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Flourishing Family Week 3: Wonderful Women | Ephesians: 22-24,33

Mary Ellen Ermis September 24, 2023 sermons, cityrise, Ephesians, Flourishing Family, houston, Roger Patterson, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Senior Pastor Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday, September 24, 2023 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.

Soon after their last child left home for college, a husband and wife were resting next to each other on the couch with her head in his lap. He carefully removed her glasses. “You know, honey,” he said sweetly, “without your glasses you look like the same beautiful young woman I married.”

“Honey,” she replied with a grin, “without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!”

The Mission of Marriage—our key word for today is “friendship.”

The Mission of Marriage is spiritual friendship, intimacy, and “one flesh”—that is the goal, purpose, and mission of marriage.

Have you ever wondered about the purpose for marriage?  Have you ever wondered why God gave us marriage – beyond procreation and providing a stable environment to raise children?

What is the purpose of marriage?

Let’s spend a few moments going back to the foundational marriage in Genesis 2.

Genesis 2:18-25

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

When God created the world in Genesis 1, he declared over and over “it is good.” This is mentioned 7 times in Genesis 1 alone.

But, after he created Adam, he said, “It is NOT good…” What is NOT good? Genesis 2:18—“It is not good for man to be alone.”

This raises a question—How could Adam be in a “not good” state when he was in a perfect world and had a perfect relationship with God? Sin had not entered into the world yet.

The answer to this question lies in God’s statement in Genesis 1:26—

Genesis 1:26

 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Who is the “us”?

Scholars have debated this over the centuries, but the clear answer is that this is a reference to the Trinity. God is triune. He is One God, but three in essence.

He is One God, revealed in 3 persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—who all know and love one another. They are in a perfect unified relationship with one another.

If God said, “Let us make man in our own image,” then what he means is that “people” were created for and to be in relationship. We were designed for relationships. And that’s why God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Tim Keller says—“The Genesis narrative is implying that our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our “vertical” relationship with him. God designed us to need “horizontal” relationships with other human beings…We should therefore not be surprised to find that all the money, comforts, and pleasures in the world—our efforts to recreate paradise for ourselves—are unable to fulfill like love can.”

EZER Kenegdo: So, what does God do? In response to Adam’s aloneness, He created what the text calls an “‘ezer kenegdo”, a phrase that means “helper-companion – a person who contributes to the fulfillment of need or a furtherance of a purpose.

Literally, this means that God created a “friend” for Adam that would meet his need and assist in fulfilling his purpose.

But even that falls short of really capturing our hearts doesn’t it?  In their book, Captivating, John and Staci Eldridge say, “Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat…disappointing?…What little girl dances through the house singing, ‘One day I shall be a help meet.’?”

John and Staci Eldridge recommend we embrace the translation of Robert Alter who has been translating Genesis for many year when he translates this term, “ezer kenegdo” as “SUSTAINER BESIDE HIM.”

In every other instance in the Old Testament, this phrase, which occurs in only 20 other places, is used for God himself when the one who needs a sustainer beside him is desperate for God to sustain him.

In Proverbs 2:17, there is a description of an adulteress woman who is out trying to lay hold of a young man.  In describing her actions, the scripture says…

Proverbs 2:17a

“…who forsakes the companion of her youth…”

Do you see that word companion?

That word companion is the word ‘allup, which is defined as a “special confidant or best friend.

In that ancient culture, this would have been shocking. Men often viewed their spouses as property and many marriages were business deals seeking to increase their family’s social status. It would have been unusual to describe your spouse as your best friend.

But the Scripture doesn’t bow to our actions and thoughts does it?  The Scripture elevates the husband/wife relationship into the most intimate, life-giving, sustainable environment one can have in earthly relationships on the earth.

Transition:  So we begin today by going back to the foundation and seeking to truly understand how the bible describes the relationship.  The one word that captures this description is “Friendship.”  Church, we can conclude that the goal of marriage is “Friendship.”

This was foreign to those that Paul addresses in Ephesus as they got to his instruction of chapter 5, and it seems it is still foreign to our culture today.

Why does this concept seem somewhat foreign to us? Let’s draw from what we have already talked about in this series.

Remember, we are battling some erroneous views of marriage that affect our approach to marriage and thus our ability to work toward long-lasting friendship in marriage.

  1. Traditional View of Marriage—These see the marriage in terms of duty and responsibility—“you do your part and I’ll do mine.” “My spouse is not my perfect compliment but she exists to do a job…He exists to provide.

In ancient cultures marriages were seen as ways to gain social standing in the community. In our culture today, the equivalent would be people who marry for money or financial security or some social status.

            The other side of the coin is this:

2. Overly Romanticized View Of Marriage—Remember this view makes sex and romance the end-all, be-all of marriage. We search for just that right person—the one with whom we have the perfect chemistry…the one who finishes our sentences and makes our heart skip a few beats.

This view makes friendship secondary to romance and sex. Most who take this view want friendship, but “if it happens it happens.” They view those who say their spouse is their best friend as the lucky ones who just happened to find the right person.

Both of these approaches are forms of the “Me Marriage.”

3. Me Marriage View—approach to the marriage that focuses not on serving or building lasting relationship, but it sees the marriage as a way to get all of our needs met. Friendships don’t work when it’s all about you.

But the purpose of marriage, the reason behind marriage is friendship, relationship, or companionship. 

So, what is friendship? It has been defined this way—It is a deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same horizon. We will see later in our message that this horizon is the Throne of Grace.

Let’s now turn to Ephesians 5:26-27.  We touched on this last week, but I want us to unpack it even more.

Ephesians 5:26-27

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Marriage As Friendship Means…

Marriage As Friendship Means…

I. Communicating my Spouse Is My Greatest Earthly Priority.

Ephesians 5:26

“…that he might sanctify her …”

Priorities are critical.  Authors have made millions of dollars challenging business leaders to re-order their priorities.  One of the best-sellers in the marketplace is the late Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Coach’s talk to their clients about their “Big Rocks.”

Now we have been talking about why marriage matters so much.  It matters to God, as he is the author and originator of marriage.  For human relationships, Marriage is a Big Rock!  Understanding it as a priority of God’s in society and relationships ought to help us understand how important a priority it should be for our personal lives.

Yet, it is often after marriage that our priorities get re-ordered.  Maybe it is the demand of a season at work, or the stress of a parent’s illness, or just a disappointment in the marriage relationship.  But somewhere along the way, the priority of the relationship slips and we don’t realize it.  But guess what?  When it slips, and stays slipped, your spouse knows it before you do.  They feel the lack of being a priority.

Now as we talk about the priority of marriage, I want you to understand that if you are married, no earthly relationship should have priority in your life greater than your marriage.  It is the highest earthly priority.

For this to be lived out through the years, guess what has to happen?   Your allegiance must be to Christ first.  Jesus must be the greater priority in your life so that your spouse will know that you are their earthly priority.

Remember, Paul is saying that marriage is a picture of the gospel. He is describing how Christ relates to the Church and how marriage is a mirror of that relationship. So, just as Christ gave himself up for us and “sanctifies” us, so we are to act in like manner to our spouse.

When you look at the cross and the establishment of the church, it is clear the absolute priority that Jesus has placed on the bride of Christ.  When Christ died for the church, he did so to make her holy or set apart. 

That word “sanctify” is the word we translate as “holy,” and it means:

  1. To treat as holy or set apart
  2. To consecrate or dedicate.
  3. To separate from profane things

So, what does this mean in the context of marriage? It means that when it comes to our marriage, we are to separate it from the world, dedicate ourselves to it, and make it stand along and set apart as the most important thing in our lives.

It means that my spouse must be the most important thing in my life, apart from God.

Only then am I on my way toward making friendship the goal of the relationship.

But the Problem that we have in our lives is that we lose sight of our priorities and allow Pseudo-Spouses to arise.

  • Husbands, do you place your work as priority over your wife? Is she second place to your career and its success?  You may say, “I am trying to provide for my family and climb the ladder of success so I can give her what she wants.”  But what she really wants is your attention and affection. She wants to know that she is the highest priority and first place in your life.
  • Wives, does your husband have to compete with his own children for your attention? Does your commitment to your children override your commitment to your husband?
  • Or, are there other relationships that are in a competition for first place?
    • What about your parents? Do you value your parent’s opinion over your spouses’?  If so, you’re not setting your spouse apart as priority.
    • What about old friendships? Are old friendships not having to take a back seat to your covenant relationship?  Old friendships that don’t get redefined certainly can lead to the death of a marriage.
  • Hobbies can also be Pseudo-Spouses. Golf, hunting, fishing, shopping, scrapbooking, reading or writing.

Tim Keller says,

“When some good things become more engrossing and important than your spouse, it can destroy the marriage.”

We must set our spouse apart is priority #1 as the most important human relationship we have.  When we do this, it establishes the home, settles the heart of the spouse, and actually benefits the children.  To do this, Christ must be the highest priority of our hearts.

Marriage As Friendship Means…

1.    Communicating my Spouse Is My Greatest Earthly Priority

2.    Walking In Perpetual Grace

Walking In Perpetual Grace

Ephesians 5:26b

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…

The participle “having cleansed” means that Christ took action and purified the bride, making her free from guilt.  The grammar is a one-time action in the past with on-going results.

Paul has already covered this in Ephesians 2. He covered it at length. Let’s look at it and see the truth of being placed into a place of perpetual grace.

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

  • Verses 5&6- So we were saved by grace and as a result, are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
  • Verse 7 shows us that this was done so that the immeasurable riches of his grace, in kindness toward us, might be shown.
  • Verse 8 tells us that we are saved by grace and we have been saved, as it says in verse 10, to do good works.

Christ, having cleansed us, has placed us in a perpetual place of grace, seated with him, positioned to do good works.

Christ did this through:

  • Sacrifice
  • Servanthood and
  • Covenant

When we create a marriage through sacrifice, service and covenant, we create a place of love, forgiveness, and deep companionship.

  • In this environment, spouses look forward to the other coming home after work. – Better Connection
  • In this marriage, couples work to get away together and fuel their marriage. – Better Rest
  • In this perpetual place of grace, sexual intimacy is greater because there is freedom between hearts. – Better Oneness!

Folks, when you get your marriage to this place, there is greater joy, love, passion, and depth.  Having been cleansed by Christ, we model his sacrifice, his service and hold up the covenant with great fervor.  This is the place where marriage gets real fun.

You may say, “How do we get from here to there?”

Like any other spiritual journey…

  1. Begin by humbling yourself.

Remember, pride destroys relationships.

  1. Apologize for your part of the struggle.

Every relationship is a two way street, and both couples must be accountable for their part of why the relationship is where it is.

  • ]Is it a “Me Marriage?”
  • Is work out of line?
  • Is there an addiction or infidelity?
  • Is it as simple as lacking kindness because you have too many commitments?
  • Whatever it is, apologize.
  1. Re-prioritize.

Remember the first point. If there is a higher earthly relationship than you have to re-order your life.  Make the adjustments.

  1. Receive grace for your errors.
  2. Give grace for your spouse’s errors.

If we want to have a marriage that is dynamic and life-giving, it must be grounded in the grace we have received.  Walk with God’s grace. 

Marriage As Friendship Means…

1.    Communicating my Spouse Is My Greatest Earthly Priority

2.    Walking In Perpetual Grace

3.    Standing With My Spouse Until We See Jesus…

III. Marriage As Friendship Means…Standing With My Spouse Until We See Jesus

Ephesians 5:27a

27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor

Matthew Henry said:

The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

The woman was placed to stand beside the man and the man placed to stand beside the woman.

You know, I make a lot out of standing before Christ with what I have done with His church.  I have told you many times that the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 is a compelling text that challenges how I lead out in the church and community.  It ends with the Master returning and inspecting the work of his servants.  Then, with those who have pleased him, he turns to them and says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Now I realize that to effectively lead in the church, I must lead well at home.  That is the most fundamental qualification as a pastor.  It is my joy to strive to lead well at home.  But here is what I must remind myself of…

When standing before Christ, I will have the privilege of presenting Julee to Jesus.

  • If marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, as Paul declares it to be,
  • and the home is the central place where we get to live out the gospel,
  • and we are called to do for our wives what Christ did for the church,
  • then it is powerful to realize that we get to stand before Jesus to present our spouse to him.

This is so cool.

You see, part of the joy of the journey is to move past simple friendship, to what Tim Keller calls “spiritual friendship.”  He says that spiritual friendship is, “…eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”

Spiritual friendship gives Christian marriages and even greater vision than just, “til death do us part.” 

Spiritual friendship gives believers a common horizon to look toward, and that horizon is the Throne of Grace, and “the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have.” (Keller, p. 120)

Listen to how Tim Keller describes this. It is a lengthy quote, but I don’t know how to say it better.

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love.  It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me!  I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne.  And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this.  I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’”  Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in this life of their mate through the Word, the gospel.  Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory. (Keller, p. 121)

My friends, marriage is the greatest personal relationship available to us.

It is fun and life-giving when we prioritize one another greater than any other relationship on the face of the earth.  To do this, Christ must be first.

Marriage must be a place of amazing grace – a place where we sacrifice for each other, serve each other, and fight for the covenant we made before God.

Marriage is a joyful journey toward the Throne of Grace where we get to present one another to Christ as we present one another to our Lord.

May God grant you a vision, a joy, and a passion for your marriage because we truly know that Marriage Matters!