Our Text – Ephesians 5:18-33
The Theme – Spirit-controlled believers in Christ Jesus build loving relationships
As you read this, I want you to be considering how respectable the Spirit life is. I mean, let’s think about a person who expresses the attributes of being filled with the Spirit of God, as the Apostle Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:18. Such people are respectable to other Christians. When we think about a Spirit filled person, we should think about someone who is emulating more of Christlikeness, than they are of themselves. They are imitating God, as Paul explains it in Ephesians 5:1. Anyone who is manifesting the Spirit filled life is an absolutely wonderful person to be around. We Christians feel edified around Spirit filled people. When you are around such people, you sense that you are around people who have something eternally meaningful on their hearts that is driving them. You sense that their thoughts, goals, and actions, have eternal value. They don’t just talk like there is a high purpose. They talk like they are inside the high purpose. They talk like they are being the high purpose as it unwraps itself each moment. They walk like their purpose is directed.
The person, who is described as being filled with the Spirit, acts as if the things they do are as important as God’s will, because they know that this is the way it really is. They are consciously, and even sometimes what some people might call unconsciously, acting out God’s will as is expressed in the Bible. It is beautiful. The beauty of the Spirit filled life can be seen expressed in all types of dynamic ways of action. For example, it can be seen, where the boldness of Christ resonates from such people as they proclaim Christ to others in seeming disregard for the consequences. There is a fascinating confidence; it is surety that leaves people stunned as to how such people could be so secure in their relationship with God.
The Spirit filled life can be expressed in gentleness that is calming–gentleness that is sure, and faithful. But, the Spirit filled life is not soft and fragile. It is the kind of gentle, calm, faithfulness, which is solid, unmovable, and strong. It’s like a quiet mountain that is peacefully content with its importance, with its presence, with its purpose, and existence. It is huge, yet unassumingly humble, because it simply is what it is, and what it is, is respectable. We, who are open to what our Father wants from us, are people who love everything that have to do with the truly authentic Spirit filled life. We should want it, thirst for it, get it, and be it more than anything else.
Today’s text presents two exhortations for us to consider. The first concerns a significant aspect of the Spirit’s ministry, and the second aspect concerns marriage. The apostle Paul wrote about Christian families, not about families in general. Before he began to discuss the subject of families, he discussed a very important truth that is foundational to a successful marriage. The concept Paul taught involves being controlled continuously by the Spirit. It’s impossible to have a successful Christian marriage unless the Spirit of God controls the relationship. His control is also essential in building a strong family unit and any other interpersonal relationship.
A. Be Filled with the Spirit … (Ephesians 5:18-21)
We are to be controlled by the Spirit – (Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit)
Drunkenness plagued first-century culture as it certainly does our society today. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to shun drunkenness. He wrote, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” The whole tenor of Biblical teaching indicates that believers should lead disciplined lives. We should take care of our bodies as well as our souls. Our bodies are, after all, temples of the Holy Spirit. We should be as unwilling to expose our bodies to the damaging effects of alcohol, as we are to expose our church building to a wrecking ball.
What has alcohol done to people who get drunk? They are deceived and do things they wouldn’t normally do. To illustrate this point; Mary, the wife of a Michigan pastor, waking up early one morning and going downstairs to prepare breakfast, found a large man she had never seen before sleeping on the couch in their living room. “Don’t be too alarmed,” she told her husband after making her way back to the bedroom, “but there’s a large man sleeping in our living room”? The police was summoned and the man was shaken out of his slumber. It was discovered, to everyone’s surprise, that he had once lived in the house, and because he was drunk, thought he had come home.
Where we go and what we do depends on what we allow to influence and control us. That intruder chose to be under the control of alcohol, which deceived him, and made him do something he would not otherwise normally do.
What part of a person’s life does alcohol seem to control? A person’s thoughts, actions, and language. Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to be our helper and to guide us into all truth (John 16:7). “Be filled” is a present imperative and therefore identifies a continual process. We will never get more of Him or have less of Him indwelling us. The filling of the Spirit does not involve our getting more but rather with Him getting more of us.
We can be certain that as we allow Him (the Holy Spirit) to control our lives, He will never lead us astray. When we let the Spirit control our lives, He changes us. We don’t swagger around like someone who is drunk, but our lives are different. He gives us new desires. He changes our motives. He helps us turn our love from ourselves toward Him and others. Thus, the result of Spirit control within a person’s life would be that of:
(1) Joy (5:19), “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”
A characteristic of being controlled by the Spirit is the desire to praise the Lord. A Spirit-controlled believer in Christ has joy and expresses this joy in “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Paul informed the Ephesians about three signs of a Spirit-filled life. The first is joyful fellowship in song. Paul may have been referring to Old Testament psalms that the early church used. Some of our songs today are based on Old Testament psalms. Hymns were early Christian songs of praise. Spiritual songs may refer to impromptu songs. However, in each case, the singing was to come from the heart, not merely the lips. Consider the apostle Paul and Silas … although unjustly beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi, they sang praises to God (Acts 16:22-25).
Writer C. W. Metcalf was working as a hospice volunteer when he met 13-year-old Chuck, who was terminally ill. One day Chuck gave Metcalf half a dozen sheets of paper with writing on both sides and said, “I want you to give this to my mom and dad after I die.” It’s a list of all the fun we had, all the times we laughed.” Metcalf was amazed that this teenager on the verge of death was thinking about the well being of others. Metcalf delivered the list. Years later he decided to make a list of his own. Surprisingly, he found it difficult at first to compile his “joy list.” However, as he began looking within each day for the moments of laughter, satisfaction, and joy, is list began to grow. Any joy list that we compile will no doubt include many references to the presence and power of Jesus Christ. No matter what our circumstances, joy is His gracious gift to all who trust Him. Even as Jesus faced the cross, He looked beyond its agony to the glad result of His sacrifice. He told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full” (John 5:11). Why not begin your own joy list today. It can be a good reminder of the Lord’s faithful love and the gladness of heart He brings into your life.
(2) Thanksgiving or Thankfulness (5:20), “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”) … Webster defines the word thanksgiving as:
(a) The act of giving thanks;
(b) A prayer expressing gratitude; or,
(c) A public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.
In everything, give thanks. The Christian privilege is to find reason for gratitude in all things. A worker in a Chicago rescue mission told of a Christian who seemed to have a continually thankful spirit. Even though his life was difficult, in almost every service he stood to give God thanks. One evening he was wearing a bandage on his thumb because he had smashed it with a hammer. Yet he could say, “Praise God, I still have my thumb.” On another occasion, the man told about walking home from the grocery store after purchasing a small steak. He laid the package on the sidewalk shortly while he tied his shoelace. Suddenly a dog made off with his dinner. With characteristic cheerfulness the man said, “Praise God, I’ve still got my appetite.” It seemed that nothing could put a damper on his grateful spirit.
If we pause to think about the abundance that God has showered on us, we will discover many reasons to express our gratitude to Him. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to take God’s goodness for granted. For example, most of us have food, clothing, and shelter. Yet in some parts of the world, even in highly developed countries, many people fight hunger, poverty, and homelessness. God in His goodness keeps on blessing us with abundance far beyond what we need or deserve. In addition to our material blessings, we as Christians receive so many spiritual blessings. How can we best express our gratitude as we think about all that God has given to us? First by maintaining a thankful spirit in everything we do. Then by giving liberally and cheerfully of our time, money, and talent to spread the gospel and to help poor and needy people in Jesus’ name.
Within the New Testament, the theme of thanksgiving is mentioned about forty-five times, and this form of praise is offered for both temporal and spiritual blessings. Christ’s unfailing practice of giving thanks for food (Matthew 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:23; 1 Corinthians 11:24) should prove an effectual example to all believers. Thanksgiving on part of the Apostle Paul is worthy of close attention. He uses the phrase “thanks be unto God” in connection with Christ as the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15), concerning the victory over the grave which is secured by the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57), and because of the present triumph which is ours through Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). His thanksgiving to God for believers (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 3:9), for Titus in particular (2 Corinthians 8:16), and his exhortation that thanks be given for all men (1 Timothy 2:1) are likewise object lessons to all the children of God.
An attitude of thankfulness toward God is a mark of a developing spiritual maturity. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the growing Christians in Ephesus, his challenge to follow Christ included “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It would behoove us to practice thankfulness to God, instead of complaining about what we don’t have, instead of fuming about the unfairness of life, instead of asking for more for ourselves. There are many reasons to be thankful, however, the best way is to look into the Scriptures to see all the things we have to be thankful for, which by the way, has nothing to do with our circumstances. In spite of our trials, we can give thanks for Gods: Holy name (Psalm 30:4); Unfailing goodness (Psalm 106:1); Closeness, (Hebrews 13:5); Deliverance from sin, (Romans 7:24-25); Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57); and His Indescribable gift, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15), and through this precious gift He gave us, we can be thankful each day that we have:
(1) A love that can never be fathomed.
(2) A life that can never die.
(3) A peace that can never be understood.
(4) A rest that can never be disturbed.
(5) A joy that can never be diminished.
(6) A hope that can never be disappointed.
(7) A glory that can never be clouded.
(8) A happiness that can never be interrupted.
(9) A light that can never be extinguished.
(10) A strength that can never be overcome.
(11) A beauty that can never be marred.
(12) A purity that can never be defiled, and
(13) Resources that can never be exhausted.
(3) Mutual submission (5:21), “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God”
Another evidence of being under the Spirit’s control is found in this verse. Such an attitude does not come naturally because our old nature bristles at the very mention of submission. We want to be first, and we want to have the final say. We want to make the decisions. The idea of submitting to one another is to consider each other in a way where we are willing to be servants. However, this doesn’t mean that a person in authority has to give up their position in order to submit to someone under them. But it does mean that a person in authority will use their position to benefit those under them.
At the last supper Jesus was showing His disciples through washing their feet that even the Master was willing to humble Himself to meet the needs of His people. We too need to willing to wash each others feet (John 13:2-17) in a sense as we are there to meet even the most basic needs of each other, including those spiritual needs to grow in Christ. Moreover, this is why Paul adds to that exhortation to “submit to one another, “the phrase,” In the fear or reverence of the Christ. Out of reverence for the Lord, believers submit to one another. All that we do should be done in a way that considers our God and Savior. The idea of fearing Christ really means to consider the awesome God that He is and out of reverence for Him we desire to please Him in all things, including submitting to one another. Paul brings this out when writing to the Christians in Rome.
(Romans 12:10-13), “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” The apostle Paul equates serving the Lord with being devoted to one another in brotherly love. You can see this once again in his letter to the (Colossians in 3:23-24), “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” And so, we come to our text and hopefully we begin to realize that our relationship to each other in the body of Christ is meant to be one where we serve one another, but more important, that we realize that we are really serving Christ. Thus, submitting to one another will cause the relationship to grow; virtually eliminating arguments and bringing glory to God.
B. The Spirit-controlled Marriage … (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Before we begin this part of the study regarding marriage, it is important to emphasize that we are talking about the ideal Christian marriage. And every marriage falls short of that ideal. But the promise of God is that in Christ we are new creations, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we can be filled with the Spirit; Christ is in us, thereby providing us with the hope of glory. Whatever your failures, whatever your mistakes in marriage, you can begin today to live out the ideal Christian marriage by — and only by — depending on the power of the Holy Spirit within you. And when you fail, when you step out in your own power and make a mess, you need to seek forgiveness from God and your spouse, and begin again. Paul has already told us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, to walk as children of light. Children don’t learn to walk over night. They learn by falling — and picking themselves up and trying again. And we too must pick ourselves up after our failures, and thereby learn to walk in the area of marriage, learning to depend on the Holy Spirit in this most intimate, most difficult, and most rewarding area of our lives.
Starting with verse 22 the apostle Paul is going to address relationships within the family and within the body of Christ and how we are to view these relationships to the glory of God. Matthew 19:6 says, “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” … A husband and wife who were having problems in their marriage asked their pastor for counsel. After a rather lengthy session with them, he realized that he wasn’t making any progress in resolving their conflicts. Noticing a cat and a dog lying side-by-side in front of the fireplace, he said, “Look at how peaceful they are. They certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.” The husband commented, “Yes, but just tie them together and see what happens!”
If you have been married for any length of time, you know that despite what you have heard in countless fairy tales, there is no guarantee that people who get married will live happily ever after or even stay married. Marriage can be one of the most blessed or most miserable relationships. Things go wrong, sometimes terribly wrong. Even with the best of intentions, we may find ourselves in a house full of resentment, hostility, unrest, and misery. Differing backgrounds, contrasting personalities, varying likes and dislikes, and irritating habits can quickly transform the fondest dreams into the wildest nightmares. The unique intimacy of the husband/wife union is the very thing that makes it so susceptible to problems of incompatibility. Differences that are tolerable and even amusing in casual relationships can become seemingly impossible irritants in the bond of matrimony, and disagreements with respect to money and spiritual matters can be the most difficult of all.
(1) The Spirit-controlled wife (5:22-24) … “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband.”
For many women both inside and outside the visible church this verse is loaded with negative connotation, and yet it doesn’t have to be. The feminist movement in our country has labeled the apostle Paul a chauvinist male who only wants to put women down. The truth is that Paul is trying to elevate women back to their proper role in the marriage relationship. We must keep in mind that when Paul was writing this letter, most of the Roman Empire viewed women as below the status of slaves. They essentially had no rights. The husband had total control of them and if he decided that his wife was not living up to his expectations he had every legal right to divorce her. If she found herself divorced, in many cases, she had to sell herself into slavery to be able to support herself and possibly her children.
The Biblical concept of submission suggests a low ranking. Nevertheless, it does not assign a lesser value to the person who ranks under another person. A Chief Petty Officer ranks under a Lieutenant, but he may be as intelligent, personable, and talented as the Lieutenant. Nevertheless, for the sake of order in the military, the Chief Petty Officer submits to the Lieutenant. Similarly, a wife may be as intelligent, personable, and talented as her husband … or even out-distance him in these categories. However, for the sake of honoring the order God established for marriage, she voluntarily ranks under her husband. She respects his leadership responsibility.
At times, a wife may find it difficult to submit to her husband, but she should submit to him even then “as unto the Lord” … and without grumbling. By submitting to her husband, she is in fact showing her devotion to God, acknowledging that this arrangement reflect His will. Paul wrote in verse 23 “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” The wife is to submit to her husband because he is the head of the home. He bears the same relationship to the wife that Christ bears to the church. However, Christ bears an additional relationship to the church, for “he is the savior of the body” (v. 23).
Problems can arise for the wife in a Christian home. One would be that the husband is not assuming his godly responsibility as Christ would have him and therefore the wife feels the obligation to assume his role. The other problem is that some men have simply misunderstood their role and have assumed an authority which doesn’t belong to them. Some men don’t like the idea of making certain decisions which might determine the direction for that family. If I can use an expression we’ve all heard, they don’t like wearing the pants in the family, which means someone else has to take up that responsibility. Many wives are then forced to assume a role which was not designed for them by God when both the husband and wife are part of the family. The wife often feels obligated to pick up the slack and in the process certain burdens are placed on her shoulders which over time can begin to weight her down and create problems in the marriage. Another scenario is where the wife prefers to be the leader in the family and assumes the role of the husband often squeezing him out of the picture in a variety of ways. In both cases God would say to both the husband and the wife, you need to get back to a biblical authority in the relationship.
This doesn’t mean that the husband can’t give the wife authority and responsibility in the relationship. A division of labor is wise and biblical in many cases. The wife may be more adept to keeping the finances. Moreover, as long as the husband is agreeable to that arrangement it doesn’t have to be unbiblical. However, the wife is not the one who is ultimately responsible for the finances of that family. Those decisions rest on the shoulders of the husband. Wives must understand that in honoring and respecting their husband it is really honoring and respecting your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And this is where being a wife becomes an act of worship. Not worshipping your husband but worshipping your God who has placed you in that relationship. Therefore, what happens is that being a wife is really seen as a ministry to your husband and to your Lord as you are that helper to him that the Lord wants you to be, not blurring the roles but helping your husband be the leader and manager of the family in a way that encourages spiritual growth?
(2) The Spirit-controlled husband (5:25-33) … Marriage is a partnership. Romans 5:25 exhorts, “Husbands, love your wives.”
The Greek word for “love” in this verse is “agape,” the highest form of love. Agape love is divine love produced in the heart of every believer (Romans 5:5) and manifested by those who are controlled by the Spirit. A husband ought to love his wife “even as Christ also loved the church” by giving Himself for the church. He laid down His life for the church. A husband who truly loves his wife as Christ loved the church is willing to place her interests above his own and even die for her if necessary. Philip P. Bliss is an example not only of a man whose life counted for God, but also of a man whose love for his wife knew no bounds. Though born into a Methodist family and raised a Methodist, Philip P. Bliss became a Baptist at the age of twelve, when he joined the Baptist church of Cherry Flats, Pennsylvania. His godly parents had prayer and Bible study at family devotions; they also spent considerable time in family singing. Bliss became one of the most prolific gospel songwriters of his time. He wrote the music for such songs as “I Gave My Life for Thee” and “It Is Well with My Soul.” He often composed the music for many of his own words. However, Bliss was more than a songwriter; he was also a family man. He loved his wife dearly.
He proved this love on December 29, 1876, at the age of thirty-eight. He and his wife had taken a train that passed through Ohio. When the train crossed a bridge near Ashtabula, Ohio, the bridge collapsed, and the train cars fell many feet into the river below. Bliss freed himself from the wreckage, but the train caught fire with his wife trapped inside. In spite of the fire, Bliss went back into the burning car to rescue his wife. He willingly risked his life to save hers. His attempt failed, however, and they both perished in the flames. As husbands, we need to show our wives in little things that we love her. Are we being a husband as it relates to how we help around the house? Are we being a husband when it comes to rearing our children? Many husbands would seem to give this impression, as they sit on their throne expecting their wives to wait on them hand and foot. It’s almost as though they exist to give their wives an opportunity to be slaves.
Continuing his theme of a husband’s love for his wife, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (v. 31). This statement quotes (Genesis 2:24), which shows the vital unity into which marriage brings a husband and wife. When a man marries, he leaves his father and mother in the sense that he establishes his own home and assumes responsibility for the management of that home. As the head of a new family unit, he is to cleave to his wife, and they become one flesh. Many problems in marriages today arise because couples don’t “leave” and “cleave.” The minute a problem arises in the new home, one spouse, or the other “goes back to Mama” instead of staying home and resolving the problem. There are those who don’t stick with each other through “thick and thin”, while others don’t remain faithful to their marriage partner. Many problems would be solved in marriages today if there was more leaving and cleaving!
On the day after their wedding, the honeymooners were visiting Niagara Falls. In the evening, they watched the thundering cascades of water plunge over the rocky cliffs, and they walked hand in hand in the romantic glow of a full moon. The starry-eyed bride stopped, looked lovingly into her husband’s eyes, and exclaimed, “Just think 50 years from yesterday; we’ll be celebrating our Golden Anniversary!” Her comment may bring a smile to our faces, but this bride had the right idea. To her, marriage was a permanent relationship. It was not some trial arrangement. Its continuing existence was not conditioned on the whims of the partners involved. No, she had entered into a lifelong contract. Marriage is the most blessed of all human relationships. The union of husband and wife is unique. Jesus declared, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Mark 10:7). Moreover, because of this, our Lord concluded, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. We must also recognize that God is not only the architect of marriage but also the One who holds it together. Thus a marriage should be made up of three people:
(1) Jesus Christ,
(2) A husband, and
(3) A wife
The foundation of a Christian marriage needs to be a commitment to love and honor each other and the Lord. Jesus Christ is the one that brings lasting stability to a new relationship, and He can revive the love in a faltering one. Are you contemplating marriage? If so, as you make your plans, do so thoughtfully and prayerfully, and before you tie the knot, make sure you are one in the Lord. Whether you have been married for several years or are anticipating marriage sometime soon, remember that God expects you to honor your wedding vows.
“For better or for worse,” we pledge,
Through sickness and through strife;
And by the help and grace of God
We’ll keep these vows for life”
A good marriage requires the determination to be married for good.