“Christ’s Love for the Church”
Lesson Text: Ephesians 5:21-6:4
Background Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-6:9
Devotional Reading: John 3:16-21
Ephesians 5:21-33 (KJV)
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
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.
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:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
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.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
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.
Ephesians 6:1-4 (KJV)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
To Learn the roles and responsibilities for Christian families.
To know that your family relationship should mirror your relationship with God.
To let Christ’s love show in your commitment to your church and family.
In last week’s lesson the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesian 5:15-20 that we are to imitate Christ by letting our light shine. In today’s lesson Paul continued to apply the principle of harmony to husbands and wives (Eph. 5:21-33), parents and children (Eph. 6:1-4); and he began with the admonition that each submit to the other (Eph. 5:21). Does this suggest that husband and wives tell each other what to do, or children tell the parents what to do? Of course not! Submission has nothing to do with the order of authority, but rather governs the operation of authority, how it is given and how it is received. Often Jesus tried to teach His disciples not to throw their weight around, or seek to become great at somebody else's expense. Unfortunately, they failed to learn the lesson on many occasions, and even at the Last Supper they were arguing over who was the greatest (Luke 22:24-27). When Jesus washed their feet, He taught them that the greatest is the person who uses his authority to build up people and not, like the Pharisees, to build up his authority and make himself important. We are to esteem others "more important than ourselves" (Rom 12:10; Phil. 2:1-4). By nature, we want to promote ourselves, but the Holy Spirit enables us to submit ourselves.
Submission / Showing Mutual Respect (Ephesians 5:21-24)
1. What does the word submit mean and how does submission relate to our spiritual life? (Ephesians 5:21)
This verse is a bridge between Paul's discussion of the spiritual life in the context of worship and his counsel on how to put the spiritual life into practice on the family level. The common factor is submission, a voluntary yielding of control. Recognition of God's power and submission to His authority are at the core of obedience.
The Greek verb rendered “submitting” was used in literature outside of the Bible in the sense of soldiers subordinating themselves to their superiors. Here, the verb does not mean a forced submission, but rather voluntarily giving up one’s rights and will. Because of our selfish human nature, we do not naturally want to yield or adapt to anyone. But since we love and respect the Savior, and since He asks us to submit to one another, we must do so.
2. How does Paul define humbleness in the role of the wife? (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Paul now calls for wives to have a spirit of humbleness and submission to the authority of their husbands (also Colossians 3:18). However, Paul is not giving husbands permission to act as tyrants over their wives. This becomes clear as Paul proceeds with his instructions.
In both the Jewish and the Gentile households of Paul's day, the father/husband is seen as having great authority within the home. Paul does not challenge this. But, using the analogy of Christ, he reminds us that this authority does not come without responsibility. Christ, who is both the head and Savior of the church, gave His life to save us. As the church's Redeemer, Christ has authority in the church as its ultimate leader (compare 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 23).
We keep in mind that Paul is speaking of the family as an extension of the church, the Christian family. His use of “every thing” is thus not a blanket command for wives to obey their husbands in absolutely anything they ask. For example, Paul would not approve of a husband's asking his wife to participate in a criminal activity. Yet in general Paul sees the husband as the leader of the Christian home, and wives should respect that fact.
He gives two reasons for this command: the lordship of Christ (Eph. 5:22) and the headship of the man in Christ (Eph. 5:23). When the Christian wife submits herself to Christ and lets Him be the Lord of her life, she will have no difficulty submitting to her husband. This does not mean that she becomes a slave, for the husband is also to submit to Christ. And if both are living under the lordship of Christ, there can be only harmony. Headship is not dictatorship. "Each for the other, both for the Lord." The Christian husband and wife should pray together and spend time in the Word, so that they might know God's will for their individual lives and for their home.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways a husband can make it easier for his wife to follow his lead?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Decision-making style | Listening skills | Personal priorities |Other
Love (Ephesians 5:25-33)
3. What is the spiritual obligation of a husband in Christian marriage? (Ephesians 5:25)
Now Paul focuses more explicitly on the expectations of the husband: he should love his wife. The kind of love in view is the godly, unselfish love that Christ has demonstrated. Rather than see his wife as a target for exploitation, the husband is to honor her with his own self-giving love and protection (Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7).
If the wife submits and the husband takes advantage of her submission, the marriage will be a failure. If the husband gives his all for the wife and the wife takes advantage of his self-sacrifice, the marriage will likewise fail. Paul sees the ideal Christian marriage as a remarkable relationship of mutuality: the wife accepting the husband's leadership, and the husband putting his wife's needs before his own.
Paul had much more to say to the Christian husbands than to the wives. He set for them a very high standard: Love your wives "even as Christ also loved the church." Paul was lifting married love to the highest level possible, for he saw in the Christian home an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church. God established marriage for many reasons. For one thing, it meets man's emotional needs. "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). Marriage also has a social purpose in the bearing of children to continue the race (Gen. 1:28). Paul indicated a physical purpose for marriage—to help man and woman fulfill the normal desires given them by God (1 Cor. 7:1-3). But in Ephesians 5, Paul indicated also a spiritual purpose in marriage, as the husband and wife experience with each other the submission and the love of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).
4. What did Paul mean by a sanctifying love? (Ephesians 5:26, 27)
The husband's love will also be a sanctifying love (Eph. 5:26-27). The word sanctify means "to set apart." In the marriage ceremony, the husband is set apart to belong to the wife, and the wife is set apart to belong to the husband. Any interference with this God-given arrangement is sin. Today, Christ is cleansing His church through the ministry of His Word (John 15:3; 17:17). The love of the husband for his wife ought to be cleansing her (and him) so that both are becoming more like Christ. Even their physical relationship should be so controlled by God that it becomes a means of spiritual enrichment as well as personal enjoyment (1 Cor. 7:3-5). The husband is not to "use" his wife for his own pleasure, but rather is to show the kind of love that is mutually rewarding and sanctifying. The marriage experience is one of constant growth when Christ is the Lord of the home. Love always enlarges and enriches, while selfishness does just the opposite.
The church today is not perfect; it has spots and wrinkles. Spots are caused by defilement on the outside, while wrinkles are caused by decay on the inside. Because the church becomes defiled by the world, it needs constant cleansing, and the Word of God is the cleansing agent. "Keep yourselves unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
5. How does Paul describe physically the love a Christian husband should have for his wife? (Ephesians 5:28-33)
Paul puts the golden ethic of “love… thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27) at the center of the husband's obligations. Marriages that are pleasing to God are based on selflessness. There is no conflict between loving one's wife and loving oneself. However, there is more to the expectation of a husband loving his wife than his personal gain from doing so, as Paul discusses next.
The natural inclination of a man (or anyone, for that matter) is to take care of his own body (Ephesians 5:29). We may be guilty of destructive behaviors that damage our health, but we all at least want to have healthy bodies. Paul broadens his observation to include the care that Christ has for his body, which is the body of believers—the church (see Romans 12:5).
Paul's point, then, is that the husband who treats his wife in ways that strengthen their marriage is fulfilling God's intention to have men and women in lifelong relationships as the foundation for families and the building block for society. This is true for the church as well, for strong marriages help build strong churches.
We should recognize, however, that Paul is not saying these things to diminish those who are unmarried, for elsewhere he commends the single life (1 Corinthians 7:8). He is speaking here in pointed, specific terms to husbands and giving them a Christlike, biblical example for the manner in which they are to honor their wives.
Paul is saying that a deep, thoughtful understanding of God's created pattern for marriage helps us understand the relationship between Christ and His church, a relationship of willing sacrifice. The great love of Christ for His church is a guide for understanding God's intentions for marriage, particularly concerning the role of the husband.
Our Christian homes are to be pictures of Christ's relationship to His church. Each believer is a member of Christ's body, and each believer is to help nourish the body in love (Eph. 4:16). We are one with Christ. The church is His body and His bride, and the Christian home is a divinely ordained illustration of this relationship. This certainly makes marriage a serious matter.
Paul's summary may seem obvious to those who have grown up with Christian expectations for marriage: the husband acts with great love for his wife, and the wife responds with willing respect. We should remember, however, that in today’s society many don’t have Christian values, and many families are very unhappy places. The tendency today is either to divorce when things get tough or to try to avoid the problems of marriage by engaging in unmarried cohabitation.
It does not have to be this way! The solution is to honor God's pattern for marriage by these foundational principles: a husband must love his wife and show it in his actions, and a wife must respond by honoring and supporting her husband as her own demonstration of love (5:33). These principles are based on a foundational relationship with Jesus Christ, Who gives us the power to live them out (Matthew 28:20).
But even if two Christians marry in the will of God, they must stay in God's will if their home is to be the creative fellowship God wants it to be. "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Gal. 5:22), and unless both husband and wife are walking in the Spirit they cannot share the love of Christ, the love that is so beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness. Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church.
Obedience (Ephesians 6:1-4)
6. How does Paul describe the role of the children in a Christian home? (Ephesians 6:1-3)
The patterns of godly, submissive Christian behavior also apply in the relationships between children and parents. Thus Paul reminds children that God's pattern for families includes respectful obedience (see Leviticus 19:3; Proverbs 6:20). In the Lord is the framework of submission to the lordship of Christ (see also Colossians 3:20).
Paul invokes the Old Testament to help us understand the basis for children's obedience. The Ten Commandments express God's expectations for the behavior of His people, and this short list includes an injunction for children to honor their parents. This concept of honoring naturally includes obedience, for to disobey is to dishonor.
Paul points out that this commandment comes with a promise: the one who gives obedient honor to parents will be rewarded by God with a long and good life (Deuteronomy 5:16). Paul does not intend us to understand this in a simplistic, infallible cause-and-effect way, as in “if we honor our parents, then we are guaranteed to have a great life.” However, Paul is confident that the Christian's life, family, and church will be stronger if submissive obedience by children is the rule (compare 1Timothy 3:4, 5).
The fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) promise originally applied to the Jews as they entered Canaan, but Paul applied it to believers today. He substituted "earth" for "land" and tells us that the Christian child who honors his parents can expect two blessings. It will be well with him, and he will live long on the earth. This does not mean that everyone who died young dishonored his parents. He was stating a principle: when children obey their parents in the Lord, they will escape a good deal of sin and danger and thus avoid the things that could threaten or shorten their lives. But life is not measured only by quantity of time. It is also measured by quality of experience. God enriches the life of the obedient child no matter how long he may live on the earth. Sin always robs us; obedience always enriches us.
Finally, to "honor" our parents means much more than simply to obey them. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to seek to bring honor to them by the way we live.
So, the child must learn early to obey father and mother, not only because they are his parents, but also because God has commanded it to be so. Disobedience to parents is rebellion against God. The sad situation in homes today is the result of rejecting God's Word (Romans 1:28-30; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). By nature, a child is selfish, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, a child can learn to obey his parents and glorify God (Proverbs 22:6).
7. How does Paul instruct the fathers to treat their children? (Ephesians 6:4)
Selfish bullying or other mistreatment directed toward the children will result in bitterness in return. How can children be expected to honor a cruelly selfish father? The father should remember that rearing children is a God-given responsibility. The father is accountable to the Lord even within the walls of the family home.
Paul told the parents, "Don't use your authority to abuse the child, but to encourage and build the child." To the Colossians he wrote, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (Colossians 3:21). So, the opposite of "provoke" is "encourage."
Fathers provoke their children and discourage them by saying one thing and doing another—by always blaming and never praising, by being inconsistent and unfair in discipline, and by showing favoritism in the home, by making promises and not keeping them, and by making light of problems that, to the children, are very important. Christian parents need the fullness of the Spirit so they can be sensitive to the needs and problems of their children.
The text reads, "but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The verb translated "bring them up" is the same word that is translated "nourisheth” in Ephesians 5:29. The Christian husband is to nourish his wife and his children by sharing love and encouragement in the Lord. It is not enough to nurture the children physically by providing food, shelter, and clothing. He must also nurture them emotionally and spiritually. The development of the Boy Jesus is our example: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). Here is balanced growth: intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social. Nowhere in the Bible is the training of children assigned to agencies outside the home, no matter how they might assist. God looks to the parents for the kind of training that the children need.
The word "nurture" carries with it the idea of learning through discipline. It is translated "chastening" in Hebrews 12. Some modern psychologists oppose the old-fashioned idea of discipline, and many educators follow their philosophy. "Let the children express themselves!" they tell us. "If you discipline them, you may warp their characters." Yet discipline is a basic principle of life and an evidence of love. "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6). "He that he that loveth him chasteneth him" (Proverbs 13:24).
We must be sure, however, that we discipline our children in the right manner. To begin with, we must discipline in love and not in anger, lest we injure either the body or the spirit of the child, or possibly both. If we are not disciplined, we surely cannot discipline others, and "flying off the handle" never made either a better child or a better parent.
This is the meaning of the word "admonition." The father and mother not only use actions to raise the child, but also words. In the Book of Proverbs, for example, we have an inspired record of a father sharing wise counsel with his son. Our children do not always appreciate our counsel, but that does not eliminate the obligation we have to instruct and encourage them. Of course, our instruction must always be tied to the Word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:13-17).
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Maintain an unwavering commitment to your spouse. (Ephesians 5:21-32)
2. Reflect Christ’s love in your family. (Ephesians 5:33; 6:4)
3. Children obey and honor your parents, for this pleases God! (Ephesians 6:1-3; Exodus 20:12)
Family Roles and Responsibilities
It may seem like a set of impossible expectations: a husband/father who acts with unfailing love for his wife and children; a wife/mother who supports her husband's decisions; and children who honor their parents with obedience. Many forces in society work against this ideal. Children are encouraged to be rebellious. Wives are belittled for not asserting their own interests. Husbands are tempted by examples of unfaithfulness that are presented in an appealing light. Is there any place for the pattern of the family as Paul sees it?
Throughout today's text, Paul keeps returning to Christ's love for the church. This is the key to understanding relationships. There is no greater love than what Jesus Christ showed in laying down His innocent life for our salvation. We are always to be guided by that profound example. Families may have complicated tensions resulting from generational history and sinful behavior. But this does not absolve us from seeking to live with Christ's love as our guiding principle.
God, our great Father, make us more like Your Son. Help us overcome the pull of selfishness. May we love each other in our church and in our families as Christ has loved us. In His name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Let Christ's love show in your relationships.