Introduction: Are Christian marriages in trouble? When I
attend a marriage I hear the sad comment that things are
wonderful on the day of the marriage, but they are destined
for sorrow. I’m an optimist, so I don’t say those things.
But the statistics on marriage are discouraging. You may
recall that in the past few studies about relationships in
the church, we mentioned that the unity concepts for church
might also apply to a marriage. One question I asked was “Is
organization also important in a marriage?” Our study today
seems to give the answer, “Yes.” Let’s plunge into our study
of the Bible and see what we can learn about organization in
marriage – among other things!
I. Mutual Submission
A. Read Ephesians 5:21. You may recall that we ended
our study last week on that verse. Do you recall
that after all the bad behavior we studied last
week, I asked something like, “Why would we submit
to others when foolish people abound?”
1. What did we decide was the answer? (The phrase
“out of reverence for Christ” directs the kind
of submission we should make.)
2. What do you think Paul means by “submitting?”
3. What do you think is Paul’s goal in asking us
to submit to each other?
B. Read Ephesians 5:22. I am a husband. Is it likely
that I view my wife submitting to me differently
then I view my obligation to submit to other
people in the church, especially the foolish ones?
(Husbands are unlikely to think of themselves as
fools, even if it is true.)
1. In other words, is a wife’s submission to her
husband different than a husband’s submission
to other members of the church? (Notice that
Ephesians 5:21 and Ephesians 5:22 have very
similar phrases at the end. In verse 22 it is
“as to the Lord.” This tells us that the
nature of the wife’s submission is qualified.)
a. Or is it? Are we not to submit to God in
C. Thinking again about Ephesians 5:21 and
Ephesians 5:22, if the wife is also a member of the church,
does that mean we are looking at mutual
1. Should the modern understanding of equality
between genders affect or influence our
understanding of these verses? (How can we
think modern understandings have value when
modern marriages seem to result in a train-
wreck for half of them?)
D. Read Ephesians 5:23-24. What does this suggest is
the nature of the roles between husband and wife?
(Let’s think about the organization question. I
think this is first telling us that in every
organization someone ultimately has to be
responsible, to be in charge. Christ is the head
of the church. He is in charge.)
1. What if the wife thinks (or knows) the husband
is a fool? (If you marry a fool, you may find
that you face some downstream problems.)
2. Is it important that in this comparison
between husbands and Christ verse 23 says
Christ is “its Savior?”
II. Husbands and Love
A. Read Ephesians 5:25-27. Should husbands consider
whether in their actions as “the head” of the
family they are loving themselves or loving their
1. How much did Christ love the church? (He died
a. How would you apply that, husbands, to
your relationship with your wife?
B. Look again at Ephesians 5:26. I asked earlier what
is the goal in this call for submission. What
answer do we find here? (To “sanctify” the wife.)
1. What does that mean?
2. Let’s go back to the point of comparison,
which is baptism. What happens to us in
baptism? (Read Colossians 2:12. We participate
with Jesus in His death for our sins.)
3. Should we conclude that husbands must give
themselves up to make their wives holy?
4. Is the husband required to give sacrificial
love to his wife?
C. Read Ephesians 5:28. Compare Matthew 7:12. Is
this a call to treat wives the same as you treat
everyone else? (I think this is the most important
text in the Bible about marriage. You should love
your wife as you love yourself. Looking deeper, if
you love your wife as you love yourself, you will
be loved by your wife. Husbands are looking out
for their own best interests if they love their
wife. And, no, I don’t think she should be treated
just like others. Why? Because this discussion in
Ephesians would be unnecessary if it simply meant
to repeat Matthew 7:12.)
D. Read Ephesians 5:29-30. What practical argument is
Paul making for loving your wife?
III. The Mystery
A. Read Ephesians 5:31-32. Compare Genesis 2:24. How
is this a “profound mystery?” (This is the point
at which humans are like God in that they can
create life. Our life creation power is a
1. Do you think that if you show sacrificial love
to your wife she will mysteriously love you
more? Mysteriously become a better person?
(I’ve seen that. A couple were married later
in life. It was not the first marriage for
either of them. The wife was almost
immediately disappointed in the marriage and
turned her anger (which could be considerable)
on her new husband. He just loved her in
response. It changed her and changed their
B. Look again at Ephesians 5:31. How does the “leave
your father and mother” fit into the idea of
showing love to your wife? (Both husband and wife
must prefer their spouse to their parents. One on
one, the new husband and wife must reach an
agreement. If the parents get to vote, it becomes
three to one and no compromise is possible.)
C. Look again at Ephesians 5:32. Paul also refers to
the mystery in reference to Jesus and the church.
How is that a mystery? (Jesus willingness to take
on humanity, live a perfect life, be tortured to
death, and rise to give us eternal life is a
mystery. A mystery in the sense that we can hardly
1. How does that mystery apply to marriage? (We
can have unexpectedly good results in loving
A. Read Ephesians 5:33. Would you agree that this is
a summary of what we have been studying this week?
1. Notice the direction to the wife to “respect”
the husband. How important to a man is being
respected by his wife?
2. If you listen to wives talking between
themselves about their husbands, how many seem
to have respect for their husband?
3. Earlier, I referred to husbands being foolish
and asked about submitting to foolish men. How
does that discussion fit in here? (We
previously discussed the limits on submission.
The point here is to avoid thinking your
husband is a fool. That would include talking
to others about your husband being a fool.)
B. Friend, we have seen that Paul’s advice for
marriage is not something contrary to the
interests of the wife. That understanding is
contrary to modern opinion of Paul on this topic.
Instead, Ephesians is an invitation to treat a
wife like Jesus treats us. This profound mystery
about the marriage relationship will give us
strong marriages. Why not, husband, wife, agree
right now to step into the roles Ephesians lays
V. Next week: Practicing Supreme Loyalty to Christ.
Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
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link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the
Holy Spirit as you study.