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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Colossians 3:18-21 & Ephesians 5:25-33 by Robert Dean
The issue in these passages is for husbands to love their wives. The analogy is to love as Christ loves the Church. You must understand the gospel in order to understand this kind of love. The purpose for Christ’s love for His Church is to sanctify, purify and present her to Himself without residue of sin, eternally set apart to God. A Christian marriage is a training aid to show the world the relationship between Christ and His Church. Learn how elements of doctrine are revealed through marriage and its unique oneness lived out through different roles with distinct identities.
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:46 mins 10 secs

The Husband's Role and Focus. Colossians 3:18-21; Ephesians 5:25-33


Colossians 3:18-21 summarises the basic biblical mandates for the Christian home—the role of wives, husbands, children and parents. Notice that each of these commands is ,related to our relationship to God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the thread that connects all of the verses between Ephesians 5:22 and 33? It is this command that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which means it is selflessly, it is not on the basis of what the husband is going to get out of it; it must be based on a higher ethical value, one of integrity, which means it has to be grounded in the character of God. Then there is that analogy, "just as," so we have to understand how Christ loved the church.

There are two purpose clauses in 5:26 and 27 indicating the purpose of Christ's love for the church: for the purpose of sanctification and ultimate goal of presenting the church to Himself as a glorious church at the judgment seat of Christ, totally sanctified from all sin. The other thing we see in terms of just basic structure is the explanation of 5:29, 20 which we will see.

So the key is these three commands to love in verses 25, 28 and 33.

Ephesians 5:27 "that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." The purpose for Christ's loving the church. This is foundational for understanding this relationship of Christ to the church, because it is that relationship—Christ to the church and the church to Christ; the church is in Christ—that is to be depicted in a Christian marriage. The Christian marriage is a training aid to show the world something about the relationship between Christ and the church. That is quite an assignment for those of us who are married. If you are a believer and you are married the mission of your marriage is to depict doctrinal truths about the relationship between Christ and the church. WE have seen that husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. He loved for a purpose: "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." This is indicated in the word hagiazo (sanctify—to make holy or to set apart) to the service of God. The cleansing here comes through the spoken Word, the teaching of the Word of God. This teaching isn't the formal teaching from the pulpit, it is announcement of the gospel, and the role of Christians is to be faithful witnesses to the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

In verse 27 we have a second long-term result stated: "that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Christ is going to gather the church together at the Rapture. Then we have phase three glorification or final sanctification: we are freed from the presence of the sin nature, eternally cleansed at that time; no more sin nature. We are then presented to Christ at the judgment seat of Christ without any residue of sin-- "that we should be holy," i.e. set apart to Him. That is what that word "holiness" means.

Verse 28 then applies the principle of vv. 25-27. The first word, translated "so" is the Greek word houtos which means in this way, in this manner. This is the same word that starts off the Greek sentence of John 3:16, "For God so love the world ..." This is not a quantitative word, this is a word saying, "God loved the world in this manner." So it is in this manner, husbands, that has just been described—of Christ loving the church and giving Himself for her—are to love their wives. It is translated pretty well: "ought to love their own wives as their own bodies." The Greek verb that is translated "ought" is the word opheilo, a present active indicative, means that there is an obligation, a responsibility. The focus is not on what the wife is doing, it is on what the husband is doing. The focus in the life of a husband needs to be: Am I doing what God says I need to be doing as a husband, as a leader in the home? It is incumbent on the man to love his wife as his own body. You take care of your own body because if we don't and we need it to perform for us then we are going to have a lot of problems. So husbands need to focus on taking care of their own wife as their own bodies.

What we see here in this verse is a threefold use of the verb agapao—love. Agapao simply emphasises that unconditional love that God has for man. It is a love that is not based on emotion. Although it can produce great emotion it is not grounded on emotion; it is grounded upon a mental attitude focus on the object of love, to do the absolute highest and best possible. Saying that always runs the risk of people listening subjectively. When you look at someone and say, I am going to do the best thing for you, the best can mean one of two things: best objectively or best subjectively. By best subjectively what is really being said is, I want to do the best thing for you which is what I think it best for you which is best for me. It is very self-centred. And that is how most people think: I love somebody and I'm seeking the best for them, which is what I think is the best for them. But that is not what the Scripture says. It says you have to have an objective understanding of what is best for every person, and that only comes through spiritual maturity and understanding what is truly right and what is truly the focal point of every person's life. So, I want what is best for you means that I have to understand a divine viewpoint of objective understanding of what is truly best for you—which may not be what is best for me, but is best for you in terms of relationship to God in fulfilling your responsibilities.

So husbands are to love their wives--not selfishly but selflessly—loving their wives as their own bodies. That is our natural default position. That is why in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 the Law said to love your neighbour as yourself. That is our default position. The Bible assumes that every person automatically loves themselves. That is the default position of the sin nature—you're self-absorbed, you focus on yourself, you always want to ensure your needs are taken care of first and foremost before anybody else. Modern psychology tries to pull the wool over our eyes and say some people just don't like themselves. That is patently absurd. It is contradictory to Scripture and it is also illogical. We are all self-absorbed, this is the principle that Paul lays down in this gnomic or universal truth: he who loves his wife loves himself. That is the first part of the statement--the person who loves himself. If you love your wife that shows that you love yourself.

In verse 29 Paul explains this again. Ephesians 5:29 "for no one ever hated his own flesh ..." That is what throws out a lot of modern psychology. Modern psychology says, sure they do; all these people have a self-image problem; they hate themselves. But the Bible says no one ever hated his own flesh, ever. You might think you do, but the only reason for that is because underneath that you love yourself. You disappoint yourself; you are not what you want to be; things are not the way you think they ought to be, so you think you hate yourself. You just hate the bad things that are going on and you don't like it, because prior to that you love yourself and think it ought to be better. So the principle is, no one ever hated or despised himself. So we can't miss the point here. Now you need to love your wife better than you take care of yourself, better than you love yourself. She comes first, not you. "... but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also {does} the church." These are two interesting words. The first word is ektrepo, translated "nourish," and has the idea of training. Later on in Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord," the same word is used— "training and admonition of the Lord." Here it has the idea of nourishing. Men you need to study your wife like you study anything else. Only by knowing your wife can you really nourish her, and really provide an environment within the home where she can blossom as your assistant, as your wife, and as the mother of the children, and in her spiritual life. The role as the husband is to establish that environment so that she can be properly nourished and grow and fulfil all of her potential as your wife. The second word, "cherishes it," thalpo, to take care of it, to provide everything necessary for your body to be able to function well and to fulfil your needs for it.

Then we have this next comparison. ".... just as Christ also {does} the church." It comes back to the analogy again. Now we have to go back and see how the Lord nourishes and cherishes the church. It is through His guidance, direction, communication, and the Lord does everything necessary to provide for the church's health.

We go from the marriage and understanding the relationship between a husband and a wife back to the relationship between Christ and the church, the individual believer. Because to understand this difficult, unseen relationship of Christ and the church—difficult to understand because we don't see it—we have this physical example that is the marriage. Ephesians 5:30 "because we are members of His body." The point that he is making here is that the reason husbands nourish and cherish their wives is the same reason that Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. Because there is an integral unity now that comes about as a result of the marriage, and it takes time to realise its fulfilment in that marriage but it begins with the beginning of the marriage. This is why Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 in Ephesians 5:31 "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." It is a challenge to identify who is speaking in Genesis 2:24, but it is not God, it is Moses. Moses has just described the creation of the woman, that her role is to be the assistant to the man and that God brings her to the man. This is an editorial comment from Moses--"For this reason..."

In Genesis 2:24 there is no father and mother. At that point in time Adam barely knows what the wife is. She just showed up! Moses makes the point though, some 2000 years later. " … and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Moses said for that to be realised they have to get out of Mom and Dad's house. They are no longer part of that home that produced them; they have to be independent of it. Notice it is the male who leaves: "the man shall leave his father and mother.... "and the two shall be one flesh." There is a picture here of Christ. What did Jesus do? He left His Father's home. Where did He go? He went to earth in order to die for the church so that the church could be His bride and to be purified for Him, and joined to Him and to become one with Him. So once again we are at that analogy of Christ and the church which exposes other elements of the doctrine of marriage. Just as Christ left the Father so the man leaves his parents in order to put his focus and attention on being the leader, the provider, and the one who focuses on the wife.

This is why Paul says, Ephesians 5:32 "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." What is the great mystery? That a man should leave his father and mother? That is not a mystery in the biblical sense. A mystery in the biblical sense is previously unrevealed truth. What is the unrevealed truth here? It is the relationship between Christ and the church, because prior to the New Testament and prior to the day of Pentecost in AD 33, there was no church. So this is giving new information about that relationship between Christ and the church, and that it is vitally connected to that relationship between the husband and his wife. They are to be joined together as members of one another.

Paul expands on this whole concept of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 the centrepiece is verse 13 talking about Spirit baptism. We were baptized by means of one Spirit into one body. Now we are all individuals, we don't lose our individual identity but we are united in a way we don't fully comprehend. We become members of one another and members of Christ in the body of Christ. So Paul says, verse 12, "For even as the body is one and {yet} has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ." So not only do we have the husband and wife coming together as a new entity where neither the husband or the wife lose their identity and their distinct roles but they are now a distinct unity.

Going back to the analogy of dancing, when there are two individuals dancing and just doing their own thing there is no coordination, there is nothing that is specifically artful or beautiful. But when they come together and they learn the principles of dancing together, where the husband is the leader and the wife is the follower, and their roles in the dance blend and melt together as one … and we've all seen this, and when a beautiful couple is dancing they just dance as if they are just one entity. One is the leader and one is the follower but that doesn't wipe out the individual. There is no sense of one being a dictator or a tyrant over the other, or any of those sorts of distortions that we hear, but they produce something that is absolutely beautiful and artistic. It is like the whole idea of wisdom in the Old Testament; it is a skill that is developed over time through the application of doctrine.

So in the same we that we have this unity of the husband and wife there is a unity that comes together, the different parts of believers, we recognise our unity in the body of Christ. We are all members of that one body and "... though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.... [14] For the body is not one member, but many." There is no loss of identity but we come together as a team to complement and to build one another.

1 Corinthians 12:24 "whereas our more presentable members have no need {of it.} But God has {so} composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that {member} which lacked, [25] so that there may be no division in the body, but {that} the members may have the same care for one another." The mandates upon the man and the woman in the marriage are no different than the mandates of different believers to other believers in terms of our care for one another. [26} "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if {one} member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." We may not realise it but there is this integral unity on the body of Christ that if there is a problem with one member of the body of Christ it affects everybody else in someway. [27] "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."

Ephesians 5:31 "AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." The emphasis is on that joining of the individual believer to the body of Christ. That is the pattern.... [33] Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must {see to it} that she respects her husband." Part of submission is honouring [respect].

How do we respect the office of a person who is legitimately in authority when that person is a failure in that office? Whether it is a husband, a parent, an employer, a teacher, we have to respect and honour the office. How? By recognising that they have a legitimate role of authority and where that authority is exercise legitimately and are not telling us to do something that is against God's will we are obedient to that. However, that authority never has the right to tell us to contradict God's will. But we have to understand that role of authority, and that love and respect go hand in hand.