This week we have been focusing on the men and the role and responsibility of men in marriage by looking at a section of a letter in the New Testament of the Bible called the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:25-30, we see Paul reveal for us a timeless truth when it comes to how a man’s response to God’s design can reveal a great deal about where they are spiritually in terms of the depth of your relationship with Christ in that a husband’s willingness to embrace their leadership responsibilities reflects a husband's willingness to follow Jesus example.
As we talked about last week, God divinely designed a marriage relationship with specific roles and responsibilities. And just like our first parents, Adam and Eve, while men and women have equal value and worth in God’s creation, men and women have different roles and responsibilities to fulfill; men are to exercise a role of leadership and authority as first among equals by lovingly leading, providing, and protecting women in ways that are appropriate to their relationship. Women are to fulfill their role in relationships by lovingly coming under and following godly male leadership in a way that allows for growth in their relationship with Christ and to exercise the gifts that God has given them.
However, as we looked at last week, instead of fulfilling his responsibility to lovingly, lead, protect, and provide for his wife, Adam cowardly chose to allow Eve to lead their relationship. You see, God gave His command to Adam, who was expected to lead the couple in following the command. The result was disobeying God’s command and sin entered the world and corrupted God’s design and creation.
And as a result, there are specific consequences of our first parent’s sin that lead men and women to push back against their role in marriage relationships. As a result of our first parent’s sin, all women throughout history have a natural bent and desire to rebel against and usurp God’s design for marriage relationships by attempting to exercise leadership and domination over men. And as a result of our first parent’s sin, men tend to abdicate their leadership responsibilities and instead function in one of two extremes. Apart from Jesus work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives, men have a natural bent to act as either a coward or a chauvinist when it comes to their relationship with women.
Now whether you are married or single; whether you are a man or a woman; and you may be wondering “why does God’s design for marriage even matter? What is the big deal? I mean, why is it so important that husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church? Why is it so important that wives willingly place themselves under their husband’s leadership? Sure maybe my marriage does not function like the Bible teaches, but things are o.k.”
If those are some of the thoughts that are running through your mind, I just want to let you know that those are fair questions to be asking. We see Paul answer these questions by pointing to a second parallel that is revealed by God’s design and purpose for marriage, beginning in Ephesians 5:31:
FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
Here we see Paul quote Genesis 2:24, which describes the marriage relationship and the intimacy that the one flesh marriage relationship should experience. As we talked about last week, Adam and Eve were able to be totally transparent and vulnerable with one another. They were united in a one flesh relationship physically, spiritually, and emotionally as a result of their love for God and one another that viewed one another with equal value and worth.
Yet while Adam and Eve had equal value and worth in God’s creation, they had different roles and responsibilities to fulfill. Adam was to exercise a role of leadership and authority as first among equals by lovingly leading, providing, and protecting Eve. And Eve was to lovingly coming under and following Adam’s leadership in a way that allows for her spiritual growth and good. But notice what Paul states next in verse 32:
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Now when Paul uses the word mystery here, this word refers to is a timeless truth about God and His Divine Plan that was once hidden, but now has been made known through Christ. This once hidden timeless truth about God, according to Paul is of utmost importance. He then proclaims exactly what this great mystery that has now been made known is: but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
You see, here’s the thing: the reason why the health of you marriage is so important in God’s eyes; the reason why God has a divine design for the roles that men and women are to have within a marriage relationship; is that marriage has been divinely designed by God to be a picture on earth of the intimacy that followers of Jesus will have for all eternity with Christ. Marriage was designed by God to be a word picture to the world of the vulnerability, the transparency, and the intimacy that followers of Jesus will experience for all eternity with Him.
So when we choose to reject, to rebel, to pushback against God’s design when it comes to the roles and responsibilities that men and women have in marriage, we end up portraying a false picture of the relationship that we were designed to have with God for all eternity. And when our marriages are marked by confusion and conflict when it comes to the roles and responsibilities that men and women have in marriage, we end up portraying a flawed picture of the relationship that we were designed to have with God for all eternity.
That is why God hates divorce. God hates divorce because divorce mars and misrepresents the eternal covenant relationship that Jesus has with His followers. The covenant relationship that Jesus selflessly and sacrificially died for; the same selfless and sacrificial love that Paul commands husbands to love their wives with. You see, God desires that our marriages experience a glimpse of the intimacy that we will experience for all eternity with Jesus. But to experience that intimacy requires following God design when it comes to the roles and responsibilities we have as men and women in marriage, which is why Paul concludes this section of this letter the way he does in Ephesians 5:33:
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
In other words, what is important and what is the point of the past two weeks is that husbands and wives faithfully fulfill their roles and responsibilities within marriage as God divinely designed. Husbands are to exercise a role of leadership and authority as first among equals by lovingly leading, providing, and protecting their wives as Christ lovingly leads the church. Wives are to fulfill their role in marriage relationships by lovingly coming under and following godly male leadership in a way that allows for their spiritual growth and good, so that they can become more like Jesus in character and conduct as they engage in the kingdom mission that we have been given by Jesus.
Now here is the question: Who has the harder role and responsibility when it comes to marriage, the husband or the wife? The answer is both. You see, this is how men and women in marriage practice what is referred to in church mumbo jumbo talk as mutual submission. Wives practice the concept of mutual submission by willingly place themselves under the leadership of their husbands in a way that places their husband first in a marriage relationship. And men practice the concept of mutual submission by exercise a role of leadership and authority as first among equals by lovingly leading, providing, and protecting his wife by placing His wife first, just as Christ loved the church and placed followers of Jesus before Himself.
I don’t know about you, but I find these two weeks to be incredibly challenging. It is hard for a wife to willingly place themselves under the leadership of their husbands in a way that follows their leadership in a marriage relationship. And it is hard for a husband to exercise a role of leadership and authority as first among equals by lovingly leading, providing, and protecting his wife by placing His wife first, just as Christ loved the church and placed followers of Jesus before Himself.
That is why it is so important that our relationships be controlled and influenced by the Holy Spirit’s power, because our relationships are influenced by what influences us. And the embracing of our roles within marriage has profound implications for our relationship with God. Because the timeless reality is that a wife’s willingness to embrace and place themselves under a husband’s godly leadership reflects a wife’s willingness to follow Jesus leadership. And a husband’s willingness to embrace their leadership responsibilities reflects a husband’s willingness to follow Jesus example…