Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which he wrote to the Ephesian congregation. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first nine verses of the sixth chapter. When we come to the sixth and final chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation we find the apostle Paul continuing a line of thought which he began in the previous chapter. You will recall how in the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter the apostle Paul invited and instructed the Ephesian saints to submit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord. This particular instruction set the tone and stage for that which would come immediately after it—both in the remaining verses of the fifth chapter, as well as within the first nine verses of the sixth chapter. In reality you will find that what begins with the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter and carries and continues through to the ninth verse of the sixth chapter deals specifically and exclusively with our relationships with each other. I am convinced that what we find and read in the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter is essentially the foundation and the building block for that which the apostle Paul writes concerning relationships with others. If you turn and direct your attention to verses twenty-two through thirty-three of the fifth chapter you will find the apostle immediately transitioning to the relationship which exists between a husband and a wife. What’s more, is that when writing and speaking of this relationship between husband and wife the apostle Paul speaks of it as a great mystery. Why? Why would the apostle Paul write concerning the relationship between a husband and wife as being a great mystery? The answer actually lies in the fact that the unity, the covenant, the relationship that exists between a husband and a wife most closely resembles the union that is to exist between Christ who is the bridegroom and the church which is the bride of Christ.
In verses twenty-two through thirty-three of the fifth chapter the apostle Paul first instructs wives to submit themselves unto their husbands and only a few verses later he again instructs them to reverence their husband. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul doesn’t simply speak to wives concerning their relationship with and their relationship to their husband. Within this particular set of verses you will also find the apostle Paul speaking to husbands as well. What marks and what makes the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto husbands as so incredibly powerful and convicting at the same time is the fact that the apostle Paul compares the relationship a husband has with his wife as the relationship Christ has with His bride. What’s more, is that when instructing husbands on how to act toward and how to treat their wives he appeals to the way Christ responds and interacts with His bride. It’s important to note how the apostle Paul doesn’t merely instruct husbands to love their wives, but he also includes two very specific comparisons to them as well. First, the apostle Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave of Himself and gave Himself as a sacrifice on behalf of her. Second, the apostle Paul writes concerning the love husbands are to have toward their wives as being the same way they love themselves. The apostle Paul did in fact speak of husbands loving wives as Christ loved the church, but he also spoke of husbands loving their wives as they love themselves. This is perhaps most unique in that one of the reasons why many husbands do not love their wives the way they were designed and intended to us because they don’t even love themselves. There are husbands who have never reached the point and place where they have grown to love themselves, and therefore since they cannot and do not love themselves they cannot love their wives as they should.
I find it to be absolutely incredibly when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation—particularly and especially when he writes concerning the relations husbands should have with and towards their wives. When the apostle Paul writes concerning the love which husbands are to have towards their wives he not only brings them face to face with their own self-love, but also to the example of Christ toward and with His bride which is the church. In all reality, the two realities which surround the command for husbands to love their wives are the example of Christ and self-love. Not only does the apostle Paul write and speak of the love Christ has for and toward the church, but he also writes of the love one has for oneself as well. In other words, until and unless we are looking to the example of Jesus Christ and His relationship to and His relationship with the church as our prime model, we cannot and will not truly understand how we are to behave, how we are to act, and how we are to conduct ourselves toward our wives. I am firmly convinced that there is no husband who is positioned and qualified to truly love his wife the way he was created and intended to—regardless of whether or not he serves Christ or not—if that husband has neither self-love, nor self-respect for himself. I am firmly convinced that until and unless you as a man have self-respect for yourself and have self-love toward and for yourself, you cannot truly love another individual the way you should. What illustrates this reality even more is when Jesus speaks of the greatest commandment, as well as the second greatest commandment. If you journey to the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find a specific encounter that took place between Jesus and a particular lawyer from among the Pharisees who attempted to tempt Jesus with a question concerning that commandment which was the greatest. Beginning with the thirty-fourth verse of this particular chapter we find the following words written and recorded by the apostle Matthew:
“But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. One these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
When you read the words which Jesus spoke in response to the question which this lawyer asked you will encounter the two foundation stones upon which the house of love is built. It is true that when the apostle Paul spoke of husbands loving their wives he did so in respect to their love for themselves, and it is also true that the apostle Paul spoke of husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church. With that being said, I am convinced that what we find in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew provides an even greater commentary on our love for and our love toward others. As you come to this particular passage within the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that a particular lawyer from among the Pharisees came unto Jesus attempting to tempt Him by asking Him which was the greatest commandment. When responding to this lawyer Jesus not only provided him with the greatest commandment, but He also provided him with the second commandment which was just like the first commandment. What’s more, is that once Jesus finished speaking of the two greatest commandments, He went on to write how on these two commandments all the law and the prophets are built upon and have their foundation. When responding to this particular Pharisaic lawyer Jesus first revealed the greatest commandment, which was in fact to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. This is absolutely crucial, for until and unless we are willing to have a discussion concerning our love for the Lord our God we cannot truly have a discussion concerning our love for our neighbor, or those who are around us. In fact, I am convinced the apostle John believed this very reality when writing his first epistle unto the Ephesian congregation. In the fourth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle John wrote unto the Ephesian congregation the apostle wrote the following words: “If a man saw, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment we have from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
The apostle John who had spent three and a half years walking with Jesus and listening to His words as He taught and preached in the synagogues, and as He confronted and dealt with the religious community of that day recognized and understood that one could not state they love God and yet at the same time hate their brother. What’s more, the apostle John would go on to write and ask how we can love God whom we have not seen if we cannot love our brother whom we have seen. In other words, one of the single greatest ways we demonstrate our love for the Lord our God is through and by our love for and toward our brother. We demonstrate our love for the Lord whom we have not seen through our love toward our brother and sister whom we have seen. This reality is further expressed in the New Testament gospel of John, for in the thirteenth chapter you will find Jesus speaking to His disciples immediately after He had finished washing their feet. Beginning with the thirty-third verse of the thirteenth chapter we find the following words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples there in the Upper Room: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say unto you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:33-35). What’s more, is that in the fifteenth chapter of the same New Testament book Jesus instructs them to love one another even as He had loved them from the beginning and even until the end. Please pay close attention to these realities, for I am convinced that the bedrock and foundation of our love for and toward our brethren is our love for and our love toward the Lord our God. I am utterly and completely convinced that any and all true love that we have for one another, and even for and toward ourselves must first begin with the love we have for the Lord our God. For Jesus, the first and greatest commandment was that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and all with all our soul. From and out of this love we are to love our neighbour as ourself, for all love toward our neighbor first begins with our love for and toward the Lord our God, and then continues through to a self-love we have within ourselves.
Please understand and recognize that when I speak of this self-love I am not speaking in terms of that which the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to Timothy where he writes of men becoming lovers of selves in the last days. It is no coincidence that when Jesus spoke of the second commandment He spoke of us loving our neighbour as we love ourselves, and that the apostle Paul wrote how husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. Consider the words and language the apostle Paul used when speaking of the love husbands and wives should have for and toward their wives, and the direct connection it has to loving themselves and their own bodies: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). Within this particular portion of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing how men ought to love their wives as their own bodies, and then goes on to declare how he who loves his wife loves himself. Furthermore, the apostle Paul goes on to write how no man has ever hated his own flesh, but looks after, nourishes and cherishes his own flesh. In all reality, for the apostle Paul husbands were to love their wives even as they loved themselves. Please don’t miss this particular reality, for it is absolutely imperative that we not only love ourselves, but also that we respect ourselves, for until and unless we love and respect ourselves, we cannot hope or even expect to love our neighbor the way we have been created and intended to. What’s more, is that until and unless we love ourselves and respect ourselves, we cannot hope to love our wives as we have been called and instructed to because that love has absolutely no foundation. I am convinced that one of the reasons why marriages fail is because husbands don’t love their wives the way their wives need to be because such husbands neither have self-love, nor self respect for themselves. If you as a husband do not have within yourself self-respect and self-love, it will be absolutely impossible for you to love your wife the way you have been called and created to. What’s more, is that this reality even extends to loving our neighbor, for it is not by accident Jesus spoke of the second commandment as being loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus recognized and understood the reality of the golden rule, which simply states that we are to do unto others that which we would want done unto us. In all reality, I am convinced that our love for others, or the lack thereof is not only a powerful statement of our love for and toward the Lord our God, but is actually a powerful statement concerning ourselves. Show me how you love your. Neighbor or how you don’t love your neighbor and I will show you who you truly are as an individual. This reality is unfortunately true whether you would like to believe or accept it or not. There is absolutely no sugar coating this reality, and there is absolutely no way around this reality—regardless of how much effort and energy we might want to expend trying to do so.
What began with the apostle Paul instructing the Ephesian congregation to submit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord would continue on to the apostle Paul instructing wives to submit themselves unto their husbands as unto the Lord. Pause for a moment and consider this reality, for the apostle is making a powerful and emphatic statement and declaration concerning wives submitting to their husbands. That which the apostle Paul is writing and declaring unto wives and their submission unto their husbands is that their submission is first and foremost done unto the Lord. When the apostle Paul instructs wives to submit themselves unto their husbands, he does so in direct connection with direct reference to doing so as unto the Lord. In all reality, when wives submit themselves unto their husbands “in the fear of God,” they are doing so as unto the Lord, thus as an expression and demonstration of their submission first and foremost to the Lord their God. As surely as husbands cannot truly love their wives until they first love themselves, and first love Christ, so also wives cannot submit themselves unto their husbands until and unless they have first submitted themselves unto the Lord their God. What’s more, is that I would dare state that no husband can truly love his wife until and unless he first loves his neighbor as himself. Show me a man who loves his neighbor as himself and I will show you a man who can truly love his wife the way he has been called, created and commanded to. What’s more, is that when speaking of the relationship wives are to have with their husbands, the apostle Paul goes on to write that just as the church is subject unto Christ, so also ought wives to be subject to their own husbands in every thing. It is absolutely incredible that the apostle Paul writes unto the Ephesian congregation concerning wives and their submission unto their husbands, for their submission unto their husbands is not only a demonstration and expression of their submission first and foremost unto the Lord, but also a demonstration of the fear they have for and toward the Lord. In the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter the apostle Paul instructs the saints of God to submit themselves on to another in the fear of God, and then instructs wives to submit themselves unto their husbands as unto the Lord, thus directly connecting our submission one to another to our fear of the Lord, and the submission of wives unto their husbands to their submission unto the Lord. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for what the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter would continue on in the sixth chapter concerning children, servants and masters.
I am convinced that in order to properly understand the words which the apostle Paul is writing unto the Ephesian congregation, it is absolutely necessary to turn and direct our attention to the epistle which he wrote unto the congregation which was at Rome. In verses nine through twenty-one of the twelfth chapter we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking concerning our relationship to each other. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes beginning with the ninth verse of the twelfth chapter: “Let love be without dissimulation. Ashore that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in bu sinless; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil. For evil. .Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21). Building on that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation I am convinced that we must also consider the words which he wrote unto the Philippian congregation. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation we find additional language and commentary concerning our relationship one to another, and how we are to treat and interact with each other. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation beginning with the first verse:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:1-8).
This reality is further expressed in two specific passages which are found in the New Testament book of Acts—both in the second chapter, as well as the fourth chapter. Beginning with the forty-first verse of the second chapter we find the following words concerning the early church: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 23:41-47). Beginning with the thirty-second verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke concerning the days of the early church: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of the lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and one of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
What began in the twenty-first verse of the fifth chapter of the fifth chapter as instruction unto all saints to submit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord would continue in the sixth chapter as the relationship children have with their parents, as well as the relationship servants have with their masters. Beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter we find the following instruction given by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian congregation: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. HOnour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the northern and admonish of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forebearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Ephesians 6:1-9).
This reality of the relationship that should exist between servants and their masters, and how it is an extension of their submission first and foremost unto the Lord is found in the thirteenth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the church which was at Rome. Beginning with the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation we find the following words: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore the must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; customer to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to hom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:1-10).
WHOSOEVER THEREFORE RESISTETH THE POWER! WILT THOU THEN NOT BE AFRAID OF THE POWER? I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated by these two phrases which the apostle Paul wrote when writing unto the church which was at Rome, for with these words the apostle Paul emphatically writes and declares that there is no power but of God. In other words, any power, any authority, any dominion we see among us within and upon the earth is but an extension and expression of that which originates and flows from the Lord who sits upon the throne in heaven. The apostle Paul made it very clear that anyone who resists and rejects the power which was ordained by God within and upon the earth resists and rejects the power of God. This is why the apostle Paul could write unto children to obey their parents, and unto servants and slaves to subject and submit themselves unto their masters. I previously wrote concerning the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the epistle unto the Romans how there is a progression of thought which begins with Christian sacrifice, as the apostle Paul instructed them to present their bodies unto the Lord as a living sacrifice, which was holy and acceptable. Immediately following the apostle’s words concerning Christian sacrifice we find the apostle Paul transitioning to Christian service by writing how we are to serve faithfully before the Lord within and among the body of Christ. In fact, in dress three through eight of the twelfth chapter we find the apostle Paul speaking of Christian service and Christian ministry, and what that looks like among the members of the body. Immediately following the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning Christian service, the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning Christian submission—first and foremost of our submission one to another in the fear of God and love one to another, and then of our subjection and submission to the powers which have been established within and upon the earth. The apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear when writing unto the church which was at Rome that all authority and all power which is present and manifested upon the earth is but an extension and expression of the Lord—a reality which was demonstrated and declared by Jesus when speaking unto Pilate. You will remember that when Pilate declared unto Jesus that he had the power to crucify Him or set Him free, Jesus responded by declaring that he would have no power unless it had been given unto him by His Father who is in heaven. One of the hardest things to do is to submit and subject ourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord, and yet the apostle Paul emphatically instructs us to engage ourselves in such submission.
When writing unto the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul goes on to write how this submission one to another in the fear of the Lord is demonstrated and manifested in the obedience of children toward their parents, as well as the obedience of servants to those who are their masters according to the flesh. Pay attention to that phrase “according to the flesh,” for while it is true that children are called to obey their parents according to the flesh, and while it is true that servants are to obey their masters according to the flesh, there is an even greater obedience which we are called to—namely our obedience unto Christ. You will notice that the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning servants and their obedience unto their masters how it is to be done with fear and trembling, and in singleness of heart as unto Christ. Furthermore, the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning this obedience that it should not be with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ who do the will of God from the heart with good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men. If there is one thing we must take away from this writing it’s that our submission one to another in the fear of the Lord is a powerful demonstration of us living our lives as servants of Christ who do the will of God from the heart, and who do good will as to the Lord and not to men. As surely and certainly as we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t love the Lord our God whom we have not seen, so also we cannot submit ourselves one to another, nor submit ourselves unto those who are in positions and places of power and authority until and unless we are first submitted unto the Lord. I am convinced that anything we do in this life is but an extension and expression of our relationship with and our interaction with the Lord. We must recognize and understand that we have been called to submit ourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord, and that we have been called to esteem others as better than ourselves, and that we have been called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Oh that we would read the words of the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian congregation and seriously evaluate how we are living our lives, and how we are conducting ourselves with those around us. We must recognize and understand that everything we have discussed thus far directly hinges on our willingness to submit ourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord, our esteeming others as better than ourselves, and our willingness to love our neighbor as ourselves.