Summary: Part 2 in a series on family. This message deals with marriage relationships.

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Part 2-GPS for Marriages

Ephesians 5:21-33

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pastor Brian Matherlee

“One thing I know is that marriage is made in heaven, but then again, so is thunder and lightning.” (

Key verse: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21


It is important to note the background of this passage as we begin. This passage gets a lot of bad press and is poorly understood. Knowing why Paul wrote what he did makes a difference.

The Ephesians society was a centrally powered society. And the power was given to men. Years ago when I was in Africa, my host told me “it is good to be a man in Africa”. It was good to be a man in Ephesus too. One commentator wrote, “Husbands were the undisputed masters of their wives”. (Ephesians, Life Change Series, Navigators, 1985)

Paul entered a culture that was extremely suspect of Christians. They were afraid that they would upset the social order. Paul was aware of this and wanted to change the culture but knew he couldn’t bulldoze it. They would have to embrace different principles one heart at a time. So he gave the command in our key verse, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

The word Paul used for “submit” was typically a military term and involved the idea of taking your assigned place in a voluntary manner. That we would willingly submit to give in, cooperate, assume responsibility, or carry the burden assigned.

Paul wanted the new Christians at Ephesus to change the culture by being good subordinates. But he also wanted the new Christian men at Ephesus to change the culture by being likewise submissive to their wives, children and slaves. It was a radical proposition—service with a smile.

Paul says that we are to do this out of reverence for Christ. It is literally “fear”. He uses this word so that his readers, including us, will keep in mind the awesomeness of our God and the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the impending judgment by God upon our actions.

We have to answer to God for how we treat others. And many times we treat everyone in the world great until it comes to our families & our spouses. There’s an episode of Andy Griffith we used in our Bible Study a few months ago where a couple fights with one another with incredible ferocity. Andy decides to help them work things out and speak kindly to one another. It works, but then the couple is mean to everybody else so Andy goes back and starts a fight between them and they fight each other and get along with the rest of the town. How do we treat our families behind closed doors? What do we say to our wives, our husbands?

Paul’s instructions following verse 21 have to be understood in light of the audience he wrote to. Today, this principle is still vital for our relationships. And we need help.

Christian comedian Tim Hawkins gives us some helpful advice on the subject of marriage. (Tim Hawkins, “Full Range of Motion” clip about GPS)

GPS for marriages is God’s Plan of Success. And it is found in the principle of godly submission.

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