Behind Closed Doors – Ephesians 5:22-32
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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
"I once knew a man well who had a commanding public presence and exuded charm to all he met. What he said mattered. He had influence. He was always impeccably dressed and unfailingly courteous. But his secretary was frequently in tears as a result of his rudely imperious demands. Behind the scenes he was tyrannical and insensitive. His public image was flawless; his personal relationships were shabby.” (Peterson, Run With the Horses, p.157)
What disturbs me about the above story is that there are Christ followers who act as though it is completely okay to create this unhealthy dichotomy in the Christian life - a flawless public image that covers for a shabby private life. On Sunday, I talked about two sides of the door and how we have our public side and private side. The Big Idea on Sunday was that one of the most bona fide tests of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is in what happens in our lives behind closed doors. God wants to go deep! It is interesting in our text that after Paul talks about being filled with the Holy Spirit he touches down on three key relationships - marriage, family and boss/employee relations - that can often represent our lives behind closed doors.
Text: Ephesians 5:22-32 (For all those that want to object to the need for the wife to submit, just read the TB first. I think you may change your mind.)
Some might wonder how this Big Idea comes out of this text. However, think about the context. Gentile men who have come to Christ are now reading about how they are to treat their wives. Wives in that gentile culture were in many cases equivalent to slaves, mere possessions. What happened behind closed doors at home, to say the least, was not very Christ honoring. Paul comes along and shakes their world with his words. On Sunday I showed how, to Gentile men, these words would have cut deep into their private world of marriage and family. These words model how, when the Holy Spirit controls our lives (v.18), He wants to bring the light of God’s truth into all the places and spaces of our lives, regardless of what side of the door it may be on. Note how this happened in our text.
New Value (v.22-24)
Our fictitious gentile man Romulus would have had the understanding of the value of his wife challenged. Note two things:
First, Paul is assuming that women can be in relationship to Christ. The phrase, “as to the Lord” does not mean the husband is the Lord, but states that a wife’s relationship with her husband is very much a reflection of her relationship with Christ. Jesus stated this in Matthew 25:40. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (note: generic, not just men) of mine, you did for me.” Paul is placing a value on women that surpasses that of Romulus’ culture by acknowledging that Christ has called women into relationship with Himself as well. They can be redeemed, loved, discipled and their horizontal relationships are to honour their vertical relationship with Christ.
Secondly, there is something else that catches Romulus’ attention. In that culture the superior person in a relationship was addressed when it came to ethical matters. Note what Paul is doing by first addressing the wife and clearly instructing her in the same way as he is the man. The woman has value, and equal standing.
Romulus may be able to impress people with his flawless public image but God’s Word wants to penetrate into his life behind closed doors.
For you, it may not be marriage but something else that you need to surrender that is behind the closed door. Is there a fight or a willingness to surrender?
New Paradigm (v.25)
Romulus’ paradigm for relating to his wife would have come from his culture and his own father. Guess what? God’s Word is going to change that! What is the example of what headship means in this text? If you said “death” then you win! This is NOT the paradigm Romulus has been looking to in order to understand how to relate to his wife. He is being challenged to break the generational sin of his family, to stand against the cultural chauvinism of his day, and to embrace the cross. Jesus is not just interested in Romulus having a flawless public image but a God-honoring personal life that unfolds behind closed doors. This will be a tough transformation for him to experience because of the cultural and family patterns that have been set.
What makes obeying Christ and surrendering control to the Holy Spirit difficult in your life?
If you’re thinking of your marriage, what paradigm has most impacted how you treat your spouse?
New Result (v.26-32)
Note that the comparison continues of a husband’s love for his wife which is similar to Christ’s love for the church. Now Paul elaborates a bit more on this analogy. Notice that just as Christ’s love for the church results in health and wholeness, so too should Romulus’ love for his wife result in health and wholeness. What is toughest is that Romulus is being challenged to have an out-of-body experience (v.28). He is to be tuned in to his wife’s needs and the result of his love for her is that she becomes a woman of God who is radiant, holy and blameless.
Know any women that are experiencing the opposite in a marriage? Romulus may realize he has some work to do. His wife may need to go from being the doormat to being the most treasured person in the entire house. He also may realize that in his marriage, he has always declared the wrong message: “I am the leader who rules with an iron fist!” This needs to change to “I am a servant who will die for my wife and put her interests ahead of my own.” Based on her need to submit and respect (v.22, 33) and his need to submit (v.21) and love (v.25-32) the only thing they should really argue about is who gets to out-serve who! I.e., “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3)
The biggest heresy in marriage is an alphabetical one - ”big I, little u.” Healthy relationships mean “little i, big U”.
Will Romulus allow the word of God to sink deeply into his soul, to go behind that closed door? Often the issues behind the closed doors are the most difficult to surrender and change. It might be your marriage or it might be how you handle your business. Whatever it is, it is something Christ wants to have control of.
One of the most bonafide tests of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is in what happens in our lives behind closed doors. Nothing is out of bounds for God to touch and transform in our lives. Just ask Romulus!
Some further questions to ponder.
How is God speaking to you regarding issues behind that closed door?
Are you wrestling or surrendering?
Are you guilty of a flawless public image but a shabby state of affairs behind the closed door?
When Paul says be filled/controlled by the Holy Spirit, are you including what is behind that door? That is where God wants to go and must go.
Are you living with this lie, “Keep Door Closed!”
What is the best way to help someone open a door?
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