Relevance – Significance, bearing, supplication, importance, weight, consequence, germaneness; it is what we all seek for our lives and for our churches; to be relevant. Last Friday the Supreme Court of the United States rendered the church and Christianity, our fundamental, deeply held beliefs, as well as the Constitution, plus the great good which brought about the United States .... irrelevant. Based on feeling and significance of a few, the major interests of the vast majority was held in contempt and our nation itself was declared irrelevant.
I looked on my wall today. This is the wall that so many veterans that have served this great country also have, at their homes or in their office, a display of the many plaques, shadow boxes and mementos of a honorable career, in my case, the US Navy. On it was a show of relevance. There once was a time I was relevant. But like the aging, dusty memories, the relevance they told was from yesterday, at time when glory was part of our heritage when the United States stood for moral courage and integrity and the chance that anybody could achieve anything they desired. But those days are gone. With the flippant unconstitutional pen six justices rendered our heritage irrelevant.
What does God want from us today? If there was a passage that described the prevailing attitude of modern times, it would seem to me to be 2 Tim 3:1-5. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power." This sums up our Supreme Court's decisions as much of our culture today.
They look at his part of scripture with suspicion and try to make it fit into our modern cultural understanding, but it just cannot fit. Perhaps, we have been misled and instead of allowing the text to speak for itself, we are bringing in our own preconceptions to the text. But in order for us to understand the true meaning that the Bible can give us, we need to adjust our life to what it teaches instead of trying to fit the Bible into our way of thinking.
Marriage is under great attack today, stripping away the structure of our society. Partly because we have gotten away from what the Bible teaches. Instead we allow popular thought or political correctness to define what is right and wrong. We, as a church, have allowed this drift to occur and the result is that people do not understand marriage or marital roles for husband and wife. As a result, marriage itself begins to crumble.
Because of this breakdown in marriage, couples experience divorce at breath-taking frequency. Because of these divorces that broke apart families at record levels, couples in droves move away from marriage into cohabitation or some other relationship expression because they believe it a path toward finding the right person for them.
The emphasis I see in the 2 Timothy passage that rings so true for our world today is the repetition of men and women being lovers of themselves, or being self-centered, instead of loving others or being other-centered. We are today so interested in having our rights in marriage that we fail to see that our authority in marriage is not to secure our rights, but we are authorized by God to provide what our spouse needs.
I. What Husbands Need (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
I understand why women hate this verse. They hate it because they hear, “Wives SUBMIT" and then blah, blah, blah…” After the word ‘submit,’ they bristle and they do not hear anything else. They imagine a big, fat, beer drinking, abusive slob who says “You heard the preacher, now do what I TELL you to do.” But that is farthest from what Paul means in this verse.
I have heard many commentators wax elephant on this verse as they struggle to help it make sense in our contemporary context. Their problem is that it cannot. I have heard that Husbands and wives are to mutually submit to one another because of Ephesians 5:21. It is true that husbands and wives both submit to the Lord Jesus, but to say that mutual submission applies to marriage in general is trying to make the Bible say something it does not intend to say I have heard that some think that wives are told to submit as punishment, because Eve ate the apple first and gave it to Adam. They try to apply 2 Tim 2:14. But again, this is trying to get the Bible to say something it does not intend to say.
Paul begins back in chapter 4 verse 17-24 telling us that we are a new creation. Then in 4:25-32 he tells us not to grieve the Spirit by thinking only of ourselves, but instead in 5:1-7 we are to walk in love as imitators of God. In 5:8-14 he tells us that we are to walk in light because we are children of the light and in verse 15-21 he tells us to walk in wisdom, with other-centered thinking as we submit to God. Then he comes to the home, to our marriages. Marriage is the central relationship that binds everything together. Marriage was chosen by God to serve as a type that demonstrates God’s plan of salvation.
More important that women submitting, but what is most important is how they are to summit and to what they are submitting. They do not submit out of blind obedience, they submit because they choose to worship God, have faith in Jesus Christ. So wives submit “as to the Lord.” This is an act of worship, not of your husband, but of Jesus Christ. This is the wife’s sacrifice of praise to the Lord Jesus. What if your husband is a fool, what if he is an unbeliever? Does not absolve you from submitting to Jesus? No! Jesus is the focus of your worship, so Jesus is the focus of your submission. When you become a Believer your allegiance shifts from the world to Christ, from yourself to Christ. Just the same when you are married, you are a new person, no longer a woman but now you are a wife.
Why wives need to submit. They submit because “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is Savior of the body.” Wives do not submit to their husbands because of who he is or is not, but because of who Jesus is in our lives! The example for wives is the church; “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Wives are subject to their husbands in submission as the church is to Christ.
II. What Wives Need (Ephesians 5:25-29)
Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. That He might sanctify and cleanse her with 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. So husbands ought to love their own 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, for we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
Wives emulate the church, but husbands are told that our example to emulate is Jesus Christ Himself. Paul tells husbands to emulate Christ and then he tells us what Christ did for the church, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. That He might sanctify and cleanse her with 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.” Husbands we are to love our wives sacrificially with great detailed planning and care. Men are to love their wives as an act of preparation for worship and as a presentation at worship. We are to love our wife with utmost integrity and sacrificially preserve her as we would care for our own body. We are to protect her honor, her reputation and her appearance.
How are men to love their wives? “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” But in marriage the focus for husbands should not be on themselves and satisfying their needs, but the focus should be on their wives and satisfying her needs. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does."
Before coming to Christ we were interested in what pleased ourselves, but now we focus on what Pleases the Lord. Now that we are married, we focus on what is best for our spouse, instead of personal gratification. Our marriage perfectly emulates the relationship between Christ and the church. We do both as if it were to the Lord.
The emphasis is other-centered love. Men are to care for their wives, sacrificially meeting her needs without considering if she will meet ours.
Paul begins by stating what wives need, then he talks more extensively about husbands. But today we have a greater need to understand Paul’s context before we can import what Paul outlines for both wives and husbands. He frames the needs by quoting Genesis 2:24.
III. The Gospel Message – Our Marriage (Ephesians 5:30-32)
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 a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Everything that we believe as Christians has its foundation in the Old Testament. We cannot excuse the Old Testament, nor can we explain it away as many try in modern times. We push away the creation story calling it allegory, or we say that Moses did not know enough to explain evolution. But God did not create using evolution, He created the Heavens and earth in six literal days, and when He had finished, Genesis 2 records that He set His attention on man’s work in the Garden.
Adam noticed that for every animal there was a mate, but for him there was no mate. One day God caused man to fall into a deep sleep and He took a rib from man and created the woman. Genesis 2:23-24 tell us something fascinating about marriage, “Adam said, ‘This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”
From the beginning, marriage was a means of identity. The couple would view this new relationship in a unique fashion;
#1) Uniqueness; they shared something in common. (This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh)
#2) Completeness; the two together made a whole. (she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man).
Because of these two facts, the commentator added other elements to the purpose for marriage;
#3) Leaving – there is a separation from parents who were the primary relationship. (Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother).
#4) Clinging – this new relationship is now the primary relationship. (and be joined to his wife).
#5) Identity – They were two, but now they become one. (and they shall become one flesh).
This last essential element of marriage is I believe the most overlooked between couples today. Marriages that fail do so because the couple fails in their effort to become one. Marriages should be a relationship of commitment, steadfastness, fidelity, security and permanence. This is the ideal, this is the real deal; this is what Christian couples should emulate for the world. But sadly, Christian couples fail so many times to demonstrate to the world what true marriage is supposed to be. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the world, Christians marry non-Christians, men dominate over women even to the point of abuse; women commit the sin of Eve and manipulate men to get what they want.
But why is this so important? Paul tells us why we should care, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Christian marriages were intended to emulate the relationship between Christ and the church. From the beginning, our personal relationship with Jesus is intended to follow the pattern set for marriage. When someone comes to know Jesus as their savior, this new relationship is unique in fashion;
#1) Uniqueness; we come to Jesus individually, called by the Holy Spirit.
#2) Completeness; when we come to the Lord, it is because we were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and He gifts us (Ephesians 1:7-10).
#3) Leaving – there is a separation from our old way of life and our new way of life (Ephesians 4:22).
#4) Clinging – Not only do we put away the old man, but we embrace the new man created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:23-24).
#5) Identity – As believers in Christ we have a new identity in Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
We have a new identity in Christ; we have a new identity when we are married. We no longer what we were (Ephesians 2:11-13), we now have identity in Jesus. Paul describes what the model for our lives is supposed to be. This is the benchmark for us to measure ourselves and our marriages in life.
This is what marriage is all about. This is why cohabitating couples relationship model does not work. This is why same-sex marriages cannot work. They cannot work because those models do not require worship of the creator God as a model for the family. It is the same reason why so many marriages fail today. The woman does not submit to her husband out of duty, because she has been told to do so. Men do not order women around, they are equal and they complete us. Women submit because they choose to submit, just as they chose Jesus and became a believer. So they choose, they submit to the Lord by submitting to their husband. Husbands choose to sacrifice themselves for their wives, to meet her needs first. He meets her needs before his own are met and regardless if his wife will ever meet his. As the spiritual leader of the home, he will model Godliness and piety. He chooses to do everything he can in humility to demonstrate how to live a Godly life, leading his family to worship the Almighty Creator. That, Ladies, is what Paul says the wife is to submit to. As husband and wife, we exercise our authority by choosing the Lord and adapting our life to His will for us.
By not teaching this in our churches and requiring our members to belief and practice them, we have caused the Supreme Court to make marriage irrelevant. What we have in most numerous in our churches are church goers, not true believers. The motion picture Casablanca is one of our family favorites. My children like it because there are so many lines that are quoted even still today. I appreciate this movie a great deal because it demonstrates that during the time we call World War II there was a moral consensus about certain things. In America we look at this conflict differently because we were fighting against enemies that sought to end a Judeo-Christian influence and replace it with a false god of naturalistic or evolutionary view on the one hand and outright emperor worship on the other. Elsa came to Rick whom she fell in love with while she mistakenly thought her husband was dead. Now she faced a great dilemma, leave the man she loved or carry on with a man she admired, with whom she had been married for some time. She confessed to him that she did not know what to do, that he would have to think for both of them, for all of them. What Rick did was extraordinary; throughout the movie he boasted that he only thought of himself, but now, for the one he loved he agreed to think for the best interests of everyone. He concocted an elaborate scheme to get Victor Laszlo and Elsa on the plane to Lisbon knowing that he would be sacrificing his own life in the process. When Rick gave over the exit visas, Victor told him, “Welcome to the fight; now I know that we will win.” What was it about Rick’s gesture and sacrifice that told Victor that victory was now within grasp? That Rick was sacrificing himself that he was thinking of others before himself? Or was it that Rick told Victor a story putting Elsa in the best possible moral light? I think all of those were admirable and noteworthy, but it was not the convincing action that told of sure victory. What assured Victor of ultimate victory was the moral righteousness of the preservation of marriage, even when personal preferences had to be set aside. Well last Friday I found out that we cannot win, because now marriage is irrelevant.