Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:32b “. . .but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
Paul has spoken highly of marriage, not only of the physical, human relation, but also used it to direct our thoughts to the higher relation between Christ and His Church. This loftier analogy lifts marriage to a dizzying height, and gives marriage its most profound significance. Marriage is made sacred by the fact it symbolizes the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
A Christian home is earth’s most hallowed institution. Marriage is not a sacrament, but neither is it merely a civil arrangement for political convenience. God honors those who honor this symbol which pictures Christ’s relationship with His Church. This divine blessing bestowed on marriage makes it hard to overstate the importance of family. God has placed priority on it.
A home is the “first great frontier of human existence” (Mackay). Children’s emotions, personalities, fears, and prejudices are well on their way to being complete before school-age. A happy, functional home is the most important factor for growing children into normal, contributing adults in society.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.” God has ordained that countries can prosperously endure only as long as their constituents are raised in healthy formative situations. God hereby honors marriage, the institution which pictures Christ’s union with His Bride.
History verifies, no nation lasts long with weak families. Rome was noted for paternal authority; as this waned, Rome declined. Athens valued the home; Sparta did not; Athens flourished, Sparta floundered. China and Israel are two of Earth’s oldest societies not by accident. Both emphasize family.
Homes are society’s basic building blocks. They brace and bolster a nation. Paul “regarded the family, and not the individual, as the unit of society. The individualist and the socialist are the sworn enemies of the family. The former considers marriage as a contract between two parties, to be ended at any time by mutual agreement. The latter regards the state as supreme in its authority over all individuals, and as the rightful custodian of all children; the socialist is determined to destroy both the family and the church” (Eerdman).
Home is society’s first and foundational institution. All other worthy institutions, in one way or another, are built upon it. Schools evolved from the earliest education center, the home, where parents taught children to eat, walk, speak, work, and relate to the world around them. Health care facilities emerged from the original hospital, the home, where families nursed sick loved ones. Government evolved from the original body politic, the home, where parents legislated, judged, and policed the behavior of their children. “Patriotism is the love of home upon a grander scale” (Woods). Churches are closely knit units based on the original pattern, the home, where family members love one another. Heaven itself is a family expanded even more.
As homes go, the nation goes. Widespread social, moral, and legal woes are usually, at their root, a problem of the home. Governments reflect, more than determine, social ills. The hope of America is for churches to win families, to help spouses realize the sacredness and inherent value of their tasks.
Eph. 5:33a “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his
wife even as himself;. . .”
The “mystery” (5:32a) is wonderful. Comparing marriage to Christ and His Church (5:32b) is beautiful. Marriage is sacred. “Nevertheless,” do not get lost in the abstract and lose sight of the practical. Keep your head in the clouds, your feet on the ground. Paul, knowing the last word should be a practical one, comes down from theological postulating to give a summary of duties.
The husband, as head, is not to abuse his position. He is to love his wife as being part and parcel of himself. Paul’s directive here is blunt and to the point. “Every one of you in particular”–all husbands, no exceptions. “So love his wife”–not someone else’s wife. “As himself”–nothing less tolerated.
Eph. 5:33b “. . .and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
A daughter, upon marriage, must transfer to her husband the respect and honor she has rendered unto her parents. The groom may in ways be personally deficient in comparison to her, but is to be respected for the position he fills. In a new family unit, a wife is to acknowledge her husband’s headship, to accept his role as picturing Jesus in the Christ/Church relationship.
A word of caution–one thing is sure; a wife reverences her husband more easily when not afraid of being taken advantage of or trodden on. Where there is little warmth and love from the husband, there is generally little reverence from the wife, and where there is little reverence, expect little submission.
In admonishing the wife to “reverence her husband,” Paul spoke to a real-life problem. We often talk about how men in the ancient world swapped wives and treated them like cattle. We less often discuss what the backlash effect of all this abuse must have been. Can you imagine how wives spoke in private of their husbands? Cynicism and bitterness surely reigned supreme.
In our own culture, verbal husband-bashing is all too common among women in the workplace and the marketplace. Christian wives, lead the way in stopping this. Berating one’s husband is a serious matter. Michal’s acid sarcasm toward her husband, King David, caused God to order a barren womb for her (2 SM 6:16-23). Sarah, on the other hand, revered Abraham and received the applause of Scripture (1 P 3:5-6). Wives, take your example from the wife in Canticles, who spoke respectfully to, and about, her husband.
Marriage, high and holy, should be treated in deed and in word as sacred. Home is a precious gift from the Lord. What matters most is family, not country, not work, not recreation. None of us will ask to be buried next to a political figure, a work associate, or a recreational partner. We will choose to be laid to rest near family. The site of one’s tombstone speaks volumes about one’s ultimate understanding and appreciation for the importance of the hearthstone. Sadly, we often grow older before we cherish family adequately.
Our homes are to be valued at every stage of life. In this regard, the last three weeks have been significant for me. My son has wed, my daughter has undergone major surgery. My in-laws were with us, and spent much time reminiscing with Ruth about when John and Becky were preschoolers. It was a painful experience for me, because I could remember almost nothing of what they talked about. When John and Becky were preschoolers, I was in my twenties, a young preacher out to carve my niche in a profession. Work was my obsession. Disobedient to God, I worked seven days a week. I did not start taking one day a week off for rest and family until we moved to St. Louis in 1979. By then, John was five, Becky three. I missed my children’s earliest years.
Young couples, don’t repeat my mistake. Some day you will wake up to realize the sacredness, the eternal value, of your home. Listen to us older ones. Believe it now, and treat your marriage and family with the dignity it deserves.