Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jesus loves his church sacrificially & unconditionally. Men are to reflect that in their love for their wives, even if that love is not returned. Wives are to submit out of reverence for Christ. The 2011 Royal wedding provided some timely illustrations.

A man and a woman, who have never met before, find themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a transcontinental train. Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, the two are very tired and fall asleep quickly – he in the upper bunk and she in the lower. However, at 2.00 a.m. he leans over and gently wakes the woman, saying, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet to get me a second blanket? I’m awfully cold.”

“I have a better idea,” she replies. “Just for tonight, let’s pretend that we’re married.”

“Wow! That’s a great idea!” he exclaims.

“Great,” she replies. “Get your own blanket.”

How many marriages does that describe? Is there more to marriage than cynical humour? Can we know God’s plan for marriage? Well, in the words of ‘Bob’ who built his house on the rock, “Yes we can!”

St. Paul quoting from Genesis 2:24 writes this: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (5:31).

So who watched the royal wedding on Friday? I did, and I loved it! My only regret is that I wasn’t invited to the reception, because I would’ve loved to have heard Prince Harry’s best man speech – telling all those little stories about William when he was younger, and all those mother-in-law jokes! But seriously, I loved it because in our Bible reading today we’ve been reminded that the love Jesus has for his Church is the model for the love a Christian husband is to have for his wife. ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (5:25).

Jesus loves the church like a groom loves his bride!

Today’s Bible reading from Ephesians – today’s section of St. Paul’s letter to Christian believers living at Ephesus in modern day Turkey – can be boiled down to three short statements.

1. Jesus, out of his sacrificial love, gave himself up totally for his body, for his church, for us!

2. Christian husbands, our love for our wives is to reflect and imitate the love of Jesus for his Church.

3. Christian wives - respect and submit to your husbands with the respect and submission you have for Jesus.

I could end there, but I do want to expand on those statements because I believe passionately in Christian marriage. When St. Paul wrote this letter many women in the Jewish, Greek and Roman worlds were being treated very badly. Some Bible commentators such as William Barclay believe that in the time of Jesus the institution of marriage was under threat amongst Jews. Young Jewish girls were refusing to marry because their position as wife was so uncertain. Men could divorce their wives far too easily. In the Greek world prostitution was rife. Wives ran the home but husbands went elsewhere for sex.

In Rome it was worse – and what we find is that marriage relationships between men and women were very often temporary at best. So Paul is writing to believing Christians to call them to a godly respect, love and purity in their marriages.

1. Jesus, out of his sacrificial love, gave himself up totally for his body, for his church, for us!

The love of Jesus for his Church is used to illustrate the ideal love of a Christian husband for his wife. ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (5:25) and elsewhere Paul writes that Christ ‘made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant’ (Philippians 2:7). The beloved disciple John wrote ‘this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:16). He also wrote, ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13); and from the cross Jesus even prayed for those who crucified him!

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34); extending compassion and forgiveness to those who were crucifying him, even though he’d done nothing wrong.

Jesus gave himself up for the church, and every time the Bible says church it means the worldwide body of believers – never a building. Not even once. The church is always people and Jesus gave himself up for us; ultimately on the cross of Good Friday – where the perfect, sinless Jesus chose to take upon his shoulders our sin so that we can be washed clean. Literally, our filth was transferred to Jesus upon the cross, so that we can be presented ‘as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless’ (5:27).

Sometimes the Bible calls us the body of Christ (5:30). Other times we are called the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). St. Paul is using both images.

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