Marriage in the Fullness of the Spirit
Ephesians 5:18-21 be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The connection between these two paragraphs (verses 18-21 and 22-24) is often obscured in your Bibles by a big section divider. Some Bibles confuse the matter even more by incorrectly beginning a new paragraph at verse 21. What you miss if you begin a new sentence or paragraph in verse 21 is that the word “submitting” in verse 21 is one of four participles all dependent on the finite verb “be filled” in verse 18. In other words, speaking, singing, giving thanks, and submitting are all things that you do when you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Being loving and submissive does not come naturally to us. If we are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit our love and submission with be forced and abrasive and clunky. But if we walk by the Spirit then we will be supernaturally enabled to bear the fruit of the Spirit and this will result in a harmonious marriage.
So the first thing to say about marriage is of the first importance. And, unfortunately, it is the thing left out by most marriage counselors. The first thing you need for a harmonious marriage is to walk by the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit. Trying to work on your marriage when you are personally not in step with the Spirit is like trying to clean your house in the dark. You can’t see what you’re doing and you are just going to stub your toe on the coffee table again. Turn the light on, then clean your house. If things are not going smoothly in your marriage right now, the first thing to check is your own walk with God.
Is your marriage a Christian marriage? Is your marriage a cord of three strands, you, your spouse, and Christ, that cannot be easily broken? Is there a vertical dimension to your marriage, or is it just all about you two? Here’s an illustration that’s an oldie but a goodie. You’ve probably seen the triangle: husband, wife, God? The point of the triangle is that as the husband and wife grow closer to God, they also grow closer to one another. You’ve got to work on the vertical aspect of your relationship, not just the horizontal.
I remember learning from someone back when I was engaged to Katie that every good relationship needs a balance between face to face time and side to side time.
Face to face time is when you go out to dinner and look at each other across the table and enjoy one another. But if that’s what you do on every date night, it becomes a little too ingrown and focused on you. It gets tiring to always talk about the relationship, sometimes you need to just have one. Sometimes you need to go to the zoo together, walk side by side and enjoy something outside of yourselves together.
And the most important side by side time you can have in your marriage is when you seek God together. Turn your eyes off of one another and lift them up to the Lord and pray and you will find that you are drawn closer together as you draw closer to Him.
If you want to work on your marriage, you need to first have your feet planted on the Rock of Christ. What happens if two people who are treading water come together and embrace? They sink like a stone. And therein lies the failure of millions of marriages. In order to embrace one another, you must be standing on solid ground. And the only foundation for your life that will last forever is the rock of Jesus Christ. Husbands, you were created for fellowship with God, and so you have needs that your wife cannot meet. And if you reach out for her to meet those needs, you will pull her underwater. Wives, you were created for fellowship with God, and so you have needs that your husband cannot meet. And if you reach out for him to meet those needs, you will pull him underwater. But if you will first take your stand on the rock of Christ, then you can embrace one another again.