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Third, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”(21-23

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					                     CHRIST AND THE CHURCH

Ephesians 5:21-33
Key Verse: 32
     “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and
     the church.”

       In verses 21-33 Apostle Paul speaks about God’s commands to
wives and husbands. As a messenger, I would talk about the
relationships between husbands and wives if everyone in the audience
were married couples. Yet, in a typical Sunday service like this, I
would rather present the truth that is applicable to all people, not just
some people. So I prayerfully considered whether this message
should be on more than just husbands and wives.

      Look at 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for
Christ.” Here, Apostle Paul defines submission as the foundation of all
human relationships. Submission is mutual (i.e., to one another).
Meaningful and rich communication can only be possible when one
party does not dominate the conversation and rather both listen to one
another. A person yields (submits) to the other at a stop sign for
safety.    Perhaps an employee “submits" his resignation to his
employer for his own freedom and a peaceful resolution to a difficult
issue. A leader can effectively lead as he/she submits to the overall
good of the followers. Democracy is possible when people submit to
the majority rule and yet do not ignore the needs and opinions of
minorities. A submissive person is not passive, but active. They are
responsible, just, and fair in all human relationships.

       In verse 21b we read, “out of reverence for Christ.” Here,
Apostle Paul explains the deeper spiritual reason for submission--"out
of reverence for Christ". Real submission is out of the holy fear of
Christ. Real submission is in relationship to Christ. Submission, the
foundational principle of all human relationships, is based on our
relationship with Christ. This is not all. Now, let’s read verse 32.
Apostle Paul is talking about a profound mystery. This mystery
includes wonderful truths about marriage. Yet, it is more than that.
Apostle Paul is talking about Christ and the church. It is quite obvious
that Apostle Paul refers to Christ as the basis of all relationships.
Therefore, in today’s message let’s think about the relationship
between Christ and the church in the context of family life.

     First, “Christ is the head of the church” (22-24). Look at
verse 22: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Since
submission is so foundational for all enduring human relationships,
Apostle Paul applies this truth in describing the relationships of
husbands and wives.

      Verses 22-24 are God’s commands to wives—3 verses long.
Verses 25-32 are God’s instruction to husbands—8 verses long.
God’s demands on husbands are much greater than on wives. One
day a couple came to my office. Both knew the Bible well. The
husband quoted Ephesians 5:22-24 to his wife and challenged her to
submit him. In reply the wife immediately quoted Ephesians 5:25-28.
It was nothing but a shouting match between the two. I said to them,
“Mind your own business. Focus on what God says to you. Obey
God’s commands to you.”         So husbands do not quote these
commands to your wives to dictate their submission. Otherwise, wives
can demand more from you.

      Look at verses 23, 24: “For the husband is the head of the wife
as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to
their husbands in everything.” What is the basis of the relationship
pattern between husbands and wives? It is the relationship between
Christ and the Church. Christ is the head of the church. What does
this mean? The head and body of a living organism are deeply
connected and inseparable. No animal can survive if its head and
body are disconnected. "Head" also represents the personality of the
whole being. When one takes a picture of a person, it is not merely
hands and feet that matter. Primarily, it is one’s head—their smiling
face or serious look—that represents the person. A picture without
one’s head may say very little about the person. The head also
functions as the central processing center and provides the directive
for the whole body. All the body movements are planned and directed
by the head.
      Christ is the head of the church. This means that Christ and the
church is in an inseparable relationship. A church without Christ is a
body without its head. Christ without his church is a head without its
body. It is unthinkable! A head is totally dependent on its body. With a
brain one may plan and come up with marvelous ideas. However,
without mouths all these thoughts will never be expressed verbally.
Without hands, all these thoughts may never be typed and put into
writing. One’s body submits to the thoughts and ideas of its head and
follows through. What is intended is implemented.

      Christ and the church—that is the pattern of the relationship on
which husbands and wives build together. Husbands and wives are
dependent on one another. They are deeply connected. Wives submit
to their husbands just as one’s body follows the direction of its head.
At the same time, husbands cannot implement anything really
important to the family without the understanding and cooperation of
their wives; just as without coordination and cooperation of its body, a
head can do very little.

      Second, “Christ loves the church” (25-28). Look at verse 25:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave
himself up for her…” A Christian husband loves his wife as Christ
loves the Church. The pattern of love is Christ's sacrifice, care, and
leadership. Here, “just as” or “in the same way” refers to “in a parallel
manner.” Two parallel lines go in the same direction. One line is on a
higher level and the other is on a lower level. Likewise, the level of
Christ’s love is on a much higher level than our human love. Our Lord
Jesus loves sinners even when they are dead in sins. The love of our
Lord Jesus is life giving.

      Now, how did Jesus love the church? Here, church is more than
the mere gathering of individuals. Our Lord Jesus gave himself to the
church. He gave everything for the church. Jesus called his disciples
one by one—very personally. Jesus loved his disciples as a whole that
formed a body of Christ. Jesus had life together with his church. Jesus
took this body of Christ everywhere he went. Jesus taught this first
church the Word of God. It is good for us to say, “God loves me.” It is
also important to say, “God loves his church.”

       Look at verses 26, 27: “…to make her holy, cleansing her by the
washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as
a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy
and blameless.” The love of Christ has transforming power. Christ
cleanses his church through the word of God. By his precious sacrifice
on the cross—the blood of Christ—Jesus forgives all sins in the body
of Christ. 1Jn 1:7-9 reads, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the
light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his
Son, purifies us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and
just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness.” The glorious truth is that sinners are washed clean
through the blood of Christ. In the sight of God we don’t have to live in
the shadow of our past sins. We can be clean and new by the power
of God’s forgiveness in Christ. This is more than God’s forgiveness of
our sins as individuals. This is God’s forgiveness of his people in the
context of fellowship—in his church.

      In Hebrews 9:14 we read, “How much more, then, will the blood
of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished
to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that
we may serve the living God!” Why does God forgive our sins and
cleanse us? It is for more than our psychological well-being. It is so
that we may serve the living God. How? Through the body of Christ!

      This is not all. The day will come when we will be completely
transformed from this earthly body of sins. In 1Co 15:50-53 we read,
“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be
changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For
the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we
will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the
imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” We will be transformed
as separate individuals. We are transformed as the body of Christ—
together we, you and I, will be changed. We will all be changed in the
twinkling of an eye. Christ’ birth, his death, resurrection, and his
Second Coming are all related to our glory. We will be transformed to
be blameless and perfect. We will be radiant—absolutely and
completely presentable to God.

       Look at verses 28-30: “In this same way, husbands ought to love
their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for
it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body.”
Christ is the good Shepherd. He takes care of his sheep. Jesus says,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the
sheep.” Jesus cares for his people. Jesus says, “I am the bread of
life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in
me will never be thirsty.” Christ is the Bread of life. Christ feeds his
sheep. Whoever comes to Christ will not go hungry.

      Third, the union of Christ and the church (31-33). Look at
verse 31: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and
be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is not
Paul's idea. This is God's truth. So Apostle Paul quotes Genesis to
prove his point. Marriage is to become one flesh. Marriage is a union
between a man and a woman. In a negative sense, “being one flesh”
means that a marriage dissolves when adultery is involved. In a
positive sense, through marriage, two individuals become one.

       Union with Christ is a central truth of the Bible. Christian life is
not merely following Christ at a distance. Gal 2:20 says, “I have been
crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life
I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and
gave himself for me.” Jn 15:4 says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in
you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” It is to remain in
Christ. It is to be united with Christ. In Ro 6:5 we read, “If we have
been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be
united with him in his resurrection.”

     Look at verse 32: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking
about Christ and the church.” In the course of thinking about the
beauty, wonder, and secret of marriage, Apostle Paul is reminded of
the glorious relationship—the church and Christ—the deep union
between Christ and the church

       Look at verse 33: “However, each one of you also must love his
wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
This is a summary of verses 24-32. According to S. Mark Gamber,
“What women want from their husbands is love. What husbands want
from their wives is respect.” Some may say, love is a bigger concept
than respect. Respect is an attitude. Love is an attitude plus action.
What do husbands want from their wives? It is respect. When Martin
Luther engaged in the reformation movement, he was once quite
discouraged and dispirited. His wife, Catherine, wore burial clothes
and came as if she had participated in a burial ceremony. Martin
Luther asked, “Why? What is going on?” She said, “The man I loved
just died.” She reminded him that by losing his spirit, she was feeling
no difference than if he had died. This inspired Martin Luther to
persevere and stay on his course. A wife’s few words of ridicule are
more destructive than thousands of attacks of the most fierce
enemies. A wife's one ounce of praise is much more powerful to her
husband than a million dollar award from his boss.

      In conclusion, let’s consider two questions. First, “When do we
study this passage about wives and husbands?” The time to study
God’s teachings for husbands and wives is now and for everyone. If a
young man studies this passage just a few days before his marriage,
he has very little chance to really obey these commands. He probably
would not understand. Children must study this passage in their early
childhood. Young couples must study God’s teachings far before they
get married. Even those who are married study this passage to
examine the quality of their relationship. Even those who no longer
have husbands or wives study this passage to prepare their children,
young Bible students, and all people about the truth about Christ and
his church. Second, “How can we really enhance relationships
between husbands and wives?” The pattern of relationships between
husbands and wives is that of Christ and the church. To the extent we
understand the relationship between Christ and the church, we will
grow in our appreciation of family—the relationship of husbands and
wives. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I
reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways
behind me.”(1Co 15:12). We all grow through stages—childhood into
maturity. One aspect of spiritual childhood is its preoccupation with
individual needs. As we grow up, we think about something bigger or
more foundational.

        Why so much focus on Christ and the church? The contribution
of the body of Christ on our spiritual maturity is indisputable. Many
wonderful things in life occur through the body of Christ. Last week we
had BBF, CBF, and HBF Bible School. In cooperation with the
leadership of Jeff Lewis, our CBF teachers and parents devoted
themselves to our children. They will remember the truths they’ve
learned for a long time. Tuf Francis and our HBF messengers worked
tirelessly.     HBF students were truly happy with one another.
Personally, I thank God that so many wonderful things in life occur in
the context of Christ and the church. I met my wife through Christ and
his church. All my children grew up through Christ and the church. I
owe my love to Christ and his church. As we grow in Christ, we will
have a much higher view of the church. We love Christ, so we love his
church. We derive the basis of all rich relationships through the
patterns of Christ and the church. Among all the wonderful institutions
in this world, the church is the most unique in revealing God,
demonstrating the healing power of Christ in broken lives, planting
hope in the kingdom of God, and doing what truly remains forever.
This is the mark of Christ and his church! This is the foundation of a
rich life for a Christian family. May we love Christ and his church.

                                August 18, 2002. Toledo, Ohio; Dr. Paul Hong

				
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