What is Family Equipping?

Text: Ephesians 4

Main Point: Pastors should equip parents, families should build up the church, and singleness is better!

As a church, we are looking for a family pastor. The family pastor is an elder whose primary responsibility is to equip the families of this church to evangelize and disciple their children. The church and the family work together to fulfill God’s command to reach the next generation. Concerning the profound connection between the church and the home, Michael McGarry wrote, “Youth ministry is for adolescence. The family is for life. The Church is for eternity. Therefore, a biblical theology of youth ministry must be primarily anchored in the Church, for this is the true family to which all Christians eternally belong. The family’s significance is profound because it is a living metaphor for the Church. [This means] youth ministry is poised as a bridge to connect the Church and the family in their efforts to co-evangelize and co-disciple the next generation” (79).

Think about it from this angle: Who’s job is it to reach your coworkers? What is the church’s role in reaching your neighbors? Reaching your coworkers and your neighbors is straightforward because until you reach them, they will not even show up here with us. Your coworkers and your neighbors are your responsibility. We exist to equip you and help you reach your coworkers and neighbors. But what about our children? What about the unbelieving children among us? Our Sunday school was full this morning of these children. Is evangelizing and discipling your children only your responsibility? Is evangelizing and discipling a job best left to the professionals at church?

I want to show you today that evangelizing and discipling children is primarily the parent’s responsibility with the church coming alongside. Before salvation and church membership, parents have sole authority over the child. After salvation and joining the church, parents and the church share authority over the child, with the parents as the primary disciple makers and the church as the child’s new responsibility for ministry.

Thinking back to your neighbors and coworkers, if you win your neighbor or coworker to Jesus, then you should disciple your neighbor or coworker teaching him/her to follow Jesus. Undergirding this discipleship will be the ministry and authority of the church. If you win your child to Jesus, then you should disciple your child teaching him/her to follow Jesus. Undergirding this discipleship will be the ministry and authority of the church. My main point today is pastors should equip parents and families should build up the church. And with this emphasis on marriage and family let’s not lose sight of the fact that marriage is good, and singleness is better. To the Word and to the testimony! Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-16.

I. Our goal is all of us looking and living like Jesus

I don’t mean all of us should look like first century middle eastern men; that would be weird. What I mean is every Christian must continually grow in Christlikeness. Each of us should think, speak, spend, rest, work, love, and serve more and more like Jesus. We get our marching orders from Ephesians 4:13. Each of us must work until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The church’s goal is to push you to become more like Jesus. This means

  • We all need to grow up

Look again at Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

When I was a kid, I had an enormous head. Looking back, I had a lot of head injuries and I think it was because my head was too big for my body. I was awkwardly top heavy and I had to grow into my head. Every baby is born this way. I did some fast and dangerous internet research and at birth a baby’s head can make up a quarter to a half of it’s overall length. Physically, we all have to grow up into our heads. The same holds true for us spiritually, we all have to grow up into our Head who is Christ the Lord.

Every one of us has a calling and a gift that will help the members grow up to look more like Jesus. Some gifts will be used when we gather together as a church. Other gifts will be used when we go out into the world. Whether we are gathered or scattered, we must get into the details of one another’s spiritual maturity. We must help one another grow up. Our goal is unity as each one of us grows to be like Jesus and each of us helps others grow to be like Jesus. You have been gifted by the Spirit for our growth.

The way we help one another grow up is we all speak the truth in love while using the gift the Holy Spirit gives us. Verse 7 says, “but grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Here’s how that works, your gift provides an opportunity to speak the truth in love to others. Your gift may be administration, faith, wisdom, knowledge, hospitality, evangelism, teaching, leading, or giving. Your gift is not an end in itself. Using your gift will provide an opportunity to speak the truth in love to others so that they grow to be more like Jesus.

So, are you using your gift? If you are using your gift, are you talking about Jesus as you use your gift? Every member, young or old, rich or poor, single or married, with or without children, has a gift according to Christ’s grace that should be used to help others leave behind gullible childhood and move into Christlike maturity. Your goal is to help us grow up.

As we are thinking about a family pastor, let’s think about pastors’ work.

  • The pastors’ work is equipping the members

If you are confused about what your gift is, or if you don’t have an opportunity to use your gift, then that’s on us as pastors. Please let us know what’s going on with you so we can try to equip you for ministry. Call us or text us. The elders’ numbers and email addresses are on the back of the bulletin so you can connect with us.

Ephesians 4:11 and 12 give a huge piece of an elder’s job description. Look at Ephesians 4:11 and 12 with me, “And Jesus gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Pastors exist to help you do your work. Your work, your service, is directed toward helping us grow in Christlikeness. Your ministry is building up the body of Christ.

Now let’s clarify the ministry. Unfortunately, “the ministry” has been hijacked and held hostage by pastors so that we talk about “going into the ministry” and being “called to the ministry” in such a way that the ministry becomes only something pastors do. Next thing you know, the ministry is the same as preaching. So, if you are going to do the work of the ministry that means you have to preach.  It is a dangerous oversimplification to think that the ministry is only preaching because it would mean ministry only happens when a pastor preaches. No, the ministry, is the work every member does to help others grow in Christlikeness. So, ministry plays out like this: preaching and teaching is part of my ministry, but it is not necessarily a part of his. Administration is a part of your ministry, but it is not necessarily a part of hers.

I think in terms of the church gathered and the church scattered. God commands us to gather together as the church to meet with him in worship. Jesus holds out the promise of his presence to the gathered church (Mt 18:20). We gather as the church to seek Jesus’ presence and exercise his authority. We scatter, each possessing the Spirit of Christ, to do the individual work of discipling one another. Jesus gives elders authority to oversee this gathering and to oversee the ministry the members do when we go out into the world. The use of my gift on a Sunday morning is one part of the beautiful diversity of all of us using our gifts throughout the week. The sheer number and power of all our gifts forces us to realize we must not limit what it means to do ministry to Sunday mornings. The time it takes to mature in Christlikeness means we need more than a couple hours a week. Growing in Christlikeness takes more than a few men; we must all do our part. You see,

  • The members’ work is building up the church

What did you do this week to help another member grow in Christlikeness? Maybe you shared a word of encouragement. Maybe you met a physical need. Maybe you offered comfort when a member was suffering. Maybe you helped fix a problem. Maybe you corrected or rebuked a member who was in error. Maybe you strengthened the weak knees of a member who our loving Father was disciplining. Maybe you rejoiced and celebrated with a member. Maybe you helped a member set up a budget or stay on budget. Maybe you prayed and struggled and wrestled for a member who was struggling with temptation. Each member and every day holds out wonderful opportunities to help your brothers and sisters. We need to keep saying this truth

  • We all have service to offer or ministry to do

Use your gift so that the church is built up. Do your service so that the church is built up. Do your ministry so that the church is built up. From the youngest member to the oldest member, we all have been called, gifted, and sent to work. Look back at Ephesians 4:15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

We all do our ministry speaking the truth in love, so that the body builds itself up in love. Thinking about Vacation Bible School this week it is a priority that we teach children the Scriptures that will make them wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). It must also be a priority for each of us to work in such a way that we love one another more at the end of the week than we do today. We work so that the body builds itself up in love.

As the church, our goal is for each of us to look and love more and more like Jesus. Our interactions, our conversations, and our responses to one another either help move all of us toward Jesus or away from Jesus. So, how will you act and speak so that your fellow members look more like Jesus after VBS?

Ok. Let’s look now at the specifics of how the church and family relate. I think we need to expand our definition of “the ministry” to include the family.

II. Family is a ministry

We need to take Ephesians 6:1-4 to the church and we need to take Ephesians 4:11-16 to the house. Let’s first consider

  • The church’s role in Ephesians 6:1-4

Turn over to Ephesians 6:1-4 (read it).

The Holy Spirit gave these commands to the family as a part of the church. Remember, the Letter to the Ephesians was written to a church. It is in the gathering of the church that these truths were originally read and applied to the members. The church understands that children are to obey their parents and therefore the church must teach and encourage children to obey their parents. Teaching children to obey Jesus’ commands is the reason we need to tell children “you need to obey your mom” or “you need to obey your dad”. Our job is not to watch as children disobey, and our job is not to usurp the parent’s authority by contradicting the parents’ commands. Our job is to teach and help children obey their parents.

So, when a teenager comes to you complaining about his/her parents, what should you do? Speak the truth in love, encourage that teen to grow up into Christlikeness, and help that teen obey his/her parents.

It is also true that a child who is a Christian, who is a member of the church, will also be subject to church discipline for willful and repeated sin. The church’s role in Ephesians 6:1 is to teach obedience, encourage obedience, and be ready to build up the body through church discipline when there is repeated disobedience. Under the old covenant, a child could be stoned for repeated disobedience (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Now, under the new covenant, a Christian-child should be removed from church membership for repeated and unrepentant disobedience. The church has a role in teaching, encouraging, and disciplining children who are church members.

What about fathers and parents? Ephesians 6:4 is written to fathers in particular and parents in general (see Hebrews 11:23). Just as the church must equip children to obey their parents, so also the church must equip parents to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Just as the church exercises its authority over a child who is a church member, so also the church exercises its authority over a father or mother who is a church member. Known, repeated, and unrepentant sinfulness among singles, married couples, parents, and children calls for discipline precisely because we are called to help one another grow in Christlikeness.

So, the church must strive to help fathers become more Christlike. The church does not take the father’s role (unless he is an unbeliever). The church equips the father to fill his role. The expectation, dads, is that you will be teaching and correcting your child. Husband and wife are to work together to accomplish the mission of raising children who know the Scriptures that will make them wise for salvation. When a child is born again, mom and dad, are to take the lead in teaching that child to become more and more like Jesus. The church’s role is to encourage, equip, and discipline parents as they seek to fulfill the glorious ministry of family. Knowing this, we are looking for an elder who will take the lead on equipping parents for the ministry of family.

Ok, we took Ephesians 6 to church. Now, let’s take Ephesians 4 to the house. Think with me about

  • The parent’s role in Ephesians 4:11-16

Shepherds and teachers exist in the church to equip you for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ. This word “ministry” means service; it is to render assistance or help by performing certain functions (Louw-Nida 35.19). The ancient office of a steward was an easy illustration of this principle. The steward was entrusted with the owner’s resources and given authority to act in the owner’s stead. The steward was expected to perform certain functions. If you have a child, you are called to raise your child so that the church is built up. We should parent with an eye on building up the church; this is a parent’s stewardship.

Parents, let’s think this way: your child ultimately belongs to God who created the child. The role of parent has been entrusted with authority from God for the purpose of bringing up the child in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. The goal of parenting is to see your child joined to Christ and maturing in Christ as a member of the church. Our goal is to see each child working properly so that he/she makes the body grow. Our desire is to raise sons and daughters who build the church up in love. Our goal for our children is the church, to be interwoven into the body so that growth in godliness is given and received.

So, daily family worship becomes a means by which children are evangelized so that they will become members of the body of Christ. Once a child is born again, family worship becomes a means of daily discipleship where worship and obedience are modeled and taught.

What then is the church’s role? The church needs to equip moms and dads to disciple sons and daughters who give themselves to the ministry of building up the church. Also, the church needs to come alongside and reinforce the teaching that is happening in the family. Only when a parent is weak or an unbeliever, does the church need to step in (hopefully for a short time) to fill the role of primary daily discipler.

Now to summarize,

  • Family equipping is equipping parents who build up the church through the ministry of the family

We are looking for a family pastor because we understand the family as an important ministry and parents need to be equipped to fulfill their ministry. As the number of families has grown in the church, the work of equipping families has also grown. Therefore, we want to give a pastor the authority and freedom to focus on equipping families. The office of elder gives authority, and the responsibility for families gives freedom and focus.

So, now what do we do with all this? Pray for wisdom, discernment, and unity as God leads us to his man to fill this role as an elder. Pray for parents. Moms and dads are struggling to raise sons and daughters who are of the church and not of the world. Parenting is hard. Pray for us, encourage us, and help us. And finally, do your ministry so that your brothers and sisters look more and more like Jesus. Gather brothers and sisters around your table. Meet up with brothers and sisters to talk about the Bible and to learn how to follow Jesus.

This is a call to help and seek the help you need to do the ministry God has given you.

Discuss the Church and Family

  1. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and unity as we seek God’s man for our next family pastor.
  2. When have you seen the church and family work well together to reach and disciple students? How can you encourage these things in our church?
  3. In what sense is youth ministry a bridge between the family and the church?
  4. How do you view the work of the church? Do the members exist to support the pastors as the pastors do the work, or do the pastors exist to help the members as the members do the work? What model is biblical?
  5. How have the members helped you grow in Christlikeness? How are you helping the members grow in Christlikeness?
  6. Seeing every member as needing to grow in Christlikeness can easily turn into sinful pride. How do you see the needs of your brothers and sisters, meet those needs, and avoid pride in yourself?
  7. When have you hurt the church by speaking the truth without love? When have you helped the church by speaking the truth in love? How can you be more loving and helpful with your words?
  8. What is your spiritual gift and how are you using that gift to help the church grow to be more like Jesus?
  9. How do you explain the church’s role in the family? Take Ephesians 6:1-4 to church.
  10. How do you explain the family’s role in the church? Take Ephesians 4:11-16 to the house.

Discuss Baptism & the Lord’s Supper

  1. What was it like to be baptized? Describe your baptism.
  2. Why is it proper to understand baptism as a kind of washing? How does the washing happen?
  3. The main point of baptism is union with Christ by faith. If you are a Christian, what do you enjoy most about your union with Christ?
  4. The church is the body of Christ. Can you be united to Christ but not be united to His body?
  5. Why does union with Christ lead to joining a church?
  6. Read Acts 2:38. What did Peter say we will receive? Did you receive the Holy Spirit? How do you know?
  7. Did you have fellowship with Jesus through the Lord’s Supper today? In what way?
  8. Did you have fellowship with Jesus’ church through the Lord’s Supper today? In what way?
  9. What about Jesus’ life and work stood out to you today? How did you remember and give thanks?
  10. Jesus will return soon. What do you look forward to the most about his return?

Jesus of the Bible

Doctrine is vital because it is impossible finally to separate Christ from the truths which Scripture reveals concerning him. There is no other Christ than the Christ who is known through the truths and doctrines of the whole Bible. He comes to us, as Calvin used to say, ‘clothed in his gospel’. Hence loyalty to his person inevitably involves commitment to the truths about him. And conversely, carelessness or indifference concerning these biblical doctrines is a form of disloyalty to his name and unconcern for his honor.

Bruce Milne, Know the Truth, 14

Toward a Biblical Church

Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

Main Point: The church, the body of Christ, is a core piece of your identity.

The church is not an event we go to. The church is a glorious body we are a part of. My goal today is to move the church from an optional addition on your life to a core piece of your identity. For many of us, the church is the parmesan cheese of life. But listen, to be a Christian is to be joined to Christ and to be joined to Christ is to be joined to his body. The word of God makes Christ and his body the center of our lives both now and forever. This is who we are: we are united to Christ by faith. As the body of Christ, we constantly face this big beautiful problem: we are all different. We are all different and without love, these differences become annoyances. And annoyances left untreated will become bitterness and division. No matter the relationship (be it marriage, family, or church), big problems are coming when we stop loving people and start being annoyed by people. So, my goal is to show you that these people are not obstacles to your ministry, these people are in fact your ministry.

Unfortunately, we don’t usually think about the church this way. We think about joining a church like Texas joining the union, “Y’all need me, and I can leave anytime. So you better behave.” Worse yet, Christians think about the church the way the world thinks about marriage, “It’s outdated and unnecessary.” But if we are thinking biblically, our approach to the church should give radical shape to our approach to marriage. Healthy marriages are the overflow of healthy churches because healthy churches are the overflow of our vital union with Christ. What I am driving at is your core identity is your union with Christ and not your union with your spouse. Your union with your spouse, expressed in marriage, is temporary. Your union with Christ, expressed in the church, is eternal. More than an event our families go to, the church is a relationship that defines and shapes the family. To be the church is to be united to Christ.

So maybe the problems in our marriages and families are actually tied to problems in our union with Christ and with one another. When we get the big and eternal wrong, expect to get the small and temporary wrong. To put it in Ephesians 5 terms, if you get Christ and the church right then you are well on your way to getting husband and wife right. So, the church does not exist to point to the greater glory of husband and wife. Instead, marriage exists to point to the greater glory of Christ and his church. So, for life and joy and unity and maturity, let’s seek to understand and believe what God says in his word about Christ and his church.

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

The glory and good of the church can be great temptations because

I. We are different (4:1-3)

Some of us are married and some are single. Some are widowed and some are divorced. Some are young and some are old. Some come from healthy families and some come from dysfunctional families. We are different and

  • We are all in different situations (v 1)

What is Paul’s situation in verse 1? Paul is a prisoner for the Lord. What is the situation for the members of the church in Ephesus? They are not prisoners for the Lord. Paul was a single man but many in the church were married. Some were wives for the Lord, some were husbands for the Lord, some were children for the Lord, some were slaves for the Lord, and some were masters for the Lord. Like what we see in 1 Corinthians 7:24, the goal of Christianity is not to give everyone an identical situation. The goal is for everyone of us, in our different situations, to do all of life with the Lord.

Ephesians 4:1 tells us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. God has called you to himself. In Christ Jesus, you have been predestined to live and look like Jesus. In Christ Jesus, you have been forgiven of all your sins, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and given the promise of eternal life with God. To walk worthy of the calling is to walk worthy of our union with Christ. In Christ Jesus we are made glorious sons and daughters of God; live like it in all that you do. In the old hymn we admonish one another to take the name of Jesus with you. Live out your union with Christ at home, at work, and in the church. Speaking of the church,

  • Our differences demand certain rules of engagement (v 2)

How are we to live out our glorious union with Christ as his body? Look at Ephesians 4:2, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”

I will be tempted to think I am better than you, so I must put on humility. I will want to be harsh with you, so I must put on gentleness. I will want to be impatient with your weaknesses, so I must put on patience. I will want to kick you to the curb, so I must bear with you in love. Simply put, I must treat you the way Jesus treats me. I must give you the grace I have received.

Oh, and you will be tempted to think you are better than me, you will be harsh, you will be impatient, and you will want to write me off. Our differences are annoying and at times infuriating. Put on humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Jesus empowers these gifts in us precisely to overcome our differences.

  • Our differences demand we eagerly maintain our unity (v 3)

Have you worked hard to make something perfect? Maybe you eagerly work on your free throws, your batting stance, or your follow through. Maybe you work on this procedure, that recipe, this speech, or that program. As Christians, as the body of Christ, we are to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus and unites us to one another. This unity of the Spirit, this shared life in Christ, must be protected. We are so different, the fact that we share the Holy Spirit must be what keeps us together and keeps us coming back together.

Bryan Chapell says, “I must look behind the eyes of one who has hurt me or is mad at me because he believes the offense is mine, and I must see [the Spirit] indwelling” (186). What is the most important thing in this church? What do you prioritize? We must prioritize the Holy Spirit that brings all of us different people together into one body. We must look for and prize the Spirit in one another. Yes, we are different. But,

II. We are one (4:4-6)

Look at verses 4 through 6 with me.

  • It is God who brings us together

The Trinity is all over these verses. Our unity is a trinitarian unity. We see in verse 3 that our unity is of the Spirit. There is one body and one Spirit. Here we must strive against cliques and division. We do different types of work. We spend money differently. We do family differently. We listen to different music. We eat different food. We dress and do our hair differently. But there is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. We are different, but we are all heading to the same place. Church listen, there is only one heaven and there is only one new earth. Our hope is not a Baptist heaven and a Presbyterian heaven and a non-denominational heaven. Our one hope is glorious perfect joyful unity around the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

There is one Lord and he is Jesus Christ. There is one faith: Jesus is the only way to the Father. And there is one baptism, and it marks your entrance into the church. There is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. We must look behind one another’s eyes and see the Spirit indwelling. We must listen behind one another’s words for the mind of Christ. We must notice behind one another’s deeds God ruling over all, through all and in all.

To walk by faith in the church is to believe the Father, Son, and Spirit are animating, forgiving, redeeming, and transforming everything about that brother or sister. For this reason, because God is in all, we must practice regenerate church membership. Only those people who are united to Christ, filled by the Spirit, and adopted by the Father can be members of the church. Anyone and everyone is invited to come and see but only those who are united to Jesus can become members. We are one with Christ and we must eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Demand and cultivate regenerate church membership; our unity depends on each one of us actually being Christians. United to Christ, each one of us has received grace from Christ and

III. Each member is given grace to work (4:7-12)

We move now into verses 7 through 12. We are different (verses 1-3), we are united (verses 4-6), and now we see our differences again. Read verses 7 and 8.

  • Jesus gave each one of us a gift (vs 7-8)

To be a Christian is to be given a gift won by Jesus and delivered by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:7). When you receive the Spirit of Christ that unites you to Christ then you are given a gift by the Holy Spirit to build up the body of Christ. Look at verse 7. Each one of us is given grace. More than grace that forgives our sins, we are given grace to accomplish God’s will. After Jesus defeated Satan through the resurrection, Jesus bound him, and took him captive. Like a conquering King returning to his people and passing out gifts, Jesus returned to his Father and passed out gifts.

When King David brought the ark back to Jerusalem, he blessed the people and distributed among all the people, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins (2 Sam 6:19). David gave gifts to the people. After King Jesus died and rose again, he ascended to heaven and poured out his Holy Spirit on all flesh. Each one of us has been given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. All of us are gifted for and essential to the church. But this is not because of us. Our essential quality and giftedness are bound up in Jesus.

  • The conquering Jesus fills all things (vs 9-10)

Look at verses 9 and 10 with me.

These two verses identify two truths about Jesus. First, Jesus came from heaven to earth. The descension of Jesus, the coming down of Jesus, is from heaven to earth. Second, Jesus returned to heaven from earth. The ascension of Jesus, the going up of Jesus, is from earth to heaven. Yes, this includes the humiliation of the cross. Yes, this includes Jesus going to proclaim victory to the spirits kept in chains. But the main point of verses 9 and 10 is that Jesus descended to earth and ascended far above all the heavens so that he might fill all things.

As God, Jesus shared in the sovereignty of God. In Jeremiah 23:24 God asks, “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord.” God as God is sovereign over all things and all places. Now, because of the resurrection, the Son of God, the great head of the church, rules over all and fills all. It is glorious and true that God as God rules over all and therefore rightly judges all and condemns all to hell. It is glorious and redemptive that Jesus as the conquering King rules over all and restores all who believe to God. The fact that you and I have anything good has everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with ourselves. Put on humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Our King, our righteousness, our salvation rules over all and in all. Trust Jesus, the conquering King fills all things. He is our unity, and he gives various gifts.

  • Church leadership is one set of gifts (v 11)

Now we are in Ephesians 4:11, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

The apostles and prophets are the foundation for the church (Eph 2:20). They saw the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor 9:1), performed the signs of true apostles (2 Cor 12:12), and spoke with the authority of Jesus. The offices of apostle and prophet, these gifts, no longer exist today. They ceased when the foundation of the church was laid. Evangelists and pastor-teachers continue. Evangelists work outside the church to bring in to the church and pastor-teachers work inside the church to equip the church.

The point is, Jesus did not make every person an apostle. Jesus did not make every person a prophet. In the same way, Jesus does not make every person a pastor. Yes, we all evangelize, and we all proclaim God’s word, but not all receive the gift from Jesus to fill these particular offices. Church leadership is one set of gifts and church leadership has a particular purpose

  • Pastors support the members (v 12)

Look at verse 12. Why does Jesus make some men pastors? To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

A common misunderstanding is that church members give financially to support the pastors so the pastors will do the work of building up the church. When a need arises in the church, it is not uncommon for the members to look at the pastors and say, “Go do it, that’s what we pay you for.” Thankfully, this is rarely said among us and it has not been said in a long time. We have a more biblical understanding of the church. The church, the saints, do the ministry and the pastors equip the saints to do the work. Pastors teach you to do so that you can go out and do.

My struggle here is that it is easier and quicker to do the ministry than it is to equip you to do the ministry. Which one is easier, to tie a child’s shoes or to teach a child to tie her own shoes? Believe me, it is easier to tie a child’s shoes but like I tell my girls, “I’m not going to college with you, you have to tie your own shoes.”

Dale and I are working on growing as elders who equip. Please pray for us and please ask us for help. Pastor, how can I share the gospel and make disciples? How can I reconcile with this person? How can I bear with others? You see,

IV. Our work is to mature one another (4:13-16)

A fundamental truth assumed by verses 12 and 13 is each member is an active part of the body. It is assumed that since you are united to Jesus and therefore united to his body, you have received grace to work. These verses assume you are in fact working among the other members. The goal of verse 13 is to clarify what it is exactly that we should be building up. The question is what are you working for?

  • We all work to move one another to the fullness of Christ (13)

We are all called to make disciples and we are all gifted to make disciples. We pastors equip you to work, verse 13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Your goal for everyone of us is that each one of us will look exactly like Jesus. Everything you do as a Christian for other Christians must be done for the goal of helping those Christians become more like Jesus. You are here to disciple us.

We do a thousand things a week. We will work. We will host a family funeral meal this week. We will open our homes to one another. The youth and families will go to the Chambers’ house on Wednesday. On Thursday, there will be a men’s bible study and women’s bible studies. We will meet one another at the park, on the lake, at a restaurant, and at a coffee shop. Why? Our goal in all of these must be to help one another become more like Jesus. You are a part of this church to help others become more like Jesus. We all work to move one another to the fullness of Christ. And

  • We all work to move one another out of immaturity (14)

No one naturally moves into mature productive sacrificial adulthood. Everyone naturally wants to live with their parents and eat their parents’ groceries. We naturally want to be Peter Pan. It takes seeing the glory of God to want to become like Jesus.

Verse 14 tells us why we disciple one another, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” God puts babies in families so those weak and immature babies can be led to grow up. God puts Christians into churches so those weak and immature babies can mature. God’s goal is we all become like Jesus.

In the church, we need to be telling one another to grow up and we need to help one another grow up.  

  • We mature one another by speaking the truth in love (15)

How do you saints do the work of ministry so that we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ? What does verse 15 say? We speak the truth in love. Listen, your gift does not exist simply to provide for others so they can speak the truth in love. Jesus won your gift, and the Spirit gives your gift, so that you will share the truth of God’s word with your brothers and sisters for their growth in godliness. The way to be a healthy church member is to grow in the word so that you have the word to share for the building up of others.

Funeral meals and youth hang outs and Vacation Bible School are merely vehicles through which we bring the word of God to bear on one another’s lives. Listen, Satan and his demons want to keep you out of the word so you will not be equipped to do the work. You cannot speak the truth if you do not know the truth. We must be a constant-word people. Read, study, memorize, meditate on, and share God’s word in order to build up Christ’s church. Here’s what we need.

  • We need each Jesus-joint to lovingly do its work (16)

If you have the word, Satan wants you to be mean about it. Being jerks for Jesus, just saying, is not ok. Instead, when we each are speaking the truth with love it causes the body to grow up in love. Picture this church with me. Every member is looking at Jesus and every member is depending on Jesus. We are a constant-word people who are bearing with one another in love, and we are speaking the truth to one another in love. When the whole body is moving toward Jesus and helping move one another toward Jesus then the body grows. When every joint of the body is drawing nourishment from Christ and giving that nourishment to one another then the body grows. Picture me depending on Jesus and giving Jesus to you and picture you depending on Jesus and giving Jesus to me. When we love one another like this the church builds itself up.

The church is not the parmesan cheese of life. The church is not an optional addition if you have time after doing all the important stuff. Being a part of the church means helping your brothers and sisters get more of Jesus. Being a part of the church means your brothers and sisters help you get more of Jesus. More than an event you go to once a week, the church is a body that you belong to for all of eternity. Think less about programs and think more about helping your brothers and sisters become more like Jesus. Think less about serving once a week in the church and think more about consistently speaking the truth in love to the members of the church.

Let’s join our brother with the faith and hope of these words from Ephesians 3, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).

Discuss Ephesians 4:1-16

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How necessary or important is the church to your everyday life?
  3. What are you doing when you walk worthy of your calling? How do you know when you are walking worthy of your calling?
  4. When have you seen the differences between people in the church produce great good?
  5. How do you look for and prize the Holy Spirit in others?
  6. In what ways does practicing regenerate church membership help maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
  7. Why is it good and necessary for Jesus to fill all things?
  8. Who are you actively working with to help him/her become more like Jesus? Who is working with you to help you become more like Jesus?
  9. Concerning mature Christianity, what is it about you that is not like Christ? Where do you see immaturity in your life?
  10. What needs to change in your life so you can consistently share the word with your brothers and sisters? What needs to change so you can make more disciples?

Dealing with Gossip

I try to share this article every time we have a new members’ class. The article is that good and that important. Every member needs to be equipped to stop church killing gossip.

This time around, I want to encourage parents to sit down and discuss the article with their children. We need to teach our children what gossip is, why gossip is dangerous, and how to deal with gossip as Christians.

Let’s get to work.

Toward Biblical Family

Text: Deuteronomy 6                                                            

Main Point: The goal of the family is multigenerational faithfulness.

Last week, we learned that marriage has three main purposes. Marriage is for multiplication, marriage is for joy, and marriage is an everyday living picture of Christ and his church. Today we want to hone in on the family. Once multiplication happens, once a child is born, what are we to do? My main point today is the goal of the family is multigenerational faithfulness. The goal of family is to work and pray and sacrifice and teach for the salvation of the generations to come. We the church must work together to strengthen the family.

Read Deuteronomy 6

I. The purpose of the family is multiplication

But more than simply maintaining the birthrate, God’s people are concerned with filling this earth and the new earth with image bearers. So, we affirm two truths. One, every human possesses intrinsic worth because he/she is made in the image of God. Two, only those who are looking at Jesus are being transformed more and more into his image. The goal of the family is to raise up generation after generation of men and women who love Jesus and look more and more like Jesus.

  • Multi-generational faithfulness is the goal of God’s people

In Deuteronomy 6:1-3, Moses is telling the people why they need to hear the commandments of God. One reason, from verse one, is so that they would do what God commands. And you cannot do what is commanded if you do not know what is commanded. Since God expects his people to obey, we need to constantly hear and be reminded of God’s expectations. We are a constant-word people.

From verse 2, another reason Moses is sharing God’s commandments is so that there would be multi-generational faithfulness. Look at verse 2, “that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life.”

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 then gives a commentary on what it means to teach your son and your son’s sons to fear and obey God. It means to teach them about the power of God. Teach them about the signs and wonders of God. Teach them both the great and the grievous. Do not hold back on teaching your children about the love of God and do not hold back on teaching your children about the wrath or anger of God. The subject that should be discussed most often in our cars, around our tables, in our kitchens, and on our couches is the glory of God. We want to raise up generations that live in awe of God.

The key is to teach both justice and love in equal quantities. Don’t overemphasize love to the exclusion of wrath and don’t overemphasize wrath to the exclusion of love. Teach them that in the same act of God the Egyptians were punished but the Hebrews were blessed. Teach them that the work of God that brought death to the Egyptian people brought life to the Hebrew people. Teach them that God commands us to fear him for our good, to preserve us, and to provide righteousness for us if we hold fast to him. We are a teaching people.

What I want you to see now is who you are supposed to teach. Teach your son and your son’s son. That means no one in the church is ever done with children’s ministry. Your role may change, but the person who refuses to teach the next generation is the person who is living in disobedience to God. God’s will is for the older generations to teach the younger generations. So, concerning families, what are we after? We are after multi-generational faithfulness. Why are we after multi-generational faithfulness? Because God commands it for our good. Why is multigenerational faithfulness good? Because it fills the earth with men and women being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.

Your house, your car, and your career will one day be scraped off, crushed, or phased out. The souls in your family and in this church will live forever. The generations that come after us will live forever. When you look at your children and when you look at the children in this church do not see just them. See that child and think of that child’s children then make it your heart’s desire that they all walk with God. Now I want us to look at

II.How to make multi-generational faithfulness our goal

  • To be faithful you must pay attention to God

If God gives us grace, faithfulness in the next generation comes through faithfulness in this generation. A faithful generation is made up of people who worship God and disciple the next generation; worship God and make disciples.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is called “the Shema”. Shema is a transliteration of the Hebrew verb “to hear”. It means to pay attention, “to listen closely for the purpose of obedience” (McIntosh, 85). God’s people are about to run head-first into a culture hostile to their own. The Canaanites will try to convince the Hebrew people that the Canaanite way of doing things is better than God’s way. Our neighbors and friends and coworkers will try to convince us that their way of doing family is better than God’s way.

God’s people must listen to God because we want to know the God who is full of glory and love. And let’s be clear, multi-generational faithfulness will not come by merely listening to God Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Multi-generational faithfulness comes by listening to God all day every day. And how does God speak to us?

God speaks to us through the bible. Are you paying attention to God? Do you hear him speak daily to you, your son, and your son’s son? As a husband and wife are you listening? As a family are you listening? As a church are we listening to God? To be a faithful people we must be a hearing people, a Shema people. And

  • To be faithful you must know God

Verse 4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who has made himself known in Jesus Christ is the only God. God alone is God. God exists in perfect unity, in oneness, and as one. So, money is not god. Comfort or ease is not god.  The God who is three persons Father, Son, and Spirit is the one God. And God is God in perfect unity. God is unique, there is no other, and God in himself lacks nothing. Be in awe of God.

And the unity, the oneness of God, is not a theological axiom to be tucked away in our nifty little bag of things that are true but not useful. The oneness, the unique nature of God, and God’s sole claim to deity is meant to control our hearts’ affections and our minds’ thoughts. God is worthy and sufficient for all of life for every generation. Knowing God through Jesus Christ is the inheritance we long to pass on to your children.

Do you have eternal life? This is eternal life, knowing God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3). Have you seen the glory of God in Jesus Christ such that you love him? You can today. Repent to God, believe in Jesus Christ, and you will have eternal life. To be faithful you need to pay attention to God, know God, and

  • To be faithful you must love God

Look at Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

This string of words, “heart, soul, and might” is meant to encompass all that you are. Love for God is a matter of the heart’s emotions, the soul’s desires, the mind’s intellect, and the potency of the will. The greatness of God is reflected in the worthiness of all-encompassing devotion. God is worthy of all of you.

God is worthy of all love because of who He is in and of himself. He is God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and there is none like him. Jesus upholds all things, and he alone is preeminent over all things. God is worthy of love because God is supreme, he is the greatest good. And God is worthy of all love because of what he has done for us by loving us, forgiving us, making us righteous, and reconciling us to Himself through Jesus. Our love for God is always a response to God’s majesty and love for us.

The question for the family is this: are we giving our children an accurate picture of God who alone is worth all your heart, all your soul, and all your might? Are we pursuing career and money with all our heart, soul, and might then giving the leftovers of ourselves to God? Are we pursuing school and sports with all our heart, soul, and might then giving the leftovers of ourselves to God? May we read, sing, and pray as a church and as families in such a way that we delight ourselves more and more in the greatness of God. This delight will work out into obedience.

  • Obedience is a product of heart change

Look now at Deuteronomy 6:6. God says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

Obedience is tied to seeing glory. You will obey that which you see as wonderful. You will obey what you love. So, God’s commandments were never meant to be left on stone tablets. God’s commandments were meant to be written on our hearts. And God writing his commandments on the heart is a new covenant promise. Hebrews 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Obedience is not simply a matter of the will. Obedience is a matter of the heart which guides and often overpowers the will. It is out of love for God and his truth that we parent our children, love our wives, and submit to our husbands.

Jesus said, “if you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience is an expression of love. Submission is an expression of love. Dying for your wife is an expression of love. Parenting is an expression of love. Multigenerational faithfulness is a product of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do we see the loveliness of the one true God so that his name is always on our lips?

You might be thinking to yourself right now, “I thought this was going to be a sermon about family.” I thought I was going to get a list of helpful tips to get my child to stop back talking, clean her room, make the grade, and get a good job. But that’s the world’s pattern. God’s pattern is that mom and dad first live as a grace filled flesh and blood illustration of the gospel, Dad like Christ and Mom like the church. Your kids need to look at you and see two people who love God and out of love for God obey God. Our children need to look at us and get a glimpse of glory. We are a pointing people.

Turn now to Deuteronomy 6:7-9 (read it)

III. When multi-generational faithfulness is your goal, you will teach the next generation

Now, who is the “them” that we must teach diligently? We know the answer from verse 2, we must teach our sons and our son’s son. ‘Them’ is your children and your children’s children. If you want to finish this life with faithfulness, then invest yourself in others who are not your age. The family suffers when different generations are segregated. The family is blessed when different generations come together and follow Christ. This is one reason we need you to come on Wednesday nights this summer and share your story. Sign up to share your testimony and invest in the next generation. Now,

  • What does it mean to teach them diligently?

This word ‘teach’ is often used in reference to arrows or knives and in that context, it means to sharpen. And you sharpen a weapon so it can effectively do its job. You want an arrow to pierce and tear. You want a knife to cut swiftly and easily. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb are a reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

God expects every warrior father to sharpen his children by constant training and diligent teaching. The faithful husband does more than physically provide for his wife and kids. The husband must disciple his wife, the father must disciple his children, and in the church the older generation must disciple the younger. That can be scary. But remember men, you are meant to be discipled so you can go and disciple others. Men were not made to lead their families alone, but as an integral part of the church.

So, it is not enough to work hard to pay someone else to train up your children. God requires that moms and dads, instruct their children daily and diligently. God placed Adam in the garden to work it and keep it. Dad, God placed you in the family to work it and keep it. Get your hands dirty in the details of your child’s heart. Get your sword ready to fight off the evil that is after your family. Men were made to nourish and guard.

Dad, it is your calling to regularly lead your family in times of worship.  Dad it is your calling to daily bring the glory of God to bear on the lives of your children. No child is an accident, and no one is a parent by accident. God has called us to a spiritual task and in Christ we will be given the grace and strength to joyfully complete the calling. Only by relying daily on Christ will we be able to lead our families.

Commit today to lay the foundation in your life on which you can build a strategy to teach your children. Here’s what must happen. We as parents must cultivate a heart of love and gratitude to God in ourselves so that our growing faith will spill over into our conversations with our kids. And we must be specific concerning what we want our children to know, and we must be intentional to teach them.  Here’s the big picture.

To teach them diligently is to use every opportunity to pass on your love for Christ to your children and the children of the church. We don’t commit to passing on rules. We commit to passing on love and worship and obedience. Every conversation is an opportunity to move them closer to God or closer to the world.

The picture painted by Deuteronomy 6 is one in which mom and dad are living all of life with God and are working and praying and teaching so that the coming generations will do all of life with God. Seeing the glory of God we call those around us to come and look and delight with us. Seeing the glory of God in all of life fills all of life with conversations about his worthiness. We need more glory, more glimpses of God’s hand in everyday providence and provision. May God increase our delight in our daily bread. Mom and Dad, a simple step toward everyday teaching is gathering at the dinner table everyday, without screens, to talk and celebrate and pray.

I want to close with this reminder. Mom and Dad, there is perfect grace in Jesus Christ to cover every sin you commit in relation to your children. Mom and Dad there is perfect strength in Jesus Christ to hold you up as you follow God and teach your children. Seek him for strength. Parents, God’s expectations are very high, but His grace is more than sufficient for you. You are not alone. God loves you and it was God’s plan for you to be a parent. Let’s commit ourselves today to trust the God who made us parents. Let’s trust that he will give us the grace we need to be faithful parents.

Discuss the Family

  1. What do you understand to be God’s purpose for the family? How can your family become more inline with God’s purpose?
  2. If you created a pie chart of all the topics you discussed with your children (family or friends) over the past week how much of that pie chart would be devoted to God and living by faith?
  3. How are you doing when it comes to hearing God? Are you listening to God, to your own desires, or to the world? What about your family? What is your family listening to?
  4. You may have given careful thought to passing on a financial inheritance to your children and grandchildren. What would it look like for you to give careful thought to passing on an eternal inheritance to your children and grandchildren?
  5. When do you feel like you are loving God with all your heart, soul, and might? How can you encourage this love in your family?
  6. When has your love for God empowered you to do something difficult or costly? Do you see the connection between love and obedience?
  7. How do you get God’s word onto your heart? your child’s heart? your grandchild’s heart?
  8. Parent, what is your child’s job (think purpose) and how can you better sharpen them for that job?
  9. Are you seeking to disciple your family alone or as an integral part of the church? What is the difference?
  10. When have you trusted your own wisdom and strength to lead your family? When have you trusted Christ’s wisdom and strength to lead your family?

Toward Biblical Marriage

Toward Biblical Marriage

Text: Genesis 1; Song of Solomon, Ephesians 5:22-33

Main Point: Marriage is for multiplication and joy. Marriage is a metaphor.

If last week was a plug for singleness, then this week is a plug for marriage. Throughout history, the church has swung between extremes. On one hand prizing singleness through the veneration of virgins, monks, nuns, and priests such that only singles are serious Christians, and on the other hand exalting marriage such that single people are seen as failures, inadequate, or incomplete. We must avoid both extremes by affirming that marriage is normal and good while singleness is better. We must all honor marriage (Heb 13:4) and affirm the good of singleness (1 Cor 7:38).

Let us affirm loudly and clearly that being a human means being made in the image of God. Being human does not demand a particular ability or experience. Just as the Christian is not more human than the non-Christian, so also the married person is not more human than the single person. Singleness and marriage are different callings. Let’s go back to the beginning, back to Genesis 1:26-28, and see what we can learn from it about marriage. Read Gen 1:26-28

I. Male and female are made for multiplication (Genesis 1:26-28)

I read this week that theoretically God could have made us like amoebas who have everything they need to multiply in themselves. Amoebas multiply by fission, by splitting in two. God could have set us up to multiply by Adam copying himself over and over and Eve could have multiplied by copying herself over and over. But God, in wisdom, chose to create humans such that male needs female to multiply and female needs male to multiply. What we must not miss is God created us so that the relational is an essential part of multiplication. Let’s move beyond the physical to the relational.

  • Marriage is for multiplication

God gives Adam and Eve a command, there is a purpose for their diversity and union, verse 28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Look over to Genesis 2:23 and 24, “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Marriage creates a new family; the man and woman leave their parents and hold fast to one another. Male and female come together to form one new entity. Male and female come together sexually in marriage and they become one flesh. A new family is created. A stable and strong environment is created for multiplication. This means the command to be fruitful and multiply is to be fulfilled in marriage. Marriage is for children because more than simple offspring, we are called to produce image bearers. Reproduction and teaching are bound together. The safety, intimacy, unity and long-term commitment of the marriage covenant is the God-given environment where children are to be created and raised. Our marriages are meant to possess a unity and strength in which children grow to understand themselves and God. Marriage is a place where children understand more of who Jesus is and how Jesus loves by watching daddy love mommy. Marriage is a place where children understand more of who the church is and how the church works by watching mommy love daddy.

So, it is right to say “marriage is for multiplication” but this is far from all that must be said. I’ll try to unpack the great good of marriage when we look at how marriage is for joy and marriage is a metaphor. For now, we need to be clear that God created us male and female for the express purpose of reproduction. It is therefore, normal for men and women to want to multiply. The desire for sexual intimacy is a good and normal desire. So, we must take the advice of Song of Solomon, “do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). Love, relationship, intimacy, and sex must be kept together in marriage. Singles, whether you be 17 or 70, don’t stir up love until you can give it it’s honor and safety and joy in marriage.

Now, seeing that we are made male and female for multiplication

  • Marriage is for most

I mentioned Matthew 19:9-12 in passing last week. It is worth reading here today. Jesus gives us a gut check, “I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples understand the stakes and so reply, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” The disciples see the extreme commitment of marriage and propose that the majority should be single. Listen to Jesus’ reply, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only to those whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

The eunuch is one who does not reproduce. And the reason the eunuch does not multiply is because the eunuch is celibate. Get this, the standard for marriage is so high that the disciples propose its better to remain single and celibate than to marry. Jesus’ response is that not everyone can hear this. We all are commanded to be fruitful and multiply and some are given a calling to singleness. From 1 Corinthians 7, singleness is better, but marriage is normal and for most. Most of us will get married and a good number of us will be single.

I was sent a helpful podcast this week on singleness[1] and in that podcast Sam Allbery confronts us with the reality that

  • We will all either die or be single

If you are currently single, you may remain single for the rest of your life. If you are currently married, and you both don’t die in some freak accident at the same time, then one of you is going to be single. What do you want your single life to look like? How can you encourage and build up and learn from our singles? It is morbid but helpful to realize that we are all heading toward either death or singleness. Now, on a happier note

II. Marriage is for joy (Song of Solomon)

And

  • It is good to enjoy love (2:2-7; 4:9-10; 8:6-7)

Three passages from Song of Solomon demonstrate that love can be exciting. Look first at Song of Solomon 2:2, she is speaking, “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love. His left hand is under my head and his right hand embraces me! I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.”

Then to chapter 4:9-10, he is speaking now, “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”

One more in chapter 8. Again, she speaks in verse 6, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”

Love is good and love is to be enjoyed. This is true among family and friends as well as in marriages. But sexual intimacy, two becoming one flesh, is to be protected and enjoyed only in marriage. Think about the security and safety that goes into the Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant. All that concrete and water and all those regulations and guns serve to protect the process whereby uranium is split. Nuclear fission is powerful and good in the right situation. Think about marriage and becoming one flesh. God created marriage as the only safe place where a man and a woman can enjoy this kind of love. When a man and a woman become one flesh a deep and intimate bond is formed. This bond is a great blessing in marriage, and it increases and encourages the intimacy of friends. Outside of marriage, this one flesh bond is dangerous sin and can encourage unhealthy dependence and intimacy that isn’t safe for those who are not married. The one flesh union is powerful and broken only with great pain. The one flesh union is powerful and meant to bring great joy. Let marriage be held in honor by all and may the marriage bed be undefiled (Heb 13:4).

Marriage is for multiplication and joy. Above both multiplication and joy

III. Marriage is a metaphor (Ephesians 5)

One main reason God created marriage is to fill the earth with living illustrations of what Christ is like and what the church is supposed to be like. So first,

  • Marriage is about union (28-32)

Turn to Ephesians 5:28. Let’s read Ephesians 5:28-32, “so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Remember back to 1 Corinthians 6:17 and how becoming one spirit with Jesus must order and direct the way we interact with other people. The Christian’s union with Christ directs his/her union with others. Union with Christ is fundamental and gives direction to every other union. This fundamental and formative union with Christ is what we are looking at in Ephesians 5:28-32.

Look at Ephesians 5:30. We are members of Christ’s body. To believe in Jesus is to believe in Jesus for life and to receive that life from Christ himself. To believe in Jesus is to believe in Jesus for strength in our suffering and to receive that strength from Christ himself. To believe in Jesus is to believe Jesus loves and cares for us (married or single) and we receive that love and care from Jesus himself. We are joined to Jesus by faith and Jesus nourishes and cherishes us.

Just as spiritual union happens by faith in Jesus, so a physical union happens through the covenant of marriage; the woman doesn’t become the man’s body, neither does the man become the woman’s body. The two become one flesh whereby the wife has authority over the husband’s body and the husband has authority over the wife’s body (1 Cor 7:4). A man leaves his father and mother, takes a wife, and the two become one flesh. This is crazy and it is ultimately about Jesus and the church.

I think we struggle so much in marriage because we understand and enjoy so little of our salvation. If marriage is meant to be an illustration or example of salvation, and if we don’t understand or enjoy much of our salvation, then we will understand and enjoy even less about our marriages.

And I do not propose that we study salvation so we can have better marriages. Instead, I propose that we study salvation because marriage is temporary while our union with Christ is eternal. Let’s dig deeper into the depths and riches of Christ’s love for and union with us so that we can enjoy Christ’s love for and union with us. Yes, the more we depend on Jesus, our momentary marriages will get better and be better pictures, but this good is only the byproduct. The heart of the matter is we, not just you by yourself, but we the church are united to Christ, loved, and nourished by Christ.

So, we struggle in marriage because we expect our spouses to love and nourish us with a depth that only Christ can. That dude going to work and then sitting on the couch is not going to complete you. The lady is not going to get you there; she’s not supposed to complete you. Jesus is better. We read our Bibles every day and we pray because we need love and strength and nourishment from Jesus who fills us.

We are supposed to go and do marriage out of the help and strength that Jesus provides. Our union with each other then puts flesh on our union with Christ. So, your relationship with your spouse says a great deal about your relationship with Jesus. The more controlling and demanding we are with our spouses shows how little comfort, peace, and nourishment we get from Jesus. If Jesus isn’t in control, then we better be, but if Jesus is in control, then we can rest. The best thing that can happen to our marriages is for each of us to learn to depend more on Jesus and rejoice more over Jesus. This means discipleship is a necessary part of a healthy marriage because marriage is about union, union with Christ and then union with one another. Marriage is also about submission.

  • Marriage is about submission (22-24)

Men who are jerks drool over this verse, Ephesians 5:22, “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

In my experience, husbands who play the submission card on their wives usually hate to have the church play the submission card on them. But the way a husband submits to the church is a model of how a husband expects his wife to submit to him. Ephesians 5:21 is the call to submission in the church and Ephesians 5:24 makes it clear that the church’s submission to Christ gives shape to the wife’s submission to her husband. Husbands, do you want a submissive wife? Then become part of a submissive church.

Now, just as salvation is about following the lead of Christ the sacrificial and servant leader, so marriage is about following the lead of a husband who is a sacrificial and servant leader. Marriage is about submission and

  • Marriage is about love (25-27)

Look now at verses 25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Husbands, this is hard, the most important thing that we bring to the relationship is not our earning power but our love. It’s great that you put a roof over her head and food on the table; 1 Timothy 5:8 says some scary stuff to those guys who won’t work and provide. But the most important thing we give our wives is our love that sacrifices to make them more like Jesus. Marriage is not primarily about sexual love but about sanctifying love. If you are like me, you can affirm that the word and prayer need to become more central and more powerful in your marriage. May we repent of our selfishness and may God increase our love for our wives so that we give ourselves for their good. Men, marriage is about love, so I urge you to fulfill your calling

  • Fulfill the call to this momentary marriage (2 Cor 11:2)

Husbands, ours are momentary marriages, and we have a mission. The apostle Paul understood. He said this in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Paul looked at the church and felt a divine jealousy to get those souls to Jesus in all purity. Husbands, our goal is to present our wives to Jesus in all purity. Work is good but can easily supplant our calling to encourage, build up, and sanctify our wives with the word.

Husband, what do you feel when you look at your wife? Do you feel a divine jealousy to get your wife to Jesus in all purity? I think its safe to say, we as a church need to grow in our divine jealousy to get you to Jesus in all purity so that you can learn how to fight to get your wife to Jesus in all purity (see Colossians 1:28).

I close with this, maybe you are here today and your marriage is awful because Jesus is an afterthought to what you and your wife want. Listen, this momentary marriage cannot work with us at the center; your relationship will fly apart because we are insufficient. It is our union with Christ that forms the strength and joy and purpose that keeps marriage together. Maybe you are the prodigal, but you did not run to a foreign land, you ran into a marriage and you are starving. Getting out of the marriage is not the answer, getting back to Jesus is the answer.  And we want to help you. As we sing, come and talk and we can pray. Our email addresses and numbers are in the bulletin, call us or email us, and we will do what we can to present you to Jesus in all purity and strengthen you for your marriage. May God help us.


[1] https://jamieivey.com/hh386/