Ephesians 5:21-6:4 Countless books have been written, videos produced, and seminars given by those who think they have some insight into what makes for a successful marriage and a happy home.
But there is really only one who truly knows these answers and that is the God who created us male and female—who commanded us to be fruitful and multiply-- who established marriage and the home as the fundamental unit of human society.
God’s will for our lives as husbands and wives—parents and children—is expressed in his Word and especially in the Words that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in our epistle lesson for the day.
But we have to avoid the temptation to simply skip down in the reading until we find our role, read what God has to say, and then move on. And we really have to avoid the other temptation to skip down and find out what those in the pew beside us ought to be doing so that we can straighten them out when we get home!
If we treat God’s Word to us today as simply a list of rules for ourselves and others in our homes, we won’t make a lot of progress in having the kind of marriages and families that God wants to bless us with.
Instead, the best way for us to begin our discussion of what makes a Christian home is to talk about who we are in Christ because for there to be a Christian home, there must be Christians who reside there.
Until we understand who we are in Christ we will never understand, much less faithfully live out our own particular place within our families as God wants us to do.
This Good News about who we are in Christ is the foundation for a home that can truly be called Christian. God’s Word says that:
Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish… we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
As with all questions about what it means to live the Christian life, God’s answer begins, not with a list of rules, but with a person and a place: Jesus Christ giving himself up into to death on the cross for the salvation of the world.
It was the love of God the Father for all people that led his Son to shed his blood for us, washing away our sins—including all those sins that come with living as broken people in marriage and family. That we can have any hope at all of having a loving marriage and family is only because God first loved us and sent his Son to die for us.
The benefits of life and salvation and forgiveness earned by Jesus become our own possession personally and individually through faith as we were baptized in the Name of the Triune God—what Paul calls a “washing with the Word”-- and through baptism we were incorporated as members in the Body of Christ which is the Church.
That is who we are through faith in Jesus Christ and our daily life as Christians is to be spent in living out that reality and living up to our high calling as God’s children—especially in the Christian home as husbands and wives—parents and children.
Christian life in marriage and home can be summed very simply as our mutual submission to one another out of love and fear of God on account of who we are in Christ. Paul says, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Biblical submission is not the hateful thing that our society deems it at all. It means that we recognize that there is a God-given order that begins even within the person of the Holy Trinity, extends into creation, continues into the church, and then into the family.
And that recognizing this God-given order—we would rejoice in our particular place in it. Paul explains this biblical order of creation this way in 1 Corinthians 11:
The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
It is important to note that Paul does not form the basis of his argument for this God-pleasing biblical order on the prevailing customs of the people of that day, but instead he goes back to God’s creation, and the order God established there, as that which is normative for the world, the church, and the family in every time and place.
This biblical, God-pleasing order applies not just to creation in a general way and not only to the church but very specifically to the Christian home as well. God speaks to us through his Word today and says this first of all to husbands:
The husband is head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of which he is the Savior.Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church…Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself,
The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church and the husband is to love and lead his wife, taking as his model and strength the sacrifice of Jesus for those hated him, despised him, and misused him.
Jesus’ first priority is the church—that’s you and me. He rules the world at this moment only for the sake of the church–ordering all things so that they ultimately work to our good.
In the same way, the husband is to live his life putting the needs and desires of his wife first–before his children, before his recreation, before his work. Her temporal needs, and even more importantly, her eternal welfare, are to be his first priority.
Therefore, it is the husband’s responsibility to have a Christian home–to have family devotions, and to see that his children are raised in the faith. The husband is to love his wife as his own body because she is through the one-flesh relationship that God establishes in marriage. So what about wives? Paul writes,
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Let the wife see that she respects her husband.
A Christian woman’s submission to her husband is not so much about her relationship with her husband--as it is about her relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When you see women who belittle their husbands, who are constantly asserting their rights and looking out for themselves first, who scorn their husband’s leadership and seek to be the head of the home, it speaks volumes, not about their husbands, but about their relationship with God and their desire to subvert his order.
And the great tragedy in this is that when Christian women seek after a model of marriage that comes from the unbelieving world, they are giving up the only model that God has promised will bring real blessing and contentment.
A believing wife does not lose dignity or respect because, in obedience to Christ, she looks to her husband as the head of their marriage and home any more than the husband loses dignity for lovingly putting his wife’s welfare first.
God has given to the wife a dignified and respectful position in the marriage relationship. The Christian wife who lives in Christ, respects her husband, raises her children to fear and love the LORD and contributes to a happy Christian home is doing the most important job in the world and the fruits of that work are eternal.
And so what does God have to say about the fruits of marriage—namely children?
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Paul took it for granted that there would be children in Christian homes. The Bible knows nothing of an intentionally child-less marriage. It is simply expected that in Christian marriage there will be children as the fruit of their parents’ love.
It’s also interesting to note that Paul fully expected that children would be present for the reading of his letter in the worship service and that those children would have the depth of faith to understand what he was talking about.
To summarize: God expects Christian marriages to be fruitful, that children would be brought to the public worship services, and that they would have been taught that their relationship with Christ would lived out in loving obedience to their parents.
God sharply rebukes as sinful, those children who disobey their parents, who do what is asked of them reluctantly, or who talk back and are disrespectful. It does not please the Lord when children insist on having their own way.
And what is the God-given role or parents? God’s Word says:
Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord/
Parents were told in the sixties and seventies that children needed freedom and self-expression and they would grow up good. This was based on the lie that children are born morally good--when we know from God’s Word that exactly the opposite is true! All we have to do is look around us and we will see the heartache that poor parenting has brought to our nation. It does not please the Lord when parents give up their responsibility of raising their children to be obedient and respectful.
This is hard work. It is much easier to let our children run wild. But this is not an option for the Christian parent. We have a God-given obligation to discipline our children in love and raise them in the faith.
As baptized, believing people we do not have to enter a monastery or travel to the mission fields to lead a courageous Christian life in loving service to others. That life of discipleship takes place in the home and family in which God has placed us.
And so we begin again this week to live out the reality of who were are in Jesus Christ and I pray that by God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit we could truly say along with Joshua, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Amen.