Walker, MN

13th Sunday after Pentecost “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here…”
August 26, 2018 Ephesians 5:22–33
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

If I were to ask you to define ‘marriage’, think about what would you say. You might say that marriage is 4-things: /the life-long union of one man and one woman; /for the purposes of mutual companionship, help & support; /that they find delight in one another; /and for the procreation of children. And those 4 things are true = they are Biblical, natural & biological. And yet, that’s not the primary definition of marriage; not according to the HSp writing to us thru Paul.
The first definition of marriage sounds more like THIS: The Bridegroom has given himself up for His Bride to the cross; cleansed her with a full sacrificial forgiveness; and brought her into an eternal union of love in His heavenly kingdom. You might respond: ‘that’s not marriage, that’s the Gospel.’ Yes; that’s the Gospel of our salvation.
The Gospel IS marriage; and so now we can understand why God gave us earthly marriage =
it shows us His salvation.
In Eph.5, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then he says, this relationship between a man & a woman is rather mysterious, but what he’s really talking about is the relationship of Christ to His Church. So, he not saying that the relationship of Christ to His Church is kind of like marriage. God had Christ in mind first; and then God instituted marriage for man to reflect what He would do for us in Christ. The Gospel is the real thing ~ marriage is the reflection. So, let’s use Ephesians 5 to talk about ‘marriage’ = … I mean,
to talk about The Gospel.
‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to witness the union of this this man and this woman in holy matrimony.’ With those words,
we begin the marriage ceremony. And that marriage is to look like THIS: ‘wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. …husbands, love your wives by giving yourself for her.’
These Bible verses are the most informative & enlightening ones on the topic of marriage; and these Bible verses are the most resisted & hated verses on the topic of marriage.
But now we know why: because =on a spiritual level= the world hates God; the world rebels against the One Savior & Son of God; the world refuses to face the truth of its broken relationship with the Creator, and refuses the Creator’s solution. The world resists the Gospel; so the world resists Biblical marriage.
At the beginning of creation mankind received perfect gifts from God. Four of them were: /the gift of being ‘male and female’, /the gift of marriage, /the gift of children & family, /and the gift of responsibility & work in living in God’s world. Sin has ruined the full blessing of those things. +Because of sin, both genders exploit the weaknesses of the other, & now even wrongly think that one gender can change into the other. +Because of sin, marriage is seen as a ‘ball & chain’, and 50% keep a hacksaw ready. +Because of sin, children are seen as a burden, both personally & as a threat to ‘climate change’; so abort them before they’re born. +Because of sin, the nuclear family (dad/mom/kids) is considered an outdated idea, so we’ll remake family to be anything we want it to be. +Because of sin, work is too hard; as long as I can eat & have my smartphone, laziness is more fun = and life should be fun.
It is only by God’s hard work & grace thru His people -the Church- that the world still has the remnants of these perfect gifts in life. When the Church protects & upholds these gifts, we are preserving the Gospel of Christ among us. So, let’s pick 3 things from Eph. 5, as the HSp speaks to us in one ear -of marriage, and in the other ear -of the Gospel.
Part number 1: Marriage has been instituted by God. This means God is the author & designer of marriage. Back at the beginning, in Gen.2, God made ‘man’ male and female, and he presented the one to the other as the first marriage union. For God’s people this means that our state & nat’l law makers & judges & courts can talk till the cows come home, but they can NOT change God’s design of marriage. They can complain about ‘inequities’, they can cave-in to perverted pressure-groups, & they can claim that many unions can be called ‘marriage.’ But on God’s Word you & I will stand firm: those other things are not marriage.
When The Lord said that ‘the man leaves’ his father & mother and ‘holds fast’ to his wife, that means that marriage is one man & one woman, and life-long. It is not ‘as long as love lasts’; it is ‘in prosperity and adversity’, until death parts us. This is the design, given by our Creator. No one has the authority to remake marriage into another shape or form.
In His design, God gave this marriage gift for those familiar 3-reasons: /for the mutual companionship, help, & support of the husband & wife; /so that husband & wife may find delight in one another; /and for the procreation of children. In those 3 things, God himself has given to us the stable & joyful foundation of family, household & society; that’s how generation after generation will experience the fullest remnant of that first marriage while living in a fallen world.
Of course, sinful man has always imagined that he can improve on God’s design of things. We can see that with our own eyes as our culture attempts to redefine, modify, or get rid of marriage. This ignores God’s command, as man makes up his own customs & traditions for this life. Rebellious man does that with everything, & spoils everything good & godly.
Jesus points out how dangerous this is, since God is watching and taking note: ‘…their hearts are far from Me’, He says; ‘in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
Whether as faithful individuals, or as a faithful congregation, WE-the-church will not ‘leave the commandments of God and hold on to the traditions of men.’ And even tho we may fall short in our marriages compared to this perfect design, we won’t give it up. We will always be turning back to God for His help to keep the good gift & the right design.

So, that’s Part number 1: Marriage has been instituted by God. That’s another way of saying: the Gospel has been instituted by God. And that’s part number 2 of Eph.5. God has also designed the Gospel; and we cannot change that either. Marriage -primarily- is referring to Christ and his Bride = which is the Church//his Baptized-believers//his people. The way this is written, Paul is saying that, in order to understand & practice marriage, we must understand the Gospel; because the foundation of marriage is really about Christ and His Bride, the Church.
So here, let’s use an illustration. Most of us are familiar with the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. The story was written in France in 1740. The basic story is that of a young woman named Beauty(or Belle), and a young man who had been cursed with a hideous appearance & terrible behaviors, who lives -hidden away- in a distant dark castle. As various events unfold, Beauty ends up dwelling for a time in the castle of this horrible Beast.
As she did, she grew to know him beyond his outward things, and she grows to love him. In the Beast’s most desperate dying hour, the kiss of Beauty’s love falls on him, and the Beast was gloriously restored back into a wonderful & noble man.
All enduring fairy tales are built around some basic truths; it’s why they appeal to us. With Beauty and The Beast, Jesus Christ is Beauty; we are The Beast. The Son of God is the beautiful & compassionate one; who is willing to come to us and look beyond our repulsive sinful appearance, and to love us. You & I are the one disfigured by our sinful nature, and stained & scarred by our disobedient thoughts/words/deeds. And our story unfolds like Isaiah said, that ‘those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.’ Heaven’s Beauty did not come to us because we were attractive or good; He came to us because He chose to love us, and to call us His ‘beloved.’
The Heavenly Father sent His Son to ‘marry’ us, and to rescue & restore us. That’s the true marriage = …I mean, the true Gospel. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her at the cross; taking her shame, leaving her sanctified & cleansed. She is now without blemish; forgiven & holy. This is ‘marriage’, yours & mine, to our Beautiful Savior.
So, this is the connection point of Paul writing to the Ephesians about marriage = … I mean, about the Gospel. Jesus has married us into this salvation relationship. He has shown females what it means to ‘submit’ or self-surrender. He has shown males what it means to ‘give up’ or self-sacrifice. Jesus has brought us into this eternal union, and he has made you & me beautiful in the eyes of His Father. And that is the primary thing; and that would be enough, except that God has also made it so that one man & one woman can live out this gospel in their own homes; being a Gospel example to their own children & neighbors. They can show what it means that the Heavenly Bridegroom has shown us His restoring love.

That brings us to point number 3 from Eph. 5. It is Jesus our Savior & His love which now enables us to put love into action in earthly marriage. It means we are showing the Gospel with our spouse. The Gospel of Christ means for us mercy, forgiveness, commitment & loyalty. That’s the love husbands will show their wives, because that’s the love that Christ has shown to them.

That’s why husbands will not be harsh or cold, because Christ has been gentle & warm with them. God sent His Savior to build men up, so men will not belittled women. A husband will not embarrass his wife for their flaws; rather he will protect her reputation, because Christ Jesus sacrificed His own reputation in order to restore us to the Father. That’s why husbands will aim to be self-sacrificing, even to the point of death; all because Christ gave it all for you in this marriage relationship; = …I mean, in this Gospel relationship.

And this is why wives will aim to surrender themselves in all things to their husbands. It’s not because he, or any other man on earth, will ever deserve it; but because Christ deserves your submission. Out of reverence for Christ, His Bride -the Church- surrenders in loyalty & trust of His eternal love. This is how a man and a woman will honor the Savior of the world; by keeping & honoring God’s design of marriage;= …I mean, the design of the Gospel of our salvation.

‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to witness the union of this this man ‘Christ’ (point to cross) and this woman ‘the Church’ (motion to the congregation) in holy matrimony.’ Dearly beloved, whether you are earthly-married or not, Eph.5 is all about your soul and its glorious, gracious salvation; which is a ‘match made in heaven’ for us. Therefore, moved by the love of Christ, & with His help, we ALL will honor & protect His institution of marriage & family, upholding wives & husbands,
and aiming to live out the Gospel in our lives.