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Live As One
Ephesians 5:28-33, part one
I found this in a Christian joke book–it must have been written by a man. “What is that ideal wife that every man expects?”
Always beautiful and cheerful, could have married a movie star but wanted only you, hair that never needs curlers or a beauty shop
Beauty that won’t run in a rainstorm
Never sick–only allergic to jewelry and fur coats
Insists that moving furniture by herself is good for her figure
Expert in cooking, cleaning house, fixing the car or TV, painting the house, and keeping quiet
Her favorite hobbies are mowing the lawn and shoveling snow
She hates charge cards
Her favorite expression: “What can I do for you, dear?”
Thinks you have Einstein’s brains, but looks like Mr. America
Wishes you would go out with the boys so she can get some sewing done
Loves you because you are so sexy
But what does he actually get?
She speaks 140 words-a-minute with gusts up to 180
She once was a model for a totem pole
A light eater–as soon as it gets light she starts eating
Where there’s smoke, there she is—cooking
She lets you know you only have two faults–everything you say and everything you do
No matter what she does with it, her hair looks like an explosion in a steel wool factory
If you get lost, open your wallet–she’ll find you
That is unfair to you ladies–we men are just as quirky and opposite. It is true that opposites attract, and just as true that opposites attack. But God’s goal for your marriage is that you no longer are two individual people, but that you are acting, thinking and looking more and more like one person. Oneness is the gluing of a husband and a wife together. It is more godly to be one, more God-like to cleave together, and more glorifying to God for couples to be one–why? Because God is three distinct persons yet one, and your Christian marriage is three distinct persons yet one–you, your spouse and Christ.
If someone took a chainsaw and cut me in half, it would be quite messy, unnatural, but it would make a good horror movie. Now I would be two, though I was meant to be one. Many marriages are like that, even Christian marriages. Husbands and wives are split in two, their marriage is divided into separate parts, and it also is unnatural, messy, and it makes a good horror movie.
As we continue in our verse-by-verse study of Ephesians, now in chapter 5:28, Paul calls husbands and wives to function as one. Sadly, oneness is lacking in Christian marriages–separate rooms, separate bank accounts, time away, different friends, separate likes, dislikes, pastimes, hobbies and more. All of it works against couples being truly one. So what causes this drift? Answer–the context of Ephesians contains the answers. What prevents us from enjoying this kind of oneness? Ephesians 5 describes oneness, but the rest of the letter shows us the things that prevent us from enjoying oneness in marriage.
This is the problem of two ticks and no dog. In marriage, an insecure person is like a tick seeking to attach itself and suck blood. You want your spouse to meet your needs, but you find that your spouse had needs too. So when insecurity enters into the relationship, it’s like two ticks but no dog–there are no resources to draw from. But Ephesians 1 tells us your needs are met in Christ. See verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”
Ephesians 1 shows that God loves you just as you are right now (warts and all). All your sins are forgiven, past, present and future. All the blessings of heaven await you forever. When you become God’s child, you’ll always be His child, no matter where you are spiritually or maritally. You are fully and completely loved by God. Because God loves you, you can love your spouse. God’s love is the resource you draw from, and Jesus wants to help you experience marital oneness. What else prevents oneness?
Every person enters marriage with expectations. But if you expect your spouse to make you happy, satisfy all your inner longings and meet all your needs, you are expecting your spouse to do what only Jesus can do. Ephesians 2:4 to 5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Only Christ can make you alive and full.
When you think, “I can’t love this person unless he/she changes,” you are realizing you don’t have the resources, the power, to love as God designed. But Ephesians 3:16 to 19 promises, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”
Turn to Christ, whose love surpasses your understanding of your marriage. Give Christ free rein in your heart through faith, and you’ll discover the dimensions of His great love and care for you and your marriage.
You may think, “I’m just not strong enough. I can’t do it alone. It’s hard to make this happen with just God and me doing all the work.” You’re not supposed to do it alone. Ephesians 4:16 tells us, “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Find help in the body of Christ. Get around other married couples and learn from their wisdom and their example. This is why we have equipping classes on marriage, Bible studies and discipleship groups at FBC. Lean on your brothers or sisters as a resource to encourage you in the Word, to be there for you, to counsel you, comfort you and pray for you in your marriage. This is God’s plan.
The Christian life is not private, and there isn’t one of us here who doesn’t struggle in marriage. We’re supposed to help each other in our marriages. So stop the silent suffering and start serving each other.
Ephesians is a great resource for marriages. Chapters 1 to 4 show us that Jesus has given us everything we need to be one with our spouse. Maybe you’re thinking, “We’re Christians, but my spouse and I aren’t as close as we should be.” Or, “We’re doing okay, but we can always improve.” What you need is Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit,” as a true Christian for the power to have the marriage God wants you to have through His indwelling Holy Spirit. What is missing is your willingness to yield your life to that power and trust God’s Word.
Christians whose lives are Spirit-filled don’t stumble around trying to find out what God wants. Every day they are seeking to be directed by the Holy Spirit, who gives them resolve to follow God’s Word in all their dealings. Moment-by-moment they live dependent upon God, filling their minds with the Word of God, striving to live in obedience.
Again, oneness is the gluing of a man and woman together to become one. And insecurity, expectations, inability and helplessness interfere with marital oneness. Once I asked a man about His wife, and he said she was an angel. I thought, “How nice.” But then he continued, “Yeah, she’s an angel, always up in the air harping about something.” He blew it–we are to esteem, love and treasure our wives.
So how do you cultivate genuine oneness in your marriage? I’m so glad you asked . . .
Honor what Ephesians taught us
Realize your marriage is the best indicator of your spiritual health
Remember marriage is a part of your everyday walk with God
In the context of Ephesians, marriage is a part of the wise walk
And the only two commands in this passage are both directed at husbands to continually love their wives—and they do that . . .
#1 Through loving leadership
Verse 23 says, “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.” Husbands are to be the head of their wives like Christ is the head of the church, like a bridegroom to a bride. Remember your wedding day men? You didn’t bark at her, ignore her, diss her, make fun of her or order her around.
Christ does not crush the Church. Rather, He sacrificed Himself to serve her in order that she might become everything He longs for her to be. So husbands, never use headship to crush or stifle your wife, or frustrate her from being the way God made her to be.
His love for her will lead him to the opposite path. He will give himself for her in order that she may develop her full potential under God, and so become more completely herself in Christ. Men also love their wives . . .
#2 Through continual sacrifice
Verse 25 also commands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Along with all we have already drawn from this text, let me add this. Learn to love your wife, not in a general way, but in a specific way. If she loves personal touch, gifts, service, time, talk–learn to love her in a way in which she understands and receives love. Sometimes husbands really try hard. You watch a man bring his wife flowers, and you observe the wife cry like she just won the Miss America pageant. You think, “Note to self, flowers work!” So you give your wife some flowers, and all she does is get hay fever. What is the problem? Simple–you married a different woman.
Love your wife the way God made her, not the way you think she should respond. Not all women are the same, and not all women respond to acts of love the same. In fact, one older husband wrote this–women are not predictable, they are like jazz. You have to pay attention or you’ll miss it. Women are not fickle, they’re a challenge, so you keep chasing. Be honest, in a marriage some men and some women love touch, to cuddle, back rubs, hold hands and if you don’t touch them, they don’t feel loved. Some spouses actually think, on any given day, I have a terrible marriage–I have not been touched today. Others think, “He doesn’t care because he didn’t bring me a gift. He doesn’t care about me because he won’t sit down long enough for us to talk.”
Figure out how your spouse understands love–obviously, everyone understands sacrifice, but some also sense the love of a spouse when you spend time with them, or serve them, even talk to them. Men don’t get this–she keeps talking, but it’s not about anything. That’s the point, it is about hanging out, being together, connecting. Sometimes it is gifts that communicate love–here’s a little gift, a brush. Here is a big gift–a house. Doesn’t the Bible say, “The wise woman builds her house . . . and a wise man buys her one?” Some women like it all–touch, gifts, time, talk, service. If that’s your wife–good luck. You still gotta love her.
And here is the point–seasons change, wives change, before kids, then with young children, then older kids, even the empty nest. The point here is you don’t stop studying her and loving her. You gotta pay attention. And here is the secret, husbands–this is it, really write this down. The key to finding out is to ask her! Ask her two questions . . .
#1 What things have I done that make you feel the most loved, and
#2 What things have I done that made you feel most unloved
This is typically a major difference between men and women. When you ask a man what is his most fond memory of their relationship the man freezes. Oh no, she has an idea of what she wants to hear. If you ask a woman, she can answer in great detail—ask her. You say, “I am service guy and you’re cleaning out the gutters,” and your wife the cuddler is saying, “Get off the roof and sit with me on the couch”—and for a service guy that will be sacrifice.
Paul calls husbands to continue to win your bride like you did when you pursued her from the beginning, and to always encourage her sanctification and purity. We lead by the Word in the power of the Spirit. God commands husbands to continually sacrifice for their wives like Christ has done and continues to do for His bride, the Church. So husbands fulfill their role . . .
#1 Through loving leadership, verses 22-24
#2 Through continual sacrifice, verses 25-27
#3 Through embracing oneness, verses 28-31
Have you ever understood Paul’s point in verses 28 to 31? It is about oneness with your wife. Love your wife like she is one with you–verse 28, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.”
Love your wife as much as your own body, since you are one with your own body—verse 29a, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”
Love your wife like Christ is one with His Church body made up of many members—verse 29b, “just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.”
Love your wife since oneness was God’s original design—verse 31, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.”
Are you one with your bride? You can if you . . .
First Love your wife as if she were a part of you, since she is one with you
Do you remember God’s design from the beginning? From out of one man Adam, God took a rib and made two–then declared as He gave Eve back to Adam that the two should become one again. That is why Adam sang to Eve, you are bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. To love her was to love part of himself, so Paul says in verse 28,”So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.”
We don’t get this cause we are addicted to individualism. People see themselves as autonomous. We even refer to unmarried people as what? Single–there is no such person as a single person. We are all connected. What does Paul say about the Church in 1 Corinthians 12:26? “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
There is no single person who is not connected. If you have parents, you are not single–you are a part of a family. If you are a Christian, you’re not single–you’re a part of a church family. And what we do wrong in our culture is we see men and women as individuals, singles, solo–then we get married, but we maintain our autonomy and our separateness. I will tell you this in my marriage, I cannot tell you where I end and Jean begins. I have no idea since we are one–that is biblical marriage.
In Genesis 1 the husband and wife became one flesh—one. The word for one is the same one used in the Septuagint in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” As the Father and Son and Spirit are one God, so the husband and wife and God are one person. Let me come at this from the back door—if I were to slap myself would it look odd? Does it look practical? It seems unusual because men don’t usually go around punching themselves.
It is sort of unusual to find a guy screaming and yelling at himself, “I am going kill you. I am sick of seeing you. You need to leave here right now or terrible things will happen to you.” Hey, it’s just you. And what about the guy who pushes himself, “Knock it off–no you knock it off. Stop it now.” Paul’s point is simple and powerful–guys don’t punch themselves, yell at themselves, or push themselves. But if you are doing that to your wife, that is exactly what you are doing.
Any guy who hits his wife is punching himself in the face. Any guy who yells at his wife is screaming at himself like a fool. Any guy who shoves his wife is shoving himself around. Any husband who ignores, bites, rips, or is unkind to his wife, Paul says is doing that to himself. Why? Because there are not two people–there is only one! He who loves his wife, loves himself. There is only one person, and as long as you see each other as individuals you will function as enemies and not as allies.
As soon as you realize there is only one of you, you are bound by virtue of that relationship to be allies, because there is only one of you, so you are together. And it is the oneness of the relationship that deals with sin, since it doesn’t allow sin to come between you, because there is not a between, there is just one person.
Guys who are cruel to their wives, who look at porno instead of their wives, who treat their wives like a servant not a sweetie–those men are fools who are just punching themselves in the mouth, grieving the Spirit, ruining their thought life, harming their ministry, dishonoring their Savior, polluting their own flesh and rebelling against their Master. It is complete sin, total folly and sick selfishness.
You and your wife are one. Now we men can be a little thick, a little slow, and not listen well. So Paul gets really pointed in verse 28, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” Again Paul says husbands love your wife. With the verb in verse 28 love is not commanded, but it is very strong.
In the argument of verses 22 to 33 Paul says at this point, hey don’t get lost as I describe to you in verses 26 and 27 how much Jesus loves His bride, all He did to win her, keep her pure and bring her home to heaven. Now in verse 28 Paul says, don’t get sidetracked here husbands–love your wives. This time Paul uses the word “ought”, stressing obligation. The verb ought literally says it is a fact–Christian husbands, you must continually love your wife. And that same word ought literally means owe. Husbands, you owe it to your wives to love them continually.
And what does Paul compare it to? You husbands ought to love your wife and she will submit to you? No. Love your wives and she will start to be nice? No. Paul turns the focus away from the wife to make an unconditional statement of oneness–husbands ought to love their wives as they already do love their own bodies. Husbands must love their wives in the same way that they are concerned about their own bodies. Love her in a similar fashion–there is a sense here that Paul is saying, “as if she were your own body.”
How much do you already love your own body? A lot! Men and women have always been concerned about their physical bodies. But at no point in modern history have people more sinfully pampered, protected, nourished and indulged their bodies as in our day. The money spent on our physical bodies is incalculable. Paul assumes that we like our own bodies and will take care of them.
The Living Bible translates this verse in a very straightforward manner, “That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife!” Some of us work very hard at taking care of our physical body (others of us don’t work hard enough!) but the point is, we ought to invest even more into loving our wives. Because even from a selfish standpoint, when you love your wife you are really loving yourself–you can’t lose.
Think about this–how long do you allow your body to remain hungry? Do you delay the need for water more than a day? When have you ever gone to work naked? Have you ever allowed yourself to get frostbite just for fun? NO? That, husband, is the kind of care you are to give to your wife. That kind of love, attention, commitment is to be shown to her. Why? Because she is part of you–you are one with her. Stop the delays, stop merely scheduling her, stop disregarding her, and start loving her as a part of you. Just as you daily comb your hair, shave your face, take a shower, eat, sleep and clothe yourself, love your wife daily as one with you.
Paul finishes verse 28 with, “He who loves his own wife loves himself.” Paul actually says here, he who is in the process of loving his own wife, as a fact, is continually loving himself. So Paul makes certain you husbands realize that he is not talking about loving your own body, but telling you your love for your wife should be as much as you already love your own body–that much. Paul is no longer commanding here, as if loving your wife is merely a duty, but as something that is natural, consistent with nature, and a part of the way you and I are made.
The problem with husbands is we have compartmentalized our wives to “one of our responsibilities”, or merely a best friend or a partner/helper for life, instead of seeing her accurately as an actual part of ourselves–totally one. A husband does not think about loving his own body because it is natural–just like that, a husband’s love for his wife ought to be as natural as loving himself.
Now Paul gives three pointed examples of oneness, starting in verse 29.
Example One Love her like you love your own body
Verse 29a, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” Literally, no one ever generally hated the flesh of himself, but certainly continually nourishes it, and certainly continually cherishes it. Notice Paul starts verse 29 with “for” in order to explain what he just said–Paul says generally, here is a truth. No one hates his own body. The verb hate is the same one used in Hebrews 1:9a, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.”
So the hate here isn’t about how you feel about your looks, or the warped thinking that goes into cutting oneself or lighting oneself on fire. Sure, there are probably parts of your body you hate. You may not like your looks, your weight, skin color or hair. You may trim your nails and brush your teeth–you may even cut off a tag or mole, change your hair color or cut out your tonsils. But for the most part, none of us here want to cut off a limb, lose an eye or have to give up an organ. We really don’t hate our own flesh. Paul says generally it’s true–no one hates their own flesh.
Then Paul adds a strong contrast in verse 29—but we normally actually continually nurture and take tender care of our bodies. But using nourish and cherish, Paul could simply be meaning we continually feed and clothe ourselves. But those two words are packed with compassion. Nourish and cherish are from the language of the nursery and are charged with affection. Nourish is to bring up from childhood, to rear up, sometimes referring to nursing a child. It is used here and in Ephesians 6:4, when it tells fathers to bring up your children. The idea is to nourish and provide, not merely feed, but the total environment needed to grow and be healthy as a baby. Have you ever seen a mother shove food in a baby’s mouth like she was working a construction site? Not usually. Feeding is almost always connected to soft talk, fun games, wiping of mouths, a caring face and gentle touch–that is nourish. It is the tender cultivation of the soil so that the plant grows strong and produces fruit. It’s the feeding, bathing, changing, burping, playing and tender talking to a baby so it grows strong and healthy in body and spirit.
Cherish is literally to heat–it if were passion, it would mean to inflame. But here it means to comfort, cherish or to warm. Husbands, the word cherish–now think about this in terms of your wife. It was used to describe a mother bird keeping her eggs warm in the nest. No–you don’t sit on her head. It refers to the kind of treatment you give to that which you most value. Cherish is used in the New Testament only here and in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 where Paul says, “We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” To cherish is to take tender care of someone, like a man cares for his own body with all of its imperfections.
And the present tense of nourish and cherish tells us this care is ongoing, continual, all the time, good days and gross days. This is how a husband leads. Hard and harsh husbands are not like Christ. Genuine, doctrinally-astute, deep Christians are not hard or harsh–that is not sound doctrine. Biting and bullying husbands are not spiritually dependent. Course and critical husbands are not humble Christians. Autocratic and dictatorial husbands may find their job easier for a season, but they will make bitter wives and hypocritical children. Husbands who design hard objective boxes for their wives and children find their job easy for a season, until their children get older and their wives get fed up. Headship is not control, it is responsible nourishing and cherishing. Husbands are to create an environment of tenderness, cultivating encouragement where growth toward Christ is attractive, desired and delighted in–the truth is to be attractive and upheld with love.
Your wife is part of you–you are one with her. Husband–care for her like you would your own body. John MacArthur writes this—“When your wife needs strength, give her strength. When she needs encouragement, he gives her that. Just as God supplies ’all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ the loving husband seeks to supply all the needs of his wife.
“The blessed marriage is the marriage in which the husband loves his wife with unlimited caring. Something is wrong if she is looked at only as a cook, housekeeper, occasional companion, and sex partner. She is a God–given treasure to be loved and cared for. To nourish a wife is to provide for her needs, to give that which helps her grow and mature in favor with God and man. To cherish her is to use tender love and physical affection to give her warmth, comfort, protection, and security. Those responsibilities are primarily the husband’s, not the wife’s. As Christ provides for His church, so the husband provides for his wife and family.”
Now I hope you have connected the dots and are hearing the controversy? Ready? Husbands provide for your wives. You eat, put on pants, you don’t sleep in the middle of the road, you take care of your body. You feed your body and care for your body, and you are to do the same for your wife since she is one with you.
Here is the million dollar question–does a Christian husband have a biblical obligation to provide for the needs of his wife? And for the answer to that and more oneness, you have to come back next week. But before we pray, consider some ways in which to be a doer of God’s Word and not merely a hearer.
Don’t just listen and walk away. Don’t merely say you like the teaching or dislike the teaching–that doesn’t matter, I don’t matter, this gathering doesn’t matter. Sure I want you to be equipped, encouraged, loved, challenged, but all that really matters is that you would glorify God, and that only happens when you become more like Christ. Those who call Jesus Lord will seek to depend and obey. Jesus even asked this question in Luke 6:46, “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Husbands, ask your wives today–what three things can I do this week (that are actually possible), to really help you believe that I love you and am committed to oneness? Write them down and do them!
Wives, ask your husband today–what three things can I do this week (that are actually possible), to really help you believe that I respect you and am committed to oneness? Write them down and do them!
Unequally yoked/single parent–what three steps will you take to show that you are truly one with Christ’s bride, His Church, and begin to take those steps this week? It could be join a ministry, membership, join a discipleship group, and through that develop strong, supportive, accountable relationships.
Unmarried single–what steps are you taking now in order to love your future wife or future husband and be one with them? Write them down and pursue them. Learning to be faithful in ministry every week, saving money for a ring or down payment, being submissive to your parents or mentor, growing deep in the Word are all of a part of loving that spouse even before you meet them. Let’s pray.