Summary: It is impossible to understand marriage without understanding the church.
If you have seen the movie “Fireproof,” you probably remember the scene of the salt and pepper shakers glued together. And if you have attended weddings, you have probably heard the minister say to the bride and groom that the two will become one flesh. Do you know where to find those words in the Bible? They can be found in Genesis 2:24 and again in Matthew 19 where Jesus uses them to answer a question put to him by the Pharisees.
There is something wonderful and mysterious about Christian marriage as it is described in the Bible. Even for non-believers, marriage is viewed as the perfect union of body, mind, and spirit between a man and a woman.
When a couple from outside the church asks us to marry them, we insist not only on several counseling sessions, but we also ask them to participate in the life of the church for a period of time before we marry them. That may seem like a strange thing to ask when all they want is 30 minutes of our time to tie the knot, but it is not only that we want them to have a spiritual foundation for the rest of their lives, we want them to begin to understand the church because the fact is, it is impossible to understand marriage without understanding the church. Let me say it another way: You need to understand the church in order to understand marriage.
That statement might shock some people, but Ephesians 5 has made that conclusion absolutely clear to me and I hope it will be clear to you.
As we have pointed out in previous messages, the first three chapters of Ephesians describe the transformation from:
• a godless life to a God-honoring life,
• from a life of darkness to a life lived in the light,
• from a life of ignorance to a life of wisdom,
• from a life based on falsehood to a life based on truth and the contrasts go on and on.
You see, God is in the business of changing the world – breaking down barriers, tearing down walls, reconciling people, making them one new humanity – all through his Son Jesus Christ. And as we saw in Chapter 2, his primary instrument for bringing people together is the church.
Last Sunday, Sue pointed out from Chapter 4 that the way we live as followers of Christ affects the lives of others:
• We should speak truth instead of lies,
• When we become angry, we should be careful not to hurt others,
• We should build each other up through the words we use.
• Above all, as we see in 5:1,2 we are to live together in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. Keep that thought in mind as we move to Chapter 5 where we get instructions for living as followers of Christ in our homes.
When we get to the part of Ephesians that talks about marriage in Chapter 5, our tendency is to begin with v.21, but I want to start with verse 18 where we read, Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. I won’t take the time to explain this contrast of wine and the Spirit in detail, except to say that even though many people may think that alcohol makes them happy, it actually depresses the brain, not stimulate it. Alcohol depresses the highest centers in the brain and leads to lack of control, judgment, and self-discipline and it can lead to waste and destruction. All of us are acquainted with the term DUI, driving under the influence. I have often wondered what it would be like to drive a car with one of those yellow license plates with red letters that let everyone know what you have done. I think it would be humiliating.
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, works in exactly the opposite way. The Spirit stimulates the heart, invigorates the soul, producing energy and joy. Just this past week, we met a man who used to spend his time in drugs and alcohol and he said his life kept spiraling downward. But when he met Christ, the Holy Spirit took control of his life and now you can tell by the first words out of his mouth that he is full of spiritual vigor and vitality. He is completely energized by the Spirit. What if we had license plates that showed we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit?!!
So what kind of behaviors can we expect in people whose lives are filled with the Spirit? Paul lists some of those behaviors beginning in v. 19:
• Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves