Ephesians 5:21-33Theme: Marriage.This week’s lessons teach us that when the institution of marriage crumbles, society crumbles. LessonWhen we’re talking about this portion of Ephesians 5, we’re therefore talking about that which is basic in God’s plan for the human race and that which is of the utmost importance to our own well-being. And yet in spite of the fact that marriage is the first and most foundational of all human institutions, marriage is under attack in our day as it perhaps has never been in recent history, nowhere else and at no prior time. This is so intense, so pervasive, so insidious that one has to conclude that it’s not merely a matter of human failure or selfishness, as we might sometimes think to be the case, but rather something demonic, something that flows not merely from human failure but from that great spiritual warfare that is going on in this world between the forces of God, on the one hand, and those of Satan, on the other.
I suppose that’s why marriage is discussed where it is in this particular book of the Apostle Paul. That is why it comes between Ephesians 5:18 through 20, where the Apostle is speaking of the spirit-filled life, and Ephesians 6:10 through 20, where he speaks of spiritual warfare. I guess that is a way of saying that relationships are the battleground upon which this spiritual warfare is fought. And if that’s the case, he’s saying that if we are to lead spirit-filled lives, it must be in our relationships. This is the point where the spiritual battles are going to be either won or lost.
Now, as I say, marriage is under attack–and not surprisingly, if it’s as important an institution as the Bible declares it to be. It’s what we would expect Satan to be doing if he wants to undermine people at large and certainly undermine the church. Some of the attacks come from the world, as we would naturally expect. And it’s not difficult to point out where some of those attacks come from. Externally, there is in our time a modification of the divorce laws, which makes it increasingly easy to divide marriages. We also have a cheapening of sex through the glossy sex magazines, which at one time were a novelty, but now are found in virtually ever store on every corner in every town and city in the United States. It’s not even novel anymore to see such things.
We also have the effect of television, which in my judgment is the single most pernicious feature of American life. I’m not saying by that that television can’t also do worthwhile things. Of course it can. But the overall effect is not that. It breaks down the family, if nothing else. It substitutes passive watching for active communication. No relationships are built without active communication. People don’t even know how to talk to one another anymore. Television is a large part of that. And in addition, it is active in remolding people’s approach to moral values and relationships. Instead of holding before people the Christian ideal of active life and service, which means that we are here for the other person’s benefit, serving God, it substitutes the precise opposite. It cultivates a “me-first,” materialistic, immediate-gratification style of life. So, I say, that without any question the single most pernicious feature of contemporary secular American life is television.
And yet, what bothers me most about the problem of our time is not the impact of these cultural features. Christians have always been confronted by hostile cultural features, no matter where they lived or at what time of history they lived. What bothers me most today is the way the church itself is contributing to this breakdown in proper morality where marriage is concerned. One of the evidences of this is the large number of divorces that are taking place among leaders in the evangelical church. There are divorces elsewhere as well. But this is happening widely among people who are very well known and prominent.
Why does tampering with the institution of marriage bring about such dire consequences?
In what way do violations of the marriage covenant go beyond mere human selfishness?
What does Ephesians teach about the arenas in which spiritual warfare is played out?
Describe Dr. Boice’s view of the effect of television on our culture.
In addition to cultural influences, what is contributing to the breakdown of morality today?
ApplicationHow much television do you watch? For an entire week, keep track of everything you watch on TV. At the end of the week, make an honest assessment of the types of programming you are watching. Analyze the ways the shows you watch affect your thinking about God and your relationships with others.