Summary: A look at the amazing gift of a loving marriage between a man and woman.

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

The Mystery of Marriage

Ephesians 5:22-33; Proverbs 30:18-19

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Today we pass the midpoint in our 2005 Season of the Family. This week we celebrate marriage, especially those faithful, long-term marriage examples set by so many of our folk. Let’s have everyone who has been married twenty-five years or more to stand. Let’s give honor to whom honor is due. Those who have been married fifty years or more remain standing. Those married sixty years or more remain standing. Couples, we salute you. Your devotion to one another inspires us all. Your example sets a standard to which the rest of us aspire.

Let me say a special word to some of you who didn’t stand. I know that some of you are single. Others of you are widows or widowers. Some of you are or have been divorced. I am well aware that it is not always comfortable for you when we start talking about marriage in church. But I hope you understand that we all, regardless of marital circumstances, have a stake in good, long-term marriages. We need to honor that even if it is not always our personal experience.

I want to read two scriptures today. The first (Ephesians 5) is probably the New Testament’s most definitive statement on Christian marriage. First, we need to note the context. Ephesians divides into two big sections. The first outlines what Christians believe; the second how Christians behave because of those beliefs. Our text is part of that second section that begins back in the fourth chapter. The theme throughout the last half of the book is about how to live a Christian life in a world of conflicting values. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1). Chapter five continues on a related note. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1). The immediate context of our passage is summed up in 5:15-17, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” This leads to our first text.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph 5:21-33).

In the 1st Century that concept of respectful mutual love was a revolutionary idea. It is today in many Middle Eastern countries. Bible commentator William Barclay observes, “Under Jewish law a woman was a thing; she was the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks or his material goods were. She had no legal right whatever…. In Greek society a respectable woman lived a life of entire seclusion. She never appeared on the streets alone, not even to go marketing. She lived in the women’s apartments and did not join her menfolk even for meals. From her there was demanded a complete servitude and chastity; but her husband could go out as much as he chose, and could enter into as many relationships outside marriage as he liked and incur no stigma.” (Ephesians, p. 199-201).

This passage totally turns that worldview upside down. It calls for both husband and wife to honor, respect, and love the other. This passage is not about who gets to be boss, but about two people each putting the other person first. In another place, Paul explained what makes relationships Christ-like. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). This principle does not end with a marriage license.

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