Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:29d “. . .even as the Lord the church:”
Jesus is ever the true ideal for marital devotion. “We go not to belted knights or tales of chivalry for our ideas about devotion to our wives, but to the foot of the cross, that we may see in Jesus our perfect example!” (Edgar).
Paul was relentless in his pursuit of excellence. He would not cheat his readers by letting them be content with second best. The Apostle’s challenge to spouses was absolute. Love like Jesus! Be satisfied with nothing else.
Eph. 5:30 “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his
In these verse, Paul is speaking primarily about the family, but cannot resist the temptation to take every opportunity the subject avails him to draw a comparison which calls attention to Jesus. In verse 31 the Apostle will quote Genesis 2:24. Here in verse 30 he alludes to what happened immediately prior to Genesis 2:24. The incident (GN 2:21-23) causes Paul to think of Jesus.
God pierced the side of Adam, and took from it Adam’s bride. Eve, before being presented to Adam, was taken out of Adam. She was an extension of Adam, a member “of his body” in the sense of being derived from him. She would not have existed without him. The woman owed her natural life to the man, and the Church, Christ’s bride, owes her being to Jesus. The Church would not exist without Him. Believers are utterly dependent upon Christ, “we are members of his body,” deriving our very life from Him. Jesus is our source.
“No bride fit for the King of Heaven could spring from the earth” (Pulpit Comm.). A royal bride needed royal beginnings. Thus, Christ partook of our physical nature, thereby enabling us to partake of His divine nature. Christ’s bride is the product of His earthly existence. Had it not been for the body of Christ (HB 10:5), the Church would not exist.
Even as Eve came from the opened side of Adam, from a place near his heart, so figuratively the Church springs from the wounded side of Jesus. When the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side, “forthwith came there out blood and water” (JN 19:34). Life essence flowed from His side. In this fluid demonstration of love, the Church, Christ’s bride, was being wrought.
In the beginning, God knew the side of His Son would later be pierced. Thus, He took woman from man’s pierced side to remind us forever that when we think of Christ’s spear wound, and contemplate His great love for the Church, we should also think of how much we spouses should love one another.
Eph. 5:31a “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,”
Paul now quotes Genesis 2:24, the foundational premise of marriage. “Leave” brings us face to face with a frequent source of marital tension, in-law trouble. My friend, Wally Jones, pastor emeritus of Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis County, avoids the phrase “in-law,” using instead “in-loves.” He speaks of his daugter-in-love, mother-in-love, etc. This is a lovely ideal in which words hopefully bespeak reality. Sadly, in-laws often are not in-loves.
Scripture reveals infinite wisdom by dealing with this volatile issue. At the creation, husband-wife was the first relationship. Ever since, though, parent-child has come first in time. In the beginning God gave this admonition (GN 2:24) to help prepare us for what can be a stressful shift in relationships.
The less important relationship of parent/child occurs first to prepare us for the more important relationship of husband/wife. Before undertaking life’s premier assignment, we undergo years of watching role models, of training in submission, duty, and kindness. We do not enter the ultimate role lightly.
For twenty or more years, the parent/child relationship develops. Certain habits are formed. Then comes a wedding. All of a sudden, everything changes. Things are drastically different. The transition from dependent to spouse, subject to patron, ward to guardian, is no minor thing. Except for the conversion experience, a wedding marks the most momentous transition in life.
To “leave” is a vital part of the marriage process, and how it is handled dramatically affects a marriage. In-laws can be a blessing or a burden. This is true of parents-in-law and of children-in-law. Sometimes the problem is parents, other times the trouble is the children. Thus, I speak a word to both.
First, a word to parents. Moms and Dads, since Scripture says our children are to “leave” when they marry, let them. We cannot hold them back and seek to stop them. They are, in the vast majority of cases, going to “leave,” and we need to start thinking this way, and planning on it, from the time our children are born. In preschool years, emphasize love and discipline; in childhood years, train and teach; in teen years, emphasize a move in the direction of friendship. Keep this ever as your goal, to develop your children into your intimate, bosom-buddy, friends. By the time of marriage, parent and child should be best pals, and their friendship ought to continue for a lifetime.
We parents must work toward being friends, compatible equals, with our children, for once they marry, we no longer have legitimate authority over them. Once a son marries, he is no longer subservient, he is a head. Once a daughter marries, she is no longer subject to her parents, she is now a queen in her own domain. This new head and new queen must be treated by their parents with a dignity that corresponds to the new status. No more lectures, no more talking down, no more scolding–henceforth, only advice, straightforward talk, and love strong enough to let them learn from their own mistakes.
In marriage a new family is begun, and parents no longer have authority over the child. Parents, help financially if you want, but do so without seeking to exercise control. My parents and in-laws have often helped Ruth and me, and still do on occasion, but never seek to domineer or to come between us.
Now a word to children. Once you marry, you must think of yourself primarily as husband or wife, not as child. Sometimes newlyweds have to help their parents come to grips with this new understanding. You may have to assert and safeguard your new status, and defend it against any interference. Whatever straightforward negotiations are needed, let me caution the younger generation always to use tact and true Christian love in dealing with parents.
We outgrow the admonition, “Obey your parents” (EP 6:1), but never get too old for the command, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (EX 20:12). Before marriage, our closest bond is with parents. They support and sustain us, and we owe them a huge obligation forevermore.
Marriage does not set aside the other duties of life, including our responsibilities toward parents. The same God who commands us to love spouses also told us to honor our parents. Thus, both duties can be done adequately. They are not mutually exclusive. It is all a question of degree.
At marriage the highest loyalty turns toward the spouse, but duty to parents does not cease. We are not to become harsh and unkind to parents, nor are we to isolate ourselves from them. “Hide not thyself from thine own flesh” (Isaiah 58:7). It is not right to cut off all ties. Parents are always to be loved and cared for, and should be among our closes acquaintances. If we have the type of marriage God wants us to have, we will come to love each other’s parents almost as much as we do our own. This has certainly been the case for Ruth and me. We need a relationship with parents which allows us to feel free to request their help financially at times, ask their opinions, seek their counsel, profit from their years of experience, borrow from their wisdom.
After marriage, the new husband and wife are not what they were. The parents are not what they were. All is different, and everyone involved must work hard to make the transition a smooth one. Friends handle it best.