The two shall become one

Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

How important does something have to be for the Bible to quote it multiple times? It’s obvious that something mentioned so frequently is worthy of our attention. The picture of Jesus and His bride, the Church, that we see exemplified by marriage is not to be overlooked.

The fact that a man and a woman become one flesh upon marrying is mentioned no less than four times in Scripture (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7, 8; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). The call to leave behind the parents and become joined together as a new family is emphasized through this. Two individuals who were once separate, had their own rights and freedoms, their own preferences, and looked after their own needs and desires, become one unit, no longer separate. They now look to each others’ needs and desires, give up some of their own rights for the sake of the other, and bind themselves to their spouse.

It’s often said at weddings, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6) and the imagery is apparent. A couple is more than just two people who live together and have affectionate feelings for one another. They are an imperfect reflection of the perfect Bridegroom and His bride.

The breaking apart of a marriage is no simple thing. It’s not uncomplicated, mostly because two souls have joined together through a union that’s not supposed to be dissolved. Christ and His bride are joined together for eternity, inseparable, and that is the meaning of marriage. If you’re married, ask yourself if you’re reflecting the Bridegroom and His bride well. Even if you’re not married, consider how this earthly example of a heavenly concept is evident.

He who loves his wife loves himself

Ephesians 5:28-30 In the same way husbands should 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 Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.

Husbands don’t get off very easily in the Bible. Many assume that the calling of a wife to submit to her husband is a heavy burden, but in reality the heaviest responsibility falls on the husband himself. He is ultimately accountable for the marriage relationship and the spiritual well-being of his family.

It should be noted that God’s Word repeatedly tells men to love their wives. This is a command, not just to act with loving emotion towards their brides, but to serve them, protect them, lead them, and provide for them. To love one’s wife is to love oneself.

Because it’s so powerful, the notion that marriage is intended to provide a picture of Jesus’ relationship to God’s family, the Church, is also repeated many times. Jesus loves the Church and so husbands should love their wives. He cares for and nurtures the Church and therefore husbands should care for and nurture their wives.

Husbands, love your wives.

Love like a man

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Continuing with the idea that marriage is intended to depict an earthly example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church, the role of the husband is a heavy one. Men are called to love their brides as Christ loves the people of God.

Many of us gloss this over and simply boil it down to an instruction to “love your wife” without grasping the depth of the statement. Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. How far are you willing to go in putting your wife before yourself, men? Have you given your life for her? This isn’t just a literal laying down of one’s physical life for another, it’s also a laying down of one’s own desires for the sake of another. If you’re keeping score at home, that means husbands AND wives are called to submission.

Furthermore, husbands bear the weight of responsibility for their wives’ spiritual state. Just as Christ overlooks the well-being of His bride, that she might be presented without spot or blemish, so too are husbands to look after their wives and assist in any area where they may need to grow. Husbands are to lead their wives in spiritual matters and failure to do so is disobedience.

 

Wives and husbands, Christ and the Church

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Of all passages in the Bible, this one ranks among the top in its controversy quotient. Many read what Paul wrote to the Ephesians and see something sexist or misogynistic, but it’s anything but. We have to read it in its larger context though.

The problem with so much of our biblical interpretation is that we see a verse, pulled out of its context, and we try to interpret it on its own. This always leads to misunderstanding of the real idea. Such is the case in Ephesians.

The main focus of Paul is not that women should submit to men, or that men should rule over women, but that Jesus Christ is head of the Church. Marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly concept. In it, men and women (in their sinful, broken way) depict the relationship that Jesus has to His bride, the Church. That’s all of us, by the way, the family of God who are called by His name.

Jesus is powerful and has unlimited authority, but He is also submissive to the Father. In a marriage relationship, both authority and submission are supposed to be present to show that relationship between Him and us. Both qualities exist in Christ and neither of them is inferior or superior to the other.

God’s Word points out both here and in other places that it’s not a husband’s role to lord his authority over his wife, nor is woman commanded to submit to all men. Submission doesn’t mean a wife has no opinion or that she is inferior to her husband. On the contrary, submission quite often means the wife (who is her husband’s equal) carries the great responsibility of being his confidant and greatest advisor. Just as a husband should physically protect his wife, a wife’s submission to her husband protects him as well. It’s the completion of a relationship – two halves equaling a whole.

The true family of God

Ephesians 5:19-21 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When God’s family comes together there’s a celebration. Because of all that the Father has done for us in Jesus Christ, there’s a lot to be thankful for, a lot of reasons to sing, so much to be thankful for.

How do you approach the weekly gathering of believers? Do you look at Sunday morning as a time to be solemn and quiet? Do you view it as a personal time of reflection? Those things have their place, but truly the gathering of the saints is a family reunion every time it happens.

The purpose of getting together with others who follow the Lord is to encourage each other, to build each other up, and to praise God in community with one another. We use our gifts to serve each other, put each other first, and honor Christ by doing so. Don’t be afraid to sing, don’t keep to yourself, don’t make it all about you. Sing, serve, encourage, and enjoy.

Get wisdom from the Spirit

Ephesians 5:17-18 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit

Wisdom comes with experience. We have to have lived a while and walked in certain circumstances to really gain wisdom. It doesn’t come free and it doesn’t come from an easy life lived in luxury.

Likewise, we can’t gain wisdom through means like getting drunk. While that may seem like a statement that goes without saying, it should be pointed out that lots of people think they’re pretty smart when they drink too much. It’s not the way to go to get anywhere that matters.

The way we should really look to get understanding is through seeking God’s will. If we allow Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit and to work in our lives, we are much better off than if we allow other things to fill us. The true path to enlightenment is through submission to God.

Use your time wisely

Ephesians 5:15-16 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 

There’s a lot of talk in the Bible about wisdom, a lot of direction on how to walk as someone who is wise. It’s pretty clear that God is for us being wise, but not just in our own understanding. He wants us to pursue His ways and His wisdom.

With only so many hours in the day, our schedules can fill up pretty quickly. If we’re not careful, they’ll be full of things that aren’t all that important. The entertainment we cram into our day, the selfish ambitions we seek after, those are all time wasters when we could be moving into the will of God.

He’s doing what He’s doing, with or without us, but the wise person knows to jump on the wave and go with God’s flow. It’s a foolish person who intentionally rejects the will of God to go after some temporary thing to be had on this earth.

Be careful how you use your time. God’s given you 24 hours in a day to live out the life He’s called you to. He’s given you an instruction book, a Helper, and a family to aid you in doing it all. Make the right choice: be who you were created to be.

Light is a gift

Ephesians 5:13-14 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

It’s no secret that more crime happens in the darkness of night. Those who wish to remain unseen work in the dark. To have light shined upon them would be to expose their deeds. This is true literally, but it’s also very true spiritually.

There’s darkness in our hearts because of sin. Because of our predisposed sinful nature, we move towards that darkness and embrace it; we’re not inclined to move towards the light. That would expose our hidden secrets. It’s painful when the lights get turned on after we’ve been in the dark for a long time.

The light is a gift, though. While it may be the last thing we desire, the light wakes us up. By exposing what’s in the darkness, it frees us to really live. If Christ lives in you, which He does if you’re His follower, then light is something to love, not something to avoid.

So wake up, o sleeper! You’ve been given a new life to live. Let the light shine and work in and through you.

When evil is the norm

Ephesians 5:11-12 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 

When we live in a world that surrounds us with evil and sinful deeds, how can we even recognize what’s right and wrong anymore? When wrong is called right, how can we escape the inevitable pull of the world into the darkness?

We’re called through this passage in God’s Word to not only refuse to take part in the sinful acts of the world, but to expose them. Just like shining a light into a dark room can cause the bugs to scatter, shedding the light of God’s Word on the evil of the day causes a reaction.

We’re not told specifically to call people out in a harsh way, but rather to lovingly shine the light of the gospel on the brokenness of the world we live in.  The grace of God in Jesus Christ should show through our actions as we refuse to embrace the darkness. Those who have their sin exposed should be left wanting to look to God, and we should be ready to tell them about Him (1 Peter 3:15).

How to be a light

Ephesians 5:8-10 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Before we’re rescued from our sin, before we put of faith in Jesus to forgive us, we pretty much do whatever we want, yet we’re slaves to our sin, unable to actually make choices that will please God. Once we’ve been saved we’re given God’s help to know what pleases Him. The problem is that sometimes we try to walk back into the darkness instead of remaining in the light.

Many a Christian has asked how far they’re able to go with this or that before it becomes a sin. That’s not how following Jesus works though! It’s not about finding the line and figuring out how much can be done before it’s wrong. It’s about trying to learn what pleases God and doing that. Is that how you live your life?

The Apostle Paul urges us to walk as children of the light, which is what we are once we’ve been adopted into the family of God. We’re not in darkness anymore, we’re not slaves to sin. Make no mistake, we will still sin, but we’re not captive to the sinful heart anymore. When we make choices to cross the line, it’s on us. It’s not because we didn’t know better and it’s not because we couldn’t help it. It’s because we chose the darkness.

We have been given the greatest gift to help us live as God wants us to live. He dwells in the hearts of believers, giving us His guidance and assurance. It’s amazing when you think of just how much God wants us to succeed in following Him. He’s rooting for us to win!