Husbands and Wives: Together at the Cross

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(Epehesians 5:21-33)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 10

Husbands and Wives: Together at the Cross

(Ephesians 5:21-33)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Are Christian marriages in trouble? When I attend a marriage I hear the sad comment that things are wonderful on the day of the marriage, but they are destined for sorrow. I’m an optimist, so I don’t say those things. But the statistics on marriage are discouraging. You may recall that in the past few studies about relationships in the church, we mentioned that the unity concepts for church might also apply to a marriage. One question I asked was “Is organization also important in a marriage?” Our study today seems to give the answer, “Yes.” Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about organization in marriage - among other things!

  1. Mutual Submission
    1. Read Ephesians 5:21. You may recall that we ended our study last week on that verse. Do you recall that after all the bad behavior we studied last week, I asked something like, “Why would we submit to others when foolish people abound?”
      1. What did we decide was the answer? (The phrase “out of reverence for Christ” directs the kind of submission we should make.)
      2. What do you think Paul means by “submitting?”
      3. What do you think is Paul’s goal in asking us to submit to each other?
    2. Read Ephesians 5:22. I am a husband. Is it likely that I view my wife submitting to me differently then I view my obligation to submit to other people in the church, especially the foolish ones? (Husbands are unlikely to think of themselves as fools, even if it is true.)
      1. In other words, is a wife’s submission to her husband different than a husband’s submission to other members of the church? (Notice that Ephesians 5:21 and Ephesians 5:22 have very similar phrases at the end. In verse 22 it is “as to the Lord.” This tells us that the nature of the wife’s submission is qualified.)
        1. Or is it? Are we not to submit to God in everything?
    3. Thinking again about Ephesians 5:21 and Ephesians 5:22, if the wife is also a member of the church, does that mean we are looking at mutual submission?
      1. Should the modern understanding of equality between genders affect or influence our understanding of these verses? (How can we think modern understandings have value when modern marriages seem to result in a train-wreck for half of them?)
    4. Read Ephesians 5:23-24. What does this suggest is the nature of the roles between husband and wife? (Let’s think about the organization question. I think this is first telling us that in every organization someone ultimately has to be responsible, to be in charge. Christ is the head of the church. He is in charge.)
      1. What if the wife thinks (or knows) the husband is a fool? (If you marry a fool, you may find that you face some downstream problems.)
      2. Is it important that in this comparison between husbands and Christ verse 23 says Christ is “its Savior?”
  2. Husbands and Love
    1. Read Ephesians 5:25-27. Should husbands consider whether in their actions as “the head” of the family they are loving themselves or loving their wives?
      1. How much did Christ love the church? (He died for it.)
        1. How would you apply that, husbands, to your relationship with your wife?
    2. Look again at Ephesians 5:26. I asked earlier what is the goal in this call for submission. What answer do we find here? (To “sanctify” the wife.)
      1. What does that mean?
      2. Let’s go back to the point of comparison, which is baptism. What happens to us in baptism? (Read Colossians 2:12. We participate with Jesus in His death for our sins.)
      3. Should we conclude that husbands must give themselves up to make their wives holy?
      4. Is the husband required to give sacrificial love to his wife?
    3. Read Ephesians 5:28. Compare Matthew 7:12. Is this a call to treat wives the same as you treat everyone else? (I think this is the most important text in the Bible about marriage. You should love your wife as you love yourself. Looking deeper, if you love your wife as you love yourself, you will be loved by your wife. Husbands are looking out for their own best interests if they love their wife. And, no, I don’t think she should be treated just like others. Why? Because this discussion in Ephesians would be unnecessary if it simply meant to repeat Matthew 7:12.)
    4. Read Ephesians 5:29-30. What practical argument is Paul making for loving your wife?
  3. The Mystery
    1. Read Ephesians 5:31-32. Compare Genesis 2:24. How is this a “profound mystery?” (This is the point at which humans are like God in that they can create life. Our life creation power is a mystery.)
      1. Do you think that if you show sacrificial love to your wife she will mysteriously love you more? Mysteriously become a better person? (I’ve seen that. A couple were married later in life. It was not the first marriage for either of them. The wife was almost immediately disappointed in the marriage and turned her anger (which could be considerable) on her new husband. He just loved her in response. It changed her and changed their marriage.)
    2. Look again at Ephesians 5:31. How does the “leave your father and mother” fit into the idea of showing love to your wife? (Both husband and wife must prefer their spouse to their parents. One on one, the new husband and wife must reach an agreement. If the parents get to vote, it becomes three to one and no compromise is possible.)
    3. Look again at Ephesians 5:32. Paul also refers to the mystery in reference to Jesus and the church. How is that a mystery? (Jesus willingness to take on humanity, live a perfect life, be tortured to death, and rise to give us eternal life is a mystery. A mystery in the sense that we can hardly understand it.)
      1. How does that mystery apply to marriage? (We can have unexpectedly good results in loving each other.)
  4. Summary
    1. Read Ephesians 5:33. Would you agree that this is a summary of what we have been studying this week?
      1. Notice the direction to the wife to “respect” the husband. How important to a man is being respected by his wife?
      2. If you listen to wives talking between themselves about their husbands, how many seem to have respect for their husband?
      3. Earlier, I referred to husbands being foolish and asked about submitting to foolish men. How does that discussion fit in here? (We previously discussed the limits on submission. The point here is to avoid thinking your husband is a fool. That would include talking to others about your husband being a fool.)
    2. Friend, we have seen that Paul’s advice for marriage is not something contrary to the interests of the wife. That understanding is contrary to modern opinion of Paul on this topic. Instead, Ephesians is an invitation to treat a wife like Jesus treats us. This profound mystery about the marriage relationship will give us strong marriages. Why not, husband, wife, agree right now to step into the roles Ephesians lays out?
  5. Next week: Practicing Supreme Loyalty to Christ.