Ephesians 5 v 31 – 32
There has been much heartache and sorrow in many marriages because some very important factors have been overlooked. In Genesis 2 v 24 some have read the words
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
And then they have thought more about the last phrase in the verse
and they shall be one flesh
and isolated it for meditation and application. That is what marriage is all about – ‘one flesh ness’ – a majoring on the physical side of marriage and all that that means. Yet when we look into scripture we find the first part of Genesis 2 v 24 repeated three more times – 1. In Matthew 19:5
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
These are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ who quotes the Genesis verse to answer those who brought him a question about marriage and divorce. “Haven’t you read,” He said,” that the creator made Adam and Eve at the beginning made them male and female and said…” The fundamentals of marriage are a permanent bond involving a new relationship for both parties. 2. Then in Mark 10 v 7 we find the same event reported in which the Lord Jesus Christ answers with the same words but adds something at the end –
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
The addition is in verse 9
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Putting asunder includes leaving a wife or husband, separating from a spouse or being divorced. 3. Thirdly Paul quotes Genesis 2 v 24 in the verses that we have before us this morning, Ephesians 5:31
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
With this verse we come to the 4th category of issues surrounding the way that a man should love his wife – the first was a sacrificial love; the second a sanctifying love; the third a satisfying love and now we come to a
4. Separated Love.
We will consider verse 31 and 32 this morning under 4 headings
1. A great Cause 2. A Great Division 3. A Great Combination and 4. A Great Mystery
1. A great Cause
31 For this cause
is the first phrase to be dealt with. It appears at first glance that there could be some connection between this verse and the immediately preceding one – verse 30. But we have to go back a little further to see what the cause that Paul speaks about here, is – back to verse 28
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it.
For this cause is the English rendering of “instead of this.” Now if we had that phrase written here we would have difficulty understanding what the Apostle is meaning – instead of this – instead of what? What is there to contrast here? We are reading about MARRIAGE here – what is the alternative to marriage? Singleness – the state of every man and woman while they are still in their homes as children, young adults or even older ones still living with parents and unmarried. The great cause, the alternative to being alone as one individual man or woman, is the state of being married. Now once again we need to say again that some friends are called by God to the state of being single. He enables them to live a sincere and fulfilled Christian life, serving the Lord, blessed in soul and mind without the experience of being married. Many Christians down the centuries have been able to serve the Lord God with great effectiveness, and possibly more effectiveness than had they been married. Single people are not second class Christians – in God’s sight there are NO classes of believers whatsoever and we do well to honour and respect each others different callings in life, since it is the sovereign Lord God who does the calling. The Great Cause is more in the Nature of the contrast, of the alternative to singleness – today, where there is co-habitation and living together without the commitment of marriage, this great cause has been overlooked, ignored, denied and rejected as out of date and merely religious. The Great cause of Christian Marriage elevates a society and a nation – because it is the most important building block of a successful society. However, sinful men and women want the joining of flesh without the responsibility that it brings – and the sad thing is the very happiness that is being sought after is so elusive – God has made it so – because He had a greater purpose in mind when He ordained marriage – the great cause. Where have things gone wrong? It has gone wrong because the next part of the verse has been generally lost to sight –
2. A Great Division
Before we discuss this next point there is a further explanation of the phrase “for this cause,” and that is in the simple and logical fact that Paul is directly quoting from Genesis 2 v 24 – notice the text –
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The word therefore is the equivalent to “for this cause”. Adam said therefore to connect his statement with the fact of his relationship with his wife who had just been created. Paul faithfully quotes Genesis 2 v 24 in full, not with the primary purpose of strongly connecting verse 30 to verse 29 but to reiterate the foundational creation truth of marriage – that
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife,
God says that a man must LEAVE his father and mother – and he must cleave to his wife – more on this in the next heading. LEAVE here is a key word this morning. A grown man leaves his parents to be joined to his wife. Marriage means separation. This truth is all the more remarkable when it comes from Adam who had neither father nor mother. He was specially created – he appeared in the Garden of Eden as a fully-grown, mature, active male human being of apparently around 30 years old it is thought (although age is relative when the world itself was only 6 days old!) Adam spoke under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit setting out God’s future instructions for mankind. When a man marries he must leave his parents. This is the breaking up of something that was temporary in favour of something that is PERMANENT. Marriage is the most basic unit in society. Let us all be clear on what the Bible says – the basic family relationship is NOT the Parent-child relationship. It IS the HUSBAND-WIFE relationship. This is how God planned it right from the beginning. Children may be the result of the husband wife relationship but they are not to be made into the prime object of family life – that is not God’s plan. The parent–child relationship, enjoyed by a man or woman from childhood, must be severed effectively at marriage. Of course this does not mean a total severance, for a man has responsibility to his parents, under the terms of the law of Christ that He reminded us of in Matthew 15 v 4 and other passages.
Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
The original relationship that a man has while he lives in his parents’ home will not continue – it must change and the many ties that he had formerly to his parents will cease – in favour of his wife. The man now becomes the head of the family. God will require him to make the decisions in life that once were the responsibility of his father. What a huge word LEAVE is. The Greek word KATALEIPEI means to leave behind and occurs in several places in scripture. Here are some of the other uses that will help us to understand how absolute this LEAVING is – 1. When Jesus called Matthew to discipleship, or Levi to call him by his other name, he was involved in collecting taxes and exchange fees for Roman and Jewish money. It was a very profitable business even though it earned Matthew scorn from his fellow Jews. Luke 5 tells us what happened when Jesus called Matthew –
Follow me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
Matthew left everything behind him – his booth, his table, his employment, his dependence on Rome for his livelihood – all was left – in order to join himself to, and follow, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same word – leave behind. 2. When Mary and Martha, 2 sisters, entertained the Lord Jesus Christ in their home Martha was left with the washing up – Luke 10 v 40
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
Mary left her sister in order to sit at Jesus’ feet – Jesus called this the better thing to do – something more lasting and beneficial for the soul. Mary did not give the chores another thought – she left them behind to give priority to her soul’s refreshment. 3. In the parable of the lost sheep the shepherd went after the wanderer leaving the 99 out of a hundred behind him – the same word – Luke 15 v 4
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Total concentration was directed towards the lost sheep – the others had to be left behind, presumably in the care of another shepherd. 4. When a woman was brought to the Lord Jesus Christ with men accusing her of adultery the Lord challenged her accusers to begin the stone throwing – and that those who were without sin were welcome to start. He stooped down to write in the sand while the woman stood there. Then John tells us in John 8 v 9
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Jesus was the only man left behind after all those others had gone – they left him behind. Have you ever noticed the significance of this? Jesus was the only one qualified to stone this woman to death – but He showed her mercy unlike the others. They left him behind. Leaving then is a powerful word. It is a word of separation. And we are left with the inescapable conclusion that a man when he marries is no longer bound by the same rules that he was brought up with. He now becomes the rule maker before God, and must rule his family, starting with his wife. He separates himself from his parents to be joined to his wife. Now the spiritual significance that we draw from this separation, for all believers, is this. A man separates himself from loving his parents as his primary love, to loving his wife as his primary love. He leaves his parents, whose child he is, to be joined to his wife. So it is with anyone who becomes a Christian. A person who is an unbeliever is called by grace to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This child of Satan, the name given to any who are not believers, leaves the world, the parental world of the flesh and the devil, and is joined to the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. We come into this world as part of the family of unbelieving worldlings. Our sinful nature drives us to express ourselves in sinful character. When converted we leave the world that has been our parental spiritual home and are joined to Christ and his body the church. A Christian therefore is a separated person – and must stay separated from his old life to be married to Christ. We cannot stay with one foot in the world and one foot in the church – we need to come out and stay out. There is a huge cost for anyone to become a Christian – which is why so few are believers and why there are so many in the wider church who are weak, ineffective and compromised with worldly things – they have not left the world behind – and it shows – in their worship – in their behaviour when amongst worldly people – and in their family lives. Have you left the world my friend? Have you truly separated yourself from its citizenship spiritually speaking? Are you a genuine citizen of heaven? It is so important to know – and you can know – look in the mirror – see what your life is like – examine your thoughts, your motives, ideals, ambitions, desires – are they centred in the Lord Jesus Christ and holiness of living? Or are they still driven by the world and its ways – unholy and ungodly ways? The next important word is CLEAVE and refers to
3. A Great Combination
We have already said that, unlike the parent-child relationship, the husband-wife relationship is PERMANENT. Scripture says that it must never be broken. The relationship of a parent with a child is never described in terms such as “one flesh or suitable helper.” A wife and a husband must join and be permanently united, continuing to live in unity of soul and body for the rest of their lives with only death breaking it. This is the great combination described by the word Cleave. Sadly our society has failed to discover the important distinction. In millions of homes the parent-child relationship has become the more significant and dominant one. This was not how God planned it – Whom did He put in the Garden? Not a parent and child – but a husband and wife. Many of today’s parents live for their children, giving their best time, energies and money to their children not realising that they are, in the process, seriously depriving their children of what they desperately need. They are depriving them of the example and model of what they should be when they grow into adulthood. The most harmful thing that parents can do to their children is to build their lives around them. An American Pastor speaks of a wall plaque sited where men can see it that reads, “The best way to be a good father to your children is to be a good husband to their mother.” The same is true of women so there should be a plaque with these words on it “The best way to be a good mother to your children is to be a good wife to their father.” Children do not need indulgent parents who squander all their love and concern on them – but they need to watch how parents know how to love and live with each other. If they do not see what marriage is, because they cannot see it, then how will they ever be able to build wholesome marriages of their own one day? This can be a self-perpetuating cycle. A young man has been doted on by his mother and father – everything was done for him and he was the centre of the family. But there comes a time when a young lady becomes important and he wants to marry her. After marriage, and sometimes even before, he finds himself locked as piggy in the middle, in a tremendous battle between two women – his wife and his mother. His mother can’t let him go and she retains her hold on one of his arms while his wife gets hold of the other, to which she has a right – and he is in danger of being pulled to pieces. Nobody told him that he must leave – nobody told his mother, or she chose to ignore the fact, that she must let go; and somewhere is a father who failed to demonstrate the need to cleave to his wife – that is glue himself to his wife to the exclusion of all others including children as the primary relationship! The whole question of leaving and cleaving was settled right at the beginning of the world. The Son of God repeated it during His ministry here on earth – Mark 10 v 6
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Indeed this could read what God hath joined together let not children put asunder; let not church work put asunder; let not long hours for financial gain at work put asunder. Because all of these factors are capable of preventing and interfering with cleaving. Let’s clarify what this word cleave means. As with quite a number of English words the word cleave has two opposite meanings. 1. Cleave can mean to split apart or divide and comes from an old English word CLOEFAN. Not here. 2. But the cleave that is meant here is the other meaning – to stick, adhere, become joined or even to be glued together. In the Mark 10 passage and the Matthew 19 text the word cleave means the same as we have here in Ephesians 5 v 31 – be joined – it is the same verb exactly. The only other place in the NT that the verb is used is in Acts 5 v 36 where it speaks of a band of dissidents led by one Theudas who was joined by 400 men who themselves were all joined together into a subversive group. The Hebrew equivalent word also means to stick to, to join or to keep fast. So if a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife, in spite of what his mother says, it is always best for his mother as well as for his wife, and indeed for himself. Perhaps husbands and wives ought to be asking themselves now this question, “What would our life be like now if tomorrow God took our children from us? Would we have any life? What have we built together?” Brethren should ask, “ Have I truly left everything behind in order to be joined closely to my wife? Have I allowed my children to come between me and my best friend and loved one, my wife?” The Bible repeats several times that the primary relationship is the husband and the wife – and that the cleaving of the husband and the response of the wife continues after the children – how will you respond to life without the children? Is it with dread? Or will you look forward to it and plan for it?
Ephesians 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
4. A Great Mystery.
We have seen that Paul’s teaching on marriage is based on the passage in Genesis 2 v 23 – 24. It was also the scripture that was appealed to by our Lord Jesus Christ. In instituting marriage God had eternity’s values in view and the ultimate reality of Christ and His church in mind. But sin has got in the way. Nevertheless God intends the Christian home to be an outpost of heaven in a sin-cursed world. The home is meant to be the place where family, friends visitors and neighbours can come and see, and sense the MYSTERY of God’s purposes at work.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Already in our thinking about Ephesians 5 we have linked the truths about Christian marriage with the way that Jesus Christ loves us, His church. It has been pointed out that the first 2 times that love is mentioned in the Bible, are in the Genesis account. 1. The first mention is the love of the Father for the son. In this case the Father was Abraham and the son was Isaac. God demanded that Abraham take his only beloved son to Mt Moriah and offer him up as a sacrifice. See what the text says – Genesis 22 v 2
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
The spiritual significance was a mystery at first – until God provided for Himself – a lamb – not Abraham’s son, but his own dearly beloved son the Lord Jesus Christ. 2. The second mention of love was the love of the son for his bride – in Genesis 24 v 67
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her:
The spiritual significance in this marriage was that the servant brought the bride to Isaac, just as the Holy Spirit brings the bride to Christ – and He already loves her. There is so much in the picture of marriage to teach us of God’s mighty and mysterious love for us. Surely it is a mystery to us how God could even look at us, sinners and rebels as we are – but He does. Even more of a mystery is that He wants us in heaven with Him forever. Yet we can rejoice in the mystery – because it is a revealed mystery. Do you see it this morning my friend? Are you part of the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you by faith come to Him repenting of your sins turning from them? Leave the world my friend! Cleave to Christ – abandon your sins and your own supposed righteousness and join yourself to Christ – and He will show how much He loves you – forever and ever!