I. Marriage Created by God (Ephesians 5:31)
C. One Flesh
II. Picture of the Church: A Mystery (Ephesians 5:32)
III. How to Have a Godly Marriage: Two Rules (Ephesians 5:33)
Four words said it all. They appeared on a sign in bold print inside the window of a Hollywood jewelry store. They read, “We Rent Wedding Rings.”
Can you believe that? What an indication at how people view marriage! Some men change wives like they change clothes. Some women view their present husband as a means to getting a better one.
I would say that much of this is due to the fact that marriage is one of the most attacked and ridiculed institutions of our day (two others are the church and motherhood). If you don’t believe me, just start listening to what every family related sitcom on television is joking about over half the time. The men ridicule their wives, the wives slander their husbands.
And it’s not just on television either. Do a search on the internet for quotes about marriage, and I guarantee you that the majority of what you find will be snide, rude remarks about the horrors of marriage.
Or, rather than get on the internet, just start listening to what your coworkers say when they begin to talk about their spouses. It is normally rude and cutting remarks. Or, listen to single people joke about their friends who are about to get married. There is always talk about a noose, or a ball and chain, or their real life ending.
Marriage is one of the most criticized areas of our culture. One of the reasons it is so criticized is because it truly is so hard to have a good marriage. As all married people can truly testify, being happily married is hard work—near to impossible.
But I think that one of the main reasons that marriage is under such an attack is because of what we are going to learn about it today. Marriage is under siege because marriage was created by God and marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. When we understand this, it makes sense why marriage is under attack, because all of God’s works are under attack by the devil.
So today, we want to create a defense for you and your marriage. We will look at how the perfect marriage is created, what this marriage says about Christ and the church, and finally, how to have a Godly marriage.
We will see all of these things in Ephesians 5:31-33.
Marriage is Created by God
To see the marriage created by God—we could say, the marriage made in heaven—look at Ephesians 5:31. In this verse, there are three elements which every marriage must have in order to start off on the right foot.
Some people call these three things God’s Blueprints for Marriage. They call them this, because Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation from Genesis 2:24.
You all remember what happened in Genesis 2, right? God created man, and told him to name the animals and find a helper for himself. And no suitable helper was found, so God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep.
And God took a rib from Adam’s side and created a woman. And when the anesthesia wore off—there she was—the first Miss Universe! Perfect in mind and soul and body. Beautiful. Wonderful.
And Adam names her woman, and then Moses instructs us in Genesis 2:24 about God’s instructions for marriage. He gives God’s advice on how to live happily ever after. God tells them to do three things. And it is these three things which Paul also mentions here in Ephesians 5 for us who are married so that we too can have a marriage made in heaven. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Leave (Ephesians 5:31a)
Ephesians 5:31a. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
The first thing we need to do is leave our parents. Now this is not just “leave.” The regular word for leave in Greek is leipo. But this is kataleipo and could be translated “to leave completely.” It is nearly equivalent to leipo, but much stronger.
Now before I talk about what this means, let me state what it does not mean. To leave does not mean to completely or literally abandon. It doesn’t mean that once you get married, you are to never have any sort of contact whatsoever with your parents, ever again.
Nor does leave mean to separate yourself geographically. Some seem to think that you haven’t left unless you move to another city or state. I kind of see what they are saying, because, as is most often the case, it is not a good idea to live in the same house with your parents, or even in the same block after you’re married. Living this way is possible, but generally leads to some pretty serious marital conflict.
But at the same time, just because your parents are on other side of the country doesn’t necessarily mean you have left. Sometimes, your parents may be dead, and you still haven’t left them.
A person may have physically moved away from their parents, but never really left. If you are still tied to your parents emotionally, you haven’t left. This shows itself, for example, in frequent phone calls for emotional support rather than talking to your spouse.
Or maybe you are still tied to your parents economically. They take care of your finances, or they help bail you out when you make poor financial decisions. Of course, some financial help from parents every now and then is wonderful, but the husband and wife must be able to manage their own money.
Sometimes the wife has a tendency to trust her father more than her husband, or the man tends to think his mother could do things so much better than his wife. All of these are an indication of a failure to leave.
To leave your parents means that they are no longer your first priority. Your spouse and your family are now priority. Men, if you have to make a choice between pleasing your wife and pleasing your mother—always choose your wife.
Women, if you continue to go to your parents for the emotional support you feel you don’t get from your husband, it may be due to the fact that you are not giving him the chance to be supportive. You may be undermining his authority and the support he does offer by going to your parents first.
We could give numerous examples of this, and all of us, I’m sure, have experienced this to one degree or another in our marriages. But if you want to have a marriage made in heaven, the first thing to do is make sure you have emotionally, economically, spiritually, and maybe even physically left your parents.
A husband and wife need to leave their parents and establish their own home.
But frequently, a failure to leave is not always only the couple’s fault. Often, the parents have some fault in this. Parents, if you have a son or daughter who is grown and married, it is your responsibility to let them go.
James Dobson once asked a question on his Focus on the Family radio show. He asked, “What is the greatest problem of children relating to their parents and in-laws, and how will you relate to your children differently when they are grown?”
He got 2600 answers to this question. He thought that the biggest problem would be the difficulties between grown children and in-laws, but that wasn’t the case. Only 10% of the responses said that. 11% said that it was sickness and dependency on the part of the parents. 19% expressed concern with the spiritual welfare of their parents. 21% expressed a concern of a seeming lack of interest in themselves or their children by their parents, but 44% said it was a failure of their parents to let go.
One man, 54 years of age, wrote back and said, “When I go home, my mother will not let me peel the carrots because I did it wrong when I was a boy. Every time I go to the kitchen to try to help, she reminds me that I never knew how to peel anything right, and talks to me about my faults from 50 years ago.”
One 23 year old woman, a graduate of a university, a career woman, wrote, “I still live at home, and even though I’m a committed Christian, I have a 10 pm curfew and my parents try to spank me if I am late.”
Now these are extreme cases for sure, but they are extreme cases of the all too common experience many people have with their parents. The parents are like Pharaoh. They won’t let their children go.
On the other hand, parents, if your children are still at home, you need to make sure that you are already beginning to train them on how to leave you. Give them responsibilities and let them make some decisions for themselves. Teach them how to manage their money, balance a checkbook, and make wise purchases. Show them how to use their time wisely, how to work hard and have fun.
This will help your child leave when it becomes time.
So, when a man or woman gets married they enter into a new unity that breaks former relationships. They should no longer to be bound and held by the former relationships. Their new relationship is more important and intimate than the others.
Prior to marriage, a man or a woman’s chief loyalty is to their parents. But after they get married, their chief loyalty should be to each other. They should leave their father and mother and enter into a new relationship.
That’s what it means to leave. Secondly, they are to be joined together.
Join (Ephesians 5:31b)
Ephesians 5:31b. … and be joined to his wife
The word joined here can also be translated “cleave.” Literally, it means “to stick, to paste, to be glued to.”
When a husband and wife get married, they are joined together. This happens at the marriage ceremony. Before God, and before men, they say their vows to one another and become glued to one another.
And this glue is not just a relational glue, or the legal glue put on us by the marriage certificate, but is primarily a spiritual bond between two people. It is God’s glue, which has a better grip than the strongest super glue.
To cleave to one another is to be totally committed to one another, as you promised in your vows. It is a commitment to being reliable, genuine, honest, and faithful.
To cleave to one another is a promise for a lifetime. Till death do us part. Not “till disagreement do us part.” Not “till debt to us part.” Not even “till divorce do us part.”
When God puts two people together in marriage, it is a permanent bond—only broken by death.
I think that of the three elements for a marriage made in heaven, this one is the most important. A marriage can survive if one or both of the partners fail to adequately leave their parents. The third element, as we will see in a bit, has been enshrined in our culture as having the primary importance in a marriage. But ultimately, it all comes down to the commitment the man and the woman have made to one another to stick to each other no matter what.
During England’s darkest days in the late 1930’s and early 40’s, at the height of World War II, it was a pudgy, cigar-smoking, unimpressive-looking man who held the country together.
Time after time German bombers devastated city blocks. Buildings crumbled. Bridges fell. Lives were lost. Many English voices were shouting, “Surrender! Quit! Give up! We can’t take it anymore!” But Sir Winston Churchill stood fast. He refused to budge.
He said that there was a simple rule of thumb when you want to win a war. His philosophy of war is only six words long: “Wars are not won by evacuations.” Similarly, marriages are not made by separations.
Sometimes, husbands, wives, it seems like your marriage is in a war-zone. But that is not the time to give up, but to stand tall, and reaffirm your undying loyalty and commitment to one another. You are joined by God, and what God has joined together, let no man separate.
That is what it means to cleave, to be joined. The third element of a marriage made in heaven is to become one flesh.
Become One Flesh (Ephesians 5:31c)
Ephesians 5:31c. … and the two shall become one flesh
This phrase refers primarily to the act of consummating the marriage. The physical intimacy of marriage. If joining refers to the spiritual, emotional and legal joining, becoming one flesh refers to the physical joining.
I don’t think I need to go into detail on how our culture has idolized this aspect of the relationship between a man and a woman. It is abundantly clear to us whenever we walk through a check-out isle at the grocery store, whenever we go to a movie, or turn on our television sets.
And in one sense, as Paul clearly explains in 1 Corinthians 7, and as King Solomon, the wisest of all men talks about in the Song of Solomon, this third and final aspect is vitally important if you want to have the marriage made in heaven.
But I think that God put it third in the list for a reason. Yes, it is important, but only if it rests on the first two pillars of marriage. Most people in our culture today put this first. Oftentimes, they haven’t left their parents, and they definitely haven’t been joined through marriage, but they still want to become one flesh.
But without the first two steps, this third aspect is empty and void of meaning. It is damaging to yourself and all future relationships. You know what this is? When couples skip the first two steps and move straight into the third? It’s nothing more than legalized prostitution.
In most of this country, it is illegal for a man to pay a woman to sleep with him. But if the man takes a woman out, and rather than giving her money, but instead buys her a nice dinner and a few drinks, and then they go home together, then it’s legal.
Does that make any sense? I don’t think so. It’s all the same. A man puts out money in order to sleep with a woman. That is legalized prostitution. A man and a woman becoming one flesh.
But God has three elements here, and they are in a specific order for a purpose. All three must be present and placed in the right order to have a marriage made in heaven.
The reasons God wants it this way are numerous, but Paul gives us one reason in Ephesians 5:32. When God created marriage, He has a specific purpose in mind.
Marriage is a Picture of the church (Ephesians 5:32)
Ephesians 5:32. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Paul first says, This is a great mystery. And since he has been talking about the relationship between a man and a woman, we at first think that Paul is talking about the mystery of marriage.
And there are a couple of mysteries in marriage. First of all, there is a mystery about the mathematics involved. Did you notice in verse 31 that 1 +1 = 1? God takes one man and one woman, and joins them together so that they are no longer two, but one. It’s a mystery how that happens.
But the whole marriage relationship is a mystery as well. In Proverbs 30:18-19, we read, “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand. The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a [maiden].”
This wise man said “Yes, marriage is a mystery to me too!” Maybe this passage is what Paul had in mind here when he wrote this. But even if he did, the mystery of marriage is not primarily the mystery that Paul is talking about here in Ephesians 5:32. Look at the rest of the verse. Paul says, This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
So just when we were thinking about the mysterious aspects of marriage, Paul throws a curve ball at us, and says, “But I’m not only talking about marriage. I’m talking about Christ and the church.”
Whatever Paul has been saying about marriage, he now says also applies to Christ and the church! But before we can understand the connection, we need to understand what a mystery is.
Thankfully, Paul has already talked about another mystery in the book of Ephesians. Turn back to Ephesians 3:3, 6. This other mystery is that of the unity of Jews and Gentiles within the church.
But Paul, in Ephesians 3:5 defines for us what a Biblical mystery is.
So a mystery is a wonderful truth which was hinted at in the teachings of the Old Testament, but not really made clear until Christ came and the Holy Spirit revealed the truth to the apostles and prophets when they wrote the Bible. So that is what a mystery is.
There are thirteen mysteries of this sort in Scripture. There is the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the gospel (Eph 6:19), the mystery of the faith (1 Tim 3:9), the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4; Col. 4:3), the mystery of God (Rev 10:7), the mystery of His will (Eph 1:9), and the mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16), the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess 2:7), and the mystery of the seven stars (Rev 1:20).
The mystery Paul is talking about back in Ephesians 5:32 is the mystery of marriage.
There is a mystical connection between a husband and wife that goes far beyond just a physical connection. You can see this in marriages that last a long time. Have you ever noticed that in some marriages, after forty or fifty years of marriage, the husband and wife almost look like twins?
This indicates something far beyond just a physical connection. There is more involved here than just two people living together or co-habitating. There is something deeper. Something more wonderful. Something inexplicable. There is a mystical and sacred connection between a husband and a wife.
But there is also a mystical connection between, as we see in Ephesians 5:32, Christ and the Church. Since the church is made up of individual Christians, we could maybe also say that this connection exists between Christ and the Christian. And since Paul is comparing this to the marriage relationship, then there must be similarities.
Just to use the one similarity I mentioned above, have you ever known a faithful man or woman who has been a Christian for forty or fifty years? Just as a husband and wife married that long start to look alike and act alike, so also a veteran Christian often has a joy and a sparkle in their eyes that makes you think of Christ.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to look into the eyes of Jesus? I think it would be very similar to looking into the eyes of one of these dear old saints of God who have walked with Him for years and years.
So you see, a husband and wife have a mysterious connection. Jesus and the church have a mysterious connection. And these two relationships are also mysteriously connected.
That is what people in the Old Testament did not realize. Marriage was designed by God from the beginning to be a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church.
When God created Eve, He was planning to use her as a symbol of the church. I don’t think it is accidental even that God formed her from a rib in Adam’s side. This could possibly be tied to how Christ’s side was pierced, and water and blood flowed out of it. And we know from Scripture that by His blood we are healed.
We could also point to the fact that Eve was the one who was deceived. 1 Timothy 2:14 tells us that Adam was not deceived. Have you ever thought about this? If Adam was not deceived, then He sinned intentionally. He absolutely knew that what He was doing was sinful. And, since He was not deceived, He knew it would not make him like God. He knew that death would result.
So why did he do it? Why did he eat the fruit?
Well, some scholars suggest that when Adam saw what Eve had done, he was confronted with a choice. He could have said, “Woman, are you ever in a lot of trouble. Stay away from me. You are about to receive divine judgement!”
Or he could have done exactly what He did do. Fully knowing that what he was doing was wrong, and fully knowing what the consequences would be, he chose to share in her destiny! Some scholars say that out of love for her, he decided not to let her go into God’s judgement alone.
Now, that is what some scholars believe. In one regard, I don’t really like it because it makes Adam’s sin seem somewhat noble. It makes us think, “Oh, what a great guy that Adam was when he rebelled against God.”
But on the other hand, I like it, because that is exactly what Jesus did for us. We were sinful and headed for impending judgement, and what did He do? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He became sin for us.” Jesus fully knew the consequences of coming to earth as a man and dying on the cross in our place for our sin. But He loves us so much that, like Adam, He didn’t want us to face God’s wrath alone.
But where Adam failed, Jesus Christ succeeded. We deserved death, but He died for us. This is why Jesus is called the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45). He corrected what went wrong with the first Adam. And all we have to do to receive this blessing is believe in Jesus for eternal life.
And all of this is a picture of marriage. Adam and Eve’s relationship before the fall and after the fall is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church before He came and after He left. And similarly, even today, a successful marriage built on these God-given principles is a picture, and a reminder and a testimony of Christ’s relationship to the church.
Which explains to a large degree why the marriage relationship is under attack by our adversary the Devil. Just as Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage before they sinned, and Satan came in and ruined all of that, Satan also wants to ruin you from having the perfect marriage.
He knows it is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, and he wants to mar that picture as much as possible. He marred it in Genesis 3 with the first couple, and now he wants to mar it in your life as well.
Christ gave marriage as a picture to the world of what He wanted to do for the world through Christ. But when marriages are destroyed, so also is the picture. In other words, keeping and maintaining your marriage should be one of your highest priorities. Through a Godly marriage, unsaved men and women can learn about Christ’s love for them.
So to help you have a Godly marriage—a marriage made in heaven—Paul concludes this section with two rules for a good marriage. We’ve looked at the marriage created by God, the picture of the church in marriage, and now finally, we want to look at the two rules for how to have Godly marriage.
How to Have a Godly Marriage: Two Rules (Ephesians 5:33)
Paul ends this section of instructions for marriage by summarizing the whole thing.
Ephesians 5:33. … and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Rather than talk about respect here— which is important to give to your husband—I’m going to change the translation and then we’ll talk about that. Respect is an okay translation of the word, but I do not think it is the best.
One of the reasons I believe it is not the best is because forms of this same Greek word are used over 100 times in the New Testament, and it is never translated as “respect” except in this one case. So why did the translators choose the word respect here? Because of what the word is.
The word for respect here is phobos. Does that sound familiar? We have phobias, right? A phobia is when you are afraid of something. So the word which we have translated here as respect is actually the word for fear!
So really, to be accurate, the translators should have written, “And let the wife see that she fears her husband”!
Whoa! Women, do you fear your husbands? This is why the translators didn’t translate as it normally is translated. They were trying to soften what Paul was saying. But Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to use this word, and so we must not soften it. Rather we must take it for what it says, and try to understand what Paul was saying in context.
So let’s do that. He says that the wife should fear her husband.
Now in all honesty, I, as a husband, hope that my wife does not fear me. I don’t want her to fear me. I don’t want her to be scared of me. So what is Paul saying?
Well, as always, remember the context. What did we learn last week about fear? Look back up at Ephesians 5:21. Paul began this whole subject of mutual submitting by telling each one of us to submit to one another and then what? In the fear of God.
And what did we learn? This fear is not a “shaking in our boots” type of fear. It is not a “divine judgement” fear. It is a loving fear. It is fear of disappointing God. It is fear of grieving God. Why do we fear disappointing God? Because we know that He loves us.
This type of fear is a response to love. So while the wife is supposed to submit to her husband even if he does not show love to her—submission is unconditional—here we see that there is a condition for fearing her husband. She fears him only if he loves her. She fears disappointing him only when she knows that he has her best interests in mind.
Clint Eastwood, after his divorce, said that there is only one way to be happily married … and as soon as he figures out what it is, he’ll get married again.
I respect him for that. But if he was here today, I’d tell him, “Clint, go buy a ring. Here is the one way to be happily married. God created marriage, and here in Ephesians 5:33, He is going to tell us how to be happily married. He is going to tell you have to have a match made in heaven.”
Ephesians 5:33 lays out two rules for the married couple. One for the husband, one for the wife. It’s that simple.
Rule number 1: Husbands, love your wife as yourself. We saw this in Ephesians 5:25-30. Love her sacrificially, for the purpose of sanctifying her. When you do this, you are also loving yourself. That’s rule number one.
Rule number 2: Wives, respect your husband. We talked about this back in Ephesians 5:22-24. It means to fear your husband, but has the idea of submitting to Him because you love him.
And those are the only two rules in marriage. I think sometimes we get all caught up in the difficulties of marriage, and throw up our hands in frustration. Maybe we go down to the Christian book store to buy the most recent book on how to have a good marriage. And we read it and if we are not overwhelmed with all the things we have to fix, we try a few things, and they might work for a while, or they might not, and so we try another book, or we attend this lecture, or that seminar or if things get really bad, we go to marital counseling. But often, if things don’t improve, we simply throw up our hands in frustration and quit.
Now I’m not trying to bash all marriage books and seminars out there. I have two or three shelves of marriage books, many of which are very good, and I’ve attended a few conferences as well.
The point I am trying to make is that we must be very careful who we allow tell us what to do in our marriages. Paul’s teaching on marriage is not like the teaching in most marriage manuals. In fact, in some of the marriage books I have, which purportedly come from Christian authors, I had trouble finding a single Scripture reference in the whole book!
Paul’s instructions here are very simple. Men, love your wives. Women, respect, or submit to your husbands. That’s it. And I’ll tell you what. If both the husband and the wife can do both of these things, they will have a Godly marriage.
It won’t be easy all the time. In fact, these two rules, though simple to state, are much more difficult to consistently obey. But I believe that if, by the influence of the Holy Spirit in your lives, you are able to obey these instructions, you will have a marriage that is a genuine picture of Christ’s love for the church and the church’s service to Christ. You will have a marriage made in heaven.
 Swindoll, Tale of Tardy…361.
 Joel Gregory, Preaching Today Tape, “Motherhood and the Sovereignty of God” Gen. 27:1-13, Ex. 2:1-10, First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. Tape #92.
 Lloyd-Jones, 223.
 Swindoll, Strike the Original Match, 31.
 Missler, 63.
 e.g James Dobson, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives (Waco, TX: Word, 1980). This is a good book, but must be read with handfuls of salt.