Sermon: Husbands, Wives, and Children
Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30
In this week’s lessons, we learn how a family is to function, and what the responsibilities are of husbands, wives, and children.
Theme: God’s Word to Wives
One of the most important things that can be said about a Christian marriage is that within the relationship God has established an organic union between two persons—an organic union, not an organization. But when that is said, it must also be said that marriage does have organizational aspects. Hence, we must give attention to these also. How is a marriage to function after the wedding vows are taken? Is it to be a democracy? Is it to be a dictatorial system? A monarchy? Or is it a republican form of government? And what are the duties of the husband, wife, and children to each other and to the Lord?
Many of the answers to these questions are found in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, verses 22 through 30. In this chapter, marriage is set forth as an illustration of the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Church, and the duties of the husband and wife to each other are set forth in terms of that relationship. The wife is to submit herself unto her husband “as unto the Lord.” The husband is to love his wife “even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it.” Later, in chapter six, children are told to obey their parents “in the Lord, for this is right.” And they are to “honor” their father and mother. The parents on their part are to raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Today we want to look at the rules governing each of those relationships.
The first word God has is to the wives. It is an unpopular word, especially today, for God says that the wife is to submit herself to her husband. When my wife and I were married in June of 1962, Dr. Robert Lamont of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh performed the ceremony and spoke for a few minutes from this passage. After the ceremony a woman came up to us and said that she had never heard those things before. We asked, “What things?” She answered, “About a wife submitting to her husband.” Then she added that she was going to go home and tear that page out of her Bible.
What she did not know was that even tearing out the fifth chapter of Ephesians would not have solved her problem. For the same teachings are found throughout the Bible. It is true that Ephesians contains the most extensive passage. It says, “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 everything” (Eph. 5:22-24). But it is also true that the same thing is said as far back as in the third chapter of Genesis: “And unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Colossians 3:18 adds, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” And in 1 Peter we read, “In the same manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands” (3:1). Again, the reference is to the standards set for all of us by Christ.
I think that the biggest difficulty with these verses today is that most wives do not realize what they actually mean. Also, I suspect that most husbands do not understand them either. Not long ago I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when he said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife-to-be was wise enough to remain silent, but the man blurted out, “That means that we are to love each other, but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we’re to do things my way.” Well, if the husband thought that, it was no wonder that the wife disliked the teaching. And if husbands in general misunderstand it, who can hold the wives responsible?
Read Ephesians 5:22-30. What does this passage teach about the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives, and what is the theological foundation for it?
Why does the idea of wives submitting to their husbands sometimes generate disagreement or tension? What idea does the word “submission” have in some people’s minds? How does our secular society influence a Christian’s reaction toward submission, rather than the Bible itself?
Prayer: Pray daily for Christian husbands and wives, that they would remain faithful to the Lord and to each other. Pray also for wisdom to know how to raise their children in the fear of the Lord, and that families would stand fast against the worldly ideas and temptations that press upon them.