#BetterTogether Series 
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
4. We Are Loved [Ephesians 5:21-5:33]
  • Jesus’ love for the Church is the model for all relationships. Love and respect one another!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
    • The “new life” of the Church and all who are part of it is to be marked by mutual submission. (Ephesians 5:21)
    • The relationship of believing husbands and wives is to be marked by mutual submission as well. (Ephesians 5:22, 24 & 25, 33)
    • The essence of mutual submission is self-sacrificial love. (Ephesians 5:25, 28 & 33)
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does mutual submission in the Church look like?
    • What does mutual submission in Christian marriages look like?
    • Why is love the essence of mutual submission?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • It is crucial that believers in the Church submit to one another. Why?
    • What is the basis for mutual submission? What does it mean to have reverence for Christ?
    • Why is the marriage relationship a fitting picture for the relationship between Christ and His Church?
    • How are wives to relate to their husbands?
    • How are husbands to relate to their wives?
    • What did Jesus do for the Church. What is Christ going to do for the Church?
    • Describe “agape” love? (See Ephesians 5:23, 25-27, 29)
    • How are individuals in the Church to relate to one another in terms of mutual submission?
    • What is the mystery referred to in Ephesians 5:32? Why is it profound?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • What is the overall message of this passage from Ephesians?
    • List the characteristics of mutual submission from this passage. How should your church actually do these things? How should you do these things?
    • If you are married, describe your relationship with your spouse. How do you measure up with the principles set forth in this passage?
    • If you are married, what steps do you need to take to implement and practice the principles of mutual submission set forth in this passage?
    • As a member of the Church, what steps do you need to take to implement and practice the principles of submission set forth in this passage?
    • How are members of the Church one?
    • How do you treat yourself? How should that way be applied to treating others? (cf. Ephesians 5:28-30)
    • What does it mean for Jesus to be head of the Church? What does it mean to you?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
The “new life” in Christ that is to be reflected in and practiced by the Church and its members is, in a word, transformed.” And this transformed life is a life transformed from the inside – we have been made new, forgiven from sin, adopted into God’s family, given a new name; we are entirely new creations (II Corinthians 5:17). The Church, therefore, should look and act differently than the world in terms of how it lives out its “body life,” its life as a community. Paul has been expounding this truth in the prior verses, but in the verses covered by these Notes, he goes further.

Paul sets up these next verses by enunciating the controlling principle, namely submission. He writes that the community of believers are to be actively “submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) Clearly, Paul is referrning to relationships and how they are transformed in a way that is certainly counter-cultural not only to the day and age in which Paul lived but to all ages. The Greek word translated “submit” literally means “to place or rank oneself under” and it implies that such placing under is a voluntary act of the will (See the use of the same word in I Corinthians 15:20-28; James 4:7; I Peter 5:5). Submission thus means voluntary subordination to those worthy of respect because of their qualities or position or both. Within the community of faith, this submission is to be mutual and reciprocal. Therefore, “superiority” is out! Those in the body of Christ are to have the same mind and the same love toward one another (cf. Philippians 2:2), and to count others more significant than themselves (Philippians 2:3). And the model and example of such submission is Jesus who submitted Himself to God the Father (Philippians 2:5-8). The Church, then, is to be a fellowship of mutualy submitted people.

Paul then sets forth the marriage relationship of wives and husbands as a picture of this principle of mutual submission. In so doing, Paul is not intending to give an exhortation on marriage per se, though what he is about to say indeed sets forth solid principles about the marriage relationship and elevates it to the highest of high levels. But the point in the text is to provide a picture of how the Church is to function, and by using the picture of marriage, Paul is also elevating the life of the body to the highest of high levels. So how does the principle of submission work in marriage? First, wives are to submit to their own husbands “as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22). The wife's submission to her husband is thus effectively out of obedience to Jesus, in the context of God's view of marriage that the two individuals who marry become “one” (cf. Genesis 2:21-25), and is part and parcel of the order of life God has ordained for marriage, namely the husband as “head” of the wife just as Christ is the “head of the church.” (Ephesians 5:23) As the wife submits to her husband, He is her “protector” which is analagous (obviously not on every level) to Jesus as our Savior. So, the wife submits, that is, acknowledges her husband's authority, and seeks to please him in all respects, to trust him and his responsibility, all the while recognizing his and their obligations to Jesus (Ephesians 5:24). This, then, is how the members of the body are to act towards one another ... in submission (Ephesians 5:24), recognizing each other as more important than self, and that all are under the headship of Jesus and those He has appointed to lead in the Church (Ephesians 1:22 & 23).

But what of the husband? In the original Greek text, the construction of verse 21 indicates that the principle of submission applies to all including both wives and husbands. So, Paul doesn't have to repeat the point, Instead, he ratchets the responsibility level up big time for husbands by writing that they are to “love” their wives (Ephesians 5:25). The Greek word used for love in this verse is agape, and its meaning includes giving and sacrifice with the goal of perfecting the other. We know these characteristics are involved as Paul goes on to “define” love as being what Christ did for the Church, specifically giving Himself up for her in order to sanctify her (set her apart) once He had cleansed her (meaning purified her from sin through His sarifice on the cross) to ready her for presentation “without spot or wrinkle,” “holy and without blemish,” to Himself as King when He is in His glory, the risen Lord of all (Ephesians 5:25-27). Wow! What a standard for husbands vis-a-vis their wives! But again, the bigger point is the lesson for the Church which is that the members of the Church are to love one another in this way, knowing that Jesus has set us apart for His own, and cleansed and purified us by freeing us from our sin (as demonstrated and witnessed by the act of water baptism) (Ephesians 5:26). As such, the Church is the bride of Christ, and Jesus is perfecting her in unity (cf. Ephesians 4:3), each member of the Church being equally important as part of the bride, just as in marriage both the wife and the husband are equally important, the two having become one. In using this picture for the Church, Paul elevated the marriage relationship far above how it was considered in his day and age. Although under both Jewish and Greco-Roman law and standards, the wife had some rights, a wife was considered property, and at least the Greco-Roman approach was that the husband did not have obligations to his wife, even though monogamy was the norm. (For example, if the husband no longer wanted to be married to his wife, he could simply divorce her.) What these verses set forth regarding marriage, however, literally transform the marriage relationship and raise it to the level of the oneness of Christ and the Church whereby Christ gave Himself for the Church, and cares for it, and ultimately delivers it up to Himself as the bridegroom (Revelation 19:6-8; 21:2).

So, like Christ, the husband is to give Himself for his wife, nourish her, cherish her, set her apart, and present her as the “perfected” one. What a standard for the husband and for marriage; likewise, what a standard for the members of the Church in their relationship one to another – love and respect! And as if to cement the point, Paul writes that the husband is to love his wife as he loves his own body, himself! (Ephesians 5:28) Thus, a husband is to care for his wife just as he cares for himself (Ephesians 5:29), as he and his wife are indeed “one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31) Verse 32 says that “this mystery is profound,” meaning the mystery of Christ and the Church as, in effect, bridegroom and bride. The word “mystery” doesn't mean that the concept in these verses cannot be understood; rather it refers to the truth, now revealed, regarding what God is doing in Christ – that Christ is in us (the Church) the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), that the Church includes all who believe in Christ (Jew and Gentile!), that the Church is being united in and “married to” Christ to proclaim the gospel to the world, and that the Church will one day be redeemed and presented to Christ the risen bridegroom in heaven. The profound aspect of this revealed mystery is that the implications and application of this reality are deep and on-going, as here on earth, the reality of the relationship of the Church to Jesus is to play out in the relationships of individual members of the body of Christ one to another. (Ephesians 5:32) In the midst of that, all in the Church are to live out the reality and the transformed life they have in Christ one with another, and oh just by the way, husbands and wives are to do likewise (Ephesians 5:33).

Mutual submission; it's not the way of the world, but it is to be the way of the Church and all who make up the Church. It's an essential part of the new life, and it comes from our new natures and from what Jesus did to create the Church, bringing all of us into it by giving Himself, and from what He is doing to make us ready for glory. And it's based on love, the kind of love that gives, that sacrifices, that looks to the best for the other, that takes active steps to build the other and honor the other, and that in the end, puts self as the least important consideration. Yes, that's the way of the Church. And it's also the way of husbands and wives who become “one flesh” in marriage, mutually submitted to each other, and nourishing, cherishing and building each other up in love. That's the way of Jesus!