Pastor's Corner

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Lesson Text

Ruth 2:10-11

10  Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?

11  And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.

 

Ephesians 5:21-33

21  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

22  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

23  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.

24  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27  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.

28  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31  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.

32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

  

Culture Connection

Fueling the Marital Engine

by Richard M. Davis

 

One way men and women are different has to do with their differing desires within the marriage relationship. A man desires respect from his wife, which builds his sense of value and worth to the relationship and cranks high his marital productivity! A woman, on the other hand, desires to receive the security that comes from true love and intimacy within the relationship. It fuels the woman’s positive contribution to the marriage.

In his article “What Does Unconditional Really Mean?” Emerson Eggerichs observed, “When I talk about unconditional respect being equal to unconditional love (Ephesians 5:33), one of the questions I hear the most is some variation of, ‘Are you telling me I have to unconditionally respect my husband’s bad behavior and become a door mat? Everyone knows respect must be earned!’ Interestingly, in our culture we don’t have a problem understanding unconditional love . . . in fact, we see unconditional love as the right of every human being. . . . But mention unconditional respect and some women go through the roof! Immediately, visions of weak, dependent women flood their minds—along with the inevitable label—door mat.

“So is this what Christ had in mind for married women? Not at all! When the Bible reveals that a wife is to respect her husband, it is shown in the same way a husband is to show love to his wife (Ephesians 5:33). Both are unconditional. . . . However, unconditional does not mean you remove all the healthy conditions that make a marriage succeed. . . . Unconditional means that you give the person the gift of love and respect as you confront the issues. In other words, you recognize that a hostile and contemptuous attitude is ineffective in helping resolve the issues” (www.emersonandsarah.blogspot.com, accessed April 1, 2013).

This beautiful design by God empowers the marriage with the man receiving his perceived need, the woman receiving her perceived need, and each contributing to a healthy marriage.


Lesson Outline

  1. HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES

  2. WIVES, RESPECT YOUR HUSBANDS

    III.  GOD LOVES HIS BRIDE UNCONDITIONALLY

                        A.        God Loves His Bride

                        B.        God Desires an Intimate Relationship with His Bride

                        C.        God Desires Submission and Respect from His Bride


Contemplating the Topic

 “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (James 4:1).

For reasons beyond human comprehension, God chose to introduce variety into creation. Variety manifested itself in the flora and fauna, which He made in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. We behold these spectacular differences with wonder.

We are well aware of the differences God created in human beings, especially between the male and female genders. These differences can cause problems in relationships between men and women. Although we are quick to appreciate the differences in flora and fauna, we often are not as quick to appreciate the differences in our fellow humans.

As we have studied in the previous lessons, the differences between men and women necessitate different human needs in each. Hostilities that develop usually are a result of a lack of understanding of these needs. In this lesson we will further explore and clarify some of these deterrents to harmony and compatibility between the sexes, particularly between husbands and wives.

May this lesson challenge husbands and wives to love and respect their mates as the Bible instructs. May it remind us all of just how much God loves His bride, the church; and may it motivate us to respect and love Him as He deserves.

Searching the Scriptures

I. HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES

“Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25).

Although Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to love their wives, one would think it to be an unnecessary command. If God is love and we have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5), it would seem that loving our wives, as well as everyone else, should not require commandment. Apparently God recognized both the woman’s supreme need for love and the man’s weakness in demonstrating love even if it should come natural to him.

Further, men are to love their wives “as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). It should be a joy for a husband to love his wife, but he also should demonstrate it faithfully through actions—living his life in a way that builds their relationship through love and keeps them both connected intimately to God.

The love and intimacy of a husband toward his wife motivate her. Many people seem to understand the meaning of love, but do they really know the meaning of intimacy? The dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship.” The adjective form of the word states, “close and friendly; private and personal; involving very close connection; having a cozy and relaxed atmosphere.”

Nothing motivates a wife like love and intimacy. As love lets her know she is the one and only person occupying the closest of relationships in her husband’s life, intimacy convinces her she is enjoying a very close and private connection with her husband. These two vital elements constitute the motivation of every successful marriage. Husbands need to remember that some of the soft and fuzzy words and things that make wives feel romantic are the things that motivate them within the relationship. A husband needs to respect the things that motivate his wife even though at times he may feel them to be frivolous or unnecessary.

A husband’s honoring of his wife is essential to gaining and maintaining her respect for him. Respect is mutually beneficial in a marriage. Although it is one of the highest needs of a man, the woman also requires it. Honor means “great respect.” It is difficult for a wife to genuinely respect her husband unless he reciprocates respect toward her. Mutual respect is a key ingredient of a successful marriage.

This kind of marital respect does not happen overnight. Two people probably are drawn toward marriage because they love and respect each other, but the deepest levels of respect require years to build and develop. For this reason a lot of time is necessary to restore respect when one mate has failed the other morally. Love may continue, but destroyed respect must be reestablished little by little.

Husbands frequently forget how important honor is to a wife. When a husband honors, or respects, his wife, it makes her feel she is adequately fulfilling her role as wife and woman. It gives her the confidence she requires to function effectively as a true companion.

The wife requires unconditional love from her husband, which makes for a strong marriage. It seems love today often is expressed with accompanying qualifiers. Instead of love being just love, often it is identified as conditional or unconditional, true or false, real or make-believe. Although the list of qualifiers could be lengthy, we will consider only conditional and unconditional love.

Unconditional love is love that requires no preexisting prerequisites. There are no qualifications or disclaimers attached. It is simply love that is genuine and true. Neither is it measured in degrees of intensity based on a set of conditions. Unconditional love is steady and static regardless of what happens or is anticipated.

Many have observed the unconditional love manifested in mates having to serve as caregivers after their companions have suffered a debilitating illness. Their loyalty is amazing and admirable as they care for their beloved day and night, with whatever additional help is necessary. If a physical impairment in one’s companion can alter the affectionate response of the other mate, the love is conditional in the attending spouse, not unconditional.

Husbands especially should demonstrate their unconditional love for their wives regardless of circumstances or impairments. This expression of unconditional love gives them security that strengthens their love and care for the husband.

A marriage without unconditional love has little chance of surviving, for existing conditions eventually will destroy or impair the marriage severely. Conditional love is weak and anemic, and it is susceptible to every marital shortcoming.

Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39). This is unconditional love.

When a wife complains or cries, it often is her cry of needing her husband’s unconditional love. In a strong marriage where both participants are happily fulfilled, there is no place for complaining. This is a symptom of a sick marriage. Obviously, the stress and strain of a normal relationship can produce negative words and strong emotions occasionally. But these should be responses to external stimuli and not problems within the marriage.

Sometimes the wife’s complaining or crying may signal to the husband that there are unmet needs. On such occasions the preferable and mature response is to seek to understand the feelings and needs of the companion in pain. Further, a mature husband will recognize his God-given leadership role and seek to resolve any issues that have developed within the relationship. Still, a mate who constantly complains also needs to mature as a Christian.

Complaining and crying can become an emotional tool used to manipulate and get one’s way. When this happens it is not a cry for love. It could be a behavior carried over from childhood when the companion learned to resort to this type of conduct to manipulate one’s parents. It reflects immaturity and can cause great damage to a marital relationship if not addressed and dealt with properly.

When a husband loves his wife, he also is loving himself.

“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” (Ephesians 5:28-29).

According to Scripture, the husband who loves his wife loves himself, for the two of them are one flesh (Ephesians 5:28-31). Their oneness is an intimate relationship that belies fully understanding. Although it may sound selfish, a husband should love his wife for his own sake if for no other reason. A husband loves his wife; he and his wife are one flesh; therefore the husband loves himself. This truism should cause every husband to treat his wife with utmost respect, for surely he would not consider disrespecting himself.

This scriptural mandate harmonizes with what often is called the Golden Rule: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). The broad application of this instruction means that when we hurt not only our wife, but also others, we actually hurt ourselves. Husbands who understand this will treat their wives and all others with more love and respect.

II. WIVES, RESPECT YOUR HUSBANDS

 “. . . and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33

The love and respect necessary for a strong marriage is never one-sided. When love and respect are the responses of only one mate, it is like a person clapping one hand. There may be motion, but there is no sound and nothing is accomplished. Love and respect must be mutual.

Reverence is defined as “deep respect.” As the wife needs to be honored and valued by the husband, so the husband needs the respect of his wife. Mutual respect is the substance of which a successful marriage is made. When a husband does not receive the respect he needs from his wife, he has a tendency to feel inadequate. Consequently, he fails to lead in the relationship as he should. It is imperative that a wife respect her husband, for it is one of his most ardent and basic human needs.

It is instructive to observe relationships in the Bible in which the absence or presence of a wife’s respect for her husband had significant effect upon the relationship. Consider the instance in which Michal, wife of King David, demonstrated contempt for her husband’s conduct when he danced in the street with joy as the Ark was returned to Jerusalem. Her disrespect caused her to be barren (II Samuel 6). On the other hand,  showing godly respect for the husband is biblical and causes positive results. (See I Peter 3:5-6).

A wife’s respect for her husband and her submission to him motivate him in the relationship. Husbands are inclined to pretend they are strong, macho leaders of the family, when in reality they desire the respect of their wives and family to bolster their manly persona. When a wife respects her husband and submits to him, it motivates the husband to be the leader God intended him to be.

In marriage God has designed both husbands and wives to be dependent on their spouses to fulfill their needs within the relationship, and mutually upon God for completion of the relationship. This brilliant design of interdependency creates a strong and effective union when joined together with God. Synergistically, when each component of a marriage is perfectly combined, the outcome is greater than the sum of the separate parts.

Without the wife’s respect, her husband’s love for her is hindered. A woman’s respect for her husband encourages his love for her. Of course, Scripture commands him to love her regardless of her level of respect for him. Still, respect is a significant catalyst of love. Increasing measures of love are born out of her respect for him—honoring and esteeming him highly. If a husband does not have the respect of his wife, he may continue to love her, but its absence will hinder his love demonstrated for her.

The wife’s respect for her husband is necessary for a strong marriage. A marriage where the wife’s respect for her husband is lacking will suffer. Two people who love each other must respect one another; however, the husband depends on the wife’s respect as one of his primary, human needs.

A husband’s harsh words or withdrawal can often be emblematic of his cry to receive his wife’s respect. There are both subtle and noisy signals in a relationship. Some are so subdued the spouse does not always distinguish them. Others are so overt it would be impossible to miss them. It is vital for a mate to be sensitive enough to pick up on the subtle signals of unmet needs and not ignore the noisy ones.

Harsh words do not belong in a healthy relationship, and a husband’s use of them is inexcusable. When harsh words or responses do occur, it is important for the wife to recognize they are alerting her to something wrong in the marriage. Further, although words of anger may be a cry for her respect, they also could be an outburst from an immature and undisciplined husband.

A husband’s nature is to withdraw from marital discord. It is important that he show the Christian maturity necessary to overcome the flaws of his human nature and composition. He should lead in the relationship by showing maturity and gently addressing sensitive subjects in the marriage when he and his wife need to discuss differences and the basic meeting of fundamental needs. He should resist the natural male tendency to withdraw and instead show genuine love toward his wife.

Harsh words and withdrawal are not responses that reflect self-control. A couple should be mature enough to talk about their needs without resorting to manipulative tactics or basic human responses. Good communication is vital to a healthy relationship.

III. GOD LOVES HIS BRIDE UNCONDITIONALLY

God is love (I John 4:8). Not only is He the epitome of love, but He is love. His very essence is love exemplified. God loves genuinely and unconditionally.

As humans, we often extend our love conditionally. If people love us, we probably will love them. If they do not love us, we are not inclined to love them. Or we may love someone until that person hurts or disappoints us. All these kinds of responses represent conditional love.

God loves unconditionally. If we do not love Him, He still loves us. Even if we disappoint Him, He keeps loving us. If we serve Him, love Him, and then draw back from Him, He continues loving us just the same. His love for us is not based on anything we do or fail to do. “For God so loved the world. . . .” We fail to fathom the depth of divine love. God did not just love the world; He “so loved the world.” The emphatic measure of God’s love is encompassed in that tiny, two-letter word.

A. God Loves His Bride

God loves His bride, the church. Further, the Word of God reveals the church is His body (Colossians 1:18). Therefore Christ loves His own body. The oneness He enjoys with His body is His oneness and love for the church.

He not only loves the church but nourishes and cherishes this body of born-again believers. The dictionary defines nourishment as “the food or other substances necessary for growth and health.” The word cherish means to “protect and care for lovingly.” How beautifully God provides for and protects His church!

Marriage is the symbol of Christ’s love for His church; however, no husband ever is able to achieve the perfection of the measure of the Lord’s love for us. Although many husbands genuinely love their wives, there is no husband who loves his wife as much as God loves His bride. He gave His life for her. Further, He is preparing an eternal home for her (John 14:2-3), and He will return to take her to that wonderful place (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). God has prepared a great marriage supper in Heaven to celebrate the grand occasion of His wife arriving to be with Him for all eternity (Revelation 19:7-8).

B. God Desires an Intimate Relationship with His Bride

As a husband desires an intimate relationship with his bride, so Christ desires an intimate relationship with His bride, the church. Where a husband is fulfilled physically and emotionally in his intimate relationship with his wife, Christ is fulfilled spiritually through His intimacy with the church.

Some church members seem to be satisfied to serve the Lord at a distance. They do not attend church regularly and they fall short in meeting their other obligations to the Lord. Yet they often are quick to assert their rightful place in the membership. This kind of discipleship is like being married and vocally asserting that relationship while remaining distant and without intimacy. As married couples should be close to each other with love and intimacy, so God desires believers to serve Him with joy in an especially close and intimate relationship.

C. God Desires Submission and Respect from His Bride

As a husband desires submission and respect from his wife, so God expects the same from the bride of Christ. He expects the church to submit to Him with respect and reverence, which underscores our dependence upon Him. Human life is unsuccessful and meaningless without a genuine and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We need the Lord more than we can possibly imagine. As we submit to Him with unconditional love and respect, He draws near to us intimately and cares for our needs. There is no greater relationship than this.

Internalizing the Message

If a person reads and studies this lesson without making any personal application, it becomes just another interesting combination of words and ideas; it will not help one to build relationship—with the Lord or with a spouse. As husbands, we need to analyze our love for our wives. Do we really love her in the ways Christ modeled for the church? While we may not be required to give our very lives, we certainly should live our lives in a way that elevates her with great worth, value, and love.

Is our love for our wives enough to motivate and strengthen them to be the women God has called them to be? Do we respect them as we should? Husbands should realize that their love for and intimacy with their wives provide great motivation for them within the relationship. Husbands have a great responsibility to love and respect their wives with all the strength they can humanly possess.

Wives should consider their fulfillment of Christ’s call upon them in the marriage also. Are we really respecting our husbands as they desire and as Christ requires of us? Do we realize that our demonstrating respect and submission for our husbands motivates them within the relationship? If they do not seem to be motivated in their love for us, perhaps a stronger demonstration of respect for them would enhance their level of motivation.

For the husband to love his wife and for the wife to respect her husband are not choices. They are biblical commands. Whether loving the wife or respecting the husband, God has commanded these mutual exchanges in the meeting of the marital needs of both spouses. A couple can only have a strong marriage through mutual giving within the relationship.

Jesus Christ loves us all unconditionally. We are benefactors of His love as He nourishes and cherishes us. Let us give Him the intimacy He requires that we can enjoy the relationship with Him we desire. This will only happen as we, His bride, give Him the submission and respect He desires, deserves, and expects.

Reflections

• What motivates a wife in a marital relationship? Discuss.

• Discuss the difference in conditional and unconditional love.

• Discuss the biblical idea that when a man loves his wife he loves himself.

• What motivates a husband in a marital relationship? Discuss.

• What demonstrates God’s unconditional love for the church? Discuss.