Ephesians 5 v 33
The overall theme of our Sunday morning sermons has been for several weeks that of SUBMISSION. From Ephesians 5 v 18 onwards we have been discovering what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit – to be filled with joy, deep joy; to be controlled by the Lord God; to be consumed with the desire to glorify God and with an enjoyment of being together with other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ showing to a divided world the oneness that comes with belonging to the Lord. All this that flows from being filled with the Spirit is manifested in submission – Christians submitting to one another as they submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and His sovereign will. Paul, the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians, narrowed down the application of the principles of submission from the whole assembly of believers to specific relationships within the church. First he addresses the wives – verse 22 to 24 – Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands – Why? Because the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the headship of her husband in Christ. Wives learned that when the Christian wife submits herself to Christ and owns Him as Lord of her life, she would have no difficulty in submitting to her husband. And the wider teaching to the whole church whatever the marital state is this – submission to the Lord Jesus Christ is good for us. Obeying Him and loving Him sacrificially, leads to mutual submission to each other – to each seeking the other’s good. Then Paul turned his attention to the husbands, spending rather more time and using more words for the husbands that he did for the wives – that in itself emphasises where the responsibility lies in leadership – with the husband. Husbands LOVE YOUR WIVES – and love them to the same standard of Christ loving the Church – in other words love them to death! So this morning we will draw together many of the principles implied in these very practical verses under the umbrella of this final verse of Chapter 5 –
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Paul has led husbands, while the rest of the church has been listening, through the 4 principles of Love for the wife – A Sacrificial love – a love that gives and gives and goes on giving; A Sanctifying love – a love that sets the husband apart for the wife and the wife for the husband with the result of spiritual enrichment and personal enjoyment as the spots and blemishes are dealt with one by one through the washing of water by the word of God; A Satisfying Love – a love that leads to deep fulfilment when a wife is nourished and cherished by a husband who knows how to nourish and cherish himself. A Separated Love – that brings a man out of his former temporary relationship with his parents and into a permanent relationship with his wife – leaving and cleaving as we saw last week. All of these 4 aspects of love are exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ who in a mysterious way, loves us the church, believing Christians, as a husband does and should love his wife. But there is more for us to think about this morning in this final verse of the Chapter that enables us to identify a
Summary of Love.
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
If Christian husbands and wives have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them, and the example of the Lord Jesus Christ to encourage them, why is it that so many Christian marriages fail? And why is it that some Christian marriages are less than ideal when compared with the aspects of Love that Paul has outlined for us? These are important and relevant questions in our day when the world has lost its way, and doesn’t seem to have much encouragement from what it sees in some Christian marriages. An American Pastor had a couple from his church come to see him one day because they were in real trouble. The wife was feeling hopeless and was wondering why they had come. The husband sadly said, “We don’t love each other any more.” They sat in the Pastor’s study making it obvious that they have lost any feeling of love that they might have had for each other. They expected the Pastor to say, “ Well I suppose that is just about all there is to say. If you don’t love one another I suppose that there is just no hope.” But this Pastor was different. He said, “I am sorry to hear that – but you will just have to learn how to love each other!” Husband and wife look astounded. This was not what they expected. Marriage Guidance counsellors would have said “Call it a day.” But this? Both had looks on their faces that said, “What do you mean ‘learn how to love each other?’ That’s ridiculous!” But it isn’t ridiculous. Love does not come out of thin air via a little arrow from a dead stone figure in the middle of Piccadilly Circus as many foolish people think. Love must grow – it has to be watered, nourished and cared for. It has to be worked at and cultivated. And it has to be weeded too because love has its problems as well as its joys. But when it is cultivated as God says it should be, with the gardening instructions given in these verses, then it can grow tall and strong. So after all that Paul has said in Ephesians 5 v 22 – 32 we arrive at verse 33 with a final word that will set us all on the way to Christlike love.
1. A Summary for Husbands.
The first word in Verse 33 is NEVERTHELESS. Whenever this word is used there is a connection with something that has already been said. Does Paul refer us back to verse 32 or something that he had said earlier? It seems that there are 2 ways of looking at the use of Nevertheless here. 1. It is as if Paul is saying,
“I have been dealing with how husbands should love their wives and I digressed a little by reminding you of the Great mystery which is the relationship of the Church to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I must get back on track.”
2. Or he could be saying something else,
“The relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church is a great mystery – nevertheless – you also must love your wives. Even though there is something so mysterious that it entirely transcends the married state – nevertheless there is in the analogy of Christ loving his church to render it a strict obligation on men to so love their wives as the Lord Jesus Christ loves the Church.”
In other words Paul says that we cannot say that the standard is too high for us to reach. He does not allow us men to look at the Lord, see a perfect man and a model husband and say, “I cannot possibly reach that standard – therefore I will settle for something less – something that I am comfortable with – something that I can handle, knowing all my imperfections and failures!” We are not allowed that luxury, my Brethren – Nevertheless stops us. The word of God arrests us and makes us face the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ expects everyone of us to strive to reach His standard – and it is a tall order. Yet it would not be here in the Bible if it were not something that was achievable. There is another little word in this verse that is not very well translated. It is the Greek word KAI normally rendered and but here it means also. We have the words “in particular” but it should be “ALSO”.
Nevertheless let every one of you ALSO love his wife as himself
– Jesus Christ does – and so should you. That is the thrust of this phrase. Each one of you men, says Paul, should love, and continue to love, his own wife as himself – as Christ has shown you how. Husbands should not be discouraged when they realise that this seems like an impossible task. Rather we should be encouraged that the words are here for us to read. I say again that God never sets an unachievable standard when He requires something of us. He made us and as Christian men has remade us. Indeed it is true that we could in no way reach the goal without the powerful presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives by His Holy Spirit. However we should, as Wm Hendriksen suggests, ask this question every day of ourselves –
“Does my love for my wife reveal the marks of Christ’s love for His church?”
And if it does not then I must look again at how the Lord Jesus loves His church – and then I must do likewise. Even if we were to forget all the ideals we must remember this – husbands are to love their wives just as much and in the same way as they love themselves. Nearly all domestic friction and unhappiness would cease if husbands observed this basic principle. And a wife would be unlikely to resist a husband who loved her as he loved himself. Now if the husband goes on to love her as the Lord Jesus Christ loves the church, so much the better! Being filled with the Spirit ensures that all Christians, not just husbands, look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the knowledge of how to love each other. Being filled with the Spirit ensures that all Christians, not just husbands, look to the word of God the scriptures to find out how to love – letting that word dwell in us richly. The Christian husband in the pastor’s study, who has been told to learn to love his wife, needs to realise that God has equipped him, by the presence of His Holy Spirit, to be the husband that He should be. This is not merely and emotional learning to love, but it is spiritual. If a man can love himself – and all men do – then he should and must be able to love his wife. Too often it is not a matter of ability but WILL! And we who have good marriages – let us not become complacent – the same principle applies. God the Holy Spirit equips us to love our wives more and more each day – our wills must be constantly challenged to look to how we behave; are we getting into bad habits? Are we listening to our wives as they speak to us? Or is her voice merely a comforting hum in the background of our lives with other priorities? May the word of God and the example of the Lord Jesus Christ be shots across our bows this morning! Then the Holy Spirit will work in our lives to make us joyful, thankful and submissive. May he help us all to do so?
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself;
2. A Summary for Wives.
and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
There seems to be a unique relationship between the word love and the word fear in this 33rd verse. We are probably familiar with the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 4:18 –
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
But a paradox appears in Ephesians 5 v 33. Husbands are to love and wives are to fear! Love is AGAPAO and reverence or fear is PHOBOMAI. Surely fear and love are mutually exclusive? What misunderstandings this has spawned down the centuries. Men have demanded a cringing servitude through the poor understanding of this word. Many wives have lived in literal fear of their lives due to men’s bullying ways, believing that they, the men, had the right to demand fear from their wives, and the wives believed that they were duty bound to render that fear to their husbands. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the explanation of this paradox is straightforward. It hinges on the true meaning of the word FEAR. Fear is a very broad word. It ranges from 1. The emotional fear of abject terror and fright of a horrifying experience; 2. The proper wholesome dread of falling into the hands of the living God without having our sins forgiven; this fear includes a fear of God’s righteousness and power, and His retribution that comes to the impenitent; 3. The fear of displeasing God by transgressing His commandments; 4. The reverential fear of God that inspires a constant care in dealing with others; 5. The reverential fear for those who are our superiors – such as is found in Romans 13 v 7
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour
and 1 Peter 2 v 18
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
6. There is a reverential fear that develops from simple respect, through reverence up to adoration. This is the kind of fear or reverence that Paul exhorts here in Ephesians 5 v 33. John Philips, the commentator, says this –
“This is Paul’s parting word to the wife – reverence your husband. The wife is to put her husband on a pedestal, make much of him, admire him, speak well of him and defer to him.”
Proponents of the women’s liberation movements will reject God’s counsel on this issue. But who is our authority? God’s infallible Word or the world’s implacable god – the god of self-determination? The Bible is clear and is there to be obeyed and not debated, criticised, weighed and then thrown out as some outdated literary dinosaur. But there could be some objections. A wife may say, “Show reverence to my husband? You obviously do not know him.” God’s answer is this – HE knows him, her husband, and God says that he is to be reverenced. Another wife may say, with an honest candour, “ My husband is foolish and weak – he cannot make decisions and if I didn’t take the lead nothing would get done in this family – how can I reverence him?” Paul’s answer is this – “By being filled with the Holy Spirit as a Christian wife; by counting on your union with the Lord Jesus Christ in the unity of the body; and by realising that in reverencing your husband you are fulfilling God’s will and submitting to the Holy Spirit’s work of making you more like your saviour – in doing this you will show the world the loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ through you in your obedience – people will notice how you reverence your husband. They will ask themselves “Why does she do that when he does not command respect?” The answer is God has told her to. Unconditional obedience is God’s requirement. He will not give such a wife a reason to reverence her husband. But He will reward her obedience and bless her abundantly when she does. Paul may have had his mind on Rebekah and the account of her behaviour in Genesis when he wrote these words. In Genesis 26 we find that Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage deteriorated with a number of factors contributing to the deterioration. 1. Isaac was a quiet man with a placid and submissive nature. He easily gave in rather than stand up for himself. By contrast, Rebekah was a practical woman who thought clearly and had an iron will. Rebekah was a doer who had married a dreamer. 2. Isaac had been a coward when God led him to live in Gerar. He had lied about Rebekah’s identity in order to save his own skin – she had almost been compromised by a pagan king, Abimelech, had not God intervened. That must have been very hard for Rebekah to forgive. It was most likely that she did not forget it – it is a human trait. 3. As time went by Isaac fell in love with something else – it was not another woman – but he became preoccupied with food – good food. And he loved his son Esau because he brought him venison. Once he had loved Rebekah – now he loved himself – in his old age – it can happen! These 3 factors contributed to an unhappy situation and Rebekah became disgruntled towards her husband – and she ceased to reverence him. There was a cooling of their affection for one another and the early romance faded and just about disappeared. And being the assertive woman that she was, with a dominant personality she cultivated favouritism between her sons. The resulting domestic tragedy that unfolded had its roots in Rebekah’s irreverence and Isaac’s weakness. The episode of the stolen birthright found Jacob lying, cheating and deceiving his father. It found Esau threatening to kill Jacob necessitating Jacob’s hurried departure – and Rebekah never saw her dearest son, her favourite – Jacob, again. At the last minute Isaac took the spiritual lead again but it was almost too late. No one is suggesting that it is easy for a wife to reverence her husband. But the Bible tells us through such incidents, that not to do so is a disaster. So for the wife in the Pastor’s study she needs to learn this. There are ways of properly reverencing one’s husband without having to endure bullying or put up with a husband’s incapability’s. It involves building him up, instead of tearing him down and criticising him. It means making sure that the children have him in the highest regard whatever the circumstances. It means respecting God’s plan for the husband – wife role in marriage – God knows best and has a way of overruling when most needed. A capable, strong willed wife who is married to a passive compliant man certainly has a problem – but it is never too difficult a problem for God to solve. But the wife should not try to do God’s work for Him by scheming to manipulate her husband to make it appear that she is in submission. That would be so wrong. I remember hearing such a woman say what her policy was with regards to her husband. She would say, “ Yes Dear, or no dear – anything you say dear – and then please herself.” It is not enough to pay lip service to reverencing the man whom God has ordained should lead. Reverence is respect and admiration – and when reverence is at its height then adoration, that is one’s expression of deep love, can be the result. Sisters, is that your sincere aim with regard to your husbands? God calls it to be so for you. Being filled with the Holy Spirit enables a wife to build a husband up where he is weak, with all due reverence. When this happens her husband will develop the masculine qualities that will command her reverence. However if she will not give him reverence and respect, and she dominates, he could become angry and resentful. He could even begin to develop feminine characteristics that are not good in a man, while she develops masculine characteristics that are most unlovely in a woman. Having said all this – in this our summary, the last word is for the brethren. It should hardly need to be said that if the wife is to reverence her husband then the husband has an obligation to deserve his wife’s reverence. Oh my brethren – be men! Command respect by loving your wives so much that they will fall over themselves to hold you in the highest esteem. This will include your building your wife up in other’s eyes – being considerate – abandoning your own pet theories about how men ought to treat their wives, perhaps unhelpfully passed down from your fathers! Look to the Lord Jesus – that manliest of men who always treated women with care and respect, compassion and tenderness. But look again at His love for the Church, His bride – how He gave of Himself selflessly, willingly, sacrificially. Look how He delights and has pleasure in us. Look at how He seeks our contentment and peace, our satisfaction and comfort. Look at how he provides for our every need. Look at how He protects us from danger, and abuse. Look at how He has concealed our sins so that a prying world cannot make us ashamed – how He has covered them all with His blood. Look how He lavished His love on us His people – O my brethren, I wonder whether we have even started to love when we contrast our standard of love with His blessed love! Do we treat our wives, and indeed our fellow members like this? Do we conceal each other’s faults and defend each other’s reputations? Do we care for each other and protect each other’s souls? Are we seeking each other’s good? May the Lord cause us to seriously consider our lives in the light of His. But one more word before we leave this subject. It may be that you have been listening to this and you wonder what it really is to be a Christian. You have heard that the Lord Jesus Christ loves His people and you may not be sure whether you are one of His people? You need to ask yourself am I a sinner? If your answer is No – then think again – for all have sinned and come short… When your answer is yes then your next most pressing need is to repent of your sins – turn from them and renounce them – because God will only forgive those who truly repent. And then go to the Lord Jesus Christ and plead with Him to pardon all your sins and cleanse you from all sin. He is ever ready to save sinners who humbly come to Him in great need. Put your trust in Him my friend and receive that power to live a transformed life. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!