We’re on the home stretch of our study of the New Testament Book of Ephesians. I have to admit, this has been a bit of a frustrating experience: Ephesians is so rich, each week, rather than considering what to say, I have to decide what to leave out. Christ, and his work on our behalf of us on the cross, is the centerpiece. The phrase “in Christ” (“in Him”, etc.) 35x, more than any other book in the Bible. The theological foundation of Ephesians—all of our spiritual blessings we have in Christ—we observed that they serve as the basis for the practical applications in chapters 4-6. That theological foundation of our blessings in Christ also serves as the motivation for all of our obedience. A lot of people think of Christianity as just a bunch of “do-s and don’t-s”. But of course, Christianity is just like any other family—there are family rules, but those rules always have a reason. The reason always is love. And love is spiritual warfare (6:11-12 cf. 4:1-3). We have the privilege and the responsibility to imitate God! (5:1-2). The model and standard for our love is “just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us”! We have the privilege and obligation to imitate God in the relationships he has placed us in. Ephesians 5 looks at three of the most significant relationships we’ll ever experience: marriage, parenting, and the workplace.
God’s instructions to wives (5:22-24) are firmly grounded in the wonderful truths of who Christ is and what he’s done for us. Christ is our head, and as a result we love to be subject to him. (Consider the alternative: disobedience to God was actually obedience to Satan! 2:1-3). In the realm of marriage, the specific way a wife shows her love to the Lord is by following the “middle manager” her Lord has put in her life—her husband. Husbands are nothing more than middle managers. Middle managers get their leadership authority from their boss—the Lord—who happens to be the wife’s boss too. To disrespect or disregard one’s immediate leader is to disrespect and disregard our ultimate leader—the Lord. It’s loyalty to her Lord that helps a wife follow a flawed husband’s leadership.
Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, and nourishes and cherishes us, his church—and husbands have those same responsibilities toward their wives (5:25-30). When Christ “gave himself up” for the church, it was through active initiative, not a grudging reluctance. This is the inspiration for, and the measure of, the husband’s love. To “nourish” means to nurture and bring up. To “cherish” means “to warm” and describes a nursing mother tenderly caring for her baby. This is true masculinity.
Paul says that our marriages are about a lot more than us—they illustrate Christ’s relationship to the church (5:31-32). God created marriage because he wanted to give the world a glimpse of how redeemed rebels could joyfully submit to him and follow. There’s a whole lot more at stake in marriage than our own personal preferences. Our marriages are a reflection of Christ’s sacred, mysterious union with his redeemed people. This is why Christ is the measure, model, and meaning of marriage. This is why you must honor both your marriage vows and the calling you have in marriage: husbands to love and lead, wives to follow and help. Because your marriage is about more than your own happiness (although following God’s plan is also the path to your own happiness). Your marriage is one of the primary ways you glorify God.
For children, their obedience to their parents is a reflection of their reverence for God, and it will bless them (6:1-3). Parents have the responsibility to not provoke our children to anger, but to train them embrace the Lord that we love so much (6:4). Jesus’ patient discipline and instruction of his disciples is our model.
Workplace relationships are a final key area for love. In the Ancient Roman world, slavery was economic, not racial. So, as I read this passage (6:5-9), you can mentally replace “slave” with “employee” and “master” with “boss”. That’s the analogy in our culture. Workers—serve your boss sincerely, as if he were Christ. Christians who are bosses are commanded to treat employees the same way they want to be treated. (Remember, you’re only a “middle manager”— you’ve got the same heavenly boss as your employees!)
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- How are you doing in your relationships – marriage, parenting, work? (This is an important question, but it is just a starting point. Christian growth and change goes to the level of the heart: “Why are we doing what we do?”)
- Dare to look deeper – what’s your motivation? Our heart motive needs to be “as unto the Lord”. Our standard needs to be “just as Christ Jesus did”. Are you doing what you do joyfully, or grudgingly?
- Remind yourself of all of the spiritual blessings – all of the powerful spiritual weapons – you already have in Christ. Review Ephesians 1. Choose to believe what God says. Trust God and use his way of fighting spiritual battles.