Last week we wrapped up Paul’s words in Ephesians, with parents’ duties to their children. Paul continues into slaves and masters with words like “obey; serve; deep respect and fear; please them all the time”. We don’t have slaves anymore, and even the slaves of America’s history we’re not the same slaves of the New Testament. Sometimes we feel like a slave to our spouse, to our children, or our children feel like slaves to us. Sometimes it’s implied in our relationships, especially from the husband to the wife. I appreciate that Paul continued talking about masters and slaves and used different words here. He didn’t use the precious word “submit”. Submission is a willing act, to give up our own for the benefit of others, slaves don’t have that option. Keep that in mind, we are not slaves to our spouses or families, we submit willingly.
Paul then goes into the infamous scripture on the armor of God, I suggest reading it and considering how you live that in your own lives. But for our time, we won’t dive into that.
Paul has set us up nicely, and we’ll launch from here into more on what the Bible says.
Let’s kick it off with Martial Unity and Marital Chasity.
The first, marital unity, might be obvious: husband and wife are one flesh. This is the whole point of marriage! To consecrate ourselves to our spouse, to separate us from all others and join with our loved one. This is the only life event that does this, only marriage makes two people and joins them as one.
‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Genesis 2:24
A lot of Christian weddings will reference this verse. Again, marriage is to make us unified with our spouse, to live life in unity. Paul in another letter shares the utmost importance of this unity.
‘But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.’ 1 Corinthians 7:10–11
It’s that important that if one does leave they should remain single! Marriage is so impactful, and so deeply intertwined in our being that we’re to be single if we separate.
Marriage is a blessing from God, it’s created by God, he’s the Author of marriage. As Christians, we believe that God has joined us to our spouses. Jesus reinforces this:
‘Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”’ Matthew 19:6
I think we can agree that marriage is permanent, ’til death do us part, that we should not divorce. However, divorce happens, doesn’t it? About 42% of marriages divorced in the US in 2017 (see https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage-divorce.htm). And since 2000, there have been over 15.5 million divorces in the US. Think of the amount of pain and hurt that brings. It’s devastating.
Why do you think the number is so high? Why do people divorce? What have you seen and experienced?
I wish I could have a silver bullet to fix this divorce issue. But there is one thing that we should seriously consider. If we lived marriages as Paul calls us to in Ephesians, would we divorce? Would it ever come up? If wives were submitting to their husbands and husbands loved their wives as Christ loved us, would we ever want to divorce? I can say from my experience in doing our best, my wife and I have never said the words, never considered divorce, since we were married 15 years ago. And I brag only in what Christ has done, far from what we have done.
One of the biggest triggers for divorce, rather one of the biggest factors to marital unity is marital chastity. What do you think that means?
Chastity is defined as “the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse.” It’s celibacy, abstinence. The things we teach our children. What’s martial chastity then? Refraining from extramarital sex, from having sex with someone else outside of the marriage. William Gouge explains it as:
Chastity of wedlock is that virtue by which the married parties, observing the lawful and honest use of marriage, keep their bodies from being defiled with strange flesh. — William Gouge
Great explanation from Gouge, however, in this day and age, are we simply limited to physical chastisement? Given opportunities on Facebook, in our work environments, and in our social circles, we can be emotionally detached from our spouse, breaking marital unity and chastity. Seeking people other than our spouses for emotional pleasures and comfort’s is equal to seeking others for physical pleasures and comforts. We can commit adultery without ever physically touching another person.
Adultery is a big deal, it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s the only way out of a marriage, as Jesus allowed:
‘But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.’ Matthew 5:32
Well, I guess death would be the other way out. So, there are two, two ways out of marriage.
Adultery is one of the 10 commandments. It takes one person to step outside of the sanctity of marriage and then become one with another. It breaks that marriage. God says two becomes one flesh, not three.
However, do we have to divorce if adultery has happened?
Think of what Jesus has done, think of what God has done for his rebellious adulterous, you and I, who leave him constantly, and commit adultery with our own pleasures and sin! My opinion is to avoid divorce and work it out if there are repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Like everything we do, we should aim to give God the glory, do what honors him. It may take time, it may be really hard to do, but it’s worth it because our marriages are a gift, a blessing from God.
‘The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord .’ Proverbs 18:22
Ladies, don’t rub it in our faces too much. But it’s true! And I believe it applies the same way for women who find a husband. Marriage is a gift, which should bring unconditional love, a helper, and of course sex (let’s get real, that’s pretty awesome). When we marry, we now live with another human for the rest of our lives.
Since we want long lasting, loving marriages, we should yearn to live in peace with our spouses, with our partners, our gifts from God. There are a few tips to pursue peace in our marriages:
- Avoid offending one another, no name calling, button pushing, etc. avoid things that you know may run them wrong, even if you’re okay with it, even if it’s not a sin. Your causing them to become angry is sinning. The longer we are married, the more we learn about that other person. Pay attention and try not to make them angry. Give up your own desires to be right and love them.
- If one is offended, it’s best to not aim to offend the other. Don’t fight back and try to bring them to your level. Do your best, pray, and remain the only offended one. Humble yourself and submit to them. Take a breather if needed, come back in humility and talk.
- Do NOT side with your children against your spouse. Period. Do not do it in front of the children, don’t do it in private. If you do disagree with your spouse, wait for when you’re alone and can tactfully discuss it.
- Don’t compare your spouse to another’s spouse. That’s just looking for a fight.
- In all things, aim to please one another. Look for ways to submit, to put the other first over your own needs.
Any other pointers?
Pursue your relationship with God, and that should overflow into your marriage.
Week 9 Discussion Questions
Hello! You’re the leader tonight, thank you! As you talk through the questions, please have someone read any scripture references.
1. Divorce sucks. Why do you think these statistics are so high? Do you think Ephesians 5 and 6, as we’ve been discussing over the weeks, is the answer?
2. We briefly discussed chastisement in our day in age, for example with Facebook. Do you agree that we can be un-unified with, separated from, our spouses due to technology? Why or why not?
3. What are some other ways we can be adulterous without being physical? Read Matthew 5:27–28.
A couple of topics to pray for:
- For God to reveal in our hearts where we bring strife into our marriages
- Strength to love our spouses in unity, love, and peace
1. What ways are you bringing peace into your marriage? In what ways are you bringing strife into your marriage? Pray and ask for forgiveness, and discuss with your spouse.
2. Read Matthew 5:27–30. Given the severity Jesus is putting on non-physical adultery, what things should you “gouge out” and “cut off”? (i.e. not your eye or hand, but what stuff, what activities?)
3. If you’re having a rough marriage right now, that might be better described as full of strife and turmoil, instead of peace and love, dive into what submission means in Ephesians 5. Pray for humility, selflessness, and guidance in restoring your marriage. Consider seeking a marriage counselor, it’s never too early, but it can be too late.