Chapter 5, lesson #3
In the last few verses, Paul was admonishing Christians to live Spirit filled lives. He now discusses how the Spirit filled life manifests itself in three key relationships of his day: Wives & husbands, children & parents and slaves & masters.
Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
In each of these three relationships, the first partner (in this case the wife) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the husband). The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.
If we lived in a perfect world, no one would question this submissiveness because it would be wonderful, loving and flawless. It would be the perfect example of the relationship between the church and Christ. However, last I looked, the human race was far from perfect. We have a tendency to abuse power, and to love ourselves more than others. If you have been in a bad marriage relationship, it may be difficult for you to understand and accept that the marriage institution is to be an example of the relationship between the church and Christ. For some, the thought of submitting yourself to anyone can bring instant feelings of anger and rebellion. I think Paul was well aware of our shortcomings when he wrote this, because he includes descriptions of how the perfect wife/husband relationship should look.
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
In a Spirit filled relationship, the husband would love the wife so deeply and completely, that he would be willing to do anything for her good. This is how Christ loves the church. Literally, he gave himself up for us, so that we could be delivered from the chains of sin.
Ephesians 5:26-27 – …that he [Jesus] might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish.
Here Paul reveals WHY Jesus gave himself up for the church. Specifically, Jesus paid the price for sin so that he could sanctify or set apart the church for himself, just as a wife is set apart or reserved only for her husband.
The ‘word’ refers to the word of God, or the preaching of the gospel. The ‘washing of water’ refers to baptism, which is the outward symbol of our inward trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. Both of these speak of the church as being spiritually cleansed and set apart for God.
Ultimately, at some point, Jesus will receive the church to himself as a perfect, fully glorified bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish of sin. We will be entirely pleasing to him in all respects.
Ephesians 5:28-30 – In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
The scripture reveals that Christ nourishes and cherishes his body, the church. The idea of nourishing or nurturing suggests tender loving care. Jesus has tenderly cared for his church from its weak infancy until now, and he will continue to cherish and watch over it until it reaches full maturity in heaven. He is well able to meet all the needs of his body; he furnishes whatever is needed for life, health and happiness.
The love of an earthly husband for his wife should reflect the same level of love, caring and provision.
Ephesians 5:31-33 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The word “mystery” means something which is hidden, concealed or before unknown; it must be taught or explained to someone before they can understand it.
In this case, the mystery which was long unknown, but at least in part understood after the resurrection of Jesus was the union of Christ and the church. The Son of God uniting himself with mortal man and making them one with himself was a concept that was not imagined prior to this time. Under the old covenant, God was someone to be respected and sometimes feared. Even though He loved his people and dwelt among them in the tabernacle, they were never united as one because of sin. Now, in the new covenant, God joined man to himself; He is the head and the church is the body.
Ephesians 6:1-4 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land”. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Paul now comes to the second key relationship of his day: children & parents.
Again, in each of these three relationships, the first partner (in this case the child) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the parents). The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.
In a perfect world, children would have an inward love and respect for their parents. This would manifest itself in obedience to their instructions, listening to their wisdom and treating them with dignity and respect. In turn, the parents are to be good examples to their children, loving them, correcting them, providing for them, protecting them, and most of all, introducing them to Christ.
When we examine the idea of children in submission to their parents, Jesus is the highest and best example we have. He was in perfect obedience to Mary and Joseph. There was a mutual love and respect between Jesus and his earthly parents. Jesus was in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father as well, with mutual love and respect between the two.
Most unfortunately, the world is marred by sin. In every other parent-child relationship, mistakes are made on both sides, even in Christian households. When this happens, all we can do is address the issue, ask for forgiveness and move on in love. Healthy loving relationships can exhibit the love of Christ to a lost world, even if they are not perfect.
Ephesians 6:5-9 – Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye service, as people pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Lastly, Paul comes to the relationship of servants & masters.
In this relationship, the first partner (in this case the servant) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the master). The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.
The world “bondservant” denotes one who is bound to render service to another, whether that service is for life or for a limited time. Therefore, it could be used to mean a slave, but in could also reflect an employee-employer relationship.
The employee is to serve his boss faithfully, regardless of whether the boss is watching or not. What kind of an employee are you?
A boss is to treat his employees fairly and justly. What kind of boss are you?
What conclusions can we draw from these passages of scripture?
No one is exempt from being under authority. Of the six roles listed, you will likely find yourself in more than one. You are already a child, and it is probable that at some point you will either be an employee or a boss. You may also become a father or mother, a husband or a wife. Regardless of which roles you fit into, Jesus is the highest and best example to follow. We know that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, yet he submitted to the authority of his earthly parents as well as his Heavenly Father. When you are in a place of authority, exercise that right carefully; you are responsible for the way you treat those under you. When you are in a place of submission, do your best to glorify God.
Christianity is practical. 2 Corinthians 3:2-2 says “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Since you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart”. In other words, people need to see we belong to Christ by our actions, not just our words. We can reflect Christ by doing the right thing in our relationships. Given the fallen state of our world, that can be a very tricky business. We must depend on God for wisdom and the ability to forgive one another.
We have hope for the future. All through the ages, marriage has been a picture of the union between Christ and the church. While that picture has become more clear since the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know it has not yet been completely fulfilled. We can have hope knowing that someday, Jesus will perfect the church. She will be “without spot or wrinkle”. Someday, we will be completely and eternally free from the bondage of sin.
Don’t EVER give up in your Christian walk! God has ultimate victory for you through Christ. This message of hope is not just for the church as a whole. It is for you as an individual. My guess is that you are somewhat like me – not a perfect child, not a perfect parent, not a perfect employee and not a perfect marriage partner. At times, Satan would like to whisper in your ear how much you have failed. He wants you to believe that you should give up, based on your performance so far. He may also be telling you that you will never make it through the bad situation you are in right now. He may be pointing out what a failure you have been in relationships. He tells you that you are not qualified to share God’s love with anyone. When Satan comes against you with these false ideas, just re-read the book of Ephesians. Here are some things for close consideration:
Satan tries to make you feel guilty based on the past or present, but God has already taken care of that. He looks at what you will become. He considers you a saint – Ephesians 1:2.
Even though you are not yet perfect, you are forgiven and God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing possible (seriously, EVERY ONE. He is not holding anything back from you) – Ephesians 1:3.
God chose YOU to be blameless and holy in his sight, before the world was ever in existence. He knew you would sin, but he also knew he would rescue you from it, so Satan has no grounds to condemn you – Ephesians 1:4.
God chose to adopt YOU as his precious child. He desired you so much, that he paid the ultimate price for you…the blood of Jesus. He has never regretted that decision. He is actively working to perfect his relationship with you – Ephesians 1:5-7.
God pours his grace upon us “lavishly”. Lavish means superabundant or excessive. It means ‘to expend or bestow profusely’. God is not stingy with his love, his forgiveness or with any of the gifts he gives us. He blesses you gladly and freely; He has a plan unite you with himself, despite your short comings – Ephesians 1:8-10.
Even though you are not yet perfect, you are sealed with the precious and all powerful Holy Spirit – Ephesians 1:11-14.
As we close this section on relationships, I want you to keep in mind that all people are imperfect. Even if they love you, they can still disappoint you or mistreat you or break your heart. However, God loves you perfectly and completely and eternally. Don’t judge his love by the love of humans.