Avoid Marriage or Make Marriage Work Great
What are some creative dates for your spouse or date?
1 Sketch your dreamhouse floor plan and talk about the possibilities for each room
2 List your spouse’s/date’s best qualities in alphabetical order
3 Tour a museum or art gallery
4 Take a stroll around the block and hold hands as you walk
5 Build a fire in the fireplace, turn out the lights and talk
6 Write a poem for your spouse/date
7 Stop in the middle of your busy day and talk to your spouse/date for 15 minutes
8 Create your own special holiday
9 Do something your spouse/date loves to do, even though it doesn’t interest you personally
10 Send your spouse/date a snail mail letter
11 Watch the sunset together
12 Sit on the same side of a restaurant booth
13 Picnic by a pond
14 Put together a puzzle on a rainy evening
Try to avoid the bitterness of dating frustration. This is what caused a group of surfers to write this list they handed me right before I got up to teach on dating and relationships:
Reasons why a surfboard is a better companion than a girlfriend
1 It doesn’t mind riding on top of the car
2 It doesn’t expect Christmas presents
3 It doesn’t have a birthday
4 It won’t leave you for another surfer, if you forget about it for a few days
5 It won’t expect you to spend a lot of money on it
6 It won’t tell you that, “You forgot our anniversary”
7 It isn’t worried about who your parents are
8 It doesn’t mind how you act towards it
9 It doesn’t mind being put on a leash
10 It won’t give you headaches
11 It won’t attempt to make you spend time with it when you would rather be elsewhere
12 It won’t keep you up at night thinking about it
13 It doesn’t mind getting soaked for your enjoyment
14 It likes being walked on
Relationships are tough, but relationships and marriage are a powerful way in which to glorify God. When you do glorify God in dating and marriage, you will experience incredible joy. How can you become that kind of spouse and how can you find that kind of mate? By avoiding marriage altogether and staying single, or by making it work by following God’s design for marriage in Ephesians 5.
But before we get to Ephesians, to start please turn to 1 Corinthians 11:3, because many of you, like most Christians today, have no clue of the theology of marriage. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is about to address the problems the Corinthians were having understanding the roles of women and men in marriage, when he says this.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.” This lays a foundation for a theology of marriage that should blow your mind. Paul says, “God is the head of Christ.” We know from the New Testament that God is one yet three–Christ is just as much God as God the Father.
By saying God is the head of Christ and the husband is the head of his wife, God is telling us that marriage is modeling the Trinity. That marriage, like the Trinity, involves distinct persons yet also an equal oneness. The roles in marriage between a man and woman are not based upon inferiority and superiority, but upon the unique relationship within the Trinity, where God is one, yet the persons of the Trinity function in different roles.
The Father and Jesus are fully and equally God, yet after the incarnation, the Son submits to the Father. In other words, a theology of marriage is . . . and this is revolutionary.
#1 Both ONE, yet distinct ROLES
God is no more one than He is three, and no more three than He is one. God is one, yet each person in the Trinity is distinct. So to glorify God as those who are made in His image, you need both oneness and distinct roles equally in marriage. What do I mean? There are two extremes.
1) If a couple is really bent toward the roles side, you know the whole focus is on authority and submission, they usually end up with a harsh, dictatorial husband, barking orders for his wife to follow–which is not godly, nor biblical, nor glorifying to God. Or . . .
2) If a couple is really bent toward the oneness of the Godhead (we need to be one), they usually end up with a wimpy husband, following his wife’s desires–which is not godly, nor biblical, nor glorifying to God.
A proper theology of marriage means a couple needs to cultivate both oneness and distinct roles. We are one heart, one mind, dying to self for each other, yet also functioning in our distinct roles. A theology of marriage is also this . . .
#2 SELFLESS service, resulting in HAPPINESS
In His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus makes it clear that the persons of the Trinity glorify the other members of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit are each centered on the other persons in the Trinity, adoring and serving each other. And as a result, listen to what happens in 1 Timothy 1:11. Paul says, “according to the gospel of the blessed God”–blessed means happy.
God is happy, and a great part of God’s glory is His own happiness. It is good news that God is gloriously happy, since no one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God. The Bible even says in Matthew 25, to “enter into the joy of your master”–God is a God of joy.
This is why, singles, when you find someone you adore and you discover this person feels the same about you, how does that make you feel? It is sublime. And this Trinitarian love relationship is the model God sets up for marriage. As we unselfishly, sacrificially give ourselves away to our spouse, sacrifice for our spouse, that is what creates joy and happiness.
And it’s that happiness, shown in the union of two who are one, which becomes an awesome witness to the watching world as to who God is–you’re displaying the Trinity. But that joy can only occur when a marriage is balanced with one yet distinct roles and selfless service that orbits around the other. That is the marriage God designed.
So how can this be accomplished for married couples? And how can I as a single prepare for this? Turn to the book of Ephesians chapter 5 as we work our way to verse 22. As you get there, remember you can’t live out Ephesians 5 without Ephesians 1 through 4 being true in your life. And Ephesians 1 to 3 asks this–are you genuinely saved?
In Revelation 2 John asks, are you hot, cold or lukewarm? Note–lukewarm and cold are both unsaved. God spits the lukewarm out of His mouth. He calls the lukewarm poor blind and naked–terms used in the New Testament to only describe the lost. So Ephesians 1 to 3 is asking–are you hot, genuinely saved?
In Luke 14 the doctor asks, are you committed? Willing to do anything for Christ? The problem with many struggling Christian marriages is simply this–one or both spouses are not Christian. Ephesians 1 to 3 describes a person who was dead and now has been made alive in Christ—is hot/willing. You can’t live the Christian life without being made alive and you can’t have a Christian marriage without being born again, or hot–empowered, transformed, born again.
Christian marriage is the Gospel lived out. Ephesians 4 says you’ll function as a part of the church. You don’t have all the spiritual gifts, you can’t live in isolation. Today, we have families who not only hide their children from the world, but hide them from the church. But God says every believer is to be a functioning part of the body.
Then Ephesians 5:18 tells us, you must be filled with the Spirit. It is a present passive plural imperative. That is God commanding each of you to continually be filled–but the passive means it has to happen to you. How do you like that? You’re given a command you must obey, but it has to happen to you. This is God’s way of telling you–you can’t do it. You must live dependent upon God 24/7, reliant upon and saturated in His Word, confessing all known sin, seeking to serve others and share the Gospel as a way of life by faith.
When you’re filled with the Spirit, it produces fruit, verse 19 to 21–singing, thankfulness and submission. And it is this submission God uses to begin His discussion of the first century household–wives and husbands, children and fathers. Then slaves and masters–marriage starts in verse 22. And don’t miss the obvious point in verses 22 to 33–the focus of God in this passage is men/husbands.
Own it guys–one of the biggest weaknesses in Christian marriage today is men. It’s the men who are dropping the ball. Not only is the vast majority of the instruction in this passage directed at the men, get this–even though there’s instruction to wives here, there are only two commands in the Greek text 22 to 33. And both of them are directed only at husbands. And both commands are for husbands to love their wives.
Men must rise up and take on the responsibility of pursuing a biblical marriage. Take the lead, get after it. Recover what it means to be a biblical man with four truths.
1 Biblical men need to reject passivity in their lives and follow God’s plan for them
2 Biblical men need to accept the responsibilities God has placed on them
3 Biblical men need to lead courageously in all of life
4 Biblical men need to be motivated by God’s approval, not man’s
What does it mean to be biblically responsible? Paul gives you three major priorities, three letter “L”s in order to not be an “L”–a Loser. What are they?
#1 LEAD your wife through loving headship Verses 22 to 24
Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Wives submit, in everything but sin, to your own husbands–not every man notice. “Be subject to your own husbands”–just like Christ submitted to the Father, “as to the Lord.” Submission means, to some degree you connect to the Lord through your husband–he’s your head. “For the husband is the head of the wife”–you can’t get around your head. A body can’t function without a head.
That head takes care of, serves, sacrifices for that body. “Christ also is the Head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Wives–submission means you rank yourself under your husband. Just like a private follows a sergeant—“wives, be subject.” And you do so as if your husband were the Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.
Only the saved wife, then Spirit-filled wife can do this. You deny yourself to make marriage work right. Remember Ephesians 5:18–being filled results in a submissive heart found in verse 21. God alone empowers biblical submission. So Paul says in verse 24, “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Then for men verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife”–the husband is the head of the wife. The Greek gives us a fact–the husband is the head, not could be would be should be, but is the head. The only question is, are you a good leader like Christ, or are you a bad one, like some sort of insecure mini-Hitler.
Headship in marriage is not the world’s version of leadership, but the servant leader, the self-sacrificing leadership of the Trinity toward the other members of the Trinity. You see it in a willingness to serve others. Just as a wife needs to be willing to deny self and submit to her husband, the husband must die to self and serve his wife. That alone is the path to joy.
And it is only found in a man who pursues Christ passionately, who is filled with the Spirit. He works at his relationship with Christ, for that is the husband who will pursue his wife and will work at his relationship with his wife. Most men I know are like the mid-west couple who were sleeping in bed when a tornado ripped off their roof, lifted them in their bed and set them down in the next county, unharmed.
The wife, Martha, started to cry–and her husband said, “Don’t be scared, Martha–we are alright.” And she said, “I am not scared.” “Then why are you crying?” “Because I’m happy–this is the first time in four years we’ve been out together.” Husbands lead their wives by following the Word of God, serving their wives and working at their marriage.
Wives submit, verse 22, and husbands lead, verse 23. But all of it is in the context of the Church. Do you value the church? A few of you had this modeled for you correctly in your homes, with a dad and mom who modeled biblical marriage–but most of you did not see it and have little clue how it works. That is one of the reasons God gave us His Church.
If you are single, it is your responsibility to learn now how biblical marriage and the roles of men and women are lived out. You have to get into the homes where it is being pursued–never perfectly, but lived out, functioning, working models. And you have to be willing to pay a price for that. You may have time, but godly wives and husbands don’t have time.
Godly wives don’t have time to sit down with you and fill you in–hold your hands, look into your eyes, and tell you the secrets to submission and Godly wifedom. You have to come in and watch kids, clean dishes, vacuum floors just so you can get time with a godly wife. You have to ask to spend time with couples by taking them out to dinner, or bringing over a meal, saving them time so they can give you time.
You do not automatically become a godly wife or a godly husband by walking down the aisle and saying, “I do”–you put that ring on and somehow you have got it down. No–you prepare. Now it takes work, discipleship, effort, thinking. Only those singles who understand how God’s roles work can make Christian marriage work.
Only those singles who have discipled others will be able to parent their future children. Only those singles who function fully in the local church will have the resources to make marriage and family work. Only those singles who share the Gospel to the lost know why God left them here.
#1 Husbands and wives die to self to LEAD and submit in marriage
#2 LOVE your wife through continual sacrifice Verse 25
Read verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Here is the first command for husbands—“Thus saith the Lord, Love your wives.” This is a command–how do you get around that? “Uuuhh—I don’t want to?” If you know Christ, then He commands you to love your wife.
“But I don’t see her as a wife anymore–she’s a stranger.” Then “love your neighbor”–she’s laying in your bed next to you, you can’t get any more neighborly than that. “Yea, but I don’t think she’s saved.” Then Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is a command and it is continually present tense–all the time, 24/7 you love her, on happy days and on hormone days.
Last week we talked about a wife taking care of her husband physically–skip cleaning, skip fancy dinners and take care of your husband. That also means men–when you come home, you serve your wife, you minister to her. You don’t plop down and watch TV or play a video game–serve her, help her means love her.
Plus this command to love is Christlike and complete–as Paul says in verse 25, “Just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” You can’t love like this in your own strength. There will be unlovely days in your marriage. There will be days when she acts ugly, or her breath could kill. You will wonder, “What happened to my Dorothy, and who is this Wicked Witch of the West?”
It must be Christ through you, as you are filled with the Spirit and it involves all of you for all of her. Like the Trinity, you give yourself away to her as your one and only–one life, one wife. You hold nothing back–as verses 26 to 27 instruct, Christ did all the work to rescue His Bride and bring her home to Heaven. It is the Gospel.
Men, will you do the work of loving her? Sacrificial action to benefit another continually. Serve, give, focus on her, lead her by the sacrifice of yourself and obedience to the Scripture. Then . . .
#3 LINK with your wife by embracing oneness Verses 28 to 33
Now God through Paul presses husbands to be one with their wives to be inseparably linked to their wives, like God is one in the Trinity. And Paul uses some illustrations to make his point.
First Be ONE with your wife
Like you are to your own body and Christ is to His body the Church, verses 28 to 30, “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body.”
Paul asks you men, “How long do you go without food? Would you go to class without clothes on? Have you ever decided to get frostbite just for fun?” No, you eat, sometimes wash, comb your hair–some of you guys even primp with just the right gel. God says treat your wife the same way. Take care of her, wash off the dirt of your struggles, pop the pimples of unresolved issues. Be one with your wife as if she is your own body.
Then Paul asks in the middle of verse 29, “Does Christ love His own body?” Yes, He died for His Church. “Is Christ one with His Church?” Yes. Then be one with your wife.
My wife Jean started us on the road to oneness. I was in seminary, dying over being a pastor, learning Greek and the curse of all studies, Hebrew. At a low point, Jean said to me, “It’s okay, “Honey, we [WE] will get through this together.” Now instead of a burden, it became a joy. She was busy, but she wrote out Greek cards, typed my papers and we did it together as one.
From that point, we did everything together as one. I was born with a backpack, every vacation was in the High Sierras, but I married a gal who hates dirt–so we learned to ride bikes, body surf and took walks. She loves word games, but I can’t spell–so we play Phase 10. We decided we would try to do the things we both enjoyed together versus those things we did alone. We got married to be together.
Second Be ONE with your wife
Like God designed from the beginning, verse 31 quoting Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” At the very beginning the Trinity said, “Let US make man in OUR own image, male and female.” We are made in the image of the Trinity.
And Moses said, in a biblical marriage a couple will leave their parents. Leave can mean amputation. Spouses must leave their parents and parents must let their children go for marriage to work. Cleave is to weld yourself to another in order to be one flesh, to be one in every way–like the Trinity is one.
Oneness was God’s design from the beginning. Why? Verse 32, “This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.” You didn’t know this in the Old Testament, but now you do. Marriage is to be a witness of who God is and how Christ is one with the Church, one with us. It shows off who God is and what Christ does when He saves someone. Salvation opens the door to amazing relationship–the Gospel.
So what is the main thing we must not forget? Verse 33, “Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.” Once more, husbands are commanded to love their wives—then wives are called to respect their husbands. And that, the respect part, can be tough. Just as a woman has a deep created need to be loved, men have a deep created need to be respected.
Gals, have you noticed you can say complimentary things to a guy, and he believes them, even though he shouldn’t? “You’re not weird, your just creative, artsy.” Yeah–creative! “You’re not ugly, you’re unique.” Yea—unique.
And have you noticed when you ask your husband to open the stuck lid on the jar of peanut butter you can’t open, the difference that makes in his life? “Yea, baby–here you go.” Respect–practice respecting your husband. Compliments, thankfulness for what he constantly does. Affirming his efforts.
And men, it is always more helpful when you live in a way that is respectable. You make this easier on your wife or future wife by living respectably. What is worthy of respect in your life, men? Can you think of anything? “Hmmm, I walk on two legs—I’m a biped? I don’t burp out loud much anymore.” How about Your provision? Your service? Your kindness? Give her something to respect.
And you will do that, men, by pursuing the relationships of the Trinity as your model. Then leading, loving and linking with your wife. And never forget, you’ll never see it without turning to Christ in salvation and depending on His Spirit in sanctification. Let’s pray.