AGCC Sun. a.m. 5/26/2002
#5 (SERIES ON THE "CHURCH" FROM THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS)
"THE CHURCH - A BRIDE"
TEXTS: Ephesians 5:1-33
INTRO: No relationship on earth is more fundamental than the marriage relationship. Ultimately the very core of our culture and civilization rests on this basic institution. This is also why the religious and non-religious alike become alarmed when the marriage relationship breaks down or is in trouble.
Marriage is the most intimate of all relationships on earth, even above parent and child! When God wanted to express the love He has for His people He could not have chosen a more powerful image than to liken the church to being His bride.
A bride and groom are passionately in love, they can think of nothing else but each other, it is an obsession! Such is the love God has for His church, His bride … and what He desires us to have for Him. When we love like this our every thought and expression finds its way to God and about God.
ILLUS:During a long and losing baseball game, the restless 12-year-old players were questioning Ritchie, their assistant coach, about his attractive younger sister. Annoyed at the idle chatter, the head coach hollered, "When you're in the dugout, talk baseball!" After a moment's silence, a young voice began, "So, Ritchie, does your sister play baseball?" -- Jack Eppolito, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the church is like a bride, that God desires a covenantal relationship with each believer. The church is much more than an institution, and like marriage, the relationships are sacred to God.
I. THE INDIVIDUAL UNCOMPROMISING 5:1-20
A. Purity 5:1-14
1. Before Paul discusses the marriage relationship he discusses the individual's responsibilities before God.
a. One cannot have a good marriage if the individuals are not good!
b. It is critical to evaluate the other person before entering into marriage.
2. Christ wants His bride to live a pure life.
3. Paul outlines the responsibilities of the individual as a part of the bride of Christ.
4. Paul begins the positive aspects first:
a. "Imitators of God"
b. "Live a life of love"
c. "Sacrificial living" - Christ as example.
5. Negative issues to avoid:
a. "No obscenity."
b. "No foolish talk or course joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."
d. "Impure" and "greedy," or "idolaters"
6. God desires us to live "above" the standards of this world.
ILLUS:When an observatory is about to be built, the site selected is always on some high mountain. The aim is to find a place where there is a clear, unobstructed view of the heavens. Similarly, faith requires for its heavenly vision the highlands of holiness and separation, the pure sky of a consecrated life. -- A. B. Simpson in A Larger Christian Life. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.
7. We came out of such darkness, and as the bride of Christ we are to demonstrate a life worthy of Christ's love and cleansing.
a. God wants a pure bride.
b. Once we have been delivered from such sin we must not return to it again.
8. When we seek to marry someone we want to know that their heart is fully devoted to us, and that their previous corrupt lifestyle is over, they are ready to settle down in a committed loving relationship.
B. Prepared 5:15-20
1. A pure lifestyle doesn't happen by accident!
a. Paul tells individual believers to prepare themselves to live holy.
b. Paul says, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise." 5:15
2. One cannot live a godly life by accident or without planning to.
3. We must not be casual about sin in our own lives, it is critical to be careful.
4. In biblical days there were those who were sloppy about their commitment and they crashed their faith and relationship with God, so can we.
a. King Saul in the Old Testament threw away his relationship with God.
b. Judas was careless and paid a heavy price.
c. Demas had served God but then got careless … notice Paul's comment positively about Demas in his letter to the Colossians: Col 4:14 "Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings." … but later his comment to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:10 "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica."
5. We must not let our guard down!
ILLUS:In the movie Casualties of War, Michael J. Fox plays Private Erikson, a soldier in Vietnam who is part of a squad that abducts and rapes a young Vietnamese girl. He didn't participate in the crime.
Afterward, as he struggles with what has happened, he says to the other men in his squad, "Just because each of us might at any second be blown away, we're acting like we can do anything we want, as though it doesn't matter what we do. I'm thinking it's just the opposite. Because we might be dead in the next split-second, maybe we gotta be extra careful what we do. Because maybe it matters more. Maybe it matters more than we ever know."
Death, for all of us, is a breath away. And the nearer death is, the closer we are to answering to God for all we have said and done. -- Joel Sarrault in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
6. We must be uncompromising with sin, especially as the bride of Christ!
a. Before Paul addresses their marriage relationship he addresses who they are as individuals.
b. We don't primarily change much after we are married from what we are before marriage, at least not without great effort.
7. Paul returns to the positive at the end of his list here:
a. "… making the most of every opportunity, …"
b. "… understand what the Lord's will is."
c. "be filled with the Spirit."
d. "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."
e. "… always giving thanks …"
II. THE INDIVISIBLE UNION 5:21-33
A. Partnership 5:21-30
1. Paul now addresses human marriage as a symbol of the relationship of Christ with His church.
a. He begins by stating that they should mutually submit to each other.
b. This speaks of respect and love, not lording over one member, but caring for each other equally.
2. The passages that follow must be predicated on this verse first: Eph. 5:21 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
a. It certainly has been left out of conversations by some men who like to quote the next verse only, Eph 5:22 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord."
b. The idea of "submit" here is often misunderstood, FIRST, it is in the MIDDLE VOICE in Greek, meaning a voluntary desire or attitude to contribute, not by force or decree, but by volition. This is an act of love, submitting on the inside and not just the outside, it indicates a sense of safety and peace based on the loving character of the husband.
c. It is not a call for wives to be forced to submit.
3. There are 3 verses written to the woman and 9 to the man … where do you think the greater problem was?
a. The 3 verses cannot be stripped away from the command of Paul to husbands, for them to love their wife like Christ loved the Church!
b. A wife will find it a joy to submit to a man who loves her, sacrifices for her, and is willing to lay down his own life for her!
ILLUS:Try praising your wife even if it does frighten her at first. -- Billy Sunday, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3.
c. A husband won't have problems loving a wife who cares for his best interest either!
ILLUS:In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Ghost. -- Martin Luther. "Martin Luther--The Later Years and Legacy," Christian History, Issue 39.
4. Love seeks to free, not control. Christ loves His church, sets us free from sin's dominion, and free to love Him back with a heart that desires to submit to Him.
a. Husbands, your wife is your partner, not your enemy or servant!
b. Wives, your husband is your partner, not your enemy!
c. It is an amazing relationship, and powerful! Such is the church also!
5. Love levels the playing field!
B. Permanence 5:31-33
1. Marriage was meant by God to be a permanent relationship of husband and wife.
a. We leave our parents, but not our spouses!
b. We build our lives together, working together, loving together, and growing together in marriage.
2. This is the idea of "become one flesh" … a joining that is complete.
a. While Paul relates his comments here to a man and woman, he also states that what he says also applies to the "mystery" that is the church, the bride of Christ.
b. There is strength in being united … a power to live in a way beyond the strength of a single person.
ILLUS:One of the best things about our marriage is that neither of us has to be always right or always strong or always first or always smart, but between the two of us we find that we can handle almost anything. -- Donald and Robbie Joy, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 1.
3. The church is triumphant when united to Christ … not even Hell can prevail against the bride of Christ!
a. The mutual love and sacrifice will create a bond so powerful that all the demons in Hell cannot fight it!
b. Our earthly marriages should reflect the image of the heavenly one.
4. When we realize the power of the sacrifice Christ has made for His church we cannot fail to fall in love with our Lord!
a. He chose to die to be with us!
ILLUS:In Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley tells of a group of fishermen who landed in a secluded bay in Alaska and had a great day fishing for salmon. But when they returned to their sea plane, they found it aground because of the fluctuating tides. They waited until the next morning for the tides to comes in, but when they took off, they only got a few feet into the air before crashing back into the sea. Being aground the day before had punctured one of the pontoons, and it had filled up with water.
The sea plane slowly began to sink. The passengers, three men and a 12-year-old son of one of the men, prayed and then jumped into the icy cold waters to swim to shore. The riptide was strong, but two of the men reached the shore exhausted. They looked back, and saw the father with his arms around his son being swept out to sea.
The boy had not been strong enough to make it. The father was a strong swimmer, but he had chosen to die with his son rather than to live without him. -- Robert Russell, pastor and author. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.
b. The power of this kind of love is irresistible!
5. Both as the bride of Christ and as examples of marriage we are to live in such a way as to demonstrate the power of God's love and commitment to us.
a. Jesus one day will return for His bride!
b. Will you be ready to join Him forever in eternity?
CONCLUSION: The church is the bride of Christ. As such, Christ died for her, He has nurtured her, and He has put the needs of the church above His own. Christ loves His church passionately, and desires the church to live a pure life, thus giving testimony to the exalted position she has in this world. This relationship of Christ and His bride is a permanent one, the image of marriage presented from the beginning of time. The importance of this picture of the church as the bride of Christ speaks about relationships; we are not just an institution but the very bride of Christ.