Summary: This is the second sermon in a series of four on Christian marriage which deals with Getting at the Heart of God’s Plan, Being Mutually Submissive as well as Leaving and Cleaving - from an “exchanged life’ perspective.”
It doesn’t take a social scientist to figure out that marriage today is in trouble. Adultery, divorce, depression, alcoholism, work-alcoholism, and a host of other “isms” have reached epidemic proportions. It may have been Benjamin Franklin who said, “A disease is never brought under control simply by treating the casualties.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent some of these spiritual diseases from claiming casualties in our marriages? Which causes me to ask the next question.
Is it possible to build a healthy marriage from the inside-out and prevent such devastating problems? Can we create marital dynamics that break with the patterns that perpetuate hurt and sin? I believe the answers to these questions is yes! Now, it’s not my intention to offer the next and latest formula for having a Christian marriage. I want to talk about our hearts. It’s about our opportunity to examine the state-of-heart with which we approach the task of building healthy marital relationships. This message is about getting back on course.
The only way of getting back on course in Christian marriage is to apply the spiritual principles upon which marriage was founded. My prayer is, that as you hear and see today the Holy Spirit will bring to light ways that you can apply what you learn. And as you become rightly related to God, by His grace He will lead and empower you to get back on course in your Christian marriage. So, to get back on course in our Christian marriage let’s look to:
I. Getting at the Heart of God’s Plan for Christian Marriage
Most Christian husbands and wives are trying to do their best with God’s help. However, when it comes to troubled marriages, Christ is always the missing ingredient. That’s the root of the problem. It then becomes a matter of understanding how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so He can freely work through each of you. So, rather than using the “wife verses” or the “husband verses” I’m going to use the “Context verses” this morning. To get at the heart of God’s plan for marriage we need to take a look at the context of this passage.
For a long time these seemed like disconnected verses. But, it’s become apparent that Paul began his teaching on marital relationships with the command to “be filled with the Spirit.” So often husbands are trying to get filled from their wives and wives are trying to get filled from their husbands. We’re empty because of the curse, because of sin and Paul is reminding us as Christians to turn to the Holy Spirit as our source of filling. He’s telling us where our filling is to come from and that’s God – He is your source of life and empowerment and meeting needs.
Paul says in verse 18, “be filled with the Spirit.” Now, he’s not talking about quantity, about how much of the Spirit we have. He’s not saying, “you’re only half full, like a glass of water and you need to be completely filled.” Romans 8:9 indicates that if you belong to Jesus, you have the entire Holy Spirit dwelling in you. He means more like be permeated with the Spirit, like what happens to a glass of water when an Alka-Seltzer is dropped into it. There’s no part of the glass of water that doesn’t have Alka-Seltzer in it. The Greek form of this phrase is in the present, passive, imperative. Imperative means it’s a command. The one commanding assumes you have the power to carry through. However, the passive voice, means it’s not something you can do, rather it’s something that must be done to you or for you. What he’s saying is, “allow yourself to be filled.” The present tense means “whenever it is now,” always or continuously. So, a literal rendering is this, “Allow yourself to be continuously filled with the Spirit.” It’s not something you should, or even can do. It’s something you should and can allow to be done to you, whenever it is now!”
To get your marriage back on course, you must get at the heart of God’s plan for marriage. And Paul says, “get your life from God.” Remain in a continuously dependent relationship with Him in order to meet your needs, then you’ll be filled to meet the needs of your spouse. Just do it! In fact, if Adam and Eve had remembered to do this, we wouldn’t be having this little talk right now. Secondly, we can get our Christian marriages back on course by:
II. Being Mutually Submissive in Christian Marriage
When we depend on God to meet our needs, it sends ripples through every relationship we have. We’ll be “speaking in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. . . “ All of these things are what results when we allow ourselves to be filled by God. Even the admonition, “be subject to one another” is best read as a result of this filling from God. And this is what we want to look at here in verse 21. The KJV says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God; The NASV says “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ;” NIV and RSV say “be subject to one another.” Here Paul tells ALL Christians to be subject to one another as a result of being filled with the Spirit. The word “being subject’ means arranging yourselves underneath, putting yourself under the authority of another based on the worthiness and devotion of the one in authority. The idea is voluntary, free and joy-filled submission. It’s also out of reverence for Christ, out of the fear of Christ and based upon our relationship with Christ. Submission doesn’t make you less of a person. Submission never detracts from your personhood, it enhances it. And mutual submission in marriage enriches the relationship.