Summary: 50th in a series from Ephesians. How marriage reflects the love between Jesus and His body, the church.
Donald Grey Barnhouse was the pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1927 until his death in 1960. Early in his ministry he read Revelation 13:8 which described Jesus as the “Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world”. His observation about that passage, which I believe is very accurate, is that in God’s plan the spiritual existed before the material. In other words, God’ plan for Jesus to die for our sins existed way before that physically occurred. As a result, he concluded that everything that God created was formed by God in a way that it illustrated some spiritual truth that existed prior to the creation. Every star in the sky, every blade of grass, every rainbow, every bird – they all exist to reveal to us some spiritual truth. Let’s keep that principle in mind as we continue our journey through Ephesians by reading our passage for this morning:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 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, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)
I noticed that several of you were cheering this morning because you think I’m actually covering 13 verses with my message this morning and that means that we might eventually finish our study of Ephesians. Well, you’re at least partially correct. I am going to look at this whole passage this morning, but we’ll return to it for a couple more weeks before we wrap up chapter 5. Then, we’re going to take a four week break for a series of messages that will help us focus on our citizenship in heaven and what that means for us as believers. And then in mid-June, we’ll pick up again with Ephesians chapter 6 and finish our journey.
There is obviously so much rich material in this passage, but the way Paul writes in this section doesn’t really lend itself to going through it verse-by-verse. In fact, if we get into too much detail in this section, we certainly run the risk of missing the big picture. There are really three main messages that Paul has for us in these verses:
• There is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and his body, the church. That will be our focus this morning.
• Instruction for husbands about how to treat their wives.
• Instruction for wives about how to treat their husbands.
As we’ll see this morning, the concept of marriage is inextricably woven together with the relationship between Christ and his church. In fact, as you read through the passage you find that Paul alternates writing about the marriage between a man and woman and the relationship of Jesus with His body. In a sense, there is an almost cyclical nature to these two relationships. God created marriage as the physical picture of the spiritual reality of the relationship between Christ and his church. But then that relationship actually becomes the model for marriage. We could illustrate it something like this:
[Drawing showing the circular nature of the two relationships]
So the key here is obviously that which came first, the relationship between Jesus and His church, which existed in God’s plan long before the first marriage ever took place on earth. And without fully understanding that relationship, we run the very distinct danger of drawing some very wrong conclusions about Paul’s instructions to husband and wives. So let’s look at this love affair between Christ and His church:
THE LOVE AFFAIR BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH
I’m going to employ a technique this morning that Pastor Dana often refers to as “reverse engineering”. I’m going to start with the end of this passage and work our way back toward the beginning. We’ll start by examining what Paul describes here as a “mystery”.