Publication: One-to-One, Winter 2008
I will never forget, in the difficult days following the death of my Grandma Simpson back in 1991, our family rallied around Grandpa Simpson and stayed close with him. One day, as he and I were doing some work around his house, we paused for a cup of water and sat down at the now-lonely kitchen table. He said. “You know, one of the hardest things about losing Genoa is that after 56 years of marriage, I was just now learning how to be a good husband.”
Anyone who ever observed my grandparents together knew they were an exceptionally loving and devoted couple. And yet, there was my Grandpa saying he was “just now learning.” That comment struck me deeply and taught me a very important lesson about marriage and relationship-it’s an ongoing process, and an attitude of humility towards God and towards our spouse makes a world of difference.
One thing that all four of my grandparents, and both of my parents, taught and demonstrated over the years was that a Bible- based, Christ-centered marriage was not only a beautiful thing, but it was a much-needed anchor in a storm-tossed society.
The Bible is the greatest handbook for living that has ever been written. It expresses the heart and the plans of the One Who made all life. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus that contains much practical wisdom for daily life.
GRACE AND PEACE
Paul opens Ephesians with the greeting, “Grace and peace to you.” The intent of Paul’s instruction is to impart grace and peace to all who would read his letter. And, we must keep in mind that all of these instructions are to be carried out in a spirit of grace and peace as well.
In the beginning of Ephesians 5 Paul writes. “Be imitators of God in Christ.” In order to fulfill our calling and destiny in God, we must follow the example of Jesus.
Specifically, we need to walk in love-not in the way that the world defines love, but in the way that Jesus defines love: He gave Himself for us… as an offering to God.
What follows in Ephesians 5 is practical wisdom from God’s heart showing us how to live and relate to Him and one another, including in our families and homes. Yes, there are many among us who, for various reasons, may not be living in a home where there is a husband, a wife, and children present. Nonetheless, Ephesians 5 provides us with many clear insights into godly and practical principles and standards for home life.
Whatever our backgrounds, experiences, or present circumstances, we need to understand these principles and we need to see these standards which are under major attack by secularism-upheld and championed. We are called to boldly proclaim the standard and graciously minister to the exceptions-remember, God is able to save and redeem us wherever we are on this journey.
BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
One of the cornerstones of Ephesians 5 is that we should not seek any counterfeit or shortcut to a truly blessed life. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit.
Some translations of the original language indicate that this means “Stay filled with the Spirit.” It’s a continual process that we must walk out.
We are to not only walk in the Spirit individually, but corporately. We have responsibility to each other in our walk in the Spirit-to exhort and encourage one another, specifically in the arena of focusing our worship on the Lord. And, as imitators of Christ, filled with His Spirit, we are called to humbly submit to one another-to practice the grace of yielding.
LOVE AND RESPECT
After Paul encourages us to submit to one another, he brings it down to a very practical level-right into the home. He says we are to submit to one another, but gives some clear instructions as to how that submission works. First of all, biblical submission is not something that a person is coerced into, but it is something that they offer as a gift.
As believers, we are submitted first to the Lordship of Jesus Christ-as citizens of His Kingdom. We then offer our lives to one another. This submission to one another is rooted in our submission to Jesus Christ, His Word, and His ways. It affects how we relate to other believers and also how we relate in our marriages and homes.
Scripture provides clear wisdom and order for our homes-the better we are able to line up with God’s will and God’s plan, the more we open the door for His blessing to come in. Ephesians 5:22 tells us that wives should submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.
Let me reiterate: true submission is something one person offers to another, it is not coerced. Notice also that Paul also doesn’t say, “Wives, submit to your husband if you think he’s worthy of it,” or “Submit to him when you feel like it,” or “Only when you think he’s right.”
Now, let me hasten to add that this verse in no way implies that a wife should submit to her husband’s wishes when the husband is clearly violating God’s Word or her conscience. And it doesn’t mean that a wife should in any way submit to being a victim of abusive behavior by a husband.
What this Scripture does mean is that God has ordained that husbands should be the head of the home as a leader, a shepherd, a provider, a priest, a nurturer, and a protector. The very word “husband,” according to Webster’s Original 1828 Dictionary not only means a man joined to a woman in marriage, but it also refers to a man who is a good steward and manager. It also refers to a farmer who tills, sows, nurtures, and reaps.
When a wife is able to recognize her husband in that way, it not only expresses faith in him as a leader, but faith in God, Who is the head of the husband. When she serves or blesses her husband, she not only shows respect for him, but also for the Lord Who ordered the home (see also 1 Peter 3:5-6; Genesis 18:12; 1Timothy 2).
In Ephesians 5:25, Paul ups the ante when he writes to husbands: he says that we are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. Some men may say, “Sure, I love my wife. She’s a great cook, she’s beautiful, she makes me feel good.” That’s not what Paul is talking about! He uses the word agape here, meaning a selfless, godly kind of love, and says that Christ’s love is the standard-the kind of love that’s causes you to lay down your life for your wife.
Some men may say, “Yes, I would be willing to die for my wife”-but let me ask you: are you willing to wash the dishes or take out the trash? The late Pastor Adrian Rogers once said: “The question a husband should ask about his wife is, ‘.Am I willing to die for her?’ and the question a wife should ask about her husband is,’.Am I willing to live for him?”‘
The husband is delighted in serving his wife because of his love for her. He recognizes that God has given him a precious gift to be well-stewarded, knowing that he will give an account to the Lord for his stewardship. He values her above all others, sets her apart as special, and washes her often in the healing, cleansing Word of God. All the time is not too often for a husband to sincerely express his love to his wife.
Paul clarifies the roles here by saying that husbands are called to love their wives, and wives are called to respect their husbands. (I highly recommend the excellent book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.)
The Bible doesn’t tell us that we need to try to change our spouse so that they will change their behaviors. The first order of business is for us to ask God to change our own hearts and behaviors. Many times, if husbands would try to selflessly love their wives more, their wives would respect them more. And if wives would give more respect, instead of demeaning or belittling their husbands, they would see their husbands loving them more perfectly.
Let me say this: the primary onus is on the husbands as the leaders to make the first step, but that doesn’t excuse the wife for inaction. One reason so many wives have a difficult time submitting to their husbands is because their husbands are not submitted to the Lord or to godly authority in the Church. Husbands, if you want to see your wife respect you, then you need to make sure that you’re being properly accountable to God.
CHILDREN AND PARENTS
Then, in the beginning of Ephesians 6, Paul exhorts children to listen to and obey their parents, which is one way in which we honor them (see also 1Samuel 15:22-23).
Dishonoring our parents, no matter who they are or what they’ve done good or bad, is dishonoring to the Lord. Paul references Deuteronomy 5:16 in reminding us to honor our parents. He says, “Honor them because God said so, and your inheritance will be blessed.”
A lot of people are missing out on present and future blessings because they are hung up on what happened in the past. Many young people today have no clue as to how or why we honor parents because their parents have let them down. But if we can yield to God’s Word, there is an accompanying promise of God’s blessing for honoring the parents that He gave to us. (Obviously, we can’t obey anyone if they are clearly and flagrantly violating God’s Word-nor should any child be abused or treated cruelly. That is a different issue altogether.)
Remember, when your parents discipline you for doing something stupid, they’re not trying to hurt you; they’re trying to teach you a lesson that will save your life.
Paul closes out this portion of Ephesians with an exhortation to fathers-as the leaders of the home-not to provoke their children to wrath. Many fathers have sinned in this area.
It’s no wonder that so many children, even as adults, retain great anger and alienation from their fathers. And while children are not excused for any dishonor on their part, a father bears tremendous responsibility before the Lord. The father’s God-given task is to train their children in the life-giving ways of the Lord-and God’s grace and favor will be on fathers as they seek to be obedient to this call.
All of us, at one time or another, experience failure in these areas. It’s important to remember that our success is not rooted in our power, our might, or our goodness, but in the Spirit of the Lord. When we fall short, or experience brokenness, His grace is there to forgive, heal, and redeem. His Word offers us guidelines and hope, not only for us in our generation, but for all generations to come.
Scripture Reference: Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3:5-6; Genesis 18:12; 1 Timothy 2; Ephesians 5:22, 25; Ephesians 6; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Deuteronomy 5:16
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.