THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (7) – THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE (2)
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “The Christian marriage (2)”. Her main scriptures are taken from the Books of Romans and Ephesians. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16, 17). “Submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:21-33)
DOCTRINE INFLUENCES BEHAVIOR
Why do we preach the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected? Because the Word of God saves and changes lives! This is a great law in the Kingdom of God: Doctrine influences behavior! What you believe in your heart will manifest in your lifestyle! You cannot hide anything in your heart. All hidden things are exposed “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Rom 2:16).
If you believe the truth, you will behave well and have a Christian testimony. If you are deceived and you believe false doctrines, you will misbehave! “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Cor 15:33). In other words, keeping bad friends, will ruin your reputation and testimony as a Christian! That is a great loss indeed! The reason we preach the doctrine of Biblical submission is to help you repent in case you misunderstood what true submission is. This will benefit all your relationships with people and your marriages in particular! Wisdom is necessary for a successful marriage! Truth sets free! Glory to God!
THE DOCTRINE OF BIBLICAL SUBMISSION – DEFINED
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God… Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21; NKJ; NIV)
Biblical submission is the universal Law of the Kingdom of God, applying to all believers, men and women, old or young. It is the crown of success in all Christian relationships, in the marriage, in the family and in the workplace. Humility and love are the foundation of Christian behavior. Simply said, no submission, no success! Because we are born sinners, biblical submission is not a natural behavior. It is an acquired spiritual skill by the power of the Holy Spirit. Biblical submission is the true testimony of grace working in all believers!
The word ‘submit’ is a powerful Biblical word. It means to willingly place yourself under another’s authority. To properly understand submission, you must understand what ‘authority’ means. These two words are always connected. Authority is the right to make decisions, give orders, direct, and restrain others and compel their obedience. Authority is defined as the power of a leader, master, expert to influence thought, opinions, and behavior of others. The word dominion means sovereign power and supreme authority. Because He obeyed unto death, God the Father has given all authority in heaven and on earth to His Son Jesus Christ (Mt 28:18; Phil 2:8). This authority was given to Him not as the Son of God but as the Son of Man. In His name, we have received delegated authority, to rule as Kings and Priests in the Kingdom of God and for His glory alone!
Submission is a word often used in the military. It describes the end of the war. There was a fight. One side won and the other lost the battle. The weaker side has to surrender to the victorious side. If the defeated side refuses to surrender, they will be killed. Submission is wisdom: It is better to be a slave than a corpse! Humble submission saves lives! Practically, you stop resisting and fighting another and you surrender to his will. You are a prisoner of war. To submit, it means that (willingly or unwillingly) you do what another wants, because you are not powerful enough to resist him. It means to surrender to the control of the other because you realize that he has a superior force. Spiritually, it means to recognize and honor the human delegated authority in the Body of Christ, stop fighting it and surrender to it, out of reverence and fear of Christ, the Head of the Church, and the Commander of the Armies of Heaven. Submission is a spiritual positioning, spiritually covered and safe. By submitting to the authority of the other, you declare that he is stronger than you and that he has saved your life! To resist the authority in the Body of Christ is foolish and dangerous. It means that you want to fight Christ, the Judge of all who appointed His servants over you! Humble people submit easier than the proud people. Submission releases the Grace of God upon the humble. The proud resist the authority and God resists them. They fight God and God fights them. Be careful because the human authority ‘does not bear the sword in vain’ (Rom 13:4). Nobody wins against Christ! He is the eternal victor over all! “Therefore, stand in awe of God!” (Ecc 5:7; NIV)
WHAT BIBLICAL SUBMISSION IS NOT
Before we describe submission as seen in the Bible let us look at what submission is not. Let us start with the negatives. Submission is not identical with the fear of man, which is slavery. Fearing man kills your faith in God. It tries to replace the healthy fear of God with the counterfeit fear of man. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (PV 29:25). Submission is not passivity or foolishness. Submission is the product of an active intelligent will. This is how it works… in my mind I know that Jesus Christ is my Master.
I accepted the fact that I cannot win against Him. He is stronger than me. I have thought about rebellion, and I concluded that it is sin. I hate sin! I reject pride, and stubbornness! Therefore, it is my desire to submit to Christ and to the spiritual authority He has placed over me. This surrender is not foolishness but wisdom and freedom. Christ is my King! Submission to the human authority is done for Christ’ sake. In the area of marriage, the wife submits to her own husband ‘as unto the Lord and in everything’ (Eph 5:22-24). This submission proves that she honors and loves the Lord Jesus Christ, that she is indeed a child of God. Pretending to submit for social reasons is deception and it will fail at last.
SUBMISSION IN THE FEAR OF GOD
Submission between believers is done ‘in the fear of God’. The natural man does not believe in God and does not fear God. The believer learns to fear God. It is an acquired knowledge. Fear is defined as an uncomfortable feeling sensing danger or pain ahead. May believers see fear as an evil spirit. They fight against it. That is good. But the fear of God is healthy and good. You should accept it!
The Word of God teaches us how to fear God and the benefits of it. “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 34:11). There are many believers who do not fear God as they should. They take God for granted. They dis-respect God. We are commanded to fear God, to respect Him. To respect it means to recognize someone’ worth, to understand that he is great and important and must be treated in an appropriate way. To disrespect God, it means to be ignorant of God’s worth and power. You cannot worship God without honoring and fearing Him at the same time. Overfamiliarity with God grieves the Holy Spirit and quenches the anointing to worship God. It results in breaking down of relationships and marriages. May God help us to come back to the Cross and bow our knees to the Lord Jesus Christ! May the fear of God descend like a blanket over the congregation! To Him alone be all the glory!
THE BLESSINGS OF THE HOLY FEAR OF GOD
The holy and healthy fear of God has direct effects upon our Christian life, marriages, relationships, and ministries. The man who fears God will be blessed with wisdom, and the intimate knowledge of God. God will reveal to him His promises and His covenant. He will be favored and honored by God and man. Him and his children will have a long, successful, and prosperous life. God will protect them from evil attacks. God will show him His mercy. God will provide for him, spiritually and materially. He will not be anxious or confused. He will be bold and courageous because the fear of God destroys the fear of man. God will teach him His ways. He will be prudent because God will warn him of danger. Therefore, he will avoid falling into temptation. God will reward him greatly. To worship and to serve God, you need to fear God! To refuse to fear God is a great danger. God will warn you and discipline you, to bring you to the Cross. The fear of God is the greatest motive in sanctification. You manifest your salvation ‘with fear and trembling’. The fear of God leads to ‘long life and prosperity’. Selah!
Read and meditate upon the following scriptures:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you” (PV 9:10,11)
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death” (PV 14:26, 27)
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life” (PV 22:4)
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil” (PV 19:23)
“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Ps 103:13)
“His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50)
“Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity, and his descendants shall inherit the earth. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” (Ps 25:12-14)
“Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him” (Ps 34:9)
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps 86:11)
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps 19:9-11)
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Ps 2:10-12).
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12, 13)
JESUS CHRIST OUR GREATEST EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION
“Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk 22:39-44). The greatest example of submission is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Few hours before His death He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. All His life He has actively obeyed the whole Law of God. Now, according to the Will of the Father, He has to passively obey the law of sin and death on behalf of sinners. The greatest pain for Him was to know that He will become sin and a curse as a Substitute for sinners. This was the Father’s will according to the plan of salvation. Once He becomes sin, He will be separated from God the Father. From eternity, God the Father and God the Son have always been one. Now, for a time, on that Cross, the Father has to forsake and reject His beloved Son. That separation was the greatest pain our Lord had to endure. Love had to die on that Tree! The disciples did not understand His pain. Their sorrow was that their Master said He will soon die. They could see no future in that death. Our Lord warned them (and us) to pray for wisdom and strength to obey God even unto death. Pride will reject submission when submission is painful. To protect ourselves from pain, we may choose our wills and reject God’s will. That is entering into temptation, agreeing with it and committing sin. But Christ refused the easy way. The devil has already promised Him the kingdoms of this world (Mt 4:8-10). That was an offer of success, of a crown but without the Cross. Christ rejected it! Now, face to face with death, our Lord rejects sin and chooses submission to God’s will. Blood is the price paid for our salvation! As Christ submitted totally to God’s will, we should do the same! We worship the Lord! That is why we submit!
HOW DO WE SUBMIT?
Submission is the law of the Kingdom of God. It applies to all relationships, including the Christian marriage. Submission is love! “Through love serve one another…seek the best for one another” (Gal 5:13:NKJ, AMP). Unbelievers know nothing about this. Biblical submission requires the revelation of the Holy Spirit. You cannot submit to one another for the sake of Christ in ignorance or in the flesh. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:4-7). Refusal to submit to Christ and to His delegated authority is the same as spiritual adultery. Christ is jealous over His Bride. His Spirit will discipline her if she chooses to make friends with this world. Once she has humbled herself, and submits to Him, He releases Grace upon her. Grace is a sign of Peace and Prosperity! Submission is victory in spiritual warfare! The war is over! Love has won! The devil will run away from one who has submitted himself to God! To God be all the glory!
The only man (woman) who can truly submit to God, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, and to the human authority placed over him (or her) is a born-again Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit. The natural man is proud, stubborn, and selfish. He rejects all authority. When he submits to older or richer people, he pretends to do so. In his heart, he still resists submission. In the natural, he bows his knee to another but in his heart, he still stands! He has a spirit of rebellion. There is quarrel, and division in his heart. True submission in the Kingdom of God is always of the heart. It is an internal acknowledgment that Christ is your King and Lord! It manifests itself as submission in the Body of Christ to the authority Christ has placed over you. These things are spiritual.
WHAT IS THE MOTIVE FOR CHRISTIAN SUBMISSION
What is the only motivation for this submission? It is ‘the fear of God’ or ‘the reverence for Christ’. In Greek, the word translated ‘God’ here is Christ, the Messiah. Therefore, the correct translation says: we should submit one to another in the fear of Christ! This submission is not because of social standards, or tradition. It is because you recognize Christ as your Lord and you submit to Him, and to all authority in His name! Christ is the Head of the Church. He appoints the leaders as He desires, by His sovereign Grace. This is a warning: To resist your pastor or your leader in the church places you in a dangerous position. If you are not able to honor and submit to your pastors and elders, then it is better to leave the church and find another. Biblical submission brings peace and harmony in the Church, in the marriage, in the family and at the working place. This submission applies to all believers.
WHY SHOULD WE FEAR CHRIST?
What is that ‘fear of Christ’? In the Trinity, God the Son, though equal with the Father, as a Man, submitted to the will of God! God the Holy Spirit submits to both God the Father and God the Son. Submission is not slavery. It is an act of love! It is holy humility. It is to love and serve the other without fear of losing reputation. On earth, Christ submitted not only to God the Father, but He humbled Himself before men, even unto death. For the believer, Christ is not just his Savior, but also His Lord! Before the Cross, Christ washed the feet of the disciples. He showed us true humility and submission. Our supreme desire in life should be that we show our gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian has no will for himself anymore. He loves the Lord and is afraid to grieve the Holy Spirit, to disappoint Him! Have you thought of this? His reputation in this world is in our hands. This is the greatest responsibility! The believer is afraid to betray his Lover! Love is the grandest motive to live at your highest! Love is deep! Love is not politics! “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph 5:1, 2). The love of Christ has a special perfume. It kills sin and death and makes our spirits alive! Love submits! That is why we submit!
Christ is the Head of the Church, who is His body. Christ loves the Church. He is the Bridegroom of the Church, His Bride. Like a husband is protective over his wife, so Christ is jealous over us. If we become infatuated with the world, He will discipline us! This painful work is a sign of love. We are commanded to purify ourselves from all unbelief, doubt, and love for the world. It is our duty to do so! There is no sin in heaven. If we believe that God is our Father, then we should repent from all sin. If we want to go to heaven, we shall repent of all known sin! Because God is holy, we should desire to be holy like Him. The fear of God is the most powerful motivation for sanctification! “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 6:14-18; 7:1). Because we fear God and Christ, we gladly submit! That is why we submit!
Once you are saved by faith in the Gospel, the true foundation is laid in your heart. It is called ‘Christ Crucified’. Immediately, the process of sanctification starts. You obey the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It is like building the walls on top of the foundation. The ‘blocks’ you use to build are the works of serving God. These works shall be tried with the fire of Christ’ judgment. If you work for selfish reasons, that ‘block’ will be destroyed by fire. If you work for the glory of God, that block is made of gold, silver and precious stones and it will survive the fire of judgment. God judges with fire! The reward is given according to what survives the fire. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor 3:11-15). This judgment fire is enough to make us fear, respect, and honor Christ! That is why we submit!
When the unbelievers will encounter the judgment of God and the wrath of the Lamb, they will be paralyzed with fear wishing for death to come. “The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6:15-17).
Serving God in the church is not an easy work. There are peculiar dangers that come with ministry. The more spiritual brethren should help the weaker ones. This is to fulfill the law of Christ! We submit to Christ and for His sake we serve others who have fallen into sin. Restoring a backslider is a delicate work. It is like doing surgery in the brain. Any mistake will make matters worse. This work is done under the direction of the Holy Spirit. There is the danger of becoming proud or angry in the process. As we submit to God and trust His leading, great exploits are done in His name. God will reward you greatly for bringing home His prodigal sons and daughters. You need to carry your load of responsibility and also help another for a time, to carry his. Submission to God is our best protection in ministry. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load” (Gal 6:1-5)
We are citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God! We are members of the eternal Body of Christ! We need more grace to do God’s work. More grace demands greater humility and submission. Grace releases anointing for ministry! It is the key to success in the Christian life! “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28, 29). That is why we fear God, we fear Christ! We do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit!
Read the Book of Revelation and see Christ as He is now, in heaven! Apostle John said: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” … Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev 1:10-18).
The most powerful reason to fear Christ is because He is the Judge of all men! His eyes are like fire! For the Christian, the judgment is not about going to hell. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb. There is now no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus! (Rom 8:1). But there is a judgment of works. We believers shall stand before Christ who will judge our works and give us rewards accordingly. “Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Cor 5:9-11). Imagine that one day you shall stand before Christ in heaven, face to face with Him! You shall see Him on His throne as the King and Judge of all! You shall see on a screen all works you have done on earth, good and bad. Just this imagination should be enough to bring the fear of Christ upon you. That is why we submit! Wives and husbands submit to one another. Humble yourselves! The Lord is our best example. His example is sufficient! If Christ is not enough for you, then nothing will move your heart! Just think of this! One day, we shall see Jesus face to face! We shall be like Him! If you believe this truth, then you will desire to purify yourself from all sin of the Body and of the spirit. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS! And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1Jn 3:2, 3). Love believes that faith shall become sight! “For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then FACE TO FACE! (1 Cor 13:12).
Dear Brethren, we shall all stand before His throne and look at His face. Can you imagine what it will be when we look in His eyes? Peter denied His Lord three times. The Lord turned and looked upon Peter. Immediately, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Oh, the look of Jesus… His eyes… It was a look of sorrow, of disappointment. Peter could have preferred beating or prison than to encounter that grieved look of love! Oh, that look… That is why we submit one to another in the fear and respect of Christ! That is why we submit! There is no other way! Glory! Halleluiah! Worship the Lord!
Silvia, I’ve enjoyed reading your “Christian Marriage” posts. They are full of wisdom. I am looking forward to reading part 3.
Thank you Mary for your patience and gentleness. I can feel those in your words. God bless you, sister!