Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Text: Ephesians 5:15-33
Living wisely in Community (v19-21)
Living wisely in marriage (v22-33)
The testimony of the wise
Good morning church. We are into the final 3 sermons of Ephesians.
As we are fully aware by now, the first 3 chapters give us Christian doctrine and the final 3 chapters Christian duty.
Right thinking will give rise to Doxology, that will lead to correct living.
As we look at the 2nd half of chapter 5, the first verse gives us the overarching statement:
Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
How we are to imitate and follow after God? Scripture says there are 3 ways.
From the first part of chapter 5, Dn Pang Wee shared 2 ways – to walk in love and to walk in the light.
Today, we see the 3rd way, that is to walk wisely. And to walk wisely, Scripture says is to walk by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
So Scripture describes the 2 traits of wise believers:
Firstly, we’ll be very conscious of time. For we know that we will have to give an account to God for the years He has given us.
Secondly, we’ll understand what God’s revealed will is for believers. We’ll seek to live efficaciously for God.
And these two traits I submit can be seen in the testimony I’ll share at the end of the sermon. (pause)
From v18, we see that Paul knew the first listeners well.
In that society, the wine-god Bacchus dominated the lives of many in society.
Alcohol we know is a depressant. It basically enables a person to lose self-control.
So Paul shares, a wise believer, in contrast, seeks to allow the Holy Spirit to fill the believer constantly. And when that happens, greater self-control is gained.
Why, because self-control is one expression of the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5: 23).
Thus being wise is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and being foolish is to be filled with alcohol.
Now since this is the practical part of the letter, Paul goes on to show what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
It’s not to be in a trance and mumble incoherently. But instead Paul describes what it means to live wisely in 4 areas.
Firstly in the faith community, next in marriage, thirdly in the family and finally in the marketplace.
We will look at the first 2 areas today.
Living wisely in Community (v19-21)
Believers are called to imitate God by walking wisely. And to walk wisely means being filled with the Spirit.
3 things will then be evident in a community of believers who are Spirit-filled.
Firstly, we will speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord from our hearts.
This seem to be a description of what we do at our Sunday service and in our CGs.
It means, a Spirit-filled believer seeks to joyously participates in the gathering of the local faith community.
When we sing ‘Because He Lives’ during service, look over to the family that just lost a loved one. Or someone you know who is going through a great challenge.
As they sing ‘Because I know he holds the future, And life is worth the living, Just because he lives’. They are living out the faith right before our eyes.
They are God’s ordinary means of grace for our souls.
As we sing ‘Amazing Grace’, look at the people around you. Appreciate how different they are from you.
And yet, each of us can sing ‘I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see’. The believers around us, epitomizes God’s amazing grace.
Secondly, we are grateful. Always giving thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we come to Service, are we thankful for the freedom to worship? Are we thankful for our brothers and sisters in Hermon? Are we thankful for God’s sustaining hand through the past week?
Even through Covid-19, we can continue to give thanks to God and say Amen that God is still in control.
When we walk wisely we will be thankful and grateful.
One thing we have been encouraging us all to do is to respond with ‘Amen’ at various points in the service.
Especially after the reading of the Scripture, we end with ‘this is the word of the Lord’. And we respond ‘Amen’!
This is very significant. Because we are saying, God IS speaking to us. And so because we are thankful, we affirm – Amen.
I pray that we are still doing this even in our homes as we worship together online.
Finally, wise people submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
We submit for no other reason than that -we seek to obey Christ’s authority over our lives.
What would it look like? Eph 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Submission definitely includes all of that.
In the context of the church, Apostle Peter further elaborates,
1 Pe 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Mutual submission in the church, includes the submission to God’s appointed leaders in His church. This we do affirm at every Session installation.
So today, in Hermon, if we say we are imitators of God who live wisely, then are these 3 characteristics of Spirit-filled believers evident in our community?
If we say it is not evident, then there is a need, NOT for pointing fault, but for repentance. For we all make up this one body here in Hermon.
And so the only step we all need is to point each other towards the Holy Spirit. For He is the source of power for us to be imitators of God. (pause)
Just before we go into the next section, let’s see Paul’s flow. Firstly, we are to be imitators of God.
And imitators of God seek to walk wisely.
To walk wisely is to be Spirit-filled. And one aspect is that of submission.
Paul then elaborates about submission in 3 areas of relationships – marriage, family and marketplace.
And so, Scripture covers all of our key relationships.
Living wisely in marriage (v22-33)
At Hermon, I have the privilege to do pre-marital counselling for couples getting married.
And one of the diagrams we stress often during the counselling is this picture of the marriage triangle.
At the apex is God and at the base on one side is the wife and on the other side is the husband.
As we progress in marriage, we all desire that the horizontal distance between the husband and the wife get closer.
This is possible when the distance between the man and the woman to God is reduced.
As we get closer to God, it would inevitably mean we are being filled more and more by the Holy Spirit.
And so as God’s love and grace fill the couple in an increasing manner, they will be transformed and their marriage strengthen.
C.S Lewis writes – “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”
This really resonates with Dawn & I. We have been telling our 2 daughters since young – look for a husband that loves God more than he loves you.
When a man loves God more, he will live according to God’s ways and he will then love you as God intends. (pause)
For all of us who are in less than ideal marriages, the Holy Spirit is also the hope for our marriages.
As we in obedience, seek to allow the Holy Spirit to permeate every aspect of our lives.
The Spirit of Christ will encourage and enable us to be the spouse that God has intended us to be.
With the Holy Spirit in us, God’s grace will be made manifest. His grace will help us to be faithful to our marriage vows. (pause)
Last year on a family holiday in Shanghai, we stayed in this lovely AirBnB . They had this wonderful projector TV in the living room. The challenge was that all it’s instructions were in Mandarin.
My Mandarin is the ‘cannot make it’ level and so I could not get the projector to work. However, thanks to our education system, my daughters have passable Mandarin and so they could figure out the instructions.
The projector, is not going to work if you don’t follow the instructions.
We thank God that He has left us with the instructions on how to build healthy marriage.
God’s wisdom for marriage is before us in Ephesians 5:22 to 33. And I’m sure its familiar to many of us.
May I say 3 broad things as we dive into it. Firstly, many people would use the label ‘submission’ for women roles and ‘leadership’ for men.
I would like to suggest instead, let’s use the same alphabet ‘S’ and so it be ‘sacrifice’ for the men.
Secondly, if we look at the emphasis, it seems that men are in dire need for much more detailed instructions.
Wives get 4 verses (v22-v24, v33), while husbands get 8 verses, double that of the wives.
Thirdly, I think many of us come to this passage typically not in the spirit of humility. As men, we look at this passage and our eyes are drawn to the verses for wives. And vice-vera.
Instead, in humility, we need to just focus on what God instructs us as husbands and wives, respectively.
Let’s look at God’s wisdom for wives.
In the bigger context of mutual submission of v21, God says to wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.
Because it is to her own husband, we realize that there is a boundary to submission. The wife’s priority of submission is to her own husband, not her older brother, or even her mother-in-law.
Since the condition is ‘unto the Lord’, this too gives it boundaries – the boundaries of what God’s word permits.
No wife should obey husbands on matters which are against God’s Word.
At the same time, we see that there is no restriction in circumstances. This means, wives submit for Jesus, even if her husband is far from the picture of a loving and sacrificial leader in the marriage relationship.
Addressing the situation of a wife in such a situation, Apostle Peter says in
1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
If we think the details of how to submit are insufficient in these few verses, Paul provides the reference in his appendix.
How should wives submit? Well, look no further than the model of how the church is to submit to Christ.
Paul’s appendix is basically the New Testament. Every conceivable church situation for submission to Christ is recorded for us.
Covid-19 has however highlighted the issue of the wrong type of submission in our homes. In Singapore there has been a 22% increase in family violence.
WHO has estimated that there has been a 600% increase in women subjected to violence by their partners during the lock down, worldwide.
Church, we need to support spouses who are abused. Husbands, we must speak out against this type of submission.
Let’s look now at the godly wisdom for the husband.
If leading is to be his role, Paul interestingly uses the word ‘love’ instead. If the husband is to have authority in the marriage, why does God not say that?
Instead, the verb is ‘to love’.
And the reference of the degree to love is the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Remember the beginning of this chapter – 5:2 ‘as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’
Husbands we are to imitate that. This is our submission for Jesus in marriage.
In case we husbands still think that our wives are the inferior spouse in the marriage, the language of being equal before God is all over this passage.
Speaking about leadership in general, Jesus taught His disciples about servant leadership:
Mt 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If this is how Jesus taught about leadership for disciples in general. How much more should sacrificial service be the type of leadership that is practiced by husbands.
One blessing of the one flesh union is sexual intimacy. As I counsel married couples, I do see that a few women have expressed dissatisfaction in their sexual intimacy within marriage.
The common complaint is that the men are only ‘romantic’ when they feel the need for sexual intimacy. And often the goal of intimacy is the satisfaction of the husbands only.
So if husbands are to be sacrificial servant leaders, in this very intimate of needs. Would husbands put their wives’ sexual needs ahead of theirs? (pause)
In v26, Scripture further says, Christ does all that is necessary to present the church without spot or wrinkles, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
Is the sanctification of the wife even in the radar of husbands? Husbands, we MUST care that our wives are growing in the Lord.
Let us do all we can to ensure that our wives are not put into a situation in which they would have to make compromises for their faith.
Husbands, to be a leader in the marriage, we are to shepherd the spiritual development of our wives.
I know of a husband who is a successful regional director, who would regularly take leave to look after his children.
This so that his home-maker wife could go on private spiritual retreats and church missions trips.
To me, he is an example of sacrificial leadership.
Scripture in v29, gives 2 verbs for husbands. Nourish and cherish your wife like you do your own bodies.
To nourish is to feed and provide for. I’m sure husbands all provide food for our wives.
But they are not just physical beings, they have emotional and psychological needs as well.
Do we take the time to provide for her other dimensions?
I was challenged once when a friend asked, do I know my wife’s life-long aspiration?
And because I should know, am I doing all I can to help her fulfil it?
To cherish is to take great care of, to be warm towards. Practically, it’s to treat her as it she was still your girlfriend. Thus to keep her heart tender towards you.
I’ve been married only 24 years. I really hated shopping and only did it during my dating years because that was the way to spend time with Dawn.
But once the family came, I always volunteered to sit at a café to watch over the shopping bags.
Many years ago, I was challenged through a book on marriage that I read. That I should cherish my wife by actually learning to enjoy shopping with her.
Today, coupled with the promotion of healthy living, with the 10,000 steps a day target, I’m learning to see the joyous benefits of shopping with Dawn.
One writer’s encouragement when we find it difficult to sacrificially love our wives – ‘obedience is made lighter when it is offered within sight of Calvary. I know it is hard, I know it will be painful, but love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’
We love because Christ first loved us.
Under the over-arching instruction to submit to one another, Scripture says, the evidence of being Spirit filled is following the pattern of Submission for wives and Sacrifice for husbands in the marriage.
It will not gel with the world, but this is our Creator’s wisdom for living wisely in marriages.
The testimony of the wise
Healthy marriages build healthy families. And healthy families are foundational for healthy churches.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, when a couple live out the divine pattern of marriage, a wonderful picture emerges.
A strong and biblical marriage is a God-given picture of how His Son, Jesus Christ laid down his life for His Church.
It is a picture of how God’s Church (which we are all part of), will submit to God’s Son.
So in our marriages, we have this wonderful and awesome privilege to communicate the grand picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
This is so powerful a picture that Satan is bent on destroying marriage from the beginning of time and has not stop attacking it even today.
Since marriage is the picture of the Gospel, Satan attacks and undermines it in whatever way he can.
He causes it, by persuading both man and women not to heed the wisdom as set out in God’s word.
Increasingly Satan is attacking it by questioning the very notion that marriage should be even between one man and one woman.
Sit-coms like Modern Family give so many alternate views about marriage.
For all married couples, whether you have your own children or are uncles and aunties to others.
As Holy Communion reminds us of Calvary, so our marriages give the next generation a picture of Christ and the church.
For a child growing up, he can catch what it means to submit as a child of God, as he sees wives submitting to their own husbands.
For a blossoming teenager, she would understand her own preciousness in God’s sight as she witnesses husbands sacrificially loving their wives.
For those of us not in a marriage, may we be encouragers of the marriage of our fellow believers.
Encourage them against bitterness and resentment. Encourage them to preserver because there is this bigger picture.
That when their marriages are stronger and healthier, they can be wonderful witnesses for God.
In a calendar year, there are usually a few big evangelistic events. But there is one happening in our homes each and every day.
Our marriages project a picture of Christ and the Church. That is a daily evangelistic event for our children and our neighbours to see.
As we realize the bigger picture, may it cause us to yearn for the power of the Holy Spirit, to live wisely in marriage.
Remember I said earlier that wise believers have 2 traits – they are good stewards of time and know God’s revealed will.
I submit that the life of John Robertson McQuilkin exhibits these traits. Here is John’s testimony.
John, served as president of Columbia Bible College for 22 years. He resigned in 1990 to care fulltime for his wife, Muriel, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.
John went home to be with His Lord on 2nd June 2016.
John met his wife Muriel at the school when they were students. He described her as “delightful, smart, and gifted, and just a great lover of people and more fun than you can imagine.”
He proposed on Valentine’s Day in 1948 and over the next 30 years, they raised six children and served God in many ways, including 12 years as missionaries in Japan.
When John became president of the college. Muriel also taught there, spoke at women’s conferences, and on TV and radio programs.
In 1981, they received the news that Muriel had early Alzheimer’s disease.
In the initial years of the disease, John tried to go to his office and fulfil his responsibilities at the school.
But as soon as he left Muriel and went to the college, she would become anxious and distressed – sometimes even terror- stricken.
When speech began to fail Muriel, one of the last phrases Muriel could say was, “I love you.”
In 1990, John did something few men would do. He knew the school needed him 100 percent, and he knew Muriel needed him 100 percent.
He chose to step down from his position as president of the college so he could devote full time to being his wife’s caretaker.
Statistics say that when a man suffers a serious illness, four out of five women will stay by their husbands, but when the roles are reversed, and the woman gets a serious disease, four out of five men will abandon her.
John chose to pick up his cross and follow the path of Jesus, who gave up his life for his bride, the church.
When John resigned he wrote a letter to explain his decision:
“It is clear to me that Muriel needs me now, full-time…My decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health…till death do us part.’
So, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness.
She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt.”
So John became a homemaker and a caregiver to his wife, stepping into God’s special assignment for him in this season of their lives.
The Lord called Muriel home on September 19, 2003.
In a letter to friends, John wrote, “For 55 years Muriel was flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. So it’s like a ripping of my flesh and deeper—my very bones,”… “But there is also profound gratitude. For ten years I’ve delighted in recalling happy memories. I still do. No regrets. I’m grateful.”
Many regard Dr. John Robertson McQuilkin as one of the finest examples of the “agape love” the Bible speaks about.
May God’s word transform us to live wisely in our faith community and in our marriages.