1.0 – The Bright and Radiant People of God
Question: How come the good guys always win in movies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
Ephesians 5:7-21: Therefore do not become partners with them [the sons of disobedience]; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There is a word you hear every so often and it is the word “antithesis.” An antithesis is when you have two things in direct opposition to each other. Hot is the antithesis of cold. Good is the antithesis of evil. Darth Sidious is the antithesis of Yoda. (As in this Star Wars Clip.)
In this section of his letter, Paul sets up an antithesis between the two ways people live. On one hand there are people in darkness, and then as you read on you see what these people are like: their deeds are unfruitful (v.11); their deeds are shameful (v.12); and their deeds are done in secret (v.12). They are unwise, foolish, and drunk (v.15-18).
Then the antithesis of these people are those who walk in light: their deeds are good and right and true (v.9); they seek to figure out what is pleasing to God in any given situation they might be in (v.10); they bring truth and goodness to bear on dark and evil situations hidden below the surface (v.11); they are wise in their lifestyle and choices (v.15); they are smart and efficient, trying to use their time best for God’s purposes (v.16); instead of being filled with substances they are filled with God’s Holy Spirit (v.19); and the natural outflow of the Spirit is music – they have melodic spirituality (v.19); they are thankful people who, rather than finding something to complain about, find something instead to praise God for in any given situation (v.19); and finally they are people who, for the sake of Jesus, are willing to submit to one another – they defer to the authorities in their lives, and, to use, a modern-day term, they are people with a team-spirit – they know how to co-operate and compromise (v.21).
My younger brother was in the coast guard for a year or two and at one point he and some of his co-workers took a massive ship up to some of the Northern parts of Canada. There are certain areas up in the Arctic where the sun never rises for six months of the year. They have permanent darkness. Can you imagine a life like that? I think I would go crazy.
Many people live a completely dark life. When it comes to joy in Jesus and peace and a close walk with God there is just nothing going on. The lights are off.
We need to wake up to the bright face of Jesus, shining into our hearts in his word. For one day, the sun will totally rise and every dark deed will be exposed. So prepare for that day.
2.0 – A Marriage Made in Heaven
This little piece of scripture ended with the summons to submit to one another. All Christians are to be in submission. Submission to the authorities that God has placed in our lives. Teachers. Police officers. Government. Bosses. Pastors and church leaders. Parents.
But now God’s word is going to show us particularly what this looks like in a marriage. And even though you guys aren’t married, the reality is that most people do get married – and most everybody knows someone who is married! So let’s look at what this says for your future marriages…
Question: When you consider the marriages of other people, do they seem healthy or struggling, or some mix of both? What do you think makes for a good marriage?
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
We are in a new section of the letter and Paul is going to lay out what Christian obedience looks like for different types of people – husbands, children, masters, wives, parents, etc.
So first – the wives:
The charge to the wives is that they need to be subject to their husbands – they need to submit to their husbands. Notice that it says to their “own” husbands – the Bible nowhere teaches that all women are supposed to be subject to all men. But in the home, and the church, and to a certain degree in the rest of society, our differences as men and women get built on for the sake of human flourishing.
Let’s talk about what submission is not.
Submitting to a husband is not blindly following without thought. A good wife is smart and thoughtful and provides insight in the marriage – Paul is talking about an intelligent submission. Nor does submission mean being, in modern terms, a “push-over” or a “doormat” – nobody is helped by weak women – marriages need strong women with strong convictions. But the central idea here is that the actions of the wife need to encourage the husband to take responsibility – and to be the man God wants him to be. She needs to fuel his leadership instead of resisting his leadership. And that happens by showing respect to him and co-operating with his leadership. Not only is that in the interest of the husband, but it is also in the best interest of the wife, the children, and in fact the rest of the community.
The analogy is that the wife submits to her husband in the same way the entire church submits to God. That is a very important point. We are all to submit to God. We are all in submission to an ultimate authority. One of the reasons people don’t like what God has to say here to wives is because people naturally just don’t like to submit to anyone. Bosses. Police. Teachers. And certainly, not to God. But the reality we see here is that all authority is derived from God. If God told you, in the Bible, to live in a tree-house for a year when you turn 16, you would have to do it because God said so. And here we have the same thing – wives are told to submit to their husbands because God says so.
Now if that sounds hard (and it is) – notice what God calls the husbands to do!
God commands the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Let me ask you a question: how did Jesus love the church? He died for her. He had nails pierced through his hands for her. He drank the full fury of the wrath of God as he died naked and bloodied on a cross – for her. That is the kind of love that God, in all his authority, demands that the husbands demonstrate – it’s the authority of the cross. It’s authority that bleeds. Husbands are to model the same love of Jesus – and that is also a love that speaks the word of God – husbands need to guard and guide the marriage in the grace and the truth of the gospel.
When husbands assume this sort of sacrificial responsibility, as the driver in their leadership, that is the sort of thing that nearly every wife finds easier to submit to. You all know this – if you are under the authority of a boss or a parent who you know, deep down, has your best interest in mind – even if you might disagree with some of their decisions – that is a wonderful place to be. That dynamic is what you see in a healthy marriage. Men sacrifice as they govern – yes govern. And women fuel the sacrifice and love from their husbands by their respect and submission. The result is that both are blessed – the blessing of both is multiplied by the investment in one another.
That is where the fundamental point comes out in verse 28 – a man who loves his wife loves himself. He is to love his wife in the same way he cares for his own body. If you are committed to this sort of sacrificial leadership, you can never lose.
In Lord of the Rings, the hobbits follow the leader – Aragorn. He is the kingly, manly, figure in the story because he is the one who takes on, willingly, the plight of the hobbits. He has a role in protecting them and leading them. Now in the part of the story where Aragorn is protecting the hobbits from the Nazgul, he has to sacrifice in order to protect them. It would be completely foolish for the hobbits to get in the way of that leadership – and notice how they act foolishly by lighting a fire.
Yet at another level, Aragorn needs these hobbits. They are the ones who destroy the ring – the line of men fell and Aragorn himself knows that the does not have it in himself to throw the ring into the lava of Mount Doom. The Hobbits are the only ones who can do this.
This is the point for a healthy marriage – men and women are different. They have different abilities and they have different responsibilities given by God. We need to realize that God is the one who has given this charge and He is the one who will hold them accountable, regardless of what our culture teaches on these matters. My prayer is that the voice of God on these issues will drown out the competing voices from our culture that would flatten any difference between men and women under God. On judgment day God isn’t going to ask me if I followed the ever-shifting values of a feminist society – he is going to hold me to account based on his word.
We need each other. And we need to benefit from each other’s differences. And in the loving unity of marriage that emerges when men lay down their lives and women respond joyfully, we see a faint picture of what Jesus did for you on the cross. So follow him.