[Ephesians 5:22-33] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so 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. In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Christ’s Marriage and Yours
Salvation is a marriage. We are made right before God by a wedding – a wedding of Christ to His people. Heaven is the celebration, the eternal wedding reception. Life in Christ is a marriage.
When a man and a woman are joined in wedlock, whose belongings now belong to whom? Whose money is whose? Whose debt is now whose? All of it, the good and the bad, now belong to both.
Separate accounts and separate paychecks – each saying, “What’s mine is mine” – is detrimental to a marriage. Jesus, the Son of God, now no longer has a separate account from you. What’s His is yours and what’s yours is His – the good and bad.
Salvation is a marriage. The Son of God became man, joined to humanity’s nature and flesh. We saw last Sunday, in His Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus shared in the Baptism water of sinners. On the cross, Jesus shares in it all – sin, uncleanness, guilt, your crime against God, all your debt – and all His riches – one account in His flesh.
On the cross, Jesus wed you all to Him – what’s yours, all the bad, became His. He paid the debt by the deposit of His perfect life into death. Your debt to God became His debt to God. He paid the death due. His wealth of righteousness and goodness and merit and favor before God became yours.
That saving wedded union of His wealth and your debt of sin, which happened on the cross, has become yours presently and is applied to you in your Baptism – “the washing of water with the Word.”
Our Epistle lesson today [Ephesians 5:22-33], for this Second Sunday after Epiphany, speaks to us of our marriage unions, instructs us in our marriages, and reveals to us the debt of sin that wife and husband too often find themselves in.
The greatest debt of sin is the sin of unbelief – the refusal to believe the Word of God. Many of you – men and women – pride yourselves in being Christians who truly, truly, ardently believe the Word of God, all of it. We’re not like those other Christians who pick and choose from the Word. Whatever the Bible says, we believe it, every word.
Yet, amazingly, even in those of you who are the most ardent believers of God’s Word, there is still often found a refusal to believe this Word: that the wife is subject to the husband. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Suddenly the most ardent believers become the fastest excuse makers and the craftiest at trying to explain how the Word of God here does not really say what it clearly says. And the husbands are guilty of this too!
And, further down the text, the husbands are commanded, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Neither one of these commands cancels out the other. They both stand. Christian wives submit to their husbands in the same way that the church submits to Jesus. Christian husbands love their wives in a self-sacrificial way, the way Jesus loved the church.
As the Church, it’s our joy and our hard-fought goal to submit ourselves to our leader and Lord, Christ Jesus. So it should be for a wife to her husband, God’s Word here says. It was Christ’s joy to give Himself for the Church. So should a husband’s love be for His wife.
If one spouse breaks the command, that’s not an excuse for the other spouse to break the command given to them. For we all live before God and are commanded by Him. Also, consider this, as ardent believers in God’s Word, we ask others to believe a lot of things in the Bible they have a hard time believing. We, therefore, ought to hold ourselves to the same expectation and not pick and choose.
In this wonderful chapter of the Bible (Eph. 5), the Scriptures combine God’s good command for our marriages with God’s good promise of the marriage of Christ to His Church. Now, as a Christian husband and wife, when you live according to these commands, your marriage becomes a picture, a living testimony, of the saving Gospel – of this saving union of Christ and His Church - for those around you to see. Knowing this, it becomes a joy for wife and husband to keep these important commands.
As a note, for women married to non-Christian men, Scripture says that by your “gentle and quiet spirit” and by the “hidden person of your heart”, and by your reverent and holy living, your husbands can be won to the faith [1 Peter 3:1-6]. Not by an argumentative spirit or demanding your way. And, likewise, a husband can win over his wife by his Christ-like leadership, being different than the men of this world.
Repent of your unbelief in this Word of God. Repent of failing to be a Christian wife. Repent of failing to be a Christian husband. The “washing of water with the Word” – that is, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – cleanses you from every spot and wrinkle, and any such thing, so that you are sanctified, made holy and without blemish, in His sight. You are forgiven, and He helps make you better.
Remember once again that great and holy wedlock of Christ and His Church. All your sin, His. All His righteousness, yours. Debt paid. One shared account between you all and the Son of God. And now, an eternal wedding feast to come.
Jesus foreshadowed the joy of that coming wedding feast in today’s Gospel [John 2] by turning water into wine for the wedding at Cana. And now, today, in bread and wine, His body and blood, in this Supper, we get a foretaste of that wedding feast to come. We partake in joyful repentance and in faith in Christ’s forgiveness. Amen.