23. 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.
24. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
26. to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
27. and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
28. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--
30. for we are members of his body.
31. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
32. This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.
33. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Have you ever noticed the devolution of some marriages? The transformation which takes place from newlyweds to nearly-deads? It is sad, but those changes can happen all too quickly.
A married couple are driving down the highway when another car passes them. The wife notices that the occupants are young and obviously in love. The girl is sitting very close to her boyfriend as they cruise on down the highway. This causes the woman to think back when she and her husband were young and in love, and wondering where the show of affection had disappeared to over the years. Finally she says to her husband, "Remember when we used to be like that young couple? Where did the love go, honey?" Her question was met with a few moments of silence. Then he quietly replied, "I haven't moved."
What marriage has not, at some point, noticed a depreciation of passion between spouses? Every marriage has its ebb and flow. While each pledges to the other that they will have and hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish...somewhere along the line something happens. The glue uniting them gets old and brittle and that organic unity feels like its becoming undone.
Marriage is certainly the mixture of two distinct elements, but the bonding which takes place changes each element. It is not like mixing chocolate chips in the cookie dough. Those two elements are certainly attached, but they are still distinct. Marriage is a creation of an entirely new substance. The joining of the two produces one, defying logic 1+1=1.
As Paul addresses marriage in Ephesians 5 he describes it as a body, one flesh. Last week we began looking at biblical marriage through the definition Paul makes use of from Genesis 2:24. We spent most of our time seeing how marriage is rooted in creation as each person is called to leave mother and father. Marriage also reflects the covenant through the idea of the husband and wife uniting in marriage. This morning we will focus on that phrase "the two will become one flesh" and see how that important concept is to be implemented in our marriages.
As we look at this passage, it is important to remember that Pauls discussion of marriage is not just so the folks in Ephesus would have good homes. A good marriage is not an end in itself. Unity in marriage brings us to a better understanding of an even greater unity, the body of Christ. If you are here this morning and not married, rather than shutting down, thinking this doesnt apply to you, remember, the ultimate point Paul is focusing on here is how we relate to Christ and his body.
The Promise of Unity
We touched on this last week as we spoke of the complementary structure of marriage. We look at this in the broad sense this morning and then deal with the nitty-gritty next week as we open up what for some is a can of worms by looking at the two specific commands given in this passage of submission and love.
But it is important to notice here that there is a promised unity. Its not automatic. It is the goal. "...the two will become one flesh." This is not something that you achieve by walking down the aisle; this is not consummated on the wedding night nor attained after five or fifty years of marriage. This growth together may take place even though you seem to be drifting apart.
Walter Davis, 33, decided divorce was the best alternative for his marriage. A few months later he applied to a computer dating service. He filled out an exhaustive questionnaire, paid a hefty fee and waited for the results. Out of 30,000 prospects the computer picked out only four people who would be compatible with him. The first name on the list was his ex-wife.
Being "one flesh" is both a promise we constantly are to strive for as well as a present reality. There are hints at it, brief glimmers when a couple sees how much theyve become like the other. But all it takes are a few harsh words, such as when, after a quarrel, a wife said to her husband, "You know, I was a fool when I married you." To which the husband replied, "Yes, dear, but I was in love and didn't notice."
The connection between marriage and the relationship between Christ and the church helps us see that there is a reality to the unity, but there is also a promise to a much fuller realization.
Look in verse 25. Based on a past event, Christs death, there is a promise of future wedding, a joining of us, the Church, with Christ. How do we understand this in marriage? The selfless giving to one another is not just in preparation for marriage, it defines what marriage is all about.
What is the reason for this giving of one to the other? Verse 26: To make her holy. How? By cleansing. Toward what end? To present her to Himself as a radiant Church.
On the timeline of history when are we, as a Church, holy and blameless? Careful, it can be seen as a trick question. Now? Certainly. The imputation of Christs righteousness means we are holy. 1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us that we were washed, we were sanctified, were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Positionally we are clean. But experientially? Of course not! In marriage, are we ever done with cleansing, of changing, of growing? Not there either.
Look at verse 29 again the image of the one body how do we care for ourselves? There is feeding and care given. Do we do this just once and we are feed for life? No, but this goes on as well. In these verses we have a picture of what marriage is all about, of how we become one, when this one goal of ours, all through our marriages continues. The ultimate purpose of marriage is the deep oneness in the journey together toward holiness. That is what you are after. You job is to make the other better. Any lower goal than that you are just playing marriage. So lets take a look at how we build this one body.
The Practice of Unity
In this passage we have the goal specified become one flesh... but also the means by which this goal is achieved. In verses 26 and 29 we see how this one body can be built. Just saying that there is an essential unity between husband and wife is not enough. There is something more that must be a part of the connection.
Cleansing the Body - verse 26
I think for most of us these verses sound romantic and pleasant. The cool water washing away the old stains, the finished product clean and neat. But the bathing picture is not really a pleasant picture, albeit necessary. For us in the western culture with our daily bathes and especially for those of us who dont work with our hands for a living, but live in rather sterile environments, we miss the difficulty here.
To get a picture of the work it takes, picture the six year old in the tub after a long day in the mud. To him a bath is nothing more than a superficial sprinkling of a few drops which of course would never meet Moms specifications. For a filthy child, a bath means a rough washcloth scrubbing behind the ears while the kid is screaming bloody murder.
Another picture of the bath is the Swedish sauna where you stoke the shed up to a temperature just below the point where flesh boils. In order to clean out the pores completely you have to invigorate the skins, bringing the blood to the surface. How? By beating yourself, or have a friend beat you, with birch branches. Then, just before the blood trickles down your back go jump in the snow!
To clean the body is a private enterprise. It also takes effort and may be painful if the dirt is built up. Try to floss someone elses teeth, to dig grime out of anothers fingernails. When you get married your spouse has that kind of access to you, to the most private part of your life. Your spouse will see and take part in cleaning out the filth of your sin. As you know, all of life is understood in terms of Star Trek: "Your spouse will go where no man has gone before."
Before you are married, if you are angry, moody, etc., you can keep it to yourself. If you stink of BO, it only affects you. But in marriage, another person is bothered by your breath, your odor. They see the moods which affects them as well. So in marriage, you can not live in denial. The spouse can say things to you and help you. It is the nature of marriage that they cleanse.
What is described in verse 26 is the process of Christian growth we call sanctification. In most of our homes we call it a heated argument. In marriage those rough spots where sin sticks out like filth behind our ears. We dont see it, but our spouse does. So it is their job to scrub us. How is all this done?
Notice the centrality of the Word here. How do we cleanse our spouse? Do we find those things which annoy us the most and harp on them until they finally collapse under the pressure? No, the cleansing of the other comes about when we apply the Word of God.
Your spouse has a right to talk with you about your faults. If you say "you mind your business and Ill mind mine," then you destroy the one fleshedness. Unless you let spouse deal with faults, grant him or her access, there can be no unity.
Caring for the Body - verse 29
The word "feeds" here literally means to provide food, but was often used of the care given to a child. The feeding here is not the feed your face, the getting enough to get by idea. Just as you wouldnt just toss a bone to a child, but make sure they are getting enough nutrition, so here there is concern that one has enough, is well cared for.The next word, thalpo, literally means "to keep warm" and, figuratively, "to cherish and to comfort.' Paul's only other use of this verb is In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, where, in powerful imagery, he speaks of his love for the Thessalonians: "we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children." He develops his thought in the next verse by saying: "Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us" (I Thessalonians 2:8). In Thessalonians we see again the same elements we find in Ephesians, although in a different but similar setting. The one "cherished" is the one to whom one gives not only the highest good, the Gospel, but also one's very own life because that one is loved. (Knight in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 173) How can you feed and care for the other? Ed Wheat in Love Life for Every Married Couple has a great pneumonic to remember. It is a simple prescription for what Wheat called the "BEST' of all possible marriages: Blessing, Edifying, Sharing, and Touching Blessing is a religious term with little content for many people, but it conveys an important truth. To bless means to speak well of your partner, to show kindness toward your partner, to convey thanks and appreciation for your partner, and to pray to God on your partner's behalf.
The word in the New Testament which is translated blessing is eulogia from which we get eulogy. But more than what is said after some one has died, this "good word" is to be spoken continually.
It means to speak well of him or her and to respond with good words even when your partners speech becomes harsh, critical, or insulting. Blessing is designed to put an end to the volley of sharp words that mars so many love affairs.
In 1 Peter 2:23 we are given the example of how Jesus responded to enemies. Interestingly then that Peter moves from the crucifixion of Christ and right into marriage.
Winston Churchill once attended a formal banquet in London at which the attending dignitaries were asked the question, "If you could not be who you are, who would you like to be?" Naturally everyone was curious as to what Churchill, seated next to his beloved Clemmie, would say. When it finally came Churchill's turn, the old man, who was the dinner's last respondent to the question, rose and gave his answer. "If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be" - here he paused to take his wife's hand - "Lady Churchill's second husband."' The old boy made some points that night. But his comments also apply to everyone who has a good marriage.Edifying means to build up. Not only should spouses seek to say something good, there should be the goal of making them better, of building them up.
Our word "edify" comes from the Latin aedes, which means hearth or fireplace. The hearth was the center of activity in ancient times, the only place of warmth and light in the home and the place where the daily bread was prepared. Certainly it was the place where people were drawn together, comforted and sustained in the midst of the harsh realties of life. The fireplace has emotional associations for most of us, representing cozy warmth, loving togetherness and tranquility. The Greek term is similar as it is a combination of the word house and the verb to build. Paul uses this term in Ephesians 4:12,16 and 29 where he talks about how the body is to build each other up. This takes place most powerfully in the home and especially in a marriage.In this way marriage is re-creational. One author put it this way: "In the context of marriage one encounters the possible redemption of the full life, the retrospective healing of your personal history. The thorough conversion of ones biography is a divine work begun in this life and it would seem that God has invested the marriage relationship with sufficient emotional power to challenge the authority of accumulated biographical verdicts and thereby redeem the past." Your spouse has the power and right to reprogram your self image. You put into your spouses hands the ability to make or break you. When you get married you have no idea the power you have. Before you got married, this is especially true for men; you could say all kind of harmful things to your roommate or buddies. But try to say them to your spouse and get a flood of tears. Whats the problem? Is she just overly sensitive? No. You think you have a BB gun, but youve got a rocket launcher. You think youll leave a flesh wound, but all you leave are a pair a sneakers with smoke coming out of them.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed the principle of edifying in a few succinct words when she wrote to the man she would marry, "Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth." When we speak of edifying, we are referring to an expanded love expressed in positive ways that enlarges the self worth of the beloved.Sharing takes us to the core of the purpose of marriage: friendship.
This friendship, this oneness, it has been said, is a deep oneness that comes from a mutual journey to the same horizon. C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves describes the difference between erotic love and friendship in this way. Erotic love is envisioned as a husband and wife looking at each other where as friendship, or philos is standing shoulder to shoulder looking at something else in common. Philos is the first stage from which eros comes. The common horizon gives a deep oneness and on that basis they can look at each other and the erotic flows from the common horizon.
Thats not the way people often approach a romance. How does it normally work? You see someone to whom you are attracted, the hormones get pumping, the libido is elevated. Then once there is some chemistry working, we hope there will be a connection in interests. The philos will come, the friendship will come later...it is hoped. But it may not, because the relationship was not built on a common goalLets put this on the lower shelf for the guys. Name any good guy movie... "The Dirty Dozen," "The Great Escape," "Lethal Weapon" (1 thru 19) and describe the chemistry between the men in those movies. They start out hating each other, but with a common goal they stand shoulder to shoulder, looking to the same horizon and through the course of the movie, they become friends, willing to take a bullet for the other, to sacrifice for the other.
Nevertheless, the problem remains that there is often very little sharing going on in many marriages. Sometimes the sharing is nothing more than raising the kids so that when the kids are out of the house, the couples drift apart. What is it you enjoy doing together? If nothing immediately comes to mind, youve got some work ahead of you.Touching refers to nonsexual touching. It is so important in Wheat's prescription that he lists twenty-five specific suggestions for it I wont go over them now, but it is important to remember this. Following World War II there were a tremendous number of orphans left by the war. Many of the infants died in the over-burdened nurseries. Doctors soon recognized that this failure to thrive could be simply cured by people just holding the infants. We are no different; we all need the comforting touch which tells us we are cared for. It calms our fears, soothes pain, and brings us comfort. A couple was having some trouble, so they did the right thing and went to a marriage counselor. After a few visits, and a lot of questioning and listening, the counselor said that he had discovered the main problem. He stood up, went over to the woman, asked her to stand, and gave her a hug. He looked at the man and said, "This is what your wife needs, at least once a day!" The man frowned, thought for a moment, then said, "Ok, what time do you want me to bring her back tomorrow?"
Unfortunately, touching in our culture, especially for men, falls into to camps: sex and sports.Some of you know the routine: the wife is in kitchen getting dinner ready, the husband comes up from behind and puts his arms around her. Now whats going through her mind? "Not now!" Couples must break the habit of using touch exclusively as a signal for sex. This will deprive you of the warmth and physical tenderness that every marriage should have. There are a variety of ways in which couples must express the caring concern for one another. But through all this we must remember that what takes place in marriage is not an end in itself but points us to what Christ does for His bride, the Church. Remember the real completer is not a wife, not a husband. The real sanctifier is not a spouse it is Christ. Marriage is but a picture, a means God uses to accomplish His work in you. Whether married or single you must look to Christ for the completion of your soul. God has designed that in marriage the work of growing to be more like Christ happens between husbands and wives. But that, of course, is not the only place. Throughout Ephesians the recurring theme of the unity of the Body points us back to what Christ is doing through us today.