Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sermon Notes Ephesians 5:22-33

Eph. 5: 25-33
The Bridegroom
Lynchburg, Virginia

         Last week’s sermon was a chain of submission, focusing on the need that we all have to submit to God. We talked particularly about the need for Christians to submit to Jesus, for wives to submit to husbands, for children to submit to parents and for slaves and workers to submit to masters and bosses. That sort of emphasis may rub us the wrong way but it is the Bibles emphasis, not mine. And the reason the Bible gives us this emphasis is because it puts a high value on godly submission. It is the order that subverts the worldly system dominated by domination.
         This week I want to emphasize the responsibility of authority from the same text we looked at last week. So, we turn to husbands, parents, and bosses.
         Keep in mind the categories. Last week’s category was all those under authority. That includes all of us. This week’s category is all those in authority. This also includes all of us. Well, almost all of us. Maybe our newest babies and youngest children don’t have any or much authority yet, but they will. Everybody else in this room IS in authority, now. So, both categories apply to all of us and so we should pay attention.
         Keep in mind that these categories are paradigms for  Christian behavior. The classic paradigm for Christian submission in wives submitting to their own husbands. This follows the example of the Church’s submission to Jesus Christ.
         Today, we look at the classic paradigm of godly authority. It is represented in husbands loving their wives. This follows the example of Jesus loving the Church.
         The Scriptures set an amazingly high standard for husbands and wives.  God calls us to bear His image and particularly, to bear the image of Christ and His Church. Husbands are to be like Jesus. Wives are to be like a perfectly ordered bride, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. When hearing this, it seems that a tendency for both husbands and wives will be to be really discouraged.  The standard is so high, I don’t measure up and, therefore, I am a failure of a husband or a failure of a wife.
         There are multiple ways to respond to this discouragement.
First, it is true. You cannot fully measure up. Until the Resurrection, you husbands will not be complete, like Jesus. You wives will fall short in many ways. If we know this up front, even as we strive to meet God’s standards, we will also avail ourselves of God’s means of grace and mercy. We will confess our faults to one another, especially to our spouses and we will seek forgiveness and restoration.  This is also something God images as He is the faithful husband who receives His ugly wife and makes her beautiful.
         Admitting the truth of your failure to measure up to God’s standard is the means of grace to be able to fulfill God’s standard. None of us can be what God requires of us by our own strength or in our own name. We cannot submit to God properly nor can we wield authority properly. In order to do either, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to do that which is contrary to our fallen nature.
         Second, after acknowledging that you fall short and do sin, and availing yourself of God’s Holy Spirit, the next step is to get about the business of doing God’s will. Find out what it is, then start doing it. And here is where you will find that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So, what do you do with that? You do it by the Spirit instead of by the flesh. You do your duty but not in a begrudging sort of way. You confess your unwillingness to do what is right and you lay hold of God’s power, His Spirit, to do what is right.
         If you find that you simply cannot do what is right or even if you just do not want to do what is right, then you need to be regenerated and filled with God’s Spirit. These things are a mystery but I speak of Christ and His Church. How is the Church enabled to do what she is called to do? She does this because the Holy Spirit gives her power. We cannot always see this power at work but we know that when the Spirit is there, Jesus is there and the Church accomplishes all that she was meant to accomplish. Husbands and wives need to operate on this same principle.
         If you are unfaithful in mind, word or action, then you are not operating by the Spirit of God. Confess these things, repent by changing your thoughts, words and deeds and walk forward by the power of the Holy Spirit.
         In the beginning, a helper was sought for Adam. But in all of God’s creation a helper suitable to him was not found. Adam was Lord of all the beasts but a creature fitted to him was not among them.
         A husband is called to tame and name the wildest of all creatures, the one called Woman. And not only woman, even a more lovely and dangerous creature than that, one called wife.
         When I say that a husband is to tame the wildest of creatures, called wife, I do not insult the wife. She is no beast. On the contrary, she is fully human. Just as Adam would have his work cut out for him in taming his own self, the Lord gave him a woman, born of his own flesh, to be a partner with him in subduing all of creation. So, the woman is an extension of Adam. She is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. He is to take dominion over the woman and she is to help him in taking dominion over the rest of creation.
         Dominion is not merely lording it over. Adam was most certainly lord but his lordship was one of service and work. He was to tend the garden, raise the domestic animals and keep them in order.  He was meant to bring forth children, raising them up to advance his dominion to the ends of the Earth. Eve was to be a helper in this. But Adam’s relation to her was one of servant lordship as it was to the rest of creation. His service towards her was to enable her to be all that she was meant to be in her role towards him.
         Where was Adam? His job was to keep the sanctuary of God pure from the defilements of the devil. He did not do so. He failed to keep the serpent from the garden and thus his wife was deceived and then brought him into the deception. There is much to be said about this. A man’s role is out there in the world but as he works out there, he is to keep his home, his garden, pure, from the defilements of the world. This is true of both his wife and his children. He should not allow the devil to deceive them. The devil should not have access. Once deceived, the wife has a very convincing way to bring her husband into the deception. But if she is deceived, it is likely the husband has already failed as an Adam. He must be diligent, knowing the condition of his flocks and olive plants. 
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 
The command to husbands is to love your wives.  They are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church.
How did Christ love the church? He gave himself for her.
What church did He love? The woman at the well represents Christ’s bride. She has no husband, having had five men.  It is time she forsook her lovers and embraced her husband.
How is His love revealed? He gave all, up to death. He taught, listened, was gentle, chided, scolded.
What did His love accomplish? The bride was brought near and reconciled to her husband.

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 
Jesus sanctified and cleansed His bride through His love. That must mean that the bride was unclean. An unclean bride is a shame and scandal but Christ did not turn away from such a woman. Instead, His love for her was the means of grace to make her clean and then to cherish her into maturity.
His Word is the means of this sanctification and cleansing. This means that there is an objective standard. What Christ says must be obeyed. The unclean woman at the well was received by Jesus but He then instructs her to go and sin no more. If she rejects His Word, then it ceases to be a means of cleansing and sanctification and commences to become a means of chastisement and eventually judgment.
This is one way that we balance the love and patience of God with His holding us accountable for our sins.  When we avail ourselves of His means of grace, there is an unlimited reservoir of grace, where sin abounds grace doth much more abound. But if we continually neglect His means of grace, we will discover the limit of God’s patience, shall we continue then in sin? God forbid!

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. 
Jesus is willing to take on a disgraced bride but He is unwilling that she stay in such as state. His love and forgiveness towards her makes her clean. Furthermore, this gracious love is the source of growth in grace. She receives His love and renders back to Him the respect and obedience that He deserves. In the heavenly realm, the bride of Christ, the Church, is cleansed and becomes the One who perfectly adorns her husband. Christ will accomplish this as He leads His Church towards the glory of His rule in the Earth over every creature.
         Before the resurrection, no wife will ever fully reflect the perfect church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. However, to the extent that she rests in his love and renders due respect and honor, an earthly husband views his wife in this way. She may not, in fact, be perfect. But in his eyes she is perfectly suited for him.

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: 
First, let us notice what the apostle says about Jesus. He nourishes and cherishes the church, as His own body.  That speaks highly of the love that God has for us. His every desire is that His bride be lovely. He cares for her as much as He cares for Himself. In fact, we have learned that He cares for her even more than He cares for Himself.  He is so unwilling that anything bad should happen to her, that He would rather sacrifice Himself than see her harmed.
A husband ought to have this same kind of love towards his wife. He is not merely interested in what he can get out of her, whether a beautiful adornment, the joy of consummation, the blessing of children, an able helpmeet and house manager.  These are all true blessings of a wife. But a husband that loves his wife is first concerned with what he can give her. It is true that he receives blessings back but he must learn to give even if he does not receive.
A good question for husbands to ask themselves is, “What am I giving to my wife?” I think if we are honest, most of us could quickly answer what our wives are giving to us. We receive numerous blessings from them. But how are we doing in the giving department?
No doubt, provision is a big part of what we do as husbands. We are called to be hard workers to provide financially for our wives and children. This is fundamental to who we are as husbands. We should not belittle that role, at all. So, that might be the first place that you answer the question. Are you meeting the fundamental financial obligations in your home? I think most of you are doing this and God be praised.
But after that, what are you giving to your wife? Is she secure? Happy? A friend? Does she feel loved in ways that are meaningful to her? Or, do you think that your financial provision is enough?  It may be enough for you but I guarantee you that it is NOT enough for your wife. More than your money, your wife wants you.
If we understand the relationship of Christ and the Church, I think we can grasp this principal more easily. Jesus provides for His Church. The Church as an institution has ministers, has children, has a vision, and it has the power through the Spirit to achieve all that the Lord calls it to. This is Provision. But, as the Church, we want more than that. We do not simply want to be able to do all that Jesus calls us to. We want Jesus. We want Jesus to be with us, pleased with us, there for us, sustaining us. We need His attention and favor and the watching world needs to know that God, in Christ, is actively present in our midst.
So, too, do our wives feel this way. Our duty to them is not accomplished by simply bringing home the check. That is great, you should do so in great abundance. But having brought home the check, sit down, break bread, talk, share, be intimate, because your wife wants you!
Think about this for a moment. How do you treat yourself when you are not doing well?  Do you make it even harder on yourself? Or do you cut yourself some slack? If you have the flu, do you scold yourself for staying in bed? Probably not. But you may have greater expectations of your wife than you do of yourself. This should not be the case. You should defer to her as the weaker vessel, being a man of strength. Of course, this is easier done when you are full of respect and honor and motivated to love her. But if you cannot love her UNLESS she respects you, then you are not imaging Christ correctly. Jesus earned the respect of the wife through His sacrifice.  She was unlovely, to some degree, and so He labored on her behalf.
The text is telling us that just the way that you pamper yourself is the way the Lord pampers the church. And so you ought to seek to give your wife all the comfort that you seek yourself. Slow down here. Do not rush by this.
Men, if you simply love your wife the way that Christ loved the church, then it is going to make it a whole lot easier for her to give you respect.

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 
         The apostle compares the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. And he says of Christ and the church that we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. This is another one of those very significant passages that we don’t take the time to pay attention to.
         We are not merely spiritual members of Christ’s Spirit. That is not what the text says. It says that we are members of His body, flesh and bones. It is not exactly clear in Scripture how this connection is made. We are taken from Him, that much is sure. Our very existence is because He first was.  Without Him, the Church could not exist at all and even more so than Adam and Eve. If Adam died, Eve would keep on living, although her ability to have children would have ended. But if Jesus does not continue to uphold the church, then the Church dies. The Church is even more a part of Christ than Eve was a part of Adam.
         The Bible encourages us to be self-identified with Jesus Christ. He is our all. We are to honor and respect Him, doing His will, seeking to please Him, submitting to His authority, because our very existence depends upon it.  As we do this, we become increasingly aware that all that Jesus possesses, we also possess. So, as the Church, the more we focus on pleasing Jesus, the more it accrues to our own benefit. Wives, take note, as you give yourself away, you benefit more and more. Husbands, this is also true for you. As you give yourself to your wife, you become more and more exactly what you ought to be in Christ.
         1. He has risen from the dead. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit, the earnest promise of God that we, too, will rise from the dead. But the promise that we will one day be raised bodily from the dead has already been established with us now in the Holy Spirit. We are already alive from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that we can live new lives in Christ.
Husbands, you do have the power to live for Jesus and die for your spouse.

2. He is at the right hand of the Father ruling the world. We are seated there with Him, carrying out His sovereign rule on the Earth. For husbands, that rule starts in your home. God has made you the head of your wife, just as Christ is head of the church. That is true, right now.  Perhaps there is someone here who thinks he is not ruling at all because you are not the one really making the decisions. But you are the ruler in your home. That part is a fact. Whether you are a Christ-like head or not remains to be seen. Incidentally, you do not become Christ-like simply by taking back the reins of authority. The authority is yours, by right, so to speak but if you do not wield it well it is really hard to keep hold of.
Husbands, if you are to rule well, you must rule like Jesus, which means laying down your life for the sheep, for your wife and children. If  you do this, then they will follow your lead.

3. He is the Father’s only begotten Son, in Whom the Father is well pleased. Through Him, we are also the Father’s own children, with Whom the Father is well pleased.
Thus, you can please the Father, even in the difficult responsibility of husband. You may not always fully please your wife, even when you are being perfectly godly. But you can please the Father as you act like Christ. So, if you learn to rule, make decisions, be a man, while loving your wife sacrificially in the manifold ways this requires, then the Father will be well pleased with you.
This may cause some conflict in your home. The Christian marriage is not without conflict. But if you live in a godly way, pleasing the Father in heaven, then the conflict is going to resolve into peace and unity.

4. Because the Church is bone of the Lord’s bones, we trust that Christ will do everything needful for the Church to fulfill all of her duties.  He does this through His presence.
We husbands need to think about this a great deal and find ways to apply this great principle in the way that we love our wives, bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh.
This is something that seems to be felt in two different ways by a man and a woman. A man would do anything for his wife. He thinks that amounts to her being bone of his bones.  He is surprised to find that she has a different take on it. She wants his attention, not his work. There are limits to this and degrees, as well. But a husband’s attention to his wife is what causes her to feel that the two are one. 
         Again, we can take the lead from Jesus. Jesus did not just die on the cross and then leave His bride in awe of His great sacrifice.  It was a great sacrifice and one that she cannot live without. However, Jesus does more than this. After He dies, He tells her that He is going up to heaven but to wait, He will come to her in the Spirit and be with her always.
         Now husbands, do not then say that you are with your wives in spirit.  The presence of Jesus in the Spirit is a real presence. He really is here with us by His Spirit. His Spirit actually dwells with the Church, leading, guiding, protecting, teaching.
         Husbands, you want your wives to feel secure when you are gone for work or out of town. You have to build the world around her in such a way that this is the case. You need to continually come to her in body and mind and unite to her through your presence. This is not easy for a man but it is what Jesus does with the Church and it is what you are called to do as a husband.

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. 
The apostle says that this statement is also about Christ and the church. Jesus left His Father and was joined to His wife in such a way as they are one flesh. We ordinarily think of the one flesh union as being only between a husband and a wife but the apostle says that Jesus bears this same relation to the Church. 
The church and her children is the consummation of the son and the bride.  Interesting that God speaks in terms of sexual relations with husband and wife when He is speaking about how Jesus loves the Church. He loves her so much that He is of one flesh. He cannot get closer to her than He is. He considers the church as being the same as His own body.
A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. He becomes one flesh with her, he in her and she in him. This signifies a closeness of which there can be nothing closer. And we are not remiss to speak of this sexual relationship between a man and a woman when referring to Christ and the Church. I am not the one who came up with this, the Apostle Paul did so!
Nothing can separate Jesus from His Church because He has left the Father and cleaves to His bride. There is no husband like Jesus that will, in fact, cause the bride to be all that she should be. All earthly husbands fail at this. That does not mean that earthly husbands do not have wonderful and beautiful brides. They do and some wives are far superior to others. They may be so because they are simply more godly than their husbands or they may be so because the husband has poured himself into her to make of her something she never could have been without him.  But Jesus is the perfect husband and will settle for nothing less than a bride without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And He has the gifts and the power to accomplish what He intends. Thus, we should have no doubt that the bride will be exactly what Jesus intends her to be. This also gives us husbands an incredibly high bar to shoot for. Just as Jesus continually cleanses and washes His bride, so we are to do the same.
And as we do so, the closeness represented in this one flesh relationship becomes an absolute reality. We become almost as if we were simply one person. That is never quite true. You always remain two but the twoness becomes hard to distinguish amidst the unity.
We have something similar going on in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord, Himself, identifies with His Church. I in them and they in me. Communion is a consummative meal. It is a way of representing the truth that Christ is in us and we are in Christ. And as we grow more like-minded with Jesus, there is closeness with Him that no one can come between.
Rom. 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 
         We sometimes reason from marriage to the relationship of Christ and His Church, see Christ and His Church is like marriage. But we need to get things straight. The analogy is always less than the reality. The analogy is marriage, the reality is Christ and the Church. So, we should seek to understand that relationship first and then we can understand marriage better.
         This is true both of how Christ husbands the Church as well as how He lives with her in an understanding way. He lives with the Church according to knowledge. That is, He knows the Church. We may tend to think of Jesus as only living with a perfect bride but we see something different going on in reality. We have a perfect groom but not a perfect bride. She is a work in progress. But Jesus treats her, the forgiven bride, as if she were perfect.
We also see a glorious principle in the New Testament, one that has been set on its head from the older testament. Namely, that holiness purifies unholiness. In the old covenant, unholiness soiled holiness. But not so in the New. A Holy Incarnate Jesus touched lepers, those with bleeding sores, prostitutes and even dead bodies. None of these defiled Him, quite the reverse. When He touched them, they became clean.
We can see how this applies to husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. Also, live with them according to knowledge and in an understanding way. You desire your wife to be perfect, just as you desire this for yourself. Unlike Jesus, you are not perfectly holy. You also require the touch of Jesus to make you holy. You need to apply this same standard to your wife. She needs the touch of Jesus to make her holy. He does touch her and forgives her sins. He then receives her as a holy bride.
Husbands, look to your wives in the same way but give her great compassion and empathy. If Jesus, who is the perfect husband, understands her and you, forgiving you and then receiving you as holy, HOW MUCH MORE you earthly husbands, who are not perfect, who are also sinners in need of grace?

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.
This is not merely a call to be self-less. It is a call to be self-less in the same way that Jesus Christ is selfless. How is this? Even unto death. A husband needs to seek his wife’s good every bit as much as his own. This is difficult to do. It goes against the grain. It causes him to stop doing that which only pleases himself and causes him to do that thing which accrues to her benefit. Of course, a Christian man realizes that when he does this, he directly benefits himself. That is okay. That is the point. When a man loves his wife as he should he builds his own kingdom. But when he neglects and forsakes her, he neglects and forsakes himself.
So, let us cling to Christ’s Spirit so that we can be Christ-like, giving to our wives, even as Christ love the Church and gave Himself for her.

No comments: