Growing Into A Holy Temple: Marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Series: You Are the Temple of God - 2024 Theme

Our theme this year has been about us being the temple of God, and one of the key elements of this is that we “grow into a holy temple in the Lord”. God is interested in us being holy and that is done through a growing process. Of all the relationships that help us grow, and keep us holy, marriage is one of the most important. Ephesians 5:22-33 is part of this section on building up the church or the temple of God, and notice 5:27 - right in the middle of this is the goal of holiness and glory - key elements of the temple idea. Part of how our church will be the temple of God is by the marriages in this church functioning as God intends.

If that wasn’t enough reason to discuss marriage, we are in pride month. This is a month that our culture celebrates the exact opposite of what God desires for his church, it is a celebration of sin instead of holiness, and human pride instead of the glory of God. Right at the core of what pride month is about is an attack on the institution of marriage. The answer is not to insult or demean others, the answer is to show the glory and wisdom of God in marriage.

In our last three lessons we have dealt with a various different topics. We have talked about the authority as a blessing and obedience as a joy, equipping the saints for ministry, and the Three personal God or triunity of God. Today, I want to talk about marriage and use it as an example of how it blends together all three of these ideas and makes us to be a holy temple of God.

Marriage as authority and obedience (5:22-24)

If you read through this text, one of the very first things you will see is authority and submission - This is one of the biggest problems that people have with marriage. The idea that that the man is the leader in the home, the idea that the wife is to submit to her husband, these are ideas that go against many beliefs within our culture. The world’s answer is to throw off the authority and submission structure, break the chains of oppression, redefine marriage, etc.

Yet notice how this structure is set up, it is exactly like we saw with authority and obedience of God.  Why is this authority set up this way? Why is the husband the head of the wife? It is because this relationship fundamentally is about a representation of Christ and the church. That means that the authority and obedience that are talked about here are not like the world thinks, they are defined and used as God would have them (Mark 10:35-45).

What then is authority supposed to look like in the home? What does it mean for the husband to be the head? It is to be like Christ, to be a servant who gives his life for others, to love the wife as his own body - that’s what we described last week. Authority that is like this is not to be a tool for oppression, it is to be a blessing for the people under that power and structure.

Yet, this is immediately where people have gone off the rails in their marriage. The idea that the husband is to be the leader is rejected in our society. But notice, Paul is telling the men to be that leader, to step up, guide, and love the family, to be the head of the relationship. However, usually this authority is disobeyed in two primary ways. First, it is using their authority for oppression and control of others, or second, they abdicate their authority to the wife.

God knows that there has to be headship and leadership in the marriage, and men, we are called to provide that blessing in our families. Older men, are you treating your wife with loving leadership that is concerned about nourishing and cherishing your wife? Are you providing that blessing for your family or is your wife the de facto leader in the home? Younger men, are you growing up from becoming a man, are you providing for and giving leadership in the home or are you more interested in your hobbies and pleasure? Marriage is not only for your pleasure, it is a way that you serve your family in love and care for them. All husbands are called to be heads like Christ is over the church. They have authority and it is given for building up.

However, this text has much to say about wives as well, and it is a problem in our culture as well. The idea that the wife is to submit to her husband, to obey her husband, and to respect her husband is almost anathema. They may say “I’m as a smarter than my husband”, or “My husband is a bum”, or they may want to be free of the responsibility of obedience. Whatever it is, it is not a respect and joy at listening to and submitting to their husbands.

How can that be changed? Notice that this submission to the husband is as to the Lord. The reason that wives are called to submit like this not because of the worthiness of their husbands, it is because of the worthiness of Christ. See, the wife and husband are to act these ways regardless of how their husbands or wives are acting. Further, the submissiveness of a wife is a powerful message that Christ is Lord and can help to change a hard hearted spouse (1 Peter 3:1). Submission then is an act of faith and trust to Jesus, and it comes from a person that is filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21) - both husbands leading and spouses submitting.

When the relationship works as intended, men are the head like they should, women are submissive, there is a modeling of the relationship between the church and Christ to the world, and a development of holiness and the Spirit of Christ in all parties. When we give into ourselves we end up destroying ourselves, our marriages, and ultimate our relationship to God.

Marriage as good works for which we are created (5:25-29)

There is obviously an authority structure given in marriage that is for our mutual benefit, but marriage is also the place where we do the good works that we have been created to do (Ephesians 2:10). Notice how much of this centers around the types of daily behaviors that the husband and wife do. The husband and wife in verses 29-31 are to become one body, as such, there is a nourishing and cherishing that is supposed to take place as the Lord does for the church. It is the daily outworking of love for one another. What does that look like?

Consider those words nourishing and cherishing. We use the word nourish oftentimes connected with food. How often do we eat? How often do we drink? That is about meeting the needs of a person, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and more. That’s what we are called to do particularly as husbands. But also we have the word cherishing. We use that word in connection with things we value or appreciate, we protect them, we maintain them, we cultivate them. That’s the type of actions that are to take place in a marriage.

But what does that look like specifically? Consider Ephesians 4:25-5:7. This is a list of what it practically means to be the new man that was created in true righteousness and holiness. These actions are important in every relationship, but especially in marriage.

(4:25) Have you put away lying and are you speaking truth to your neighbor. Can you spouse trust you? Can they know that you say what you mean and mean what you say? Too often spouses hide things from each other, they’re not fully open and honest with each other. Further, they may not fully address the things that need to be addressed in their marriage - their feelings, their opinions, their needs, their problems, their complaints, etc. Truth is key.

(4:26, 31) Are you angry and giving place to the devil? Too often marriages are full of anger, bitterness, and wrath. No marriage is perfect. No spouse is perfect. We have expectations that are shattered. We hurt each other and sin against each other. We become angry and frustrated with each other. There is a real danger here in anger and sin that comes from it. It is a place that the devil will take and destroy your marriage. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Work out your disagreements. Handle your complaints. Keep Satan away from your marriage.

(4:28) Are you stealing and refusing to work? Sometimes the money relationship in marriage can be complicated. When people share their funds together, it is easy to focus on yourself and not share with others. Marriages need to be places where the funds are brought in and shared as a family, where each person is working and contributing to the needs of the family, that the labor is not spent on personal pleasures, but for the benefit of the family.

(4:29) Are your words corrupt and tearing down? Sometimes the conversations that take place in marriage are shameful. There is shouting, insulting, mocking, bickering, fighting, and worse. Notice, as christians there is to be no corrupt word, no word that ruins relationships or hurts people. Every word needs to be one that builds up and imparts grace to others. Is that how you speak to your spouse? Is that how you speak to your children?

(4:32) Are you kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? Too often people keep a list of the failures of their spouses, they are hard hearted and unwilling to forgive their spouses. They’re rude, unthoughtful, uncaring, and they are not willing to share grace. That is a misunderstanding of the gospel and a sure recipe for the destruction of a marriage. Have you experienced grace?

(5:3, 5) Are you guilty of fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, and idolatry? Pornography destroys marriages. Infidelity destroys marriages. Perverse passions, comparison, a lack of contentment and thankfulness for our spouse, and a general desire for the things of the world more than the things of God is a recipe for failure in marriage. We are to be thankful people at all times, but especially in our marriages. If you have a wife, you are blessed. If you have a husband, you are blessed. Be thankful for them, be content with them, be happy with them.

(5:1-2) Are you imitating God’s love? All of this is difficult and requires a sacrifice from us. But this is a sacrifice that imitates the character of Christ and shows our love for God and one another. When our lives and marriages are like this, it is a pleasing aroma to God. It is us living out the good works God wants in every relationship, but especially in the home.

This is what it looks like practically to be sanctified and cleansed, to be holy, to nourish and cherish. People often approach marriage and think that it is about their happiness and pleasure. However, God’s primary motive is His glory and our holiness. There will be joy, but there can be no joy and blessing outside of the authority of and obedience to God.

Marriage as an example of what God desires (5:30-33)

Marriage then is the closest example we have to the trinity in this world. The idea of two becoming one flesh, the mutual love, holiness, submission, respect, and joy that are to be present in a marriage are simply a foretaste of what God is desiring to share with each of us. Notice what Paul says, here’s the mystery: it is about Christ and the church.

In our lesson on the trinity, we focused on the fact that because it is three persons as one, that means that at the very center of the universe for eternity past and eternity future, is love. Marriage then is about us experience a foretaste of what God wants to experience with us forever. When we model our lives and marriages after the pattern we see of Christ and the church, the response will be a love, for our spouses, but then even more for God.

See, in marriage, there are three parties - God, man, and woman. The closer each spouse grows to God, the closer each spouse will grow to each other. God is wanting that beautiful relationship and unity with each of us individually, and for us to share that relationship with each other. That’s why in marriage, the key is for your to understand that your selfishness and sin is your biggest problem. The problem in your marriage is not your spouse, the problem in your marriage is you. The problem in my marriage is me.

Tragically, we put the burden of idolatry on our marriages. We expect our marriages to be our saviors. We expect our marriages to be perfect. We expect our spouses to be our saviors. We expect them to meet our every need, to validate us, to satisfy us, to give us meaning and value. When we do that, our marriages are destined for ruin because that is something only God can be and our marriages and spouses cannot bear that burden. They are gifts in the creation of God, they cannot replace the creator (Proverbs 18:22, 19:14).

The answer is we need a Savior - Jesus. He is the true savior of the body. The one who loved the church and gave himself for it. The one who sanctifies and cleanses us with the washing of water by the word, the one who makes us glorious, the one who makes us holy, the one who nourishes and cherishes us. You have to experience that relationship, that forgiveness, that sanctification, in order to experience marriage as it should be, because it is a gift from God.

Then, when we have made God our Savior and Lord, when he is our deepest joy and blessing, when we trust in him, we now have the recipe for a great marriage. Because our goal is not our pleasure, it is his pleasure. The goal is his glory and not our glory. When you have two people that have that mindset, then you have the possibility of something really special that speaks to the wisdom and beauty God put in marriage and then you can see that any change of it is a perversion and brings shame, dishonor, and suffering. The answer is to follow God’s pattern.