Dear brothers & sisters,
Thank you for your prayers and support that enable us to serve here in Sweden. Since last writing, I preached for the first time at a wedding of a lovely couple from our small church. Due to the pandemic, it was the smallest wedding I’ve ever been to, but very reverent and uplifting.
It proved a fresh reminder of the reality and purpose of marriage. To illustrate this point, I would like you to think of a traffic sign with an arrow pointing in one direction. Just like the traffic sign is pointing in one direction, God in his good plan has instituted marriages to point towards the relationship between Christ and the church. This is the most wonderful love story with the greatest love ever, and in Ephesians 5 this love is described, of which the marriage between a husband and a wife is just a shadow and picture.
Christ’s love for the church is revealed in how he left the glories of heaven to be a man. When he came to this earth he was despised, rejected, and willingly died on a cross, taking the wrath of the Father on himself in order to save the church, all who repent and believe in him. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45). This was even illustrated by Christ when he washed the disciples’ dirty feet, something that only the lowest servant would do. What bride would not want to have a bridegroom like him?
God has created man and woman in his image, with the same value, and at the same time, he has given us different complementing roles within the marriage. You, who are a husband have been given great responsibility to reflect Christ’s love for the church. The apostle Paul writes for all married men to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). Christ willingly faced death for his church, and in the same way, Christian husbands are called sacrificially love their wives. This is not easy in our selfish culture, where we are so prone to think of ourselves. But according to the Scriptures, the married couple is no longer two, but one flesh. That’s why Paul is emphasizing to the husbands that they should love their wives as their own bodies (Eph. 5:28) and as themselves (v.33). That is the husband’s responsibility. Every time you see a traffic sign, remember your task and responsibility to reflect Christ’s sacrificial, serving, and unconditional love towards your wife.
The wife likewise has also been given a great responsibility. Just as the church submits to Christ, so Paul shows that wives are called to submit to your husband (Eph. 5:22-24). This simply means respecting the husband as gives himself to the well-being of the family, in both spiritual leadership and physical care. For wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, is to be as a pointer on what it means for every Christian to submit to Christ. When you as a wife see a sign, think about your task and responsibility to be like an arrow that points to the church’s relationship with Christ.
Marriage is not easy, but one of the keys to having a marriage as described in Eph. 5, is understanding this passage’s connection with the preceding section. Verse 18 states, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” In verses 19-21, we see the result of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. In the Greek, it’s even clearer with five participles that describe what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The first four participles are about praise and thankfulness, while the fifth participle is submission. By implication, for a man to love his wife as Christ loved the church, is a task that can only be accomplished as they are filled by the Spirit. In the parallel passage in Col 3:16, similar instructions are made for husbands and wives. However, Paul brings additional clarity to what it is to be filled with the Spirit, and as he tells them to let the word of Christ dwell richly in them. In other words, the Spirit-filled person is one whom the Word of Christ dwells richly in. They are filled with the Spirit, praying that with the help of the Holy Spirit, they would reflect the relationship between Christ and the church.
So, every time you see a traffic sign with an arrow pointing in one direction, remember your life and marriage should be like that arrow which points towards God’s ultimate purpose, to reflect Christ’s relationship to the church.