Christian Homes
Ephesians 14
By Paul Robison
 

See if this comparison rings true with you: “The space shuttle Discovery was grounded recently—not by technical difficulties or lack of governmental funding, but by woodpeckers!  Yellow-shafted flicker woodpeckers found the insulating foam on the shuttle's external fuel tanks irresistible for pecking.  The foam is critical to the shuttle's performance.  Without it, ice forms on the tank when it's filled with the super-cold fuel, ice that can break free during liftoff and damage the giant spacecraft.  The shuttle was grounded until the damage was repaired.  Marriages are frequently damaged not only by big things—infidelity or abuse or abandonment—but also by the little things. 

Criticism, lack of respect, and taking each other for granted peck away at the relationship and keep us from reaching the heights of love” (Rowell).

Maybe this poem entitled “Marriage!” will resonant with you: “It's rough.  It's tough.  It's work.  Anybody who says it isn't has never been married.

Marriage has far bigger problems than toothpaste squeezed from the middle of the tube.  Marriage means ... grappling, aching, struggling.  It means putting up with personality weaknesses, accepting criticism, and giving each other the freedom to fail.  It means sharing deep feelings about fear and rejection.  It means turning self-pity into laughter and taking a walk to gain control.  Marriage means ... gentleness and joy, toughness and fortitude, fairness and forgiveness, and a walloping amount of sacrifice” (Swindoll).  We'll finish this poem at the end of our lesson.  Theodore Roosevelt once made this good remark: “No other success in life—not being president, or being wealthy, or going to college, or writing a book, or anything else—comes up to the success of the man or woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up and called them blessed.”  Hopefully, by now you've figured out that today's lesson will be on the Christian home and maximizing your marriage based on Paul's inspired advice to the brethren in Ephesus.  The apostle Paul approaches marriage in an entirely new way for his day and age.  Notice how Paul puts Christ at the very center of marriage; he doesn't want Jesus just to affect your Sundays, but He wants Him to be touching your life every day in your closest relationships!  Someone has rightly noted: “It is not that the relationship of husband and wife is a picture of how Christ and the Church are to relate to one another [with some couples you've probably known, that plan could lead to disaster].  Instead, Paul says that the relationship between Christ and His Bride is a model for the Christian couple. ... If you want to know how Christian people ought to relate to one another, the model is the way Christ and the Church relate as a Groom and His Bride” (Bond).  There are some of you listening that are single.  Others of you are widows or widowers.  Some of you are or have been divorced.  It is not always comfortable for all of you when we start talking about the Christian home.  But don't we all, regardless of marital circumstances, have a stake in good, long-term marriages?  Don't we need to honor that, even if it is not always our personal experience? (modified Thomas).  So let's look today at Paul's advice to the wives, to the husbands, and then to both.

The first and last piece of advice that Paul gives to the wives is found in verses 22 and 33: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” and “... let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  “Submit and respect” are not positive verbs in our culture.  Some of you may view submission and respectfulness as negative terms showing weakness and joylessness.  “If I give up my rights, I'm going to get walked all over, and I'll never be happy.  I need to protect my rights and guard them if I'm going to experience any joy in the world.”  Uh oh, beloved sisters, if this is your approach, you've got it all wrong.  You’re like the wife who said, “I will willingly submit to my husband as long as he doesn’t cross me.”  But that is not submission.  There is no “as long as” in submission. There is instead, according to Paul, “as to the Lord.”  Christ as the center, remember?  Now was Christ submissive in His lifetime?  Did He submit to becoming human?  Did He submit to His parents?  Did He submit to the authorities of His day?  Did He submit to death on a cross?  Was He a weakling and joyless Person because of His submission?  “He was not forced in any of these things, but did so willingly because of His desire to glorify the Father and [because of] His love for you” (modified Kircher).

Ladies, submission and respect are a big deal with us males.  You see, “God, in his wisdom, has given to man as his primary need the need to feel respected.  This is why he tells wives to respect their husbands; it fulfills a God-designed need.  Did you know that 75% of men will say that they would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected?  The truth is that when you give respect to your husband and submit to him, you are loving him, and he visibly sees it.  So, what can you do to show that respect” (Kircher).  Here are a few suggestions: Do you pray for your husband daily?  Do you remember that God will lead you through your husband?  Do you think about your husband's good and strong qualities?  Do you criticize your husband before your children and others?  Do you try to find the positive side in those areas where he irritates you?  Do you tell your husband you appreciate him?  Do you ask for an explanation when your husband make a decision that confuses you (modified Hamley)?  “God's way for wives is submissive fellowship, while God's headship for husbands is nothing less than loving leadership” (Bullard).

Respect your husband and recognize your husband.  Verses 23-24 advise: “For the husband is head of the wife, also as Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  You need to recognize his God-ordained and Christ-modeled leadership in your family.  Here's another idea: “Shakespeare wrote: 'If two men ride on a horse, one must ride behind.”  It is not a matter of inferior horsemanship but of practical necessity!  Even so in the home, it is not a matter of inequality or inferiority; it is a matter of practical and biblical necessity.  God has ordained that the wife be the one to 'ride behind'” (Bullard).  The apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”  “When a wife refuses to honor her husband's authority, she ceases to be his completer and becomes his crippler.  She frustrates her husband's desire to fulfill his God-given role as leader in the home.  He cannot lead if she will not follow. ... When is a train really free—when it leaves the railroad tracks and rambles across the pasture, or when it stays on the tracks?  A wife who stays on God's tracks is never freer [because His truth is what makes you free].  True liberty for maximum enjoyment of [your] marriage comes only as [you] yield to [your] husband's protection [and] provision ... in every aspect of [your] life.  What if the husband is an unbeliever or openly violates God's teachings?  Does being subject “in everything” [those are Paul's exact words] include that as well?  Wives, here a simple guiding principle: Submit in everything unless it violates God's will. ... When you recognize your husband's leadership, you will find genuine satisfaction and security as your husband's [helper]” (Bullard).

Now, what is Paul's advice to husbands?  Beloved brothers, we really need to listen up here because Paul's advice to us is about twice as long as his advices to our wives!  First of all, Paul urges in verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” 

The word used for “love” here does not refer to erotic love, nor friendly love, nor the biological love you find among relatives.  The word used here means an affection that looks beyond your wife's faults and sees her needs.  It is a selfless love that seeks your wife's best interest and will sacrifice all that it can give towards maintaining that best interest (modified DeVine).  We love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.  Brothers, you're not to be a dictator, but you're to serve your wife!  “Christ made the church submissive by loving the church and dying for it, not by barking out commands and defending His rights.

Some [of you] husbands are so wrong in standing for [your] rights!  You believe that you have to dominate, to be macho, and to exert your authority by using the Bible as club to beat your wife into submission.

You know what, if you keep doing that, you'll wreck your marriage.  Your God-given position is to be a loving leader who serves your spouse” (modified Bullard)!  “Now some of you brothers are thinking: 'I [serve] my wife and family.  I work long hours to provide.  I would lay down my life to protect them from harm.  I didn’t go out with my buddies after work but came home instead.  Yeah, I [serve] her.'  Listen, we need to understand what [service] is. [Service] is not doing what we feel is [service].  It is doing what others think is [service].  [Serving] our wives is going to look more like this: going to the mall and shopping with her, spending some time talking about your day and her day after work so she can feel connected to you, really listening to her and remembering what she said, giving her some deep understanding rather and quick solutions, studying her and acting upon the things you learn, you know, like knowing her list of favorites and catering to those regularly. ... God has designed your wife with a need to feel love [and service] from you.  God has given you [the] responsibilities to meet that need in your wife ...” (Kircher).  “You see, we men are [often] so self-centered that we are very insecure with the idea of being a servant.  It takes guts for a man to serve his wife and children. ... A husband, who loves his wife so much that he pushes self-love off the throne, will then do everything in his power to see to his wife's needs. He serves her, as a servant, willingly and graciously and happily because he loves her, and not himself” (Williams).  So do your marriage a favor and serve you wife!

Not only serve her like Christ, but also save her like Christ.  Notice verses 26-27: “That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”  Jesus is not only preparing a place in heaven for us, but also He's working right now to prepare us for heaven!

He wants His bride to be holy and without blemish!  Now, beloved brothers, is one of your primary goals in life helping your wife to get to heaven?  Are you preparing her?  Are you helping her to be holy?  Are you helping her to live unspotted from the world?  A brother wrote a book entitled What Most Women Want.  Do you know what it was?  More sex, hardly, that's how we men think.  More affection.  Good guess, but still not right.  Here is the answer: “They want male spiritual leadership. 

They seek a strong spiritual man with whom to share their lives—a man who knows God, who prays, who reads God's Word, who makes family decisions with an eye to God's leading” (F. G. Smith).  “Save her” means that “you lead her, teach her, and protect her spiritually.  You do all in your power to maintain her holiness, virtue, righteousness, and purity.

You never put her in a compromising situation where she would be provoked to anger or sin.  You never expose her to anything or let her indulge in anything that in any way would bring impurity into her life. 

As Christ is working to save the church, so you, Christian husband, should be working to save your Christian wife or to convert your unbelieving spouse!

Serve her, save her, and sustain her.  Notice verses 28-29: “So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”  “What does a man do with his own body?  He tries to satisfy it. ... When it's hungry, he feeds it.  When it's hurt, he nurses it.  This is the way you're to love your wife. 

You're to anticipate her needs, and you are to meet those needs and satisfy her.  Your great aim in your marriage is to try to please your wife as you try to please your own body.  Not many women will rebel against being in subjection to a husband whose entire marriage is built upon satisfying his wife's every need.  The problem in many marriages, though, is that the husband doesn't see his wife as an extension of his own body but rather as a possession.  He sees her as something like a new car to show off to his friends—that is, until her paint starts to fade and her engine does not have the power it used to.  Then he wants to trade her for a new model!  But no man ever did that to his own body!  His body may get old and wrinkled, but it is his body, and he loves it and cares for it even more!  That is the way you need to love your wife!  When you don't meet your wife's needs, and nourish her, and cherish her, you commit spiritual suicide because she is one flesh with you” (Bullard)!  “A group of six to eight year olds were asked to explain love.  Rebecca, age eight, observed, 'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore, so my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love'” (Thomas).

One author shared this interesting principle: “The more sacrificially you love your wife, the more respectfully your wife will respond to you in every category of life.  Now here is the negative to that principle.  If you withhold love from your wife by withholding attention, compliments, understanding, and appreciation, then you're making a big mistake.  Because your wife is you, then when you neglect her, you are actually neglecting yourself” (Williams).  Serve your wife, save your wife, and sustain your wife!

T
he last piece of advice for husbands is found in verse 33: “Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself.” Beloved brothers, support your wife!  As a leader who longs to support your wife, try living by these mottoes: “I chose to lose!”  “I won't quit!”  “No pride and no job with which I cannot try to help” (Gilbert)!  Someone wrote a book on love and respect, and he compared love and respect for men and women to food and water.  You need both to survive, but just like you can live longer without food than water, both men and women have a different water.  Is everyone listening?  For men, respect is like water, while love is like food, and for women, love is like water, and respect like food.  You see, brothers, your wife needs your support in every way in order to keep functioning properly!   Serve your wife, save your wife, sustain your wife, and support your wife.  “Brothers, if you will make a diligent effort to love [your] wife as Jesus loves the church, [you] will find a new emotional bonding to [your] wife, and you will enjoy a [wonderful] marriage” (Bullard)!

 

Now let's look quickly at pieces of advice which can apply to both wives and husbands.  The first is seen in verse 30: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”  Remember, how in chapter 4, Paul talks about the church as a body and each member contributing to the growth of that body?  So the idea is that both husband and wife need to be strengthening one another!  The apostle Peter tells us that we are joint heir of God's grace, so let's work to build up each others' faith, as we both keep our eyes on heaven.  Isn't it wonderful that Christian couples can each work to help their spouse in their areas of weakness so that we can both be prepared to meet Jesus when He comes again?

Christian couples can strengthen one another!

 

Paul then does something interesting for his next advice.  He quotes from the book of Genesis: “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 

This is another universal truth and transcends all cultures.  One commentator states: “This statement from the creation story is the most profound and fundamental statement in the whole Scripture concerning God's plan for marriage” (Foulkes).  Remember how Jesus used this passage to show that God's plan from creation has been the marriage of one man and one woman for a lifetime?  This passage also shows that Christian couples can supply one another.  No longer do they lean on their parents, but they lean on one another.  They supply one another's intellectual, emotional, sexual, and spiritual needs.  Someone else makes this remark: “The commitment of one's life to the life of another, the oneness that results daily from this mutual giving [or supplying], fills one's heart and life with positive moral thoughts and Christlike conduct” (Chalk).  Christian couples can supply one another.

 

Paul then affirms his central basis for marriage in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  What is the nature of this relationship between Christ and His church?  In Ephesians, Paul says it’s like a head and a body.  The head is dependent upon the body to accomplish actions, while the body is dependent upon the head to give direction.  Likewise, Christian couples can supplement one another.  There is a beautiful interdependency that takes place in marriage as each spouse lives to complete, to fulfill, and to enrich the life of his or her spouse.  Someone else makes this good observation:

“The bottom line is this.  A lot of people don’t believe Christ’s love because they have never had any reason to believe in real love of any kind.  Followers of Jesus, it is your job to show them that real love in your marriage.  Maybe, once they see the human kind of love, they will begin to look for the heavenly kind.  That’s what your marriage is all about!  This IS a profound mystery” (Thomas)!

Remember that poem on marriage.  Here's the end of it:  “Marriage means ... learning when to say nothing, when to keep talking, when to push a little, when to back off.  It means acknowledging 'I can't be God to you—I need Him, too.'  Marriage means ... you are the other part of me.  I am the other part of you.  We'll work through with never a thought of walking out.  Marriage means ... two imperfect mates building permanently, giving totally, in partnership with a perfect God.  Marriage, my love, means [all three of us]--Jesus, you, and me” (Calkin).  Did you hear about the new reality show: Extreme Home Makeover?  There's a Master Carpenter who produces, directs, and stars in it, and He fixes terrible messes from the inside out!  Some of the transformations that He has brought about to troubled homes have been truly amazing!  He has helped many a home get rid of their yellow shafted flicker woodpeckers, of their personal rights, and of their mistaken cultural trappings.  As a Husband Himself, He lets others know that His bride is what He loves the most!  He challenges people: “Put Me at the center of your home, and you'll see life improve, and attitudes will really get a good makeover!”  “If you want to know how Christian people ought to relate to one another, the model is the way Christ and the Church relate as a Groom and His Bride” (Bond).  Wives, learn His kind of respect and submission!

Husbands, learn His kind of love and service!  Families, learn His kind of strength and sacrifice!  Let Jesus makeover your life, your home, and your family!