We want to continue thinking a little more deeply about God’s plan for an excellent marriage. And if you give careful attention to this study, I believe, it can change your life.
We saw in our last study, that God should be between a husband and wife; only God for them to be bound together throughout their life on earth, because God is the greatest binding force in the universe. If anything else comes in between; money, parents, job, children, there is going to be confusion. Should you honour your parents? Definitely! But don’t let them come between you and your marriage partner. Should you take care of your children? Yes, you need to sacrifice for your children, do many things for your children, but don’t love your children more than you love one another. That is not God’s will. Many parents love their children more than they love each other. They disobey God. I am talking about believers here.
There is no relationship, spoken of in the entire Bible, as close as the relationship of a husband and wife. You know about the example used in Ephesians Chapter 5 that the husband is the head of the wife, in what way? Not like the head of an organization. Do you know the difference between the head of an organization and the head of a physical body? The head of an organization may not have any interest in the members in that organization. But the head in your physical body has a very living interest in every part of the physical body, every member. That is the will of God.
So the relationship between a husband and wife is pictured, in Ephesians Chapter 5, as, as close and as intimate as the relationship between your physical head and the rest of your body. Can you think of a closer relationship than that? – Your physical head and your physical body. That is the closest, most intimate of relationships one can think of. Even a father and son are not described in the Bible as head and body. Mother and daughter are not described like that. No! Parents and children are not described like that. It is only a husband and wife. That is the closeness with which God wants a husband and wife to live. In other words, you should love one another more than you love every other relationship. If you love your children more, you are destroying your marriage. If you love your parents more, you are destroying your marriage. If you love your job more, you are destroying your marriage.
Even if you love your ministry more, you are destroying your marriage. When I said you must put the Lord first, don’t misunderstand that it means you must put the Lord’s work first. No, there is a difference between the Lord and the Lord’s work. Many people don’t understand that. There are people who ignore their wives, saying, ‘I am doing the Lord’s work.’ What’s the result? Their marriage gets destroyed, and finally their so-called Lord’s work also gets destroyed. That is not God’s will. How should our spiritual life be built?
Let me use a picture of a three-storey house. Consider you are building a three-storey house, a ground floor, first floor, and a second floor, or a 1st storey, 2nd storey, 3rd storey. The first thing you build is the foundation and the foundation is God’s perfect love for us revealed in Jesus Christ. On that foundation we must build. There is no other foundation. On that foundation we, first of all, build the first storey or the ground floor whichever you call it. The first storey is our own personal walk with God. That means your relationship with God where you walk in the light, you keep your conscience clear, and you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit telling you where you need to cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. That is the first storey. Whether you are married or single that is the first storey, you have to build that first. Once you build that, or as you are building that, you go to the 2nd storey. What is the second storey? The 2nd storey, if you are married, is your relationship with your wife. So after we have built a relationship with the Lord, we seek to build a relationship with our wives. That is the 2nd storey, our home relationship. Then we come to the 3rd storey, which is our ministry, the church, for example.
If you are an elder in a church, you know what it says as one of the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 is? He must have a good home. He must be the husband of one wife and he should have brought up his children properly. Why? Read that verse carefully, ‘‘If a man cannot control his own house, how will he control the church?’’ (1 Tim. 3:5). So which comes first – House or church? You know that it is very clear from this verse – your house is first. You first control your house then you will be able to control the church. If you can’t control the house, you can’t control the church either. So the ministry comes after your family. That is God’s word. God comes first, then my home, and then God’s work. Then I have a base on which to do God’s work.
This is where the devil has destroyed so many people. He has made them concentrate on the Lord’s work. What is the result? Their children are unconverted, go astray. They fight and quarrel with their wives at home, and they are doing God’s ministry. It is a disgrace. I believe such people should resign from God’s ministry and sit at home, and build a relationship with their wives and their children first. Now I am not saying that your wife has to be spiritual before you serve the Lord. There are many people who have served the Lord with unspiritual wives including great men like John Wesley who had thoroughly carnal and probably even an unconverted wife. But as regards to your attitude to your wife, you are in control of. It must be one of perfect love even if she is the most evil person in the world. If your attitude to your wife is not one of love, you cannot do God’s ministry.
Whether you have good relationships or not, of course, is a two-sided affair, and if there is no cooperation from the other side you may not have a good relationship. That is another thing. But from your side, you must always be willing to humble yourself, always be willing to wash her feet. The Bible says that, like Jesus loved the church, the husband must love his wife. What should the husband do? Be willing to wash the wife’s feet. In other words, be willing to do dirty jobs for you wife. That is what Jesus did for the church. How many times does Jesus forgive the church – millions and millions of times? How many times should a husband forgive his wife- millions and millions of times? Infinitely! This is what it means to love your wife as Christ loved the church. If you want a happy marriage follow the Maker’s instructions in Ephesians 5:22-33.
What about wives? In fact, the command to wives comes before the commands to husbands. If you are a wife, what does God tell you to do? Read carefully. ‘‘Be subject to your husband’’ (Eph. 5:22). Then verse 24 tells you how to be subject. It is very interesting, ‘‘As the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their husbands in every single thing.’’ How does the church obey Christ, obey the Lord? Not with argument and strife and reluctantly but joyfully in everything. So, unless your husband tells you to do something which is contrary to the word of God, in which case you must obey God and not your husband. In all other areas a wife should obey her husband. That is the teaching of the word of God.
Now I want to give a warning here. The great danger, even in Christian families, is that the husbands take a verse like this and address it to the wives and use it as a hammer to hit their wives on the head with. They keep saying, ‘See what the Bible says – You must be subject to me.’ Now note carefully husbands, the Bible does not say, ‘husbands get your wives to submit to you.’ No. Your job is only to love your wife as Christ loved the church. That is all. And let me say a word to you wives also. There is no verse in scripture which says, ‘wives get your husbands to love you as Christ loved the church.’ But that is how some husbands and wives understand it. They go to a passage like this and the husband is reading what the wife should do, instead of reading what he should do. The wife is reading what the husband should do, instead of reading what she should do. Then there is absolute confusion. Just like in the Garden of Eden. Adam began to point the finger at Eve. God said (let me paraphrase God’s words), ‘‘What is the cause of the problem?’’ Adam points his finger at his wife and says, ‘‘She is the cause of the problem.’’ You see, that started at Genesis 3, pointing the finger at the wife, and saying this whole problem started with her and then indirectly blaming God; ‘‘This is the wife you gave me. What can I do?’’ So he doesn’t take the blame himself. And then God asked the wife, ‘‘What is the cause of the problem?’’ She pointed her finger at the serpent and said, ‘‘That is the cause of the problem, the devil. The devil caused it. I mean it is not my fault, the devil did something.’’
I want to tell you dear friends, as long as you are blaming each other and blaming the devil, you will just be thrown out of paradise. That is what happened to them. God sent them both out of paradise, because they were not willing to take the blame. They sinned. What was Adam’s sin? He didn’t take his place as the head of the home there. When Eve was eating that fruit, he should have stopped her and said, ‘That is wrong.’ But he stood there silently. The first husband was an effeminate husband. He couldn’t take his place as the head of his home. When husbands don’t take their place as the head of the home, there is confusion in the home. When wives don’t take their place as the helpers in the home, but start taking the leadership like Eve took in the Garden of Eden, again the devil comes in this confusion.
So we need to stop blaming one another. If you are a husband, say, ‘Lord, my duty is not to find out what my wife has to do. My duty is to love her as Christ loved the Church.’ And if you are a wife you need to say, ‘Lord, my duty is not to find out what my husband has to do but to be subject to him.’ If each of you can do what God wants you to do, instead of being a busy body and finding fault with your partner, saying, ‘He is not doing what God has told him to do’, there can be peace. There will be continued confusion. Why not start taking the blame yourselves, humbling yourself from today. And experience that excellent marriage God wants to give you.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.