Continuing on from where we left off with Pink Sweaters Will Not Save Us. Scott Brown on how to think about the perfect marriage model what it is and why it is so.
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5:14-33
When you read this passage of scripture and you are not married then you should read it with different eyes than the married person reads it. And that is that you should read it with anticipation with your eye upon that reality that will come to most of you.
For this reason a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.
Here in this passage we see the sanctifying purpose of marriage how God brings two sinners together to declare the beauty of His name in their relationship through everything that the are, everything that they say, everything that they do together has one central singular design. And when you prepare yourself for that, then when you do finally find yourself as a married person you’ll understand that all of your experiences, all of your conflicts as a couple are meant for a purpose. They are meant to draw the poison from your soul, to sanctify you and to make you more like Christ. And it is true that every single problem in marriage is solved by a proper understanding and application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you’re married you can just enumerate the problems that you’re having as solved with that understanding. And you might say, “I don’t know how that could be with my problem, this particular problem. It’s so pernicious and unique.” I think that if we sat down long enough we could come to the understanding that yes, God and his Gospel does speak to that issue somehow.
The first thing that we read in this passage speaks of submission. Verse 21, “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” So the whole passage is about the authority of God and submission in Christlikeness. That’s the overarching subject here. But I want to give you 9 critical things you need to know about this text.
1. It’s the longest statement in the New Testament about marriage. And what is striking about it is how so absolutely counter cultural it is.
2. This passage tells us what is the most vital thing about marriage. That marriage is the theater upon which a husband and a wife live out the story of redemption where each partner has his own role. His own lines. His own conclusion and it’s all defined by God. Now for you who are single you just have to grasp the significance of this because it should make you ask the question, “Really, what kind of marriage are you preparing for?” What is it that you’re trying to accomplish when you think about getting married. Well this passage should clear up lots of wrong thinking in your mind about marriage. You must compare what you are thinking about marriage with this, and what is written here. And there are so many wrong ideas about marriage. It is so vital that we think Christianly about marriage. And if you don’t you are doomed to so many heartaches in your life.
3. It’s the classic foundational text on roles of husbands and wives. And it delivers the mail on roles and responsibilities and how the sexes operate together.
4. It gives us language to help us understand marriage. What you’ll find here is such rich language. We should form everything that we are, all of our thoughts about life, from the language of scripture. That is where we can find such blessing. And here you’ll find words like submit, head, love, forgive, sanctify, nourish, cherish, washing, spots, wrinkles, leaving, cleaving, one flesh, respect. This forms the beautiful structure of the language of marriage and what there really is needed today is to cut through worldly drivel. The bankrupt gibberish that surround marriage today. And there are so many books that will mislead you, [AND PINK SWEATERS!] to help you think wrong thoughts about marriage. Here’s my counsel, think bible words about marriage, then you will be led in the right direction. There are thousands of books about marriage. Most of them should be thrown in the trash can because they don’t deal with these words. It’s the language of scripture that leads you in the right direction. You who have young children, teach them these words. They are simple words and if you teach them daily, year after year, they will understand the beautiful texture and structure of marriage. So, it gives us the language of marriage.
5. It was written for people just like we are. Ephesus was a city of about 300,000 people and the worshipped a female deity. These words would seem absolutely ludicrous to them just like they sound so ludicrous to people in our culture. The treatment of people in Greek society was attrocious. The treatment of women in Jewish society was so chavalier that the theologians were saying you can divorce your wife for burning your food. The treatment of women in Roman society was so abusive. Jerome tells of one Roman woman who was married to her 23rd husband and she was his 21st wife. That’s abuse. So the family life was in shambles in the Roman empire and the Greek world as it is in ours. Paul is calling men and women to live in a completely different way. That’s why it is appropriate for you to observe the social and cultural practices and bring the Word of God to bear and then let that be the filter. Abandon bankrupt practices and there are so many. There are so many bankrupt practices that we have been formed in regarding this whole matter of marriage. We should trust with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding and in all our ways acknowledge Him and He will keep our paths straight.
6. It exposes a wrong view of regeneration. There’s an idea of regeneration that once you are converted everything just falls into place. That somehow the law written on your heart fixes everything. And it really doesn’t. We need an objective standard. Lloyd Jones talks about this as sort of a semi-magical view of regeneration. And he argues that if we just automatically do the right things, then why in the world do we even need our bibles? Because we need external arguments to change our practices. And so here in this passage we find some language that just exposes a wrong view of regeneration, that somehow if you just get married, the two of you are christian, everything will be just peachy and it’s really not. And that is the reality this passage exposes.
7. This passage is so helpful because it shows you how to prepare for marriage. People ask all the time “How should they prepare for marriage.” The answers really are all in the scriptures.
8. Something new about marriage is revealed here. Now people have been getting married for some 4000 years before Paul delivered this letter. But something new is revealed here. There is a mystery that is revealed in this text that was not known before. That [is] a man, leaving his father and mother, being joined to his wife and their becoming one flesh, was about something way bigger than marriage. It was about Christ’s union with the Church. God created marriage for a more important reason than marriage itself. That is why marriage disappears in heaven. Because there is a greater thing that He’s doing.
9. He shows what it means to be filled with the holy spirit in your family life. Because the way that this passage is structured is that it harkens back to the imperative, “Be filled with the holy spirit” “Do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And then as a result of being filled with the holy spirit effects their speaking to one another in psalms hymn and spiritual songs. And then there is gratitude and thankfulness in the heart. And all of this is assumed with the way that God has structured authority. There is the authority of the father. There is the authority of Christ. There is the authority of man over the woman. All of it is related to the way the holy spirit works in the various ways that God has wired the world in terms of authority. If you don’t understand authority, you cannot understand your marriage, you’ll have no idea how to relate to your spouse.
And so in verse 21 we read Submitting to one another in the fear of God. This is the general principle of submission it means to voluntarily yield in love. The apostle Paul is speaking about the general way that we submit to one another in the church. How we bear one another’s burdens. How we weep with those who weep. How we look out for the welfare of one another. All of the ‘one anothers’ really help us to understand how to apply this submitting to one another in the fear of God. That you are not the supreme being that you and the church, you submit to one another. That’s a general kind of submission. And this is so vital because if you are single and you do desire to form a marriage for the glory of God you have to understand that God has given you a local church where you learn how to submit to one another. If you are not part of a local church you are being deprived of something that is so important for you life, that you learn how to submit to one another. In local churches you have all kinds of strange people don’t you? Sometimes you have mean people in a local church, insensitive people, you have people who are borish, you have people who are worldly. There are all kinds of people in local churches. God has designed the local church to help you understand that there is a way that you conduct yourself in the house of God and this general submission is one of those ways. And it is so critical that single people are deeply immersed in the life of the local church so that they can experience this. They are in training. They are in training for another kind of submission that takes place in marriage.
And then there is a particular kind of submission and that is what we find in verse 32. Wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord. So the apostle is speaking about this general submission and then he drills down and speaks of a particular relationships where submission is required. He begins with wives and then he moves to children, and then he moves to slaves and masters. And it’s a beautiful argument that he’s making. “Wives submitting to husbands” doesn’t wipe away the general submission we have to one another. But submission becomes very specific and concentrated with a wife toward her husband, and a wife doesn’t submit to everyone in the same way she submits to others in the local church. He’s classifying to different kinds of submission. One is general and one is more specific. And so when the apostle says wives submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord, he is speaking of ordering yourself under, to arrange under. Now why in the world do you think that he would deal with a woman first? Isn’t the husband the head of the wife? Why do you think he would begin this whole thing by talking about women? Now we’re not told in this passage why he begins with the submission of a wife. Here’s what I think it is, a wife’s submission has such powerful leverage in a family and if submission is broken in a family the family is broken because the whole structure of the creation order is upset.
God is the head of Christ. Christ is the head of man. Man is the head of the woman. That is the creation order. The apostle speaks of that in 1 Cor. 14 and it begins in Genesis. This passage really takes us, it’s a hyperlink back to Genesis and the whole creation order. If you are not submitting to your husband your family is in a state of collapse. It can never be what it was meant to be if a wife is not submitting because a wife’s submission has such far reaching impact. If she has an unsubmissive spirit then she will spread that in the members of the family and they will grow up not understanding even what it means to submit to Christ or submit to a husband if they are young ladies.
The danger of this culture we live in today, the culture of self-exaltation and autonomy, the rejection of authority that is so comprehensively embedded in our consciences is so destructive to marriage and it is completely contradicted here. And then the scope of the submission, to your own husband. So the submission is narrowed in it’s own field. God has designed the husband to lead his wife, where he is focused exclusively on her husband. And he becomes the pre eminent person in her life. And he gives the motive for the submission “as to the Lord.” This is really important because he’s saying that the way you submit to the lord, is exactly the same way that you submit to your husband. So if you are a young lady here who is unmarried or if you are a woman who is married you’ve just been given very helpful language to understand how to grasp what he means by that. and you are supposed to take your relationship with the Lord and how you submit to the Lord. Now think about that for a minute. Think about His commands toward you and how you submit to those commands. Are they just suggestions? No, they are not at all. The Word of God is binding on our consciences that we might obey it. So a wife submits as to the Lord.
In order to understand this the wife has to maybe set aside the marriage relationship for a moment and think about what it means to be a Christian and how a christian thinks about submission. And so that is how a wife learns how to submit to her husband. She has to think about the Lord Jesus Christ first or she has no hope of learning how to submit to her own husband because she submits as unto the Lord.
Now here is something that an unmarried young lady must consider. If in your heart you do not desire to submit to the Lord let that take your breath away for what it means when you get married. You will collapse your family. You will be a woman who tears down her own house. and so I just wnat to challenge the young ladies in this room to carefully consider their own lives before the Lord. Yes you desire to be married. Yes, you wish you were married yesterday or year or maybe last decade but there is something of great significance that you need to address and that is your own hearts relationship to the Lord. You should not marry a man until you have submitted unto the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the supreme requirement for marriage. At least marriage for the glory of God. Because the heart of a Christian is to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.
The Submission of a wife is the equivalent to saying that she no longer belongs to the world but she has a new master. A woman’s submission to God is the first step in her submission to her husband. (24:06) So when a woman leaves her father and mother, she leaves everything to join a new head in the same way that she does at her conversion. When she repents of her sins, she leaves the world to serve her new husband and that is exactly what happens when she leaves her father and mother to serve her new husband.
Now, when Debra married me, she really left everything and followed me. And everything that was a part of direction in my life became her direction and she assumed everything for better or for worse. Because she believed that Christ was the head of man and man was the head of woman. And she believed that in submitting to her husband she was also simultaneously submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is what this means.
And then the apostle Paul declares that the wife has a head in verse 23.
For the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church. So the first thing we encounter here is the whole idea of headship. This should also help us to think about the seriousness and the significance of the rejection of authority of the resistance to parents of rebellion against civil laws and how they relate to and how they dishevel a marriage. This passage is about authority. It is about the authority of Jesus Christ and it’s about the authority of Jesus Christ is given to a husband and how that makes a husband the head of the wife.
There is so many authorities that we need to submit to and here we encounter the whole principle of having a head. And so in verse 23 we see something that is so defining. It’s the absolute center of the message of this passage and it’s contained in two words that I just read. The words, “just as”.
Now, you’ll notice this pattern through out the text. It appears seven times in 11 verses. In verse 21, “as unto the Lord.” In verse 23 “as also Christ is head of the Church.” In verse 24, “just as the church is subject to Christ.” In verse 24, “so let wives be unto their husbands.” In verse 25, “just as Christ loved the church.” In verse 28, “as their own bodies”, In verse 29, “Just as the Lord does the church.”
So these words reveal to us that a husband’s relationship with his wife is meant to be exactly like Christ’s love for the church. This fundamental relationship of comparison is the well out of which everything in marriage flows. And this really is the irreducable controling principle of a wife’s marriage. And that is that it is designed to display how a church submits to Jesus Christ. So a wife has to ask herself how does Christ submit to the Church. Or if she is single, she should also ask that exact same question in her preparation for marriage. She needs to consider how it is that Christ submits to the church. She needs to set aside ideas of marriage for a minute all of her wrong ideas about it, all her feelings about it and to think about something greater. She must think about Christ’s obedience that He gets from His wife.
If you don’t start there. You cannot proceed to marriage properly. You’ll end up just getting married for all the wrong reasons. And you’ll continue to think wrongly about marriage. What will happen to you is that the offense will pile up, the wrongs done between the two of you will amass and at some point the bag will break and the poison will flow. But you can trace that poison and all it’s effects back to a misunderstanding of why a wife submits and how she doesn’t.
Now we have to recognize that this defies almost everything that your flesh is telling you about marriage. It tells us that you cannot go to Hollywood. You cannot consult your own heart. You may not even be able to go to a Christian bookstore. You may not even be able to go to your own parents honestly to learn this. You have to go to holy scripture and trust that alone. This really is the key to every question in marriage. I means the the whole paradigm of marriage is centered on Christ’s relationship to his church and her submission to him.
Now the problem that we have today is that we do have a younger generation who does not understand what marriage is and as a result they are headed for disaster. Even some of the most exemplary courtships that have happened in this room are headed for disaster. I guarantee you they are if they are not founded on this principle. The problem is that our minds are fallen, our feelings are fallen, are will is fallen and our language is so mixed that doesn’t reflect the glory of God.
The apostle gives three reasons for submission. Before we get to those three reasons I just want to say that there is something very wonderful here and that is that we learn that God desires a wife to have two things. He desires a wife to have a head and he also desires a wife to have a saviour of the body. We’ll talk about the body in my third message out of this passage. But the idea is introduced here.
Paul gives three reasons for the submission. The first reason for submission is the husband’s headship. For, the husband is head of the wife. “For,” and then a reason is given. This is one of the reasons why submission is indispensable. It is exactly what a wife needs. Every wife needs a head and this phrase takes us back to Genesis. It takes us back to creation. Ephesians 5 gives more detail on the creation narratives that we find in Genesis 1-3. So, understanding creation is a critical matter of marriage because of Genesis 1-3, Paul connects it with the doctrine of marriage here in this passage. Order and authority, which was the issue here, was established in Genesis.
You also have to understand the fall. You need to realize that in order to understand marriage you also have to understand more than just marriage. You need to understand creation and you also need to understand the fall. Marriage is a supremely doctrinal affair. You should not send your children into marriage without their understanding the great doctrines of scripture. The very first effect of the fall was on marriage. “And the couple were ashamed and made coverings for themselves.”
They were bankrupt out of their own minds. God had to come and make better covers for them. They struggled with separation. They were separate from one another. This is the result of the fall on marriage. If there is a separation between any of you in this room who are married, you have to understand where it comes from. It goes directly back to the fall. This separation is nothing more complex than being rooted in the fall. The first thing Adam does is he minimizes his own sin. Isn’t that what we all do? This is the second step in a marital disaster. First of all not recognizing that there is sin. Second, by blame shifting as Adam did. He said, “It was the woman that you gave me.” He separates, he blames, he points a finger. Every time you have done that, you are acting very theologically. You are doing something that began in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The fall signals all these burning tensions that were created as a result of sin. Sin is the greatest problem in marriage. Every problem in marriage can be traced to sin. Every problem can be solved through the recognition of the glory of the Gospel in dealing with sin.
Because of the fall all of our relationships have been distorted. These verses affect us so deeply because they show us what is really wrong. What is wrong with this is so deep that you never get to the bottom of it. The apostle Paul said it was like having a throat like an open grave, like tongues practicing deceit, like the poison of asps under their lips whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. There is noone who does good. There are none who are righteous. Destruction and misery are in their ways. The way of peace they have not known. The fear of God is not before their eyes. That’s the problem with your marriage. That’s the problem with my marriage.
It is not so simple as fixing one little thing. Fixing your marriage requires so much more than just being a nicer guy or being more sensitive. Fixing your marriage had to do with much, much more than recognizing your sin and repenting of it than anything else. That is why so much of the marriage counseling, and the language that is heaped upon us is so wrong because it doesn’t take us there.
When a single person does what Adam and Eve did in the garden, they need to recognize what that means. When the tolerate separation from God they are tolerating the same thing that will destroy their marriage in the future. If you are unmarried, you thirteen or fourteen hundred unmarried people in this room, if you are here in this room and you so long to be married, that if you are tolerating separation from God, you are sewing the seeds of the destruction of your marriage, and of your children’s marriages. You are also putting a blight on the name of Jesus Christ. You are destroying what Jesus Christ has meant to be precious.
This passage also says, as Christ is head of the church. So now we get to the doctrine of the church. We’ve seen the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of the fall, and now the doctrine of church. You really cannot understand your marriage unless you understand the doctrine of the church. This is why I would so urgently encourage you fathers to make it your asiduous work to teach your daughters ecclesiology. They need to be experts in ecclesiology. For a husband his course of study should be Christology, but he also needs to understand ecclesiology because he has a bride, a church submitting to him. A husband has a greater responsibility to understand theology and Christology and ecclesiology. But for a wife, her supreme subject is ecclesiology. She needs to understand what it means to be a bride, to be the church. There is also the whole doctrine of redemption that is in here as a result of this appeal to the creation and the problem that happened there at the garden.
The purpose of a man and a woman in marriage is to give a living illustration of the church to the world. When a wife does not respect her husband, she is saying that Christ deserves no repect. Do you understand that? Do you know that when a single person doesn’t respect her father, she is saying that God is not worthy of repect, do you understand how critical this is? Do you realize that when a wife does not help her husband, she is saying to the world that following Christ, obeying Christ is not worth while at all. When a wife does not submit to her husband, she is saying to the world that it is rediculous to submit to Christ. She is saying that his commands are worth nothing. That she has a better way. That she has no need of direction. When she commits adultery she is really just saying that Christ does not satisfy. So, what a woman does in relation to her husband is significant because wives who submit to their own husbands as to the Lord.
I have had such delight in the last few months to read an English puritan to my son and my sons-in-law, William Gouge I have been reading to them sections of domesticall duties which was written in 1620. It’s absolutely brilliant. As we’ve sat there and read it, we’ve been so humbled all of us and so helped. What Gouge says is this, “Most men do not marry a vixen. They create one. He says, if you have a rebellious wife, consider that God is punishing you for your past sin.” Is that possible? Some of you who are exasperated of your wives and their treatment of you, you’ve lived without obedience and now you are reaping what you have sewn. Gouge says this, “Maybe you married her because she is beautiful and God is punishing you for that.” Because you did not go deeper than a pretty face. He says, “Maybe you married her because she is rich. Or maybe you married her by rejecting her parents authority.” And now you have rebellion in your home but it is nothing more than the expression of the rebellion that you had all those years before you married her. William Gouge says this, “Perhaps she was given to you to restrain you from future sin by reminding you of your past sin.”
A single woman must learn how to be like this by the power of the holy spirit. Now the term the apostle paul uses is the word “head.” It means head, preeminence, lord, authority, that is what it means. Over the last 30 or 40 years we have seen the rise of feminism try to strip the word of it’s meaning. We are thankful to Wayne Grutem to did the church a blessed service by examining 2,336 instances of the word kephale (kef-al-ay’) from Greek literature, classical literature and non-classical literature. What we need to understand is head means preeminence, authority, place of honor, right hand of God, dominion, everywhere that it’s used. It doesn’t mean ‘source’ as feminists would pretend.
Now, let’s understand this. We run across what I’m going to call the indisputable fact of headship. Paul does not encourage you to be a head. He says, “the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church.” Paul is not encouraging you to be the head. He is not commanding you to be you know, tonight, you are going to somehow become the head of your family. He is saying no, you are the head. This is not an imperative. This is an indicative. It states a reality. You know the difference between an imperative, an imperative is a command, “Go be the head.” It’s not an imperative. It’s a indicative. You are the head. So the question is not, “Are you the head?” the question is not, “Do you wear the pants in the family?” or, “What kind of pants do you wear?” It has nothing to do with that at all. You may be a selfish head, you may be a head the nourishes and cherishes, you may be a knucklehead, but you are the head. He is stating that. The man is the head of the woman. He is a man of backbone, he envisions, he suffers, he accomplishes, he completes, he makes things happen, he’s a man of dominion, he’s cultivating the garden, he’s taking raw ground and he’s making something of it. He is the head just like all who are in authority are. You can either be a well functioning head or a poorly functioning head.
Here is something also that you need to consider. Those of you who have been married for a while, now God has stated that you are the head. But the questions I want to ask most husbands [are], “Is your wife ahead of you? Is your wife ahead of you in spiritual matters?” For example, “Is she ahead of you in theology?” “Is she ahead of you in Christology?” “Is she ahead of you in ecclesiology?” “Is she ahead of you in her character that has been formed by Jesus Christ?” If she is you should be ashamed of yourself because you are the head. You are the one who God has set to set the pace.
It is true that our wives excel us in many ways and that is such a blessing. But we should not just be satisfied with that and just give thanks and let it lie because God has designed for us something far greater than that. We lack an accurate definition of headship because we do not understand the trinity. We do not understand God and so we do not understand Christ and so we do not what it means to be the head. We are so theologically illiterate that we don’t understand what these words mean. This year our entire ministry has been dedicated to an historic confession. The Baptist confession of 1689. It’s almost identical to the Westminster confession of faith. We’re going through this confession because we believe churches should be founded upon sound doctrine, they should understand God and the word of His grace. We need to understand it in detail. The church has so long lived on topical sermons they really don’t have any idea who God is. The whole breakdown of headship is really the fault of shepherds in the church who are not teaching sound doctrine. My two fellow elders and I have been discussing how to apply the Baptist Confession in your family. What does it mean? How do you put it into practice? We’re trying to be practical just take the doctrine and say, “What does it mean?” At the end of the year we’re having a conference on the same subject we’re bringing men in to cover the 32 chapters of the Baptist Confession. We’re going to ask three questions. We’re going to state the doctrine [first and ask] “How is this doctrine being attacked?” and “how do you defend the church against the attack on this doctrine?” Doctrine really matters. We’ve already covered so many of the great doctrines of the faith. That means that your sons and your daughters if they are to have a marriage of any kind of solid foundation, they need to be well grounded in sound doctrine. This is one of the most important matters for preparation of marriage. Especially to understand the doctrine of the trinity.
The third reason for the wife submitting to her husband is that he is the savior of the body. Now, what does that mean? It can’t mean that he saves her by justifying her by faith because that only happens one way. But, in justification by faith, salvation is pictured in the way that he deals with her. By “saving” he is saving her body. Paul is not talking about the atonement. He is picturing the salvation of Christ by saving her body and her soul in principle.
The word saviour means preserver. It means that he is looking out after her. It’s the whole idea that he understands that she is lost and she needs saving. He is marrying her in order to do what we’ll hear about later, sanctifying and cleansing her, with the washing of water by the Word. Every wife in this room needs the work of sanctification as she works out her salvation in fear and trembling. Husbands need to recognise that they have a role. It’s a salvific role.
William Gouge defines this with such detail it’s astonishing. He says it’s providing things needful. It’s protecting from things harmful. Providing for her mind. Providing for her delight. Providing for her soul. Giving her the ordinary means of grace through the public ordinances. Often men are not saviors. He gives examples of men who are not saviors. Men are not saviors when they live in a place where there is no good church. That is what Gouge wrote in 1620. Do you live in a place where there is a good Church for your wife? Or carrying her away from all her friends so that she’s unknown? Or in child bearing thinking lightly of it. Not thinking of her and giving her the care she needs in terms he says, of “midwives” and “friends.” He says of husbands who are not taking care of their wives as those who make their wives scrimp at home while he eats and lives sumptuously while he is traveling. Or his unthriftiness or his squandering the resources. Or he has no plan. He doesn’t protect her from slander from those who would abuse her. He notes this, he says, “Mothers-in-laws often prove unkind to wives.” This is one way a husband saves his wife.
Paul restates what he already said about Christ and the church. He makes a statement that is very succinct. Two words. A wife is to submit, “How much? How often?” In everything. In everything. Of course though not to sin but in everything. Even if she finds it not palatable, contrary to her culture, and her refinement, whatever it might be. To submit to her husband in everything. This is the pattern of the woman’s life in the church.
For you single young ladies, here is a word of admonition. Do not marry anyone unless you are willing to submit to him in everything. He is a sinner. You only get to marry sinners but you must submit to a sinner. A young woman, in her premarital years, must face herself honestly on the whole issue of authority. That authority is learned with her father and her mother. How does she respond to the authority of her father. How does she respond to the authorities in the church? How does she respond to civil authorities. How does she react with nature or people bring her displeasing situations? Sometimes, you are submitting to the weather. Sometimes you are submitting to the economy. Sometimes you are submitting to a wicked civil magistrate. But God in His wisdom only puts sinners as heads of women. I don’t really understand that, except this, that Jesus Christ is declaring His glory in submission and he is teaching a wife what it means to submit to him.
Often when the Lord Jesus Christ leads you in a certain direction, you have no idea why that happened. You often question Him and say, “God why did you do that?” with your father and with your husband, God is teaching you ladies, how to submit to Christ when you do not understand what he is doing. You will not always understand what he is doing and so he gives you a father and a husband to show you many times in your life that he will care for you inspite of the fact that you do not understand why it all is happening. Do you see the mercy of God in that?
A father cannot afford to let his daughter continue in rebellion against him. The consequences are so significant. A father should be very careful to place his daughter and his son in a local church where they learn how to please the Lord. By submitting to sinful heads who are given to them. Some of you married women may be thinking that these things are impossible because so much water has gone under the bridge. There have been so many tears, so many broken promises, there have been so many offenses and you wonder why did I even marry him? You’re asking, “Can I ever even recover from this?” The answer is you can recover but there is only one way to recover. That is to submit to your husband as unto the Lord. That means that you have to submit to the Lord first and then you are able to submit to your husband.
There are so many ways that the church loves Jesus Christ, you have to think about how the church loves Jesus Christ and that is a whole vast study in and of itself. It’s one of the most important studies for Daughters especially. That the keep the commandments that they are one with those who are in authority. That they have kindness, and tender heartedness and forgiveness, to those who are their heads that they walk as He walked.
Now, I want you to know that tonight, first and foremost my hearts desire is that somehow by the power of the holy spirit we could be delivered from the bankruptcy of the way that we see marriage and see it replaced by a heavenly vision. That is why we’ve called this conference Gospel Centered Marriages for a glorious Church. I want all the young people here to night to know that Marriage was created and instituted to display the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every single issue of marriage is solved by a proper application of those principles. Secondly that married couples would find a clearer and better understanding of the purposes of their own marriage rather than “my needs” “her needs” kind of view of marriage that afflicts so many of us. Gospel centered Marriages are indispensable for gospel centered churches. Brothers and sisters this is what we need so desperately today. I pray that it is clear to all of us tonight that marriage is not an end it’s only a means to an end. Marriage is not central. God is central. Repentance is central. A wife who submits to her husband as unto the Lord, is so central to everything that is on the table at this conference. I pray that somehow God would help us with it. I know that the devil has worked so mightily in us that it is almost impossible for us to think biblically about marriage but I do pray that we think this way.
Wives submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church and He is the savior of the body. May it be as the Lord our God has spoken.
Let’s pray, Oh Lord, of Lord we pray that You help us to change the course of our marriages. I thank You for the sweetness that enters into a marriage where the gospel is central. I thank you that the gospel is the power of power of God unto salvation. I thank you for the hope that is in here in this room. I thank you Oh lord that you have cast such a beautiful vision, not our own, but so much better so much more wonderful so much more life giving than the one that we learn from our fathers and our culture. Our God I pray that you would descend upon this place and dislodge these things that have been so pernicious in our hearts and in our families.
Published in full with permission