Summary: 52nd in a series from Ephesians. Wives can help restore the sanctity of marriage by submitting to their husbands.
A Sunday school class was discussing King Solomon. People pointed out that though Solomon had been so wise, he made some foolish choices. Finally, the teacher asked, "Are we picking too much on Solomon?" One older saint replied wryly, "Ah, with all those wives, he was used to it!"
We’re actually not here this morning to pick on you wives. In fact, we want to honor you today, especially those of you who are also mothers. So Happy Mother’s Day!
But the comment of that student in that Sunday school class does point out just how difficult it is to have a good marriage. Good marriages don’t just happen, they require hard work.
This will be the third week we’ve spent looking at Ephesians 5:21-33. Two weeks ago we discovered that God created marriage as a physical picture of the spiritual reality of the relationship between Christ and His body, the church. And then last week, we spent some time focusing on the role of the husband in the marriage relationship and saw how that we are to love our wives in the same way Christ loved the church, with a sacrificial love that focuses on meeting the needs of our wives, even when that is at great expense to us personally. This morning we’re going to focus on the role of the wife.
Before we do that, however, I want to remind all of us that the Bible is very clear that marriage is not a necessary pre-requisite for our joy and for an abundant life. God very often calls his children to a life of singleness, either for an entire lifetime or for a season of time. And if that is the case, it is far better to remain single than to marry the wrong person just for the sake of being married. But even if you are single, I believe that some of the principles that we’ve looked at in Paul’s discussion of marriage can be modified a bit and applied to our other relationships.
Before we get to our Ephesians passage this morning, I thought it might be helpful to go back and see why Paul needed to write so extensively to husbands and wives about how to fulfill their God-given roles in marriage. I think that process will also help us to understand why our culture today has so completely perverted the marriage relationship and why these Biblical principles face such ridicule and scorn.
In order to do that, we need to go back to the very beginning of the marriage relationship in the Garden of Eden. Let’s begin near the end of Genesis 1:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
What I’d like you to see in this verse is that when God created man in His own image, He created both male and female. That’s a crucial point because it clearly shows that men and women were created equal when it came to their personhood and their dignity. That doesn’t mean, however, that God didn’t create them with different characteristics or roles.
And then we come to Chapter 2 and we find the description of the very first marriage.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 (NIV)
God’s original design for marriage was very clear – one man and one woman together for life. That is the kind of marriage that Paul has in mind in Ephesians 5 when he describes the mystery of how marriage was designed by God to picture the relationship between Jesus and His body, the church. But the problem was that when sin entered into the world, it had a devastating impact on God’s design for marriage. After Adam and Eve sinned, God revealed to each of them the punishment for their sin. In addition to the ultimate penalty – they would both now die – there were some further consequences that would affect the man and the woman separately. Let’s pick up in Genesis 3 as God speaks to Eve.
To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
Genesis 3:16 (NIV)
Because of our limited time this morning, I want us to focus on the second part of that verse since that is the part that bears directly on marriage. There has been some disagreement about what God meant when he said that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. But I think we can get a pretty clear picture of the meaning if we look at the only other place the word “desire” is used in the Old Testament: