Marriage as God Intends
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2
Ephesians 5:22-33 may be the most popular passage of Scripture dealing with marriage, and for good reason. However, it is easy to read the section on marriage and forget the larger context in which this passage belongs. Chapter 5 begins by encouraging Christians to imitate God and “walk in love,” (Ephesians 5:1-2). The way we treat our spouse in marriage is an extension of our life in Christ, and a reflection of the “new man” we are called to be in Him, (Ephesians 4:20-24). All aspects of our lives as Christians are interconnected. If we want to “walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8), and “understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Ephesians 5:17), then we need to understand what God intends for our marriages to look like.
Marriage as God intends starts with a sacrificing husband, (Ephesians 5:25). Think about what Jesus Christ sacrificed for His bride, the church. Yes He died for us, but before that He left heaven for us! He sacrificed His own comfort and well-being to set the perfect example of how we should live sacrificially.
Jesus did not sacrifice for us because we were perfect, but because we were imperfect. Romans 5:8 reminds us that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” Gentlemen, in the same way, a man must sacrifice for his wife not because she is just so wonderful and perfect; rather, a man must sacrifice for his wife because of her imperfections. You should not treat your wife according to what she “deserves.” You need to nourish and cherish her according to her needs, (Ephesians 5:29), not according to her merit. This is what it means to walk in love and imitate our Lord, (Ephesians 5:1-2). Hosea provides a tremendous example of this level of love in the first three chapters of Hosea.
Finally, men, you are called to be the “head of the wife,” (Ephesians 5:23). This does not mean you get to make all the rules and always get your way. It means your leadership needs to imitate Christ’s leadership of the church. In John 6:38, Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” To paraphrase that thought for husbands, you have entered marriage, not to do your own will, but the will of God. Yes, you lead your home, but you are to lead sacrificially, and you are to lead in a way that seeks to honor the will of God above your own will.
Ladies, the Lord calls you to be a submitting wife, (Ephesians 5:22-24). Be careful not to water down this verse. The Holy Spirit makes no apologies for His words. Remember that Ephesians 5 presents marriage as an illustration of Christ’s relationship with His church. How much authority does the church have over Christ? None. Just as the church must submit to Christ even in areas we might find difficult, the wife is commanded to be subject to her husband “in everything,” (Ephesians 5:24). In a marriage as God intends, the husband will not act selfishly. He will be considerate of your interests and opinions. Above all, he will strive to lead according to God’s will. However, even if the husband does act like he is supposed to, your responsibility to submit does not change, (I Peter 3:1-6).
There are no short-cuts in marriage. God created marriage, and He intended for it to be fulfilling. Proverbs 5:18-19 says “rejoice with the wife of our youth…. Always be enraptured with her love.” Any hope for finding fulfillment in marriage will be achieved through following God’s design. Complete selflessness is required from both individuals. God’s design is for a sacrificing husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church, and for a submissive wife who subjects herself to her husband’s leadership, and respects the sacrifices he makes. You will find the greatest fulfillment in marriage when you embrace your role as God intends.