What Makes A Marriage?



Text: Ephesians 5:22-33

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

In our Epistle reading from Ephesians, St. Paul says that marriage is like a ‘profound mystery.” 

But what can be so profound about marriage? Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy gives girl ring, they get married and live happily ever after.  Right?  Well, no. 

You see, when a boy and girl get married, they do not form a marriage. Dear friends, I certainly do not intend to be rude, but when you and your spouse stood at an altar before a pastor and said, “I do,” a marriage was not created.  But rather, through the vows and the “I do’s,” you stepped into the estate of marriage.  Let me repeat that, every time there is a wedding, a marriage is not created.  But instead, a single man and a single woman take their place in this profound institution of marriage that God established at the beginning of time. 

And so, contrary what the wedding magazines and Hollywood Movies say, a wedding day is not solely about the bride – it isn’t the bride’s day.  The bride, with her fiancĂ©, is one small piece to a much bigger puzzle.  That is to say, a wedding day and ceremony are about marriage, and marriage is a profound picture of the Gospel. They profound picture of Christ and His relationship to the church 

And so, as a man and woman take their places within a marriage, they are stepping into new vocations. As they say their vows, a brand new role in life is created for them as a husband or a wife. However, we must keep in mind that as husband and wife, there is an already established way in how these roles function. For example, in marriage a husband and wife are certainly ‘not’ stepping into positions where they will fight for dominance, power, and control over each other, for this is not what the estate of marriage is about, and it is not how Christ treats His bride, the church. Indeed, the role of husband and wife in marriage is not combative, competitive, manipulative, or self-serving. But rather, the roles of a husband and wife in marriage are places where the husband and wife are sanctified in love and service to one another. 

Let me speak very specifically today to you married men and women.  You have taken place within the estate of marriage, where you are joined to one another. You are joined together spiritually, emotionally, and sexually. Therefore, as you are joined to one another, your roles in marriage are not where you strive to be the boss. Contrary to the comedy shows we often watch, the relationship between a man and woman is not a cage match fight to see who gets their way.  Marriage is not characterized by conflict to be supreme court manipulate the children to get your way, for this is not how it is with Christ and His church.  If there is any conflict in marriage, it should not be between you and your wife, or you and your husband. But rather, if there is any conflict, it should be against the sinful nature within you.  If there is any conflict in marriage, it should not be with each other but against your stubborn-selfish-inward-seeking-pathetic-sinful-nature that does not want to uphold your spouse.

Let me state this as plainly and clearly as possible: Men, as you step into the Lord’s estate of marriage, you become a husband.  And as a husband, you are called to deny your desire to callously assert yourself, like a rooster strutting in the henhouse. Instead of being the King of the Hill, you are called to die to your selfish desires, ambitions, and dreams. You are called to lay down your life – your thoughts, words, and deeds – for your wife.  However, when you put your wife number two while watching reruns of The Simpsons and drinking Miller Light, you are not only demonstrating the exact opposite of what it means to be a husband but are acting like a little boy. 

Husbands, Jesus today asks you to love your wives with the same sort of love that He has for His church.  It is a love that keeps no record of wrongs.  It is a love that forgives and serves and does so with joy and gladness. It is a love that is willing to sacrifice everything, even death if necessary.  Yes, it is a love that is willing to die for your wife – instead, if that death would perhaps occur in physically defending your bride on a battlefield or perhaps even death through shopping with your wife at Kohls. 

And today, Jesus not only asks you, husbands, to do this for your wives, but He also gives Himself to you in His body and blood so that His forgiveness and love might be in you and might be your love for your wife.  What a profound gift!

And wives, let me attempt to say this as plainly and clearly as possible.  As wives within the Lord’s estate of marriage, you are called to deny your desire to assert yourself through manipulating your husbands’ responses.  As a wife, you are called to love and submit to your husband, just as the Church herself delights in submitting to Christ, and Christ Himself submits to the Father.  However, when you sigh and roll your eyes behind your husband’s back, while complaining to other women about how he can’t do anything right, you are being the exact opposite of what it means to be a wife.  You are acting like a cliquey mean girl from high school. 

Wives, today, Jesus asks you to love your husbands with the same sort of love that Christ’s church is supposed to have for Jesus.  That love is a love that strives to please and to honor and be loyal to your husband in all things.  It is a love that seeks to put the best construction on your husband - even if that means excusing yourself from a group of women gossiping over yummy appetizers and cocktails at a local bar’n’grill.

And today, Jesus not only asks you to do this, but He also gives Himself to you in his body and blood so that His love might be in you and might be your love for your husband.  Again, what a profound gift!

It should be really clear right about now that marriage is not a magic pill that you take, and everything is made instantaneously great.  Furthermore, marriage is not a magic wand that is waved over you by the pastor at the altar to make your fairytale dreams come true.  But rather, marriage is real, it is gritty, and it grounds you in the good times and bad times.  To the point, marriage is that age-old institution that God first created to hold a bride and groom within.  Since marriage is the Lord’s design, a bride and groom not only belong to each other through love and trust but they belong to Christ amid the good times and bad.  Marriage is that estate that holds a husband and wife in sickness and health, poverty and riches, persecution and joy, repentance and faith. 

And so, husbands remember that you stand in the estate of marriage; therefore, learn to die for your wife in self-sacrifice.  And more, confess your sins boldly and more boldly hear the forgiveness of your sins in Christ, for He certainly died for you.

Wives remember that you stand in the estate of marriage; therefore, learn to grant respect and esteem to your husband.  And more, confess your sins boldly and more boldly hear the forgiveness of your sins in Christ, for Jesus submitted to your sin on the cross, claiming them as His own. 

And there you have it Baptized Saints!  You have just heard why marriage is like a profound mystery. Indeed, marriage is like the profound mystery of Christ and His love for the church.  Loving, dying, sacrificing, submitting, and respecting… not competing, fighting, dominating, and manipulating.  This is the profound-ness of marriage.

Husbands and future husbands walk in this high, and holy calling of marriage as a husband with your eyes fixed on the hope of Christ. 

Wives and future wives, walk in this high and holy calling of marriage as a husband with your eyes fixed on the hope of Christ.

What a high and holy calling, what a wonderful gift the Lord calls us into – a gift He gives to us all! 

The Lord bless and keep you within the places you have taken as husband and wife, in the profound mystery of marriage. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Portions of this sermon are inspired by and indebted to Norman Nagel's sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33.



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