Summary: Our attitudes and understanding of what makes a good marriage and of the roles of husband and wife may or may not be right. We have come to accept the attitudes of our culture without critically examining them in light of Scripture.
Ephesians: Our Identity In Christ ~ Part 23
A Marriage Mystery
21. and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Marriage Like Christ and the Church
22. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26. so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27. that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29. for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30. because we are members of His body.
31. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
32. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Whenever you talk about the relationship between a husband and wife, you must always deal with prevailing attitudes. Our attitudes and understanding of what makes a good marriage and of the roles of husband and wife may or may not be right. Even in Christian circles, we have come to accept the attitudes of our culture without critically examining them in light of Scripture. On the one hand, there is the male chauvinist pig movement masquerading as manliness. On the other, there is the women's lib femi-nazi movement masquerading as freedom. Both are dead wrong.
What goes on in your home? Several years ago, a Dennis the Menace comic strip illustrated how some of these attitudes manifest themselves. Dennis is having cake and milk at the Wilson's. Mrs. Wilson is washing the dishes while Mr. Wilson is trying to read a newspaper. Dennis wonders aloud why Mr. Wilson never goes to work. Mr. Wilson explains that he is retired. “Retired! Is that why you loaf all the time?” Dennis asks him. Mr. Wilson tells Dennis since he has worked hard for so many years he has earned the right to loaf. This makes Dennis wonder why Mrs. Wilson also doesn't retire. He has never seen her loaf. Mr. Wilson responds, “She can't retire because she never worked.” But Dennis has seen Mrs. Wilson always cooking or washing or sewing and he can't accept that answer. “That's different,” Mr. Wilson explains. “She's a housewife! If she retired who'd do the housework?” Dennis asks, “Couldn't you help?” “Dennis! Are you trying to make trouble?” Mr. Wilson shouts. Mrs. Wilson finally intervenes, telling her husband not to yell at Dennis. “He's right and you know it!” In the next frame we see Dennis walking up to his mother in her garden. When she asks what the Wilson's were arguing about, Dennis says, “I don't know. I came home `cause I didn't want to get involved!”
There are probably a lot of Mr. Wilson's out there who think they have the biblical understanding of the wife's role. But do they really? On the other hand, there are many wives who have also gone to an unbiblical extreme. We may choose to go to these extremes, but if we want to experience God's ideal for marriage, we must be committed to a thoroughly biblical model.
An Eternal Mystery
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (5:33)
Our view of marriage begins with our perspective. In order to avoid coming to the wrong conclusions about marriage, we must avoid the most common mistake in defining marriage. The mistake is to view marriage as merely a social institution. For non-Christians, marriage can only be a civil contract. But for Christians, there is an eternal mystery associated with marriage. The mystery is that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.
This is the highest word concerning marriage. By understanding the mystery of marriage, that it pictures the relationship between Christ and the church, we understand the highest purpose of marriage. This purpose transcends any sociological, economic, materialistic, or physical aspect of marriage. It is true that we need marriage for those reasons. We marry for companionship, to raise a family, to meet sexual needs, for economic stability, and for many other good reasons. But only Christianity gives the spiritual emphasis which brings eternal significance to this temporal union. It is this eternal and spiritual mystery which redirects our attention from a social contract to a divine union.