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Oneness is Witness
Ephesians 5:28-31, part 4
A view from the zoo, the birds and bees–four million, four hundred thousand different species of animals. Can you imagine? That is the number of animals God spoke into existence during the fifth and sixth days of creation. That breaks down to 2,200,000 per day, or roughly 91,667 species per hour, 1,528 species per minute, or 25.5 new species per second.
Now add to that the amazing fact that, with a few exceptions, He was creating males and females. It means that God was cranking out 51 different anatomies per second–each with its own behavior, unique appearance, and ecological purpose. And every species has been assigned specific and appropriate behaviors for both its sexes. Let me illustrate.
The female black widow spider is four times as large as the male, who is not black at all but white and gold. She is a deadly huntress and knows every inch of her web by feel. She is also blind. When the male comes to court her, he plucks the web at a constant rhythm which calms the throbbing black temptress. Then she quietly awaits his approach. Every few steps he plucks again so that she will not respond as if he were just any insect in her web.
He repeats the process until he arrives beside her. He strokes her with his delicate front leg and begins the mating process. He is exhausted after mating and in a weakened condition usually stumbles as he attempts to leave the web. The irregular vibrations trigger her instincts to kill and he is quickly overtaken. Without emotions she adds him to her dinner menu.
Sea lion males are a study in rage and passion during breeding season. The males hit the rocky beaches and establish territories for the harems they will build when the females arrive. They fight constantly and brutally, not even taking time to eat. By the time the females arrive, the younger or weaker males have been driven off and the main bulls begin to claim and fight for as many females as they can get.
The females have been pregnant for three hundred and fifty days and they begin to give birth almost as soon as they arrive. Shortly thereafter, the males initiate a brief courtship and mating period. Then they lose interest and no longer dote over their females–keeping their territory becomes their consuming passion. They will defend it viciously, crashing across rocks and the beach, at times crushing their mates and young to attack an invading male.
Elephants are a matriarchal society–the females call the shots. When the male elephants reach adolescence, they are driven from the main herd to form small groups of males, or they become solitary. They are only tolerated during the breeding season and then driven away again when breeding is completed.
The pied hornbill (an exotic bird with an enormous beak) finds a tree with a hollow apartment. He drives the female into it, and then seals her inside with mud. She is not allowed to leave this confinement until the young are ready to leave the nest. Everything the family needs is shoved through the small opening he has left for that reason.
The rattlesnake breeding ritual is a brief erotic study. When he discovers a female during mating season, the male rises above her to full stature and sways back and forth in a captivating ballet. She responds in kind and they entwine. After mating, he crawls away (that snake in the grass!) never to see her again. She carries the young and gives birth to live babies, which are on their own from their first day in the world.
Penguins mate for life, although they spend more than half of every year separated. The Adele penguins have a ceremony. They present a rock to their beloved. If she accepts it, the bond is sealed and the pair are mated for life. It’s “with this rock, I thee wed.”
Wolves also mate for life. They live most of the year in small family units, forming packs only in deep winter when it is to their advantage. Because mice are hibernating and therefore unavailable as a food source, the wolves must bring down hooved animals to survive. The males love their mates and provide half the sacrificial care of the young. They are the ideal family model.
When we come to humankind, we cannot discern a consistent method of male and female behavior. You see, in many relationships, the male is consumed by the female’s dominance and fares no better than the male black widow. Many males, consumed by their careers, spend all their time building their territory. They crush their children and pursue extramarital affairs. They act like sea lions.
Some females drive off their males with unattractive fury and make it difficult for the fathers to visit children, just like the elephants do. Some men force their women to stay home and keep them subjected, like hornbills. Then there are those who form a partnership–they are helpmates. They work together to raise the young in a cooperative venture, like wolves. Some mate for life, like the penguins.
Now, one of two things is true–either man is the only species out of 4 million, 4 hundred thousand without an assigned method of relating male and female, or we have a method that we are not following. Clearly, the Bible does teach us that God did design a specific method for us to follow–the only question is, will we adhere to it?
As a church, as couples, as men and women, we have been endeavoring to follow God’s plan for marriage over the last twelve weeks, by studying Ephesians 5:22 to 33, verse-by-verse. Turn there and take your outline to follow along. We looked at God’s design from the very beginning, the context of Ephesians, the role of women in submission in verse 22, and the role of men as 1) the LEADER, verses 23 to 24, 2) the LOVER, verses 25 to 27, and 3) a man who embraces ONENESS, verses 28 to 33–leader, lover and linker.
To press the importance of being so close to your wife, it’s as if you are glued to her, Paul gave three examples to husbands. Love her like you love your own body you are one with, verses 28 to 29a. Love her like Christ loves His body He is one with, verses 29b to 30. Love her like God designed from the very beginning, as one, verse 31.
Read 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.” This is familiar to us, but radical to the Ephesians. At the time the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write this instruction on marriage, Jewish men were legally divorcing their wives for burning their breakfast toast and any other whim. Jewish women were refusing to marry because their position as a future wife was so tenuous.
It was said of Greek and Roman men, “We have courtesans for our pleasure, concubines for our daily cohabitation and wives for the purpose of having children legitimately and of having a faithful guardian for our household affairs.” Greek women had no part in their husband’s life and Romans were known for multiple marriages.
So Paul’s teaching on oneness is mouth-gaping in its contrast to what was actually practiced in Ephesus. In the roots of our culture is a reminder that we have moved away from God’s design from oneness, but back then in Ephesus, they had no roots to look back on. They had no Judeo-Christian ethic in their past, so this is shocking to them.
But I have to warn you today–there are some truths found in these two final verses that should be shocking to you! What am I talking about? When God created marriage, it was not simply that God considered marriage to be a good idea, or merely to cure loneliness, or just to procreate the race. No, there is a higher call to be lived out.
#4 Marriage was designed to display Christ
Look at verse 32, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Marriage is not about you, marriage is not about your spouse, marriage is not merely about you and your spouse being one–marriage is about God putting Christ on display, showing how Christianity is real and proving that Christ is in union with you. This is radical!
This entire passage has been pointing to Christ. This is why the name of Christ occurs seven times in these verses—five times as Christ, one time as Savior, and one time as Lord. Marriage is really about Christ. Look at verse 32–the word mystery is not Agatha Christie. It is a truth that was hidden in the Old Testament but is now revealed in the New Testament. Paul says you didn’t know this before, but now you do.
There is a great truth hidden here. What is it Paul? Honor the context and look back again to 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.” Verse 31 is Paul quoting Moses in Genesis 2:24, which is the same verse Jesus quotes in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. Now when Paul, Moses and Jesus all say the same thing, do you know what that means? This is important.
So in verse 32, Paul says this is truth you didn’t know before–but not an ordinary mystery. Verse 32 says this is a great truth. Paul says to each of you, single or married–pay attention, don’t miss this, this is enormous! How massive? The Greek word for great in verse 32 is mega–this is big, people.
Paul even uses a mood indicating a fact that is continually true. This is a continually true, mega truth fact. Do not walk away today without this burned into your spiritual life! Not only is this a great mystery–but notice the next phrase. Verse 32, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking.”
“But I am speaking” is a wake-up slap. It is a very strong contrast–it is only used six other times in the New Testament by Christ–in the Sermon on the Mount, when He says, “You have heard it said, ‘But I say to you.’” So here is a mega mystery–then Paul says get it right with “but I am speaking.” Not to refute some heresy, but to help you see something you’ve missed–to reinforce you didn’t know this before.
What did you miss? The Ephesian audience then and FBC’ers today would naturally accept Genesis 2:24 as referring to the union of a husband and wife alone. But Paul, moved by God the Holy Spirit says no, the on-going mega-truth that I must say to you is this. Genesis 2:24 actually pictures the union of Christ and believers.
Did you get it? All this instruction on marriage and marriage itself was specially designed by God to illustrate Christ and His Church. You say, “Chris, I knew that.” No you didn’t–you missed what I just said. Before marriage even came into existence, before Moses penned verse 31, before Paul and Jesus quote it in the New Testament–God intended marriage to illustrate Christ and the Church.
In the plan of the perfect, sovereign Creator of the universe, all these principles of oneness, of unique and distinct persons being glued in a supernatural oneness was to point to Christ and His Bride–even before Christ became a man and the Church was birthed. You are still not getting it. Marriage, at its very inception. Marriage before the fall into sin, marriage in God’s original design, back in Genesis, thousands of years before the New Testament, before the Church was birthed in Acts, before Christ was born a man–the plan all along for your marriage was to illustrate Christ and His Bride.
God says you didn’t know this, but the original purpose of your marriage is to show off Christ and His Church. Locked into the very fabric of marriage was a constant reminder, a window, a radical light to display Christ and His Bride. This is deep theology, friends–first in the mind of God concerning every believing marriage was not you and your spouse, relationship, children, leaving or cleaving, one flesh, sex, or marriage. No, it was Christ and His union with His children.
Marriage is to show off that Jesus Christ lives in you and in us. Marriage is our witness, marriage is our way to glorify God–the original purpose of the oneness with our spouse is to show off the oneness that only true Christians can have with Christ. Look at verse 32 again–this is what was in God’s mind when He created Adam and Eve and gave them to each other in marriage. What was God thinking? Verse 32, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
This entire passage is about Christ and the Church. In the Old Testament, the Messiah’s love for His Church was hidden, but now it is revealed and the primary thought behind union or oneness in marriage was Christ and the Church. Our Creator thought, what would be a great way to constantly illustrate my love for My Bride? What would be the best way to illustrate My intimate union with each of My children individually and corporately as a family? Marriage was His answer.
Marriage is a window display of the treasures of God’s love that are found in the store called Christ. Are you getting it? It wasn’t marriage that God was thinking about to illustrate oneness, but Christ and the Church illustrate oneness and marriage is a good example of the oneness of Christ and His Bride. In the Old Testament, God thought of Christ and the Church as primary. And marriage became His illustration. Marriage was actually secondary. So don’t miss the obvious.
First You can’t know the depth of marriage unless you’re a Christian
If a husband is to love like Christ, he must know Christ, and Christ must be in him and love through him in order to love his wife this way. If a wife is to submit to her husband as she submits to Christ, she must first have submitted to Christ, Christ being in her to submit through her.
Second No Christian should ever marry a non-Christian
Second Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” If one partner is a Christian and the other is not, a husband and wife cannot connect on the deepest level, nor fulfill their highest purpose and the marriage is flawed from the beginning. God makes it clear, only marry in the Lord. First Corinthians 7:39 says, “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
Third Christian marriage only works when both pursue God’s Word
Only when we follow God’s design in dependence upon the Spirit will a marriage experience God’s blessing. You have to practice the principles and develop biblical marriage habits. Don’t just listen today, live it today. It’ll be uncomfortable at first, but you will be on your way to seeing your marriage glorify God and be your biggest blessing.
Fourth Stay focused on God’s original purpose for marriage
Paul is shocking us with God’s original purpose for marriage. The original plan was to put the union of Christ and His believers on display. Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and orthodox Jews do not have union with God. But sadly, far too many churchgoing, so-called Christians do not have oneness with Christ. Only born again Christians everywhere and born again Christians in this church body have union with Christ. And the best and possibly only way to strongly show off this oneness is your marriage.
Stop getting distracted with your schooling, your kids, your job, TV, or your home and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, work hard on your marriage so that you show off Christ. Next to Christ, your marriage is the closest union you can enjoy. Wives, you are to be closer to your husband than to your kids or parents. Husbands, you are to be more intimate to your wife than your kids, sports stats, parents or your career path.
Typically, wives hide from oneness by turning to their children for intimacy and husbands hide from union by depending on their job and both escapes do damage to God’s glory–both escapes mar the witness of Christ and His people through marriage.
Fifth In God’s heart, family is never separate from the Church
You do not have God’s heart if you think family first. You are not honoring God’s Word by isolating your children from relationship with the church family. You are not in God’s will by keeping your children from being influenced by other Christians in the church family. From the very beginning, before marriage was created, Paul says God had Christ and the Church in His heart. And marriage was actually designed to be an illustration of Christ and His Church.
This is radical stuff. In God’s mind, you got married to be a clear window of how Christ and people can be one. The mystery was this–at the very beginning, marriage was intended to display the union of a believer to Christ, the body of believers to Christ. To isolate yourself or your children from impactful relationship with the church family results in sin for you and harm to your family.
Sixth Be passionate about your marriage witness
The reason we’re losing our witness in the world is we are either not pursuing God’s design in our marriages, or we are so isolated from the world that non-Christians never see your marriage. Husbands, instead of hearing you talk about last night’s game, they should hear you talk about the great time you had with your wife. Wives, instead of hearing you talk about your kids, they should hear you talk about the blessing of your fantastic husband.
Then when they ask, and they will eventually ask–you tell them it is because of Christ in you, loving through you, respecting through you and delighting through you that makes your marriage so sweet. There are three great unions in the Bible–the union of three persons yet one God in the Trinity, the union of 100% humanity and 100% deity in the person of Christ, and the union of Christ and the Christian.
Marriage was designed to be a witness of Christ’s union with Christians. When non-Christian neighbors, unsaved family, lost fellow-workers, non-believing classmates, unsaved employers, lost teachers see your marriage, they should see the joy of being in union with Christ. They should see oneness and something so unique only God could be the cause. Why? Because that was God’s design from the very beginning. Be passionate about your marriage witness.
Verse 32, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” So now, as Paul wraps things up, he starts verse 33 with the word “nevertheless”, telling us not to be so wrapped up in Christ and His bride that we neglect our marriage. We must be passionately committed to function in our role in marriage in order to show off the union of Christ and believers. We must obey God’s design for wives and husbands in order to not smudge the window marriage is to be for seeing Christ clearly. This is so important–what should we do Paul?
#5 Fulfill your role so as not to mar the picture of Christ
Paul says, husbands and wives these words are also about you. Verse 33, “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Be an Ephesians 5 husband and an Ephesians 5 wife so you truly display Christ in union with His children in real life. Be a real bride and a real groom so people can see the ultimate groom and the ultimate bride.
God is primary and marriage is secondary in this passage. But marriage is a great means to show God off, so fulfill your role. Notice the phrasing, “Nevertheless let each individual among you” (verse 33). Paul gets pointed. In previous verses, Paul mainly uses the plural for husbands and wives, but here he uses the singular—“each of you.”
“Would someone here bring me some water?” That request may get someone to act, but if I ask, “_________ , would you get me some water?” It feels more pointed, specific and expects a response. That’s what Paul says—“You individual wife, you specific husband.” God expects each of you, each husband and each wife, to obey, to individually act, to do your part. Paul is naming names. He is personalizing your responsibility. Let each individual among you do your part, fulfill your role. No husband or wife is exempt.
Paul summarizes his commands to husbands by repeating God’s oneness command, “Let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself.” Through dependency upon the Spirit, husbands are to daily, continually, sacrificially love their wife as if she were actually a part of you, because she is in reality one with you.
Right now, look around you at the people of our church family. Are they perfect? Do they have problems? Are there people here who have sinful bents that are tough for you to tolerate? Is it difficult for you to love some of them at times? Amazingly, if they are God’s true children, Jesus loves each one of them, even the difficult ones with a passionate sacrificial love.
You husbands are to love your wives as yourself, even with all her imperfections, in the same way Christ loves the Church with all her imperfections–continually and regardless of how she behaves. You say, “My wife isn’t very loving.” Then love her until she is. Now ladies, what can you do to make your husband’s job a little easier? Simple–you can be lovely.
My wife is like gravity–she pulls me to her. I can’t help myself. She makes it easy to love her. She is kind, clean, loves God, loves His Word, loves my boys and daughter, loves kids, loves ministry, is faithful, hardworking, discerning, humble, an amazing servant and hot. Every guy ought to think that way–your wife is hot.
Have you noticed how the standard of beauty changes all the time? Sure, it’s radically different than it was a hundred years ago and still changing. Listen, this century, this age is the age of Jean for me. At this time, in this culture, at this place, she is the standard of beauty for me. You are all nice, and I suppose some of you are pretty or cute. But in the year of Chris, Jean is hot. In my world, there is no one else who compares–she is my standard.
And for every husband here, it is your wife–she is your standard. Now you wives make it so much easier for your husbands if you act and keep yourself lovely for your husbands with your words, actions, attitudes and some taking care of yourself physically. Some of it is responding to your husband’s likes and dislikes. Jean can look up at me in a certain way that melts me every time.
Now whether she gives you a shortcut or not, makes it easy or not–a husband’s duty is to love his wife. And verse 33 says, “Let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Paul uses a case for the noun wife that is almost like naming names, “Hey, Jean girl–you respect Chris.” Because Paul here doesn’t repeat the command to submit, but in fact charges the individual wife to fear her husband, the actual text is giving her a commanding tone to fulfill her purpose and fear her husband.
And God made certain through the Greek that we know it is the wife herself that chooses to fear her husband–never that the husband forces the wife to fear him. The only time forcing fear is allowed is when you husbands scare your wife for fun–that’s not in the Bible, it’s in 1 Fleshalonians.
Did you notice the bookends of fear of this passage in verses 21 and 33? All believers are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ in verse 21 and a wife is to submit herself to her husband in fear in verse 33. We all submit to each other because we respect God in us and through us and His control over all in verse 21. And a wife shows fearful respect to her husband because God has put her husband over her as her head in verse 33.
Your husband is your God-appointed authority. He is the Lord’s appointed leader in your life. Jesus put Him in charge–therefore respect him. The word “respect”, or literally fear, is used 93 times in the New Testament. And “fear” 62 times, “be afraid” 23 times, “be afraid of” 5 times and 3 other times. Here it means to think of a person as being important, or to see a person as being great or regarding a person as deserving to be honored.
How about that, wives? The fear here is a kind of awe–do you remember the kind of respect that Sarah gave Abraham in 1 Peter 3:6? “Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” Wife, you are to have a reverential respect for your husband’s position as head of the home. I know we’re far from this in our culture, but this attitude will display the union that Christians enjoy with Christ.
And if you haven’t learned this yet, get it down today wives. Most men would rather be respected than loved. They are not like you. Just as women have a deep created need to be loved, men have a deep created need to be respected. There is nothing more difficult for a husband than to love his wife when she is unlovely and there is nothing more difficult for a wife than to respect her husband when he is disrespectable. But this is what God commands us to do–that is why we must depend on the Spirit!
So what things can a woman do to make her husband feel disrespected? Stop doing these things ladies–stop it now! Bringing your husband up at a prayer meeting, pointing out all his weak points, contradicting him publicly, criticizing him publicly, correcting him publicly, interrupting him to correct his story–who cares if it was a red car and not a blue car, it is his story. The details are not the issue–he is telling a story.
How else? Wishing you had more than what you have or discontent with what you have. Every time, that is an insult to him as a provider. Comparing him to others and gossiping about him, or nagging him. Have you ever seen men nag each other? Do you know why they don’t? Because one of them will have to die! Seriously, any guy nags me–right hand of fellowship. Don’t nag him.
Don’t be a quarrelsome wife who likes to argue and fight. Here is the problem–if a wife provokes her husband by arguing, fighting, nagging or contending, he can’t win. And this frustrates the man greatly. It robs him of his masculinity, because if he takes it from his wife, he is a coward. And if he fights back, he’s abusive–he can’t win.
This is why some men leave, don’t come home, get drunk, become silent, get busy with hobbies, watch porno or get angry. They are frustrated out of their minds by a contentious, nagging, quarrelsome or withholding wife. A Christian husband can’t blame his wife, but this is how some women make it tough for their husbands.
Do you see how this creates a vicious cycle that must be broken? She doesn’t respect him, so he won’t love her–and he won’t love her, so she won’t respect him. And there is only one way to get out of the cruel cycle—for the husband to be the spiritual head, and initiate genuine, sacrificial love toward his wife to stop the cycle.
And wives, if you want to honor Christ and taste the blessings of a truly biblical marriage, then respect your husband until he is respectable. If a Christian husband does not have the respect of his Christian wife, then he feels like an absolute failure in every area. Wives, have you noticed when you say complimentary things to a man, he believes them even though he shouldn’t?
“You’re not chubby, you are just stocky”–so he thinks he’s stocky when we all know he is fat. “You’re not dumb, you’re just creative–you do things differently.” If a lady can’t open a jar and she brings it to a man to open, he feels like a Greek god. “I’ll get it, baby–oh yeah!” Men are simple creatures and compliments go a long way. You say, “He’ll never believe that.” Yes he will.
Husbands, you can make your wife’s job easier by being respectable. Give her something to talk about. “My husband, he loves the Lord, loves His Word, takes me out, he fathers the kids, he takes care of the yard, he brings me flowers, rubs my feet, talks with me, works hard, plans vacations”–give her something.
You ask some wives, “Tell me about your husband?” Hmmmm . . . “He’s a biped–he walks on two legs as opposed to four.” Give her something to work with, guys. Verse 33, “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Wives who are lovely are easier to love and husbands who are respectable are easier to respect. I beg you today . . .
First Make the necessary time commitment in order to work on your marriage
It won’t grow healthy left alone–you have to work at it. And it won’t happen in a day–be a farmer, cultivate the soil, fertilize the plants and eventually you will experience a great harvest.
Second Seek to be a marriage witness
Why should a husband and a wife work hard in dependence upon the Holy Spirit to fulfill their role? So you don’t mar the picture of Christ you were intended to give. So you bring God glory. So you show off what God is like in being different persons yet one–you being different persons but also one. Marriage is a powerful witness when you follow God’s plan. And not only a witness, but the grace of life–the best there is in this life.
Third Pursue your role goal
Wives, respect your husband till he becomes the most respectable and husbands love your wife until she becomes the most lovely. Stop the excuses, don’t give up, depend on the Holy Spirit and love and respect like you never have before.
Fourth Christian marriage must be centered on Christ
For the religious person, churchgoer, you must turn to and depend on Christ and for the Christian you must depend on the Spirit every day. In the Old Testament, we are told of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, which from the beginning was set forth as an illustration of the way God loves and gives himself for his people in spite of their unfaithful behavior.
Gomer was like us. She was married to Hosea, but she was flirtatious and soon left him for another man. Hosea made sure that she had food to eat and clothes to wear—even when she was living with another man. But at last, Gomer sank so low that she was sold as a slave in the city of Samaria, and Hosea was told to go and buy her. He bought her for “fifteen shekels of silver and some barley” (Hosea 3:2).
At this point, Gomer became Hosea’s property–he could have killed her if he wished. But he did not kill her. He loved her! And now, since she was his again, he promised love for her and claimed her love for himself. This is a picture of the way the Lord Jesus Christ loves us and of how our marriages are to illustrate that great and prior relationship.
We are the adulterous slave, sold on the auction block of sin. He loved us when we did not love him. He died for us when we were scorning His love and running from Him. Still, He bought us by that greatest of all sacrifices, and we became His. Peter says, “You were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18 to 19).
Having become his, we now owe Him the fullest measure of love. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Never make the mistake of dragging your understanding of the love of God in Christ down to the level of your own weak love. Rather, let God draw your love up by the love and power of Christ to his standard. Then Christ shall have His way and you will be able to testify to the world of His great love.
If you’re married or engaged–please stand so we can pray for you. Now all the single people can scope each other out.