflow, especially in our marriages.
Marriage is not some deal. It’s a covenant! It’s a promise of the wife to respect, serve, and follow the husband’s leadership. It’s a promise of the husband to love and serve like Jesus Christ, and provide Godly leadership in the home. These are the joyful, God-given responsibilities we have in a Gospel-Centered marriage. And let me just tell you: a marriage like this declares to the world that there is something drastically different about this relationship. How can they still love each other despite all the mistakes and all his or her faults!? Because we are loved despite all our mistakes, and all our faults.
For those of you in a marriage where your husband or wife doesn’t understand this, or maybe they don’t know Jesus, you can still find great joy in being a Gospel-centered husband or wife. In fact, this is one of the greatest ways that you can potentially influence your husband or wife, is to show them the love and respect of the Gospel by following these verses. Show them the Gospel in your love and in your respect.
Whether you’re married to a Christian or not, and no matter how far along you or your spouse may be in your walk with Jesus, you can directly affect the faith of your spouse by showing and reminding them of the beauty of the Gospel in your marriage. That’s our goal in marriage, as Christians, or at least it needs to be. So, hopefully, these are helpful reminders. And with that, I’d like us to now hear from 3 of our couples who have been married for 50 years. And so, I’d like to ask the Nelsons, VanGulicks, and the Luchts to come forward and take a seat on the stage up here.