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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Christ Loved the Church - August 23, 2015 - Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Ephesians 5:22-33

Because of the gifts our Lord has to give to us in our text for this morning, I am compelled to begin with three points of introduction this morning. First, although our text begins with verse twenty-two, I believe, as some commentators suggest, that verse twenty-one might be a better beginning to this text. You may, or may not remember, we ended last weeks reading with this verse, which were words that flowed out of Paul’s exhortation to be imitators of Christ. As Paul says, “21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). Second, I also want to begin with the last two verses of our text because I believe they will help us frame our Lord’s Words through Paul this morning. Paul concludes this section by saying, “32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (v. 32-33). Paul is giving us an image of how husbands and wives should be in the marriage relationship. He does this by giving us an image of Christ and His relationship to His Bride, the Church. So, as we will see, our relationship as husbands and wives should mirror our relationship as a Church to Christ. And third, I believe the word which is translated in many Bible as “submit” and has been translated as “obey” might better be translated as “subordinate.” The word in our text is hupatasso and is a term of ordering. In other words, and this is why I believe verse twenty-one should be included. We might read verse twenty-one as, “ordering yourselves under one another out of reverence for Christ.” If we could each live our lives putting Christ and others first, what a joyous life we would have. If husband and wives could begin by putter each other first, what a joyous marriage they would have. My prayer, as I believe Paul intends, is that hopefully you get the idea that the purpose of our text is to show us how much our Lord loves us, enough to set up good order for us so that we will feel safe and secure as His dear children, in our homes and in our Church.
 
As we move into our text we see Paul first address wives, we read, “22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (v. 22-24). The first and main reason that wives are to be, and throughout our text this morning I will use the word subordinate, the first and main reason that wives are to be subordinate to their husbands is because of their love and subordination to the Lord. It is a response of faith. Logically then, the first reason for objection to this subordination is that the wife does not subordinate herself to the Lord.
 
The second reason wives are to be subordinate to their husbands is because the Lord has made the husband the head of the family. God did not do this out of meanness or chauvinism but simply for the purpose of good order. God knows that families, like businesses and governments, do not work well with two or more leaders. He also knows that good order is needed to prevent chaos and anarchy, thus in His infinite wisdom and love for us He has given to us good order and according to that good order He has placed the husband as the head of the family. The tough part is that even those husbands who give up that God given responsibility will still be held accountable for their families.
 
The good order which God has given to us is not just a random order, rather it is the order of creation. In Genesis God tells us that He created the man, Adam, then He made the woman as a helper suitable for the man, then He gave them children. God has made parents responsible for their children and He has given the husband the ultimate responsibility for the family as a whole.
 
One last reason Paul tells wives to be subordinate to their husbands is the example of how the church is subordinate to Christ, likewise he says, wives are to be subordinate to their husbands. When the church goes off doing things not in accord with God’s will, then it has problems as we see happening in many of the denominations of our world today, likewise, when a wife strays from God’s will and usurps the authority not given to her and is insubordinate, there are problems.
 
Next Paul moves to the duty of the husband, he says, “25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so 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. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body” (v. 25-30).
 
The first order for the husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church. At first this might not seem like such a tall order, but when we remember how much Christ loved the church we realize that this is a difficult thing, difficult because Christ loved the church so much that He died for her. Husbands, then, are to love their wives so much that they are willing to give even their lives for their wife.
 
Jesus died not only to bring forgiveness to the church, but also to bring new life and holiness to her. Paul is talking about our sanctification, our becoming holy and Christlike, which had its beginning at baptism and will have its completion in eternity. Jesus has given us new life and He sends us His Holy Spirit to work in us so that we might become more and more Christlike until we reach perfection in heaven.
 
Continuing with this washing imagery, Paul tells us that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies because he knows that everyone takes care of their own body. The basis for Paul’s statement is from the quotation of Gen. 2:24 in verse thirty-one. When a man and a woman marry they become one flesh, thus as the husband takes care of his own body he is taking care of his wife who is a part of himself.
 
Because Christ loves the church He gives it good order, likewise because He loves the family He gives it good order. A marriage has one head. If a marriage had two heads it would make a monster, a freak. Please understand, there are two orders going on in God’s Word. There is the order of creation and the order of redemption. According to the order of redemption, male and female are equal, in other words, God has redeemed men and women equally. Both were sinners and now both are saved. Yet, according to the order of creation, the husband remains the head of the family for the purpose of good order. And he will be held accountable as such.
 
In verse thirty-one we read, “31‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (v. 31). Paul’s quote from Genesis reminds us of God’s gift of marriage, that it is a gift of one man and one woman who are united for life. Marriage is not two men or two women. Marriage is not one man and two or more women or one woman and two or more men. Marriage is not a group activity. Marriage is one man and one woman. A man will leave his father and mother, which is usually easier for the man than the parents, and he with his wife will form a new family unit.
 
He will be united, joined or, glued, literally yoked, like a pair of oxen, to his wife. Specifically, Paul is speaking about a sexual union which is between a husband and a wife and only between a husband and a wife, with this union making the two one flesh. Within and only within the bounds of marriage has God given us this gift of sex. When sex is kept in the bounds of marriage then it is a good thing, it is a joyous thing, and it gives glory to God.
 
There is a stress on the two becoming one flesh. This is for the purpose of chastity, fidelity, enjoyment, and procreation. Unfortunately what God has given us in good order and for good has become something very misused and abused in our world today and we can easily see where things have lead. This misuse and abuse of God’s gift of sexuality is easily seen in the facts of the AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases epidemic, the number of illegitimate children being born, the number of unborn children being killed, and the disrespect of Holy Scripture itself.
 
Is it possible for us to renew the sanctity of marriage in our world today? How can we put marriage and family back in its proper place? Well, as always, by ourselves we cannot do any such thing. It is only with the Holy Spirit working in and through us that we can even begin to make an effort at returning to the good order our Lord has given us. We begin by realizing that God gives us all things, spiritual, physical, and emotional, including marriage. Everything that we have is a gift from God. Because everything we have is a gift from God we use it in such a way as to give glory to His Holy Name.
 
We realize that one gift from God is the gift of good order, not chaos and anarchy. We shun this gift when we make excuses for our behavior such as, “We’re living in the twenty-first century,” as if that makes a difference, or changes how God gives us His gift. We shun this gift when we simply ignore or refuse it. We shun this gift when we think that a person’s job or the wages they bring home is what gives worth or value to that person, rather than Jesus’ blood purchasing us and giving us our value. We shun this gift when we throw out the Bible as a gift from God and teach some other value system based on our own human opinion. We shun this gift when we make any excuse, and all kinds of excuses, as to why God and His gifts are irrelevant in our lives today. What is so interesting is that after we have shunned His gifts for so long He may just give us what we want, and unfortunately, it is when we get what we want that we realize that it is not what we want and then we blame God.
 
Thanks be to God that He gives us His Holy Spirit in order to throw off the ways of this world and helps us to follow His will. It is the Holy Spirit who moves in us to help us to realize that God’s Word is just as relevant and just as important to us today as it was when He gave it. He moves in us to bring us to faith in that Word. He moves us to see how He gives us good order because of His great love for us, not because He is prejudice against one sex or another. He gives us blessings upon blessings because of His great love for us, a love that had its completion in Jesus giving His very life for us so that we could receive all these other good gifts and blessings.
 
And so, in His gift of marriage, God gives us an image of the relationship of Christ to His Church and in Christ’s relationship to the Church He gives us an image of marriage. As the Church, we are the Bride of Christ, thus we are not to go awhoring after other gods, which is adultery and which is idolatry, but we are to be and remain in a one flesh union with our Creator, Redeemer, Preserver God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ shows His love for His Bride, the Church, by giving His life for us. He washes us through the waters of Holy Baptism. He robes us with His robes of righteousness. He makes us His own and strengthens and keeps us in faith through His means of grace.
 
Today our text celebrates God’s gift of marriage and Church and His many gifts to us. In the church Christ gave us His example in that as its leader He humbled Himself to being its servant. Likewise, in marriage we are to humble ourselves as husband and wife and we are to humble ourselves to being given God’s gift of good order for our lives and our families so that we might ultimately give glory to His name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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