Ephesians 5:21-33Theme: Marriage.This week’s lessons teach us that when the institution of marriage crumbles, society crumbles. LessonThe second half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (chapters 4 through 6) deals with the Christian life. This is Paul’s pattern in his letters: first, doctrine, then application. The second half of this section of Ephesians deals with relationships. The Christian life does not consist solely of the relationship of the individual to God, but it also always involves relationships to other people as well. Chapter 5, verse 18, is where Paul begins to speak of being filled with the Spirit. And if we are filled with the Spirit, this will express itself in relationships. We tend to think of Christianity as a privatized sort of thing, as “me and God.” And it is that, but it is also myself and other people. In this section of the Book, the Apostle Paul speaks of three basic sets of relationships: the relationship between husbands and wives, the relationship between children and parents, and finally, the relationship between slaves, or as we would say, employees, and the masters who are responsible for the work they do.
Of these three sets of relationships, the one that Paul deals with first and to which he gives the greatest amount of time is marriage. Marriage is the first and most foundational of all human institutions. It’s first because God created it first. Back in the first chapter of Genesis we find God reflecting on everything he had made. We find that after each day of God’s creative activity, God pronounces a benediction on his work. The words that we have in our Bibles are these: “God saw that it was good.” God created the sun and the moon, and said, “That’s good.” He created the earth and caused the earth to be filled with living creatures, and said, “That’s good.” Everything that is described for us in that first chapter of Genesis is followed by God’s benediction.
But then we come to the creation of man. And for the first time in all God’s acts of creation, we find God saying that something is not good. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” It was, therefore, in response to that negative evaluation and to meet the problem of the man’s aloneness that God created the first woman for the first man. And God brought the two together and, in the role of a minister, performed the first marriage ceremony. The Lord Jesus Christ was reflecting on that when he was asked about marriage in his day and said, “From the beginning, God created them male and female. Therefore, let not man put asunder what God has joined together.” When we talk about marriage, we’re talking historically and in terms of the description of creation of that relationship which was first in all human relationships.
Then secondly, we’re also talking about an institution that is foundational. And by that, I mean that it is the institution from which all other institutions have properly come. It was within the home that the first education took place as fathers and mothers began to train their children first of all in how to eat, and then how to care for themselves, how to dress, how to do useful work, how to get on in the world, and so forth. And out of that natural responsibility for the education of children in the home came all of the other institutions that have to do with education: schools, academies, universities, and other centers of higher learning.
The same thing is true of government. It is on the basis of a father’s rightful rule in his home as head of his home that there developed first of all patriarchal forms of regulation of human affairs, government, and then monarchies, and then eventually the kind of democracies that we know. All of these things have grown out of the home. And it follows from that, that where the home stands and is secure, these other institutions will stand with it. But where marriage fails, being under attack as it is obviously under attack today, these other institutions also will succumb.
What is the typical pattern in Paul’s letters?
What relationships are impacted by our Christianity?
Why is marriage the most foundational of all human institutions?
What is the primary purpose for which God created marriage?
How is marriage and the family a springboard for other earthly institutions?
ReflectionMeditate on Genesis 2:18-25.