The Sanctity of Marriage – Part one: The Mystery of Marriage
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:22-33 Sermon series title: The Sanctity of Marriage Part One: The Mystery of Marriage Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:31-32 Memory Verse: Ephesians 5:21 MAIN IDEA: Understand that the will of God for marriage is to reveal the supremacy of Christ in all things Introduction: The Supremacy of Christ The Supremacy of Christ in relationships The Supremacy of Christ in marriage NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio message will differ because the manuscript is not followed word for word. Thanks for understanding.
Introduction: The Supremacy of ChristThis morning we begin a series of messages titled, The Sanctity of Marriage. The word sanctity means holy, blessed, pure, and sacred. When we talk about the sanctity of marriage, we acknowledge the truth that marriage between one man and one woman is a holy, sacred, and blessed, covenant relationship instituted by God. Marriage is a gift from the perfect, loving, and benevolent throne of God. All Christians, regardless of marital status, need to understand God’s purpose for marriage. We are ambassadors for God. It is our privilege to be imitators of Him and to shine the Light of Christ into all the world. The days are evil, and we need to walk with wisdom. The series on The Sanctity of Marriage consists of four messages. Each message is sub-titled. This morning, the subtitle is the Mystery of Marriage. As we continue in the series on The Sanctity of Marriage, we will look at The Sacrificial Love of Christ, followed by The Submission of the Bride, and we will finish the series with The Cherishing Love of the Husband. The sermon this morning, Mystery of Marriage, is from verses 31 and 32: For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32) We are beginning with these verses because they are foundational to the section on marriage. If we do not understand these verses, we will not understand God’s purpose for marriage. Everything hinges upon understanding the great mystery. If we don’t understand the mystery, husbands will not know why they should love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives will not know why they are to be subject to their husbands. Married people get married for a reason; they have a purpose in marriage. Most of us are married because we love our spouse and want to spend the rest of their lives together. For some, the purpose of marriage is to avoid loneliness; they desire a companion. Some get married because they want children. People get married for a tax break or to become a citizen. Others are married because of physical attraction. Some get married because of societal expectations. There are many reasons and purposes for marriage. What we need to know is God’s purpose for marriage. Why did God institute marriage at the beginning of creation? Certainly, God’s purpose for marriage is infinitely more important than our purpose. It behooves us to know God’s purpose for marriage since He is the one who created marriage. He instituted marriage at creation and ordained men and women to be married. Once we understand God’s purpose for marriage, which is the mystery stated in verse 32, we will then have the right attitude, motivation, ambition, and hopefully, the right approach to marriage. Let me say it another way. The goal of the message this morning is that each of us have a view of marriage which is very, very high. In fact, our view of marriage should be so high, it is humanly impossible to attain. Our view of marriage is to be on par with our view of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. My prayer is we attain that goal this morning. (Pray) This section on marriage is sometimes taught as a stand-alone passage, but that is not the intent. This passage fits into the letter of Ephesians as a sub-topic. In other words, the Holy Spirit did not inspire the Apostle to randomly pick a topic, such as marriage, and tell us how we should live as married people. It is vital for us to connect marriage to everything said so far in this letter. Remember what Ephesians teaches about God’s purpose for us in Christ:
- In Christ, we receive from God every spiritual blessing, (v.3)
- Our adoption is in Christ (v.4, 5)
- Through Him we receive redemption and the forgiveness of sins (v.7)
- We are coheirs in Christ, (v.11)
- Our hope is in Christ (v.12)
- And, because of Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (v.13)
- The gift of Jesus satisfies God’s judgment and absorbs all the wrath that we deserve.
- In Christ, we receive forgiveness for every sin we have committed or will ever commit.
- Jesus places upon us a robe of righteousness so we stand before the throne of God blameless and above reproach.
The Supremacy of Christ in RelationshipsOur calling of being joined together in union with Christ is to be evident in our relationships with one another and with the world. In other words, people should be able to see that we are joined together with Christ by the way we relate to other people. Chapter four begins with the Apostle imploring us to live a life according to our calling of being in union with Jesus. Our calling is evident in our relationships. We are to, with humility, gentleness, and patience, show tolerance for one another in love. We are to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit by living with one another in the bond of peace. Christianity is a religion of relationships. It is about our love for God and our love for others. Christianity is NOT a religion of things we do. It is a religion of how to relate to one another. The doing, the work of our religion, is completed on the cross. The intention of Christ’s work on the cross is to enable us, through the empowerment of His Spirit, to relate to one another in a Christlike manner. Jesus sent a Helper, His Holy Spirit, to lead us in putting to death the deeds of our flesh. Our flesh is selfish, cruel, prideful, greedy, and self-focused. When we walk by the Spirit, we put aside our stinky, corrupt, garment of flesh and put on the righteous and beautiful garment of Christ. Jesus Christ is to have supremacy in our relationships. We are told, So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:17) God made known to us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:8-9) which is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God chose the church to reveal His manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10). The church reveals the will of God by proclaiming the supremacy of Christ as Savior; there is no other name by which people are saved. And, we live the supremacy of Christ as our Lord by relating to others as Christ relates to us. God joins His chosen people to Christ, so we are new creatures unlike those who do not have Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we forgive like Christ; are merciful like Christ, love like Christ, give like Christ and so forth. When people ask, why are you like that, we say, “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me.” We find joy in the supremacy of Christ in our relationships. Jesus is our Lord, and we obey His commands because His ways are good. Our flesh doesn’t know how to relate, but the Spirit of Christ in us leads us and teaches us how to be like Jesus. We yield to His Spirit and become people rightly relating to others Last week, we finished with the verse: and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph. 5:21) The NASB translators connect this phrase to the previous phrase as part of the same sentence. However, many commentaries use this verse as the beginning of the next section and not as the end of the previous sentence. Rather than choose sides, I am using this verse both ways. I am fitting the phrase as in to the previous sentence so it is understood that being subject to one another in the fear of Christ is evidence of being led by the Spirit. At the same time, being subject to one another in the fear of Christ is the header for the next section. Notice that the focus of Ephesians from 5:22-6:9 is how we may be subject to one another in the fear of the Lord. We are to be subject to one another in our marriages (5:22-33), as children and parents (6:1-4), and in the workplace with servants and masters (6:5-9). As we endeavor obey God’s will and exalt Christ, we are to keep in mind that exalting Christ is evident by our being subject to one another (hence, the phrase, in the fear of the Lord). Here is a question we may ask ourselves: Is the supremacy of Jesus Christ evident in my relationships? (In other words, Is Jesus Lord over my relationships? Do I bend my knee to the way Jesus wants me to relate to other people?) We may answer yes to that question if we are subject to one another in the fear of Christ. If we are not subject to one another, Christ is not Lord over our relationships. If husbands don’t love their wife as Christ loves the church, then Jesus is not Lord over the husband’s relationship, and he needs to repent. If wives don’t respect their husband, or children don’t obey their parents, or servants don’t obey their master, and so forth, then Jesus is not Lord over the relationship and repentance is needed. Jesus is our Lord when He is Lord of our relationships. Jesus is Lord when we are subject to one another. We see our example of being subject to one another in Christ laying down His life for us. He subjected Himself to us. His example is the supreme example. We are to walk in love toward one another just as Jesus loves us (Eph. 5:2). So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. The will of the Lord, as we will see all the way through Ephesians 6:9, is that Christ has supremacy in our relationships. We accomplish this by being subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Let’s begin seeing how we may be subject to one another by first looking at marriage. The next point we are going to discuss is:
The Supremacy of Christ in MarriageThe measure of our being subject to one another shows itself most in the trials of marriage! Every minute detail of life illicits a response. Is our response loving, patient, forgiving? How do we respond about how the toothpaste is squeezed? Whether to watch the Patriots or Downton Abbey? What is someone runs late and you are sitting in the car? Does someone leave the toilet seat up or not put their dirty socks in the hamper? Which set of parents we will visit on Christmas? All of these small incidents in life reveal whether or not we are subject to one another in the fear of the Lord. Our spouse, and every person in every relationship we have, is God’s agent of sanctification. God perfectly matches us with an agent of sanctification who lovingly and joyfully makes our flesh stand-up and take notice. God’s agent of sanctification is specifically designed to get under our skin and reveal to us the areas where Jesus is not Lord in our life. In upcoming weeks, as we look at the role of the husband and the wife, we will talk about how we are to be subject to one another so that Christ is Lord of our marriage. This week, we will look at the big picture. The focus is not how, but why Christ is to have supremacy in marriage.
The Great MysteryWe begin by understanding what is meant when Paul talks of a great mystery. Paul says, “This mystery is great” (Eph. 5:32). It is important to understand the word mystery in the same way the original audience understood the term. When we think of a mystery, we think of something that we may never know or understand. Once we understand, we no longer think of it as a mystery. In other words, a mystery is only a mystery if we don’t know the answer. Once solved, it is no longer a mystery. When Paul uses the word mystery, it is after being solved. He uses it like we use the word revelation. It is an, “aha!” moment. The word is often used in Ephesians. At the beginning of the letter, Paul says God “made known to us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:9). In chapter three, God’s plan to include the Gentiles in the promises of Abraham was once a mystery, but now is made known (Eph. 3:3, 4, 9). At the end of the letter, Paul asks for prayer that he will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19). Here, Paul explains a mystery which was hidden since the time of Adam and Eve but is revealed in the First Century.
Union with ChristVerse 31 is where Paul refers to the great mystery concerning marriage. The Apostle quotes Genesis 2:24, “a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined with his wife and two become one flesh.” Let’s look at how Paul uses this reference in another letter. Turn to 1 Corinthians 6. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:15-20) He equates a man and woman joining together as one body with the spiritual union of our being joined together with Christ. In other words, a man and a prostitute become one flesh. Paul asks, how can you become one flesh with a prostitute when you are one flesh with Jesus? You are married to Jesus. We are one body with Jesus. The point I want to bring from this passage is not the issue of morality (not to say that it is not important). The point is how Paul uses the verse from Genesis. Paul sees the institution of marriage in Genesis as a picture of our marriage to Jesus. This is why he says, because of our union with Jesus, our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should not commit and join our holy temple with that which is unholy. Paul uses the same verse in Ephesians in the same way. Paul equates the marriage union defined in Genesis 2:4 as a picture of our union with Jesus. (Understanding this is vitally important.) In verse 17, Paul says we are joined to the Lord, and we are “one spirit with Him.” Genesis 2:4 says when a man and a woman come together, they are one. When we put our faith in Jesus, we become one with Him; we are in union with the Lord. We are one body. (turn back to Ephesians)
The Mystery of MarriagePaul says, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32). What he is saying is marriage is a picture of our union with Jesus. All through the Bible the relationship between Jesus and the church is compared to that between a husband and a wife. For example:
- Isaiah said, “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 54:5) and “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
- The entire book of the Song of Solomon.
- John the Baptist said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full” (John 3:29). In other words, John rejoiced to hear the voice of Jesus the groom.
- When people criticized Jesus because his disciples didn’t fast, Jesus said, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:34-35).
- In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of the parable where He is the Bridegroom coming back to fetch His bride, but some were not ready for His return so they were not welcome in the marriage feast.
- And, in the book of Revelation, we read, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)
ConclusionMarriage is sacred and holy. The value of marriage comes from the blood of Jesus Christ. Our union with Jesus has value beyond any earthly object of gold, silver, or precious gem. Satan hates Jesus and His bride. This is precisely why there is a continual attack against marriage. The prince of this world seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. This world does all that it can to devalue marriage. It seems that much of Satan’s effort is pointed at the institution of marriage. We would not throw dirt and mud on a picture of Jesus on the cross, yet we allow dirt and to be thrown on the picture of marriage every day. We may not judge outsiders, but, inside the church we may judge.
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when we allow the definition of marriage to be redefined.
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when we don’t fight to save marriages, but let them slide into divorce.
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when our spouse no longer becomes our joy.
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when we look outside marriage for the joys and pleasures which marriage are to bring (romance novels, internet porn, flirting relationships).
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when wives do not submit to their husbands.
- We throw mud on the picture of marriage when husbands do not love their wives as Christ loves the church.