Ephesians 5:28-32: The Realities and Responsibilities of Union

The Bible often argues from what you are to what you should do. Because you are a new creature in Christ, act in a new way. Because you are in a one Spirit union with believers of other races, put away racism. Because your life is joined to the resurrected Christ consider your life in His and live appropriately. Because you are in a one flesh union with your spouse love them as yourself. What you are, or what realities are true about you imply how you ought to live. This is a basic truth which the bible assumes. But this has been rejected even this basic way of thinking has been challenged. For example, in the existentialist movement in the 20th century we see thinkers like Jean Paul Sartre who rejected this. We believe that our essence determines our identity, and our identity determines our responsibility. This means that if you want to know what you should do you first have to ask what am I? If I am a human being made in God’s image and not an animal this will determine how I should act. If I am a biological male, this will determine how I should act. Putting it in philosophical terms essence determines existence, ontology defines and drives ethics. But the Existentialists hated to be defined by anything but themselves so they rejected the traditional way of existence preceding essence, they reversed it and said that existence defines essence. So I will look inside myself see what I feel, what I desire, see what I am, and define myself on the basis of that not some predefined category like male or female, etc. We on the other hand recognise that we are creatures created by God, that He defines us. We have spoken many times about the new reality of union with Christ and what that means for our salvation and ethics. Paul is now going to draw on the realities of union relationships to speak about the responsibilities of union.

We are carrying on with our series on marriage in Ephesians 5:28-32. We are in that part that is dealing with the responsibilities of the husband, v25-33. The husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. If we were to summarize this in three points we could point to Christ’s servant headship; His sacrificial love; and our sustaining union with Him as the ultimate model for the husband. We have described the servant leadership and the sacrificial love that we are to imitate. Today we turn our attention to the sustaining union that the believer has with Christ as the model for husbands to imitate in their one flesh unions with their wives. We will see how the underlying realities of union point us to the responsibilities of union. And those will be our two headings for this section, the realities of union in 28-30; and the responsibilities of union, and here we will look at the traditional categories of leaving and cleaving in v31-33.