Gospel-Centered Marriage | Ephesians 5:22-33



Good morning, everyone! If you’re a guest, my name is Ryan and I’m the Lead Pastor here. We have a parent/child dedication coming up, and this year we’re doing it a little differently than usual. If you have had a child or adopted a child in the last year or so, and have never done a parent/child dedication, we’re going to have our dedication, 1st) as part of our family meeting on May 1st. We’re going to have a meaningful time of prayer and dedication for you and your family. And THEN, on Mother’s Day, which is May 8th, we will also recognize that Parent Dedication then as well. So, email me at Ryan@raintreechurch.com if you’ve had a child or adopted a child in the last year or so.

Today we’re finishing our mini-series on the Gospel-Centered family. Two weeks ago, we looked at Gospel-Centered Parenting, and last week we looked at Gospel-Centered Singleness. If you missed one of those and would like to, feel free to go to our website, Raintreechurch.com, and find both audio of the message as well as a manuscript, if you prefer reading to listening. This week we’re looking at Gospel-Centered Marriage from Ephesians chapter 5, and then next week we’ll start a little mini-series on the book of Titus, which is a GREAT book, only 3 chapters long, and will focus on Jesus or Gospel-Shaped Community. So I hope you plan on being here for that.



When I was in college, there was a particular friend of mine who was about to get married, and I asked him if he had done any sort of marriage counseling with his fiancé, and he said to me, “I don’t really feel like we need it; we’ve never even once gotten into an argument.” Those of you who are giggling are probably married. But yeah, he said they had never been in an argument nor disagreed about anything. And no, this was not me, I know some of you are already thinking that maybe I’m speaking code, “your friend, Ryan? Really?” This truly was a friend of mine, but what he said seemed to reveal that he and his fiancé didn’t know each other all that well quite yet.

Of course, there’s more disagreement and conflict of some marriages than others. That’s a very normal thing for there to be differences between marriages, but there is no doubt that if marriage is the fusing together of two sinners, which I mentioned last week, then conflict will come in the midst of marriage. I’d say one of the biggest reasons for this conflict within marriage is unmet expectations. “He’s supposed to be like this.” Or, “I thought she was going to be like this or do these things!” Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I had no idea he was such a slob.” That’s probably more common than we’d like to admit. But a lot of times, there are very valid concerns. In order to address concerns, though, you have to start with the heart of marriage. What is marriage? How is it to function, not according to our culture or popular articles or even pop-psychology, but according to the Creator of marriage, who is God?


Ephesians 5:22-33

We can be thankful that the Bible is by no means silent on God’s design for marriage. We talked a bit about marriage from Colossians 3 a month or two ago, but today, if you’d turn with me to Ephesians 5, we’ll cover it even more in-depth. Ephesians chapter 5. In the little blue New Testaments under the seats, it’s page number ___. We’re going to read verses 22-33.

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.

Today we’re answering one question: How do we center our marriage on Christ?


How do we center our marriage on Christ?

Before we answer that, we have to, at least briefly, answer the question, “What is a Gospel or Christ-Centered Marriage?” Here’s the answer for that: It’s a Marriage in which the relationship between husband and wife reflects the relationship between Christ and his church for the glory of God. One more time: it’s a marriage in which the relationship between husband and wife reflects the relationship between Christ and his church for the glory of God. So the first way that we center our marriages on Christ, from this text, is that…


1. 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 love 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.

Why is it that pop-culture so romanticizes and even idolizes finding the one person that you’re to love and spend your life with? Because, generally speaking, to the world that’s the greatest happiness there is! This isn’t true of everyone, but so many think that there is a person out there that if they find them, they can find contentment and happiness and even purpose. Now I’m not anti-romance; I do believe for many people there is someone out there that God has planned just for them. But this idea that all there is in life is finding the one and growing old together, that’s not why God created marriage.

Scripture gives a very different picture for the purpose of marriage. Marriage is not primarily about bringing two people happiness, though it likely will bring much joy to the couple. Instead, it’s about glorifying God through obedience in the midst of a relationship that is to reflect the Gospel. What does it mean that your marriage could reflect the Gospel? It means that the covenant you have made or will make one day with your husband or wife, is similar to the covenant that Christ has made with 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. But, it’s easy, even as Christians who have God’s Word as our final authority, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being influenced by our culture more than by the Word of God. It’s easy even to be influenced by pop-Christian culture than by the Word of God. I love Christian radio, and there are so many great Christian conferences and Christian books and Christian blogs out there, but I have to say, they’re not all focused squarely on the Word of God as their authority. With marriage, we must look the Word to see what God’s design for it is.

So what I’d like to do now is move into what Paul says specifically to wives and to husbands. How do we center our marriages on Christ? 1st, we see our marriages as a reflection of the Gospel, which we just talked about and will see more of in a moment. The 2nd and 3rd ways have to do with wives and husbands, specifically. So, the 2nd way we center our marriages on Christ…


2. Wives reflect the Gospel by submitting to their husbands.

Now verse 21, the verse before our text for today, says “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In the midst of the body, part of being a Christian is considering other people as more important than ourselves. We’re to put others before ourselves. That’s for everyone. But in the midst of that general submission to one another, there are also specific ways that submission plays out in different contexts, one of which is marriage.

Wives reflect the Gospel by putting themselves under the servant leadership of their husbands. 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 to the wife. This is not a command to 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 to 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. We’ll get to that more in a bit.

This 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. We know that from Genesis 1:25, God created male and female in his image. But, just because we’re absolutely equal does not mean that we don’t have different roles. Husband and wife are complementary, meaning they both together make up the whole of the marriage covenant. Though 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 marital leadership of the husband.

In our culture the more prevalent understanding of men and women is called egalitarianism, which at its most extreme level denies that there are any meaningful differences between men and women whatsoever. To say that, though, doesn’t really make sense. Why? Well, I’m very thankful that I cannot bear children. I’m thankful for that difference between men and women. Obviously no one would disagree with that difference, but oftentimes to say there any differences in role between men and women, besides what is anatomical or biological, is seen by many as sexist. Many think the Bible puts women down, or oppresses women, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The dignity and worth of women are repeatedly confirmed in the New Testament. Jesus treated women as completely equal in value to men, which actually made him stick out like crazy in that culture. So the Bible clearly teaches the absolute equality of all men and women, particularly in Gen. 1:27. But, even with complete equality between wives and husbands, God has laid out differences in roles, specifically within the covenant of marriage.

Wives are to submit themselves to their husbands. They’re to subjugate themselves to the leadership of their husbands. He summarizes this submission in verse 33 by saying it a bit differently, that the wife should “see that she respects her husband.” Respect. It might be surprising to you to hear that one of the things that almost any man wants is respect. Maybe that doesn’t surprise you. But if you’re a wife here today, I want you to notice something about this: it doesn’t say respect him, submit to his leadership, only when he earns it! It doesn’t say that. It includes no qualifier here. “Respect him, as long as he doesn’t do dumb things.” It doesn’t say that. As long as you are married, you are called to respect your husband, and submit to his leadership.

I know this can be difficult, even from my perspective I can see how this might be incredibly difficult at times. Why? Well, because we’re men! Sometimes we do things that might cause you to lose respect, to say the very least, right? Even small, but frustrating things, like when Lauryn asks me to get Jacob’s allergy medicine from the cabinet in the kitchen, and I go to the cabinet, look pretty thoroughly, and say, “It’s not in here.” So she yells from Jacob’s bedroom, “Yes it is.” I look again, thoroughly, and I mean, I know for a fact that it’s not there. It is somewhere else. So I say, confidently, “You are wrong, it does not exist in this area.” She comes to the cabinet, immediately picks it up off the middle rack right in front. I mean, just right in front of my face.

I know men can make mistakes, and even in small ways show, you know, quite a lack of competence. But your respect for your husband is not contingent upon his performance. Jesus calls you, as his bride, to respect him and to pray for him, and to submit to his leadership in your home. This isn’t talking about respecting and submitting to all men, let me clarify that real quick, but specifically, you’re called to respect your husband.

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. This passage 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, how do we center our marriages on Christ? First, we see that our marriages are to reflect the Gospel. 2ndly, wives reflect the Gospel by submitting to their husbands. Thirdly,


3. Husbands reflect the Gospel by loving their wives as 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. Let’s work our way through these. 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! Haha! Like the rhyme? We’re to give our lives for our wives! That’s being a Godly husband that is centered on Jesus.

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 the church. This is when the submission of the wife really comes into focus! If you are loving her like Jesus loves the Church, you will make it easier for her to respect and submit to your leadership. The husband is to love his wife to what end? For what goal or purpose? Verse 26, speaking of Christ,

“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.

This is talking about Jesus and his relation to the church, but these verses, I believe, are part of the analogy. Now obviously every analogy in the world is limited. That’s the whole point of an analogy– to reveal some similarities between two things. Some. So a husband being the head of his wife as Christ is head of the church, 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! Frankly, that would never happen anyway. Lauryn has way too much sass for that. That’s one of the things that attracted me to her. So if THAT’S not what this analogy means, how are these two similar, the Christ/Church relationship and the Husband/Wife relationship? Well, the Church’s submission to Christ and the wife’s submission to her husband both involve the following; this is how they are similar, 2 main ways:

  1. Spiritual leadership- Jesus provides spiritual leadership for the Church. Husbands are also to provide spiritual leadership, but in the home. So, 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 you constantly ask her, “Did you read your Bible today?” We’re not to become our wives’ spiritual referees, but we are to lead by example! Do you help or hinder your bride’s spiritual growth? This whole submission thing is misunderstood sometimes to mean that we somehow stifle the thinking or the actions of the wife, but the opposite is true! We as husbands should be leading in such a way that we’re enabling our wives to grow and thrive spiritually and in every other way. 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 you present and do you really love your families, your bride in particular, even more than your kids. That’s something that’s often neglected when children come into the picture. There is someone you should love more than your children, and that’s your spouse. I know it’s a different kind of love, I get that, but be careful not to neglect loving your spouse and use your children as the excuse.
    • You know, just last night, I was working on a few book reviews I have to finish by Monday, I have the residency portion of a doctoral seminar starting Monday. So I was working on these book reviews, the majority of the day after the work day, and Jacob came over to me, and tried to push my lap-top closed. I said, I’m sorry, Jacob, I have to do this. He did something I’ve never seen him do, he suddenly looked like he was about to cry, because he wanted my attention, my love and presence, and then, sure enough, he started crying. It was just so sad. He just turned two, and that was the first time he’s done anything like that. Look, sometimes we have to do things that take us from being present with our families. At times, work may take more of our time certain weeks or months of the year. For me, this weekend in particular is busier because I have to have everything done by Monday for my seminar. There’s nothing wrong with those things. But, dads…Are you present, generally? Do you express your love for your children and for your bride!? You must! You will encourage or hinder the faith of your family 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 the Church. Your children, as I think I mentioned a few weeks ago when we covered Gospel-Centered Parenting, will more easily believe that there’s a Heavenly Father that loves them, if their earthly father so obviously loves them.

That’s how the Church/Christ relationship is similar to the wife/husband relationship. We’re to love our wives as ourselves, because part of being married is becoming one. Paul goes on to make this exact point in verse 28 and following:

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.”


An Unconditional Gospel-Centered Marriage

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, is conditional! Wives, you’re not to respect your husbands only IF he’s the perfect husband. Husbands, you’re not to love your wives AS LONG AS she meets my expectations.

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. 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 that endeavor! 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.

A marriage centered on the Gospel, centered on Jesus, is not “50/50, you give as much as he or she gives.” It’s “I’m going to give-give-give-give-give no matter what I get in return.” THAT is as Gospel-Centered as we can be! Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. What would have happened if he would have waited for us to prove ourselves? What would happened if he had made us a deal. “I’ll tell ya what: every good deed you do is one sin I’ll pay for.” Would that have ever worked?! No!

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.

For those of you in a marriage where your husband or wife doesn’t get this, or maybe they don’t know Jesus, you can still find great joy in being a Gospel-centered husband or wife. This is, in fact, one of the greatest ways that you can possibly reach 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 on this journey, you can directly affect the faith of your spouse by showing and reminding them of the beauty of the Gospel in your marriage.

Let’s pray.