Summary: Presents the roles of husbands in a Christian marriage.
When you preach sporadically, all kinds of factors can lead to your sermon choice. As Tenth’s Executive Minister I typically try to think of a timely subject either related to the time of year or the circumstances of the church. I must confess a personal reason for choosing this morning’s message. Today is the day after mine and Ginger’s 28th wedding anniversary. Why not a sermon on the husband’s responsibility to his wife? (That seems safer after an anniversary than preaching on the wife’s responsibility to her husband!) As I considered our particular passage, it struck me further that it presents a vital doctrine regarding the church’s relationship with our Lord. To understand the relationship of a husband with his wife, we must understand that of the Lord with his church.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church
The Ephesians passage on marriage actually begins at verse 22 where wives are first told to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” We regard the instruction to the wives as the radical and controversial portion of the text. But in the ancient world, it would have been the instructions to the husbands that provoked controversy. There was no question of who was the head of the marriage and the respect that the wife was to accord her husband. No, it is the expectation placed on the husband that would have shocked the hearers. It was commendable for husbands to be tolerant with their wives. They should be courteous and even kindly towards them. But wives were primarily seen to be the bearers of their children. If they proved to be good companions, that was a bonus. It might even be considered commendable for there to be real love between them, but the Scripture here expects all husbands to love their wives and, furthermore, takes the expectation to another realm when the model of Christ is brought into the picture. How then does Christ love the church?
He died for her: and gave himself up for her. Jesus himself said that there is no greater love than to die for one’s friends. There is no greater way to show your love to your loved one. And this is what Christ has done for the church whom he loves. I’m not sure we grasp emotionally this truth about Christ’s motivation. Christ died for us out of love – love for his Father and love for his church. He did not die begrudgingly. He did not walk to Calvary bemoaning his fate. Out of love he gladly laid down his life.
We understand such love or think we do. We can imagine ourselves laying down our lives for those whom we love. Indeed, we would think it ignoble of a person not willing to do so, especially a bridegroom for his bride. We would question if he truly loved her.
But Christ’s love is different because of who he is. We are no better than one another. My life is not more valuable than your life. But here truly is one of infinitely more value than we are. Here is our Creator. Here is the Almighty God. Here is the God of glory. Here is a person of the Three-Persons God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This one God in Three Persons has existed for eternity and for eternity dwelt in perfect love. It is this one who sheds his precious blood for us in death. Take time to meditate on that love.
Furthermore, consider the ones for whom he dies. That was nice of Jesus to refer to his disciples as his friends. They were also sinners; indeed, they were his enemies. Romans 5:6-10 makes clear that it was while we were sinful enemies that the Son reconciled us to God. Meditate on that love.
Our passage takes us further into Christ’s love: 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.
A superficial presentation of Christ’s work is that people were bad, God got mad, and so his Son had to appease his angry Dad to get the people back into his graces. The Son is the Mediator between God and his people. His death did avert God’s just wrath and brought those who would believe into God’s good graces. But our Lord is not a mere third party brought in to reconcile other parties. The people he saved, he wants for himself. He wants to present the church to himself. He wants to marry them. Meditate on that love.
Consider his intent for the church. Do you know what brides want on their wedding day? They want to be perfect. At least they want to look perfect. They want their hair just right, their faces with clear complexions. “Please no blemishes on my wedding day!” They want their dress to be perfect – no wrinkles, definitely no spots. You know what the bridegroom sees when his bride walks down the aisle? A perfect bride. He’s actually not paying much attention to her hair or dress. He sees the one he loves and for a moment has the illusion that she is perfect.