Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sermon Notes Ephesians 5:22-33

Ephesians 5:22-33
Chain of Submission
December 7, 2014
Lynchburg, Virginia

         We look at a passage today that is most famous. It is often quoted at weddings. It is often quoted by those with a hopeful view of the gospel. It is often quoted by those seeking to establish the proper sort of headship within the church, home, and workplace. It is often quoted in our CREC circles and at Providence Church. My hope is that we quote this passage in the right way and for the right purposes. It is a powerful and therefore dangerous section of Scripture.
         It is powerful because the Spirit is giving us the key to Christian living. If we learn this key, it opens the doors of faithful and content Christian living. I think a synonym of  faithful and content is obedient and happy. Who among us does not want to be obedient and  happy? If so, heed this word.
         But this passage is dangerous. It is dangerous in two ways. As Christians heed these words, they become dangerous. They become a force to be reckoned with to destroy the works of the evil one, to tear down strongholds, to put the enemy to flight, to usher in the kingdom of God, to live in a way that pleases the Lord and to gain the victory secured in Christ to put down the principalities and powers.
         And it is dangerous in another way as well. There are those who would subvert its message. There are those who would emphasize and teach exactly the opposite of what the passage teaches. There are those who would exalt authority, demanding control. And such dangers always have and always will exist until Jesus reduces them to footstools.
         I have read and studied this passage many times and only in this reading did I see or read that which is clearly and has always been the case. It is amazing to me that our pre-conceived ideas can so easily blind us to the obvious, even in something as simple as reading Scripture. It is hard to read simply from the text without reading into the text.
         Let me read from the text for you. Keep in mind, this is the key to understanding this text and our key to understanding faithful Christian living.
         5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 
         Eph. 6:1   Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
         5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
         There you have it, the key to Christian living. I think we are done now. Did you catch it? Let me say it again,
         Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands, Children, obey your parents. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters. That is the key. Aren’t you glad you have it? So, go unlock some doors.

         Wait a second, you need some help using the key. The key is a modern swipe key and there is an unlock code for it. You have to call in and give this code to get the key activated. Here it is. This is for wives, children and servants. Submit and obey in this way.
6: 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;  7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Now you’ve got an activated key. You are all set. Let’s finish with that. No? You need more helping understanding? Let us continue.

If you are chafed a bit right now, why is that? If we leave Christian virtue on the doorstep of submission, why is this unsatisfactory? Are you able to gladly submit to the authorities in your life without a list of qualifications? If so, good, you are learning. If not, why not? What is troubling you?
I want to get back to our passage and talk about some of the qualifiers but I have accurately read the passage to you. There are qualifiers but the qualifiers are just that. They qualify but do not make the main point. The emphasis in this passage is on submission, not on perfect authorities. The authorities mentioned are all flawed and fallible and the Apostle calls for a huge level of submission. If we run to the qualifiers, are we skipping past the main point of submission. Submission chafes at us. I understand that. I feel it, too. But why?
Creation Order- Submit to God. Adam and Eve. 
Their refusal to submit to God brought about difficulty in the world. This made Eve’s submission to Adam very difficult. But the creation order is submission to God, wives to husbands, children to parents. Without sin, this is good and glorious.
Re-creation- Jesus submits to death for humanity. He was teaching the disciples the true order of authority. They had a hard time with it but eventually got it.
The submission to earthly authority is not absolute. When the Apostles get called before the civil authorities and are commanded not to preach in Jesus’s name, they refused, citing their requirement to submit to God. But we must remember that their refusal to submit to one authority was the requirement to submit to a higher authority.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

In the Bible, faithfulness is defined by submission
The world does not like this definition
         It wants faithfulness to be defined by independence, self-reliance, self-actualization, self-fulfillment.  This self centeredness is a denial of the glory of the Trinity. The Trinity exists in a divine mutual submission. But there is a hierarchy. The Father sends the Son and the Spirit. The Son submit to the Father. The Son sends the Spirit. The Spirit submits to the Father and the Son. But these mutually submitting persons are co-equal. The fact of the Sons submission to the Father does not make Him less than the Father.

1. Christians to the One True God
         Everyone in this room is subject to God directly. This means workers, children, wives, husbands, deacons, elders and pastors. Everybody is subject to somebody. Even the king is subject to God. Even Jesus is subject to the Father.
         God has given gifts to His Church and men are subject to Christ in His Church and the fallible authorities God has established in His Church. This subjection is real though, not ultimate or infallible. The check with we have on this authority is the Word of God. This is why the Reformation was so important. Sometimes the Word has to protect us from usurping authorities. They cannot bind our conscience where God has not bound our conscience.

         a. God treats us perfectly
         Only in submission to God, can we become all that God meant us to be. He requires absolute obedience. This is not difficult if we understand that God is our benevolent Father. Remember the story of Joseph. His lot was a difficult one. Man meant it for evil. God meant it for good. Can we grasp this and submit to His will in our lives?

2. Wives to Husbands
         The command is simple. The submission is harder. Learn to respect your husband and Christ respects the Church. It is more difficult for you to do so which makes your reward that much more glorious.
         If you must throw off your lawful authority, you can only do so to his authorities. That would be the church, the civil magistrate, his own boss. You do not have free reign to complain and grumble about your husband. Submit to him. Honor him. Respect him. Your service to him in this way may be the only true Christian service he ever sees.
a. Husbands act like Christ
We finally get to the qualifier. Ladies, breathe a sigh of relief. Your husband must be subject to Christ and is given the great burden of acting like Jesus. I am glad that many husbands in this room do act like Jesus. Not perfectly but intentionally. Men, you are not subject only to God. You are subject to the elders of Providence. You are subject to the police. You are subject to the tax man. You are subject to the CREC. These are God’s authorities in your life and your wife gets to hold you accountable to them. Just as husbands ought not to provoke their children, and elders are not to lord their authority over the flock, so wives ought not to lord their husband’s accountability structure over him. But it is real and may be needed.

3. Children to Parents
         Children, do not chafe at your parent’s authority. Learn to be obedient gladly to God by being gladly obedient to them. Learn this in what you wear, who your friends are, what you listen to, what books you read, how you spend your time, where you go. Gladly obey your parents, even if the restrictions are unreasonable in your eyes. Eve thought the restrictions on the fruit were unreasonable, too.
a.   Fathers don’t provoke your children to wrath
Fathers and mothers, do not put unnecessary stumbling blocks in the path of your children. Do not be angry yourself. Rules are one way to provoke. Fewer rules is generally much better. God keeps it simple for us. Just love God and love your neighbor. If you need a little more detail, don’t make idols, go to church every Sunday, don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. That pretty much sums it all up.
So, parents, take your authority and rule structure from God and keep is simple. Make obedience simple.

4. Slaves to Masters
         Men, work for your bosses with a right good will. Do it cheerfully as unto the Lord. If you have unreasonable bosses, work for them cheerfully or change your boss. But don’t complain and grumble. Don’t justify stealing from them because they are unreasonable to you. Do not return evil for evil.
a.   Masters don’t threaten with violence
Bosses, be a good boss. Don’t threaten your employees. You can fire them but don’t threaten them with firing. They need to be motivated by God to do well. If they will not do it, then cut ties. Be a cheerful boss just like a cheerful employee. Understand that your employees also answer to God as well as you and be content to leave it there.

         1. Learn to submit and trust God for the consequences.
         2. Whenever you throw off any authority, you must put on a higher authority. You are never the higher authority.

         Submission to your proper lawful authorities is submission to God. I define proper the way the Bible does. Your own husband. Your own parents. Your own boss. Your own local civic authorities.
God, therefore, receives your submission as submission to Him. On the reverse side of this, if you refuse to submit to the lawful authorities in your life, you are refusing submission to God. God also takes account of this.

         So, we Christians must have learned the inverted authority structure of Jesus Christ. It does not fit the usurped authority structure of the devil or the principalities and powers. However, it does fit the authority structure that God instituted in Adam and Eve and re-created and re-established in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will not fear but will gladly submit to God in Christ. Amen.

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