Sermon by Rev. Lance Filio
Let me introduce our main topic for this morning by providing the context of our main text. Let us explore them by asking these particular questions: What does it mean to be filled by the Spirit? What is the relationship between gratitude and service? What does it mean to serve one another in particular? As Christians, how do we demonstrate our faith in our own household?
Apostle Paul by way of conclusion exhorts us to be filled by the Spirit. In Ephesians 5:17-18, Paul writes: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” And what does it mean to be filled by the Spirit? Paul offers four ways, he continues, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (verses 19-21)”. Addressing, singing and making, giving thanks, and submitting are four “-ING verbs” clearly expounding the manner upon which the command “be filled with the Spirit” must be carried out. The first three phrases express gratitude while the last phrase means service. They point to the motivation and action the Spirit applies to every believer. In short, Paul calls us to serve in gratitude. Gratitude is the motivation while service is the action. This is how the two are related.
In summary, when Christians are reconciled to God in Christ and by the Spirit, they demonstrate it in this life by gratefully serving others. They now all belong to the general office of believers. And as prophet, priest, and king we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to others. Grateful submission is the duty of every Christian and our service starts at home. This is the basis of a well-ordered Christian family.
Today, we will hear God’s word preached. Our text this morning comes from Ephesians 5:21 to 6:4. It is divided into two sermon points. (1) The Order Between Christian Husbands and Christian Wives; (2) The Order Between Christian Parents and their Children.
In sum, union with Christ through faith and by the Spirit restores our relationships with others. Our roles are in the household are fulfilled in Him and by Him. The natural order of family even when lost in creation because of the Fall is restored by the spiritual reign of Christ in new creation. In particular, Paul exhorts individual members of the congregation to fulfill their duty to one another: Christian wive to submit to their own husbands (verses 22-24), Christian husbands to love their own wives (verses 25-33), Christian children to obey their own parents, and Christian parents to nurture and admonish their own children (verses 1-4). All these are done under the headship of Christ in his church. This is how we serve one another in particular.
The Order Between Christian Husbands and Christian Wives
Verse 22-24: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5
Wives refer to Christian wives. She is woman member of the church, who aside from being united to Christ by faith is married, and relates to her husbands. In particular, she is called to fulfill her duty as a wife to her husband as to the Lord.
The word “submit” comes from the original text “hypotasso” which means to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection. This is the same verb used in the previous verse 21 where Paul writes, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. So while it is the general duty of every Christian to submit to one another under Christ, it is the particular duty of a Christian woman to submit to to her husband because she is under Christ. Her duty to Christ includes submission to her husband.
Verses 23 and 24 determines the basis and scope of her submission to her husband. And by expound on these points, we can also identify their limits.
The basis for her submission is spiritual not only natural. While the created order informs us of the natural order of authority between husbands and wives, a Christian woman submits to her husband because she receives the transformative power of the spiritual reign of Christ in his church. But in this sense, only a regenerate woman is capable of fulfilling this command. As a member of Christ’s church, she gratefully receive the rule of Christ and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit to renew her mind, change her will, and transform her desires to serve her husband.
The scope of her submission is in all things. According to verse 24, she is called to submit in everything to their husbands. However, this is not without limitations. Submission does not mean slavery. She is to submit to her husband under Christ. God does not command her to put her husband above him. Rather, she submits fully to Christ as she is a member of his church and the same scope but not in degree, she submits to her husband.
In context, first century marriages are between younger women and older men. Driven primarily by necessity of procreation and security, these marriages are mostly arranged by their parents. In that sense, submission comes naturally and fits their cultural context. Paul devoted only three verses on this particular exhortation and perhaps did not receive any negative reaction in their today. Compare today when woman are empowered to marry in their late 20, educated, and have professional careers submission seems oppressive and archaic. And yet the prescription stands. For it is not cultural or simply natural but more importantly spiritual. Christian women submit to their husbands under the rule of their Christ.
Verses 25-33: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5
Husbands refer to Christian husbands. When Paul addresses the married male members of this church, he devotes nine verse which points to us its importance. It is counter-cultural during their time to consider the treatment of the wives aside from their usefulness to child bearing and rearing. How can a Christian husband serve his own wife considering his God-given authority over her? He must love her sacrificially. What is the basis of this servant leadership? In verse 25, Paul compared their love to the love of Christ for his church. Loving their wives means to put their interest above himself. And in verse 26-32, it also means laboring for her well-being and taking care of her like how he takes of himself.
Paul makes an extensive analogy at this point. It is an analogy or comparison between creation and new creation. It is a comparison between the mystery of marital union and our mystical union with Christ. Paul gave a theological basis for love and care husbands are called to give to their own wives.
In new creation, Christ is united with his church through the Spirit. Even now our ascended Christ sits at the right hand of God, he is the head of the church. Christ, while in heaven, is present here with his body, his church, through the Spirit and His Word. Visibly this union is signified by the water of baptism. It is sealed to us by the presence of his sanctifying Spirit. Therefore, we can speak of the realities of this mystical union in visible terms. Baptism signified by water and sealed by the Spirit communicates to us the mysterious connection between Christ and his church. It is spiritual but at the same time, it is real. Through their union, love, nurture, and care flows from Christ to his church.
What is true is new creation is also true by analogy in creation. Husband and wives are united to another even when they have separate bodies. Paul, by comparison, cites Genesis 2:24 to prove this point, “and the two shall become one flesh”. In a theological sense, this marital union in creation points to mystical union of new creation.
So if Christian husbands are indeed part of the realities of the new creation where Christ loves and nurtures his church then even in the lower order of creation, they will love and nurture their own wives. The opposite is also true. If they do not love and take care of their wives, then logically it means they are not truly united with Christ. They do not belong to his church. They are not Christians but hypocrites.
By way of summary, Paul concludes, ” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
The Order Between Christian Parents and their Children
Verses 1-4: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5
Children refer to members of the church. They are covenant children of believing members of the church. Children, both male and female, receive the “washing of water” signifying baptism by their parent’s profession of faith. Believers including their infants are members of the household of God. Paul addresses them directly here as covenant members of the church and just like the household of the old covenant by way of circumcision they receive instruction from the law of God.
Paul instructs them to obey their parents (both their mothers and fathers) and specifically just like their parents they are to obey them under Christ. Their obedience is not only proper under the natural order of creation (for this is right) but more so under the spiritual order of new creation in Christ (in the Lord). And like with the wives, their obedience to them is not absolute. They are to obey their parents in accordance to God’s will.
Paul grounds his instruction from the law of God (Deut 5:16) when the Ten Commendments was republished for the second generation people of God. But his basis for this command includes a promises. He establishes the continuity of God’s covenant as God’s promise of salvation (both earthly and eternal) from generation to generation (verses 2-3).
In the end, Paul comes to a full circle when he exhorts the father to lovingly discipline their children under Christ. Our heavenly father discipline his children so does our earthly fathers says the preacher of Hebrews in chapter 12. Their designation of fathers as spiritual leaders in the church demands they bring up their children as Christians and not pagans. They are included into church membership and catechized as full pledged members of the church.
Christian fathers with the help of his wife are called to model the Christian faith in the household. They are not to provoke them to wrath which means they cannot be hypocrites in front of their own children. Instead they are called to lead with integrity and authenticity towards them. They are to live graciously but firmly with them.
Christian husbands, wives, parents and children, let us submit to one another in reverence to Christ. Let us serve in gratitude to God. May we all be filled by the Holy Spirit. Amen.