Charles Spurgeon Sermon – Special Thanksgiving to the Father (audio video and transcript)

spurgeonCharles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon (June 19, 1834 January 31, 1892) was a British Reformed Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the „Prince of Preachers.” In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times a week at different places. His sermons have been translated into many languages. Spurgeon was the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in London for 38 years. In 1857, he started a charity organization called Spurgeon’s which now works globally. He also founded Spurgeon’s College, which was named after him after his death.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, a commentary, books on prayer, a devotional, a magazine, and more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Arguably, no other author, Christian or otherwise, has more material in print than C.H. Spurgeon.

Special Thanksgiving to the Father

This message was preached on February 15, 1860. The sermon is prefaced by a letter, which Mr. Spurgeon wrote in June of that same year, as he was on the continent. This is the letter:

MY DEAR BRETHREN,
    I have journeyed happily to the borders of Switzerland, and already feel that the removing of the yoke from the shoulder is one of the readiest means of restoring the metal powers. Much of Popish superstition and idolatry has passed under my observation, and if nothing else could make me a Protestant, what I have seen would do so. One thing I have learned anew, which I would have all my brethren learn, the power of a personal Christ. We Protestants are too apt to make doctrine everything, and the person of Christ is not held in sufficient remembrance; with the Roman Catholic doctrine is nothing, but the person is ever kept in view. The evil is, that the image of Christ before the eye of the Papist is carnal and not spiritual; but could we always keep o’er Lord before our eyes, his spiritual sense, we should be better men than any set of doctrines can ever make us. The Lord give to us to abide in him and so to bring forth much fruit.

Baden-Baden, June 15th, 1860                     C. H. Spurgeon

You can read the sermon, from Spurgeon.org below this video, or you can listen to the sermon being read here, on this VIDEO by Christian Praise and Worship in Songs, Sermons, and Audio Books

There is also a video playlist of Spurgeon sermons available here –
Charles Spurgeon Sermons Playlist 2: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…

A Sermon(No. 319)
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, January 15th, 1860, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

„Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”—Colossians 1:12, 13.

THIS PASSAGE IS A MINE of riches. I can anticipate the difficulty in preaching and the regret in concluding we shall experience this evening because we are not able to dig out all the gold which lies in this precious vein. We lack the power to grasp and the time to expatiate upon that volume of truths which is here condensed into a few short sentences.
    We are exhorted to „give thanks unto the Father.” This counsel is at once needful and salutary. I think, my brethren, we scarcely need to be told to give thanks unto the Son. The remembrance of that bleeding body hanging upon the cross is ever present to our faith. The nails and the spear, his griefs, the anguish of his soul, and his sweat of agony, make ouch tender touching appeals to our gratitude—these will prevent us always from ceasing our songs, and sometimes fire our hearts with rekindling rapture in praise of the man Christ Jesus. Yes we will bless thee, dearest Lord; our souls are all on fire. As we survey the, wondrous cross, we cannot but shout—

„O for this love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Savior’s praises speak.”

It is in a degree very much the same with the Holy Spirit. I think we are compelled to feel every day our dependence upon his constant influence. He abides with us as a present and personal Comforter and Counsellor. We, therefore, do praise the Spirit of Grace, who hath made our heart his temple, and who works in us all that is gracious, virtuous, and well-pleasing in the sight of God. If there be any one Person in the Trinity whom we are more apt to forget than another in our praises, it is God the Father. In fact there are some who even get a wrong idea of Him, a slanderous idea of that God whose name is LOVE. They imagine that love dwelt in Christ, rather than in the Father, and that our salvation is rather due to the Son and the Holy Spirit, than to our Father God. Let us not be of the number of the ignorant, but let us receive this truth. We are as much indebted to the Father as to any other Person of the Sacred Three. He as much and as truly loves us as any of the adorable Three Persons. He is as truly worthy of our highest praise as either the Son or the Holy Spirit.
    A remarkable fact, which we should always bear in mind, is this:—in the Holy Scriptures most of the operations which are set down as being the works of the Spirit, are in other Scriptures ascribed to God the Father. Do we say it is God the Spirit that quickens the sinner who is dead in sin? it is true; but you will find in another passage it is said „The Father quickeneth whom he will.” Do we say that the Spirit is the sanctifier, and that the sanctification of the soul is wrought by the Holy Ghost? You will find a passage in the opening of the Epistle of St. Jude, in which it is said, „Sanctified by God the Father.” Now, how are we to account for this? I think it may be explained thus. God the Spirit cometh from God the Father, and therefore whatever acts are performed by the Spirit are truly done by the Father, because he sendeth forth the Spirit. And again, the Spirit is often the instrument—though I say not this in any way to derogate from his glory—he is often the instrument with which the Father works. It is the Father who says to the dry bones, live; it is the Spirit who, going forth with the divine word, makes them live. The quickening is due as much to the word as to the influence that went with the word; and as the word came with all the bounty of free grace and goodwill from the Father, the quickening is due to him. It is true that the seal on our hearts is the Holy Spirit, he is the seal, hut it is the Eternal Father’s hand that stamps the seal; the Father communicates the Spirit to seal our adoption. The works of the Spirit are, many of them, I repeat it again, attributed to the Father, because he worketh in, through, and by the Spirit.
    The works of the Son of God, I ought to observe are every one of them in intimate connection with the Father. If the Son comes into the world, it is because the Father sends him; if the Son calls his people, it is because his Father gave this people into his hands. If the Son redeems the chosen race, is not the Son himself the Father’s gift, and doth not God send his Son into the world that we may live through him? So that the Father, the great Ancient of Days, is ever to be extolled; and we must never omit the full homage of our hearts to him when we sing that sacred doxology,

„Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

    In order to excite your gratitude to God the Father to-night, I propose to dilate a little upon this passage, as God the Holy Spirit shall enable me. If you will look at the text, you will see two blessings in it. The first has regard to the future; it is a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The second blessing, which must go with the first, for indeed it is the cause of the first, the effective cause, has relation to the past. Here we read of our deliverance from the power of darkness. Let us meditate a little upon each of these blessings, and then, in the third place, I will endeavor to show the relation which exists between the two.
    I. The first blessing introduced to our notice is this—”God the Father has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” It is a PRESENT BLESSING. Not a mercy laid up for us in the covenant, which we have not yet received, but it is a blessing which every true believer already has in his hand. Those mercies in the covenant of which we have the earnest now while we wait for the full possession, are just as rich, and just as certain as those which have been already with abundant lovingkindness bestowed on us, but still they are not so precious in our enjoyment. The mercy we have in store, and in hand is after all, the main source of our present comfort. And oh what a blessing this! „Made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” The true believer is fit for heaven; he is meet to be a partaker of the inheritance—and that now, at this very moment. What does this mean? Does it mean that the believer is perfect; that he is free from sin? No, my brethren, where shall you ever find such perfection in this world? If no man can be a believer but the perfect man, then what has the perfect man to believe? Could he not walk by sight? When he is perfect, he may cease to be a believer. No, brethren, it is not such perfection that is meant although perfection is implied, and assuredly will be given as the result. Far less does this mean that we have a right to eternal life from any doings of our own. We have a fitness for eternal life, a meetness for it, but we have no desert of it. We deserve nothing of God even now, in ourselves. but his eternal wrath and his infinite displeasure. What, then, does It mean? Why, it means just this: we are so far meet that we are accepted in the Beloved, adopted into the family, and fitted by divine approbation to dwell with the saints in light There is a woman chosen to be a bride; she is fitted to be married, fitted to enter into the honorable state and condition of matrimony; but at present she has not on the bridal garment, she is not like the bride adorned for her husband. You do not see her yet robed in her elegant attire, with her ornaments upon her, but you know she is fitted to be a bride, she is received and welcomed as such in the family of her destination. So Christ has chosen his Church to be married to him; she has not yet put on her bridal garment, beautiful array in which she shall stand before the father’s throne, but notwithstanding, there is such a fitness in her to be the bride of Christ, when she shall have bathed herself for a little while, and lain for a little while in the bed of spices—there is such a fitness in her character, such a grace given adaptation in her to become the royal bride of her glorious Lord, and to become a partaker of the enjoyments of bliss—that it may be said of the church as a whole, and of every member of it, that they are „meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
    The Greek word, moreover, bears some such meaning as this though I cannot give the exact idiom, it is always difficult when a word is not used often. This word is only used twice that I am aware of, in the New Testament. The word may be employed for „suitable,” or, I think, „sufficient” „He hath made us meet”—sufficient—”to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But I cannot give my idea without borrowing another figure. When a child is born, it is at once endowed with all the faculties of humanity. If those powers are awanting at first, they will not come afterwards. It has eyes, it has hands, it has feet, and all its physical organs. These of course are as it were in embryo. The senses though perfect at first, must be gradually developed, and the understanding gradually matured. It can see but little, it cannot discern distances. it can hear, but it cannot hear distinctly enough at first to know from what direction the sound comes; but you never find a new leg, a new arm, a new eye, or a new ear growing on that child. Each of these powers will expand and enlarge, but still there is the whole man there at first, and the child is sufficient for a man. Let but God in his infinite providence cause it to feed, and give it strength and increase, it has sufficient for manhood. It does not want either arm or leg, nose or ear. you cannot make it grow a new member; nor does it require a near member either; all are there. In like manner, the moment a man is regenerated, there is every faculty in his new creation that there shall be, even when he gets to heaven. It only needs to be developed and brought out: he will not have a new power, he will not have a new grace, he will have those which he had before, developed and brought out. Just as we are told by the careful observer, that in the acorn there is in embryo every root and every bough and every leaf of the future tree, which only requires to be developed and brought out in their fullness. So, in the true believer, there is a sufficiency or meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. All that he requires is, not that a new thing should be implanted, but that that which God has put there in the moment of regeneration, shall be cherished and nurtured, and made to grow and increase, till it comes unto perfection and he enters into „the inheritance of the saints in light.” This is, as near as I can give it to you, the exact meaning and literal interpretation of the text, as I understand it.
    But you may say to me, „In what sense is this meetness or fitness for eternal life the work of God the Father? Are we already made meet for heaven? How is this the rather’s work?” Look at the text a moment, and I will answer you in three ways.
    What is heaven? We read it is an inheritance. Who are fit for an inheritance? Sons. Who makes us sons? „Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” A son is fitted for an inheritance. The moment the son is born he is fitted to be an heir. All that is wanted is that he shall grow up and be capable of possession. But he is fit for an inheritance at first. If he were not a son he could not inherit as an heir. Now as soon as ever we become sons we are meet to inherit. There is in us an adaptation, a power and possibility for us to have an inheritance. This is the prerogative of the Father, to adopt us into his family, and to „beget us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And do you not see, that as adoption is really the meetness for inheritance, it is the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light?”
    Again, heaven is an inheritance; but whose inheritance is it? It is an inheritance of the saints. It is not an inheritance of sinners, but of saints—that is, of the holy ones—of those who have been made saints by being sanctified. Turn then, to the Epistle of Jude, and you will see at once who it is that sanctified. You will observe the moment you fix your eye upon the passage that it is God the Father. In the first verse you read, „Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father.” It is an inheritance for saints: and who are saints? The moment a man believes in Christ, he may know himself to have bean truly set apart in the covenant decree; and he finds consecration, if I may so speak, verified in his own experience, for he has now become „a new creature in Christ Jesus,” separated from the rest of the world, and then it is manifest and made known that God has taken him to be his son for ever. The meetness which I must have, in order to enjoy the inheritance of the saints in light, is my becoming a son. God hath made me and all believers sons, therefore we are meet for the inheritance; so then that meetness has come from the Father. How meetly therefore doth the Father claim our gratitude, our adoration and our love!
    You will however observe, it is not merely said that heaven is the inheritance of the saints, but that it is „the inheritance of the saints in light.” So the saints dwell in light—the light of knowledge, the light of purity, the light of joy, the light of love, pure ineffable love, the light of everything that is glorious and ennobling. There they dwell, and if I am to appear meet for that inheritance, what evidence must I have? I must have light shining into my own soul. But where can I get it? Do I not read that „every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and Cometh down”—yea verily, but from whom? From the Spirit? No—”from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” The preparation to enter into the inheritance in light is light. and light comes from the Father of lights; therefore, my meetness, if I have light in myself, is the work of the Father, and I must give him praise. Do you see then, that as there are three words used here—”the inheritance of the saints in light,” so we have a threefold meetness? We are adopted and made sons. God hath sanctified us and set us apart. And then, again, he hath put light into our hearts. All this, I say, is the work of the Father, and in this sense, we are „meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
    A few general observations here. Brethren, I am persuaded that if an angel from heaven were to come to-night and single out any one believer from the crowd here assembled, there is not one believer that is unfit to be taken to heaven. You may not be ready to be taken to heaven now; that is to say, if I foresaw that you were going to live, I would tell you you were unfit to die, in a certain sense. But were you to die now in your pew, if you believe in Christ, you are fit for heaven. You have a meetness even now which would take you there at once, without being committed to purgatory for a season. You are even now fit to be „partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” You have but to gasp out your last breath and you shall be in heaven, and there shall not be one spirit in heaven more fit for heaven than you, nor one soul more adapted for the place than you are. You shall be just as fitted for its element as those who are nearest to the eternal throne.
    Ah! this makes the heirs of glory think much of God the Father. When we reflect, my brethren, upon our state by nature, and how fit we are to be fire-brands in the flames of hell—yet to think that we are this night, at this very moment if Jehovah willed it, fit to sweep the golden harps with joyful fingers, that this head is fit this very night to wear the everlasting crown, that these loins are fit to be girded with that fair white robe throughout eternity, I say, this makes us think gratefully of God the Father; this makes us clap our hands with joy, and say, „thanks be unto God the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Do ye not remember the penitent thief? It was but a few minutes before that he had been cursing Christ. I doubt not that he had joined with the other, for it is said, „They that were crucified with him reviled him.” Not one, but both; they did it. And then a gleam of supernatural glory lit up the face of Christ, and the thief saw and believed. And Jesus said unto him, „Verily I say unto thee, this day,” though the sun is setting, „this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” No long preparation required, no sweltering in purifying fires. And so shall it be with us. We may have been in Christ Jesus to our own knowledge but three weeks, or we may have been in him for ten years, or threescore years and ten—the date of our conversion makes no difference in our meetness for heaven, in a certain sense. True indeed the older we grow the more grace we have tasted, the riper we are becoming, and the fitter to be housed in heaven; but that is in another sense of the word,—the Spirit’s meetness which he gives. But with regard to that meetness which the Father gives, I repeat, the blade of corn, the blade of gracious wheat that has just appeared above the surface of conviction, is as fit to be carried up to heaven as the full-grown corn in the ear. The sanctification wherewith we are sanctified by God the Father is not progressive, it Is complete at once, we are now adapted for heaven, now fitted for it, and we shall enter into the joy of our Lord.
    Into this subject I might have entered more fully; but I have not time. I am sure I have left some knots untied, and you must untie them if you can yourselves; and let me recommend you to untie them on your knees—the mysteries of the kingdom of God are studied much the best when you are in prayer.
    II. The second mercy is A MERCY THAT LOOKS BACK. We sometimes prefer the mercies that look forward, because they unfold such a bright prospect.

„Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood.”

But here is a mercy that looks backward; turns its back, as it were, on the heaven of our anticipation, and looks back on the gloomy past, and the dangers from which we have escaped. Let us read the account of it—”Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This verse is an explanation of the preceding, as we shall have to show in a few minutes. But just now let us survey this mercy by itself. Ah! my brethren, what a description have we here of what matter of men we used to be. We were under „the power of darkness.” Since I have been musing on this text, I have turned these words over and over in my mind—”the power of darkness!” It seems to me one of the most awful expressions that man ever attempted to expound. I think I could deliver a discourse from it, if God the Spirit helped me, which might make every bone in your body shake. „The power of darkness!” We all know that there is a moral darkness which exercises its awful spell over the mind of the sinner. Where God is unacknowledged the mind is void of judgment. Where God is unworshipped the heart of man becomes a ruin. The chambers of that dilapidated heart are haunted by ghostly fears and degraded superstitions. The dark places of that reprobate mind are tenanted by vile lusts and noxious passions, like vermin and reptiles, from which in open daylight we turn with disgust. And even natural darkness is tremendous. In the solitary confinement which is practiced in some of our penitentiaries the very worst results would be produced if the treatment were prolonged. If one of you were to be taken to-night and led into some dark cavern, and left there, I can imagine that for a moment, not knowing your fate, you might feel a child-like kind of interest about it;—there might be, perhaps, a laugh as you found yourselves in the dark; there might for the moment, from the novelty of the position, be some kind of curiosity excited. There might, perhaps, be a flush of silly joy. In a little time you might endeavor to compose yourself to sleep; possibly you night sleep; but if you should awake, and still find yourself down deep in the bowels of earth, where never a ray of sun or candle light could reach you; do you know the next feeling that would come over you? It would be a kind of idiotic thoughtlessness. You would find it impossible to control your desperate imagination. You heart would say, „O God I am alone, alone, alone, in this dark place.” How would you cast your eyeballs all around, and never catching a gleam of light, your mind would begin to fail. Your next stage would be one of increasing terror. You would fancy that you saw something, and then you would cry, „Ah! I would I could see something, were it foe or fiend!” You would feel the dark sides of your dungeon. You would begin to „scribble on the walls,” like David before king Achish. Agitation would cease hold upon you, and it you were kept there much longer, delirium and death would be the consequence. We have heard of many who have been taken from the penitentiary to the lunatic asylum; and the lunacy is produced partly by the solitary confinement, and partly by the darkness in which they are placed. In a report lately written by the Chaplain of Newgate, there are some striking reflections upon the influence of darkness in a way of discipline. Its first effect is to shut the culprit up to his own reflections, and make him realize his true position in the iron grasp of the outraged law. Methinks the man that has defied his keepers, and come in there cursing and swearing, when he has found himself alone in darkness, where he cannot even hear the rattling of carriages along the streets, and can see no light whatever, is presently cowed; he gives in, he grows tame. „The power of darkness” literally is something awful. If I had time, I would enlarge upon this subject. We cannot properly describe what „the power of darkness” is, even in this world. The sinner is plunged into the darkness of his sins, and he sees nothing, he knows nothing. Let him remain there a little longer, and that joy of curiosity, that hectic joy which he now has in the path of sin, will die away, and there will come over him a spirit of slumber. Sin will make him drowsy, so that he will not hear the voice of the ministry, crying to him to escape for his life. Let him continue in it, and it will by-and-bye make him spiritually an idiot. He will become so in sin, that common reason will be lost on him. All the arguments that a sensible man will receive, will be only wasted on him. Let him go on, and he will proceed from bad to worse, till he acquires the raving mania of a desperado in sin; and let death step in, and the darkness will have produced its full effect; he will come into the delirious madness of hell. Ah! it needs but the power of sin to make a man more truly hideous than human thought can realize, or language paint. Oh „the power of darkness!”
    Now, my brethren, all of us were under this power once. It is but a few months—a few weeks with some of you—since you were under the power of darkness and of sin. Some of you had only got as far as the curiosity of it; others had got as far as the sleepiness of it; a good many of you had got as far as the apathy of it; and I do not know but some of you had got almost to the terror of it. You had so cursed and swore; so yelled ye out your blasphemies, that you seemed to be ripening for hell; but, praised and blessed be the name of the Father, he has „translated you from the power of darkness, into the kingdom of his dear Son.”
    Having thus explained this term, „the power of darkness,” to show you what you were, let us take the next word, „and hath translated us.” Whet a angular word this—”translated”—is. I dare say you think it means the process by which a word is interpreted, when the sense is retained, while the expression is rendered in another language. That is one meaning of the word „translation,” but it is not the meaning here. The word is used by Josephus in this sense—the taking away of a people who have been dwelling in a certain country, and planting them in another place. This is called a translation. We sometimes hear of a bishop being translated or removed from one see to another. Now, if you want to have the idea explained, give me your attention while I bring out an amazing instance of a great translation. The children of Israel were in Egypt under taskmasters that oppressed them very sorely, and brought them into iron bondage. What did God do for these people? There were two millions of them. He did not temper the tyranny of the tyrant; he did not influence his mind, to give them a little more liberty; but he translated his people; he took the whole two millions bodily, with a high hand and outstretched arm, and led them through the wilderness, and translated them into the kingdom of Canaan; and there they were settled. What an achievement was that, when, with their flocks and their herds, and their little ones, the whole host of Israel went out of Egypt, crossed the Jordan, and came into Canaan! My dear brethren, the whole of it was not equal to the achievement of God’s powerful grace, when he! brings one poor sinner out of the region of sin into the kingdom of holiness and peace. It was easier for God to bring Israel out of Egypt, to split the Red Sea, to make a highway through the pathless wilderness, to drop manna from heaven, to send the whirlwind to drive out the kings; it was easier for Omnipotence to do all this, than to translate a man from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. This is the grandest achievement of Omnipotence. The sustenance of the whole universe, I do believe, is even less than this—the changing of a bad heart, the subduing of an iron will. But thanks be unto the Father, he has done all that for you and for me. He has brought us out of darkness, he has translated us, taken up the old tree that has struck its roots never so deep—taken it up, blessed be God, roots and all, and planted it in a goodly soil. He had to cut the top off, it is true—the high branches of our pride; but the tree has grown better in the near soil than it ever did before. Who ever heard of moving so huge a plant as a man who has grown fifty years old in sin? Oh! what wonders hath our Father done for us I He has taken the wild leopard of the wood, tamed it into a lamb, and purged away its spots. He has regenerated the poor Ethiopian—oh, how black are were by nature—our blackness was more than skin deep; it went to the center of our hearts; but, blessed be his name, he hath washed us white, and is still carrying on the divine operation, and he will yet completely deliver us from every taint of sin, and will finally bring us into the kingdom of his dear son. Here, then, in the second mercy, we discern from what we were delivered, and how we were delivered—God the Father hath „translated” us.
    But where are we now? Into what place is the believer brought, when he is brought out of the power of darkness? He is brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Into what other kingdom would the Christian desire to be brought? Brethren. a republic may sound very well in theory, but in spiritual matters, the last thing we want is a republic. We want a kingdom. I love to have Christ an absolute monarch in the heart. I do not want to have a doubt about it. I want to give up all my liberty to him. for I feel that I never shall be free till my self-control is all gone; that I shall never have my will truly free till it is bound in the golden fetters of his sweet love. We are brought into a kingdom—he is Lord and Sovereign, and he has made us „kings and priests unto our God,” and we shall reign with him. The proof that we are in this kingdom must consist in our obedience to our King. Here, perhaps, we may raise many causes and questions, but surely we can say after all, though we have offended our King many times, yet our heart is loyal to him. „Oh, thou precious Jesus! we would obey thee, and yield submission to every one of thy laws, our sins are not wilful and beloved sins, but though we fall we can truly say, that we would be holy as thou art holy, our heart is true towards thy statutes; Lord, help us to run in the way of thy commandments.”
    So, you see, this mercy which God the Father hath given to us, this second of these present mercies, is, that he hath „translated us out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is the Father’s work. Shall we not love God the Father from this day forth? Will we not give him thanks, and sing our hymns to him, and exalt and triumph in his great name?
    III. Upon the third point, I shall be as brief as possible; it is to SHOW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO VERSES.
    When I get a passage of Scripture to meditate upon, I like, if I can, to see its drift, then I like to examine its various parts, and see if I can understand each separate clause; and then I want to go back again, and see what one clause has to do with another. I looked and looked again at this text, and wondered what connection there could be between the two verses. „Giving thanks unto God the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Well, that is right enough; we can see how this is the work of God the Father, to make us meet to go to heaven. But has the next verse, the 13th, anything to do with our meetness?—”Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Well, I looked it over and I said I will read it in this way. I see the 12th verse tells me that the inheritance of heaven is the inheritance of light. Is heaven light? Then I can see my meetness for it as described in the 13th verse.—He hath delivered me from the power of darkness. Is not that the same thing? If I am delivered from the power of darkness, is not that being made meet to dwell in light? If I am now brought out of darkness into light, and am walking in the light, is not that the very meetness which is spoken of in the verse before? Then I read again. It says they are saints. Well, the saints are a people that obey the Son. Here is my meetness then in the 13th verse, where it says „He hath translated me from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son.” So that I not only have the light, but the sonship too, for I am in „the kingdom of his dear Son.” But how about the inheritance? Is there anything about that in the 13th verse? It is an inheritance; shall I find anything about a meetness for it there? Yes, I find that I am in the kingdom of his dear Son. How came Christ to have a kingdom? Why, by inheritance. Then it seems I am in his inheritance; and if I am in his inheritance here, then I am meet to be in it above, for I am in it already. I am even now part of it and partner of it, since I am in the kingdom which he inherits from his Father, and therefore there is the meetness.
    I do not know whether I have put this plainly enough before you. If you will be kind enough to look at your Bible, I will just recapitulate. You see, heaven is a place of light; when we are brought out of darkness, that, of course, is the meetness for light. It is a place for sons; when we are brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, we are of course made sons, so that there is the meetness for it. It is an inheritance; and when we are brought into the inherited kingdom of God’s dear Son, we enjoy the inheritance now, and consequently are fitted to enjoy it for ever.
    Having thus shown the connection between these verses, I propose now to close with a few general observations. I like so to expound the Scripture, that we can draw some practical inferences from it. Of course the first inference is this: let us from this night forward never omit God the Father in our praises. I think I have said this already six times over in the sermon. Why I am repeating it so often, is that we may never forget it. Martin Luther said he preached upon justification by faith every day in the week and then the people would not understand. There are some truths, I believe, that need to be said over and over again, either because our silly hearse will not receive, or our treacherous memories will not hold them. Sing, I beseech you, habitually, the praises of the Father in heaven, as you do the praises of the Son hanging upon the cross. Love as truly God, the ever-living God, as you love Jesus the God-man, the Savior who once died for you. That is the great inference.
    Yet another inference arises. Brothers and sisters, are you conscious to-night that you are not now what you once were? Are you sure that the power of darkness does not now rest upon you, that you love divine knowledge, that you are panting after heavenly joys? Are you sure that you have been „translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son?” Then never be troubled about thoughts of death, because, come death whenever it may, you are meet to be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Let no thought distress you about death’s coming to you at an unseasonable hour. Should it come to-morrow should it come now, if your faith is fixed on nothing less than Jesu’s blood and righteousness, you shall see the face of God with acceptance. I have that consciousness in my soul, by the witness of the Holy Spirit, of my adoption into the family of God, that I feel that though I should never preach again, but should lay down my body and my charge together, ere I should reach my home, and rest in my bed, „I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and more, that I should be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” It is not always that one feels that but I would have you never rest satisfied till you do, till you know your meetness, till you are conscious of it; until, moreover, you are panting to be gone, because you feel that you have powers which never can be satisfied short-of heaven—powers which heaven only can employ.
    One more reflection lingers behind. There are some of you here that cannot be thought by the utmost charity of judgment, to be „meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Ah! if a wicked man should go to heaven without being converted, heaven would be no heaven to him. Heaven is not adapted for sinners; it is not a place for them. If you were to take a Hottentot who has long dwelt at the equator up to where the Esquimaux are dwelling, and tell him that you would show him the aurora, and all the glories of the North Pole, the poor wretch could not appreciate them; he would say, „It is not the element for me; it is not the place where I could rest happy! And if you were to take, on the other hand, some dwarfish dweller in the north, down to the region where trees grow to a stupendous height, and where the spices give their balmy odours to the gale, and bid him live there under the torrid zone, he could enjoy nothing; he would say, „This is not the place for me, because it is not adapted to my nature.” Or if you were to take the vulture, that has never fed on anything but carrion, and put it into the noblest dwelling you could make for it, and feed it with the daintiest meals, it would not be happy because it is not food that is adapted for it. And you, sinner, you are nothing but a carrion vulture; nothing makes you happy but sin, you do not want too much psalm singing, do you? Sunday is a dull day to you; you like to get it over, you do not care about your Bible; you would as soon there should be no Bible at all, You find that going to a meeting-house or a church is very dull work indeed. Oh then you will not be troubled with that in eternity; do not agitate yourself. If you love not God, and die as you are, you shall go to your own company, you shall go to your jolly mates, you shall go to your good fellows; those who have been your mates on earth shall be your mates for ever; but you shall go to the Prince of those good fellows, unless you repent and be converted. Where God is you cannot come. It is not an element suited to you. As well place a bird at the bottom of the sea, or a fish in the air, as place an ungodly sinner in heaven. What is to be done then? You must have a new nature. I pray God to give it to you. Remember if now you feel your need of a Savior, that is the beginning of the new nature. „Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ;” cast yourselves simply on him, trust in nothing but his blood, and then the new nature shall be expanded, and you shall be made meet by the Holy Spirit’s operations to be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” There is many a man who has come into this house of prayer, many a man is now present, who has come in here a rollicking fellow, fearing neither God nor devil. Many a man has come from the ale house up to this place. If he had died then, where would his soul have been? But the Lord that very night met him, There are trophies of that grace present here to-night. You can say, „Thanks be to the Father, who hath brought us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” And if God has done that for some, why cannot he do it for others? Why need you despair, O poor sinner? If thou art here to-night, the worst sinner out of hell, remember, the gate of mercy stands wide open, and Jesus bids thee come, Conscious of thy guilt, flee, flee to him. Look to his cross, and thou shalt find pardon in his veins, and life in his death.

Martyn Lloyd Jones – Nine sermons from 1969 in Pensacola, Florida US visit

Photo by Iain Murray (misterrichardson.com)

Thanks to a great site www.mlj-usa.org/pensacola:

Here are nine sermons that Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached at the Pensacola Theological Institute in 1969, as part of his final visit to the USA.

The first was preached on Sunday morning, 17th August 1969, with Hurricane Camille threatening the area. Hence MLJ’s comment:-

    „Now I shall condense as best I can, my exposition of this great statement!”

The second sermon was preached on the afternoon of that same Sunday, the meeting having been brought forward in view of the approaching storm. However, by that time it had become apparent that the worst of the hurricane was going to miss Pensacola.

These are truly excellent sermons. ‘Prayer’ seems a slightly unusual start to the series, but ‘The Acid Test’ is powerful, ‘A Picture of the Church’ is hard-hitting, ‘The Problem of Evangelism’ is a real gem, and from my point-of-view ‘How Shall We Escape?’ might be more appropriately titled: ‘So Great a Salvation’ – it’s a great sermon on a great salvation.

May God bless you greatly as you listen.

1. Prayer (Hebrews 10:10-25)

2. The Acid Test of Christian Profession (2 Corinthians 4:17)

3. The Deep Things of God (1 Corinthians 2)

4. The Doctrine of the Church (Acts 2:42)

5. A Picture of the Church (Luke 24:25-27)

6. How Shall We Escape? (Hebrews 2:1-4)

7. The Problem of Evangelism (1 Thessalonians 1:5a)

8. Revival of a Backslidden Church (Exodus 33)

9. The Narrow Way (Matthew 7:13-14)

Family Series 14 B – Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 2 What Does It Mean to Lead – Desiring God

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Jesus—The Pattern for Manhood

The reason I am using the title “Lionhearted and Lamblike” to refer to the Christian husband as head of his wife is because the husband is called to lead like Jesus who is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and the Lamb of God (Revelation 5:6)—he was lionhearted and lamblike, strong and meek, tough and tender, aggressive and responsive, bold and brokenhearted. He sets the pattern for manhood.

But it may not yet be crystal clear to some that the concept of headship involves leadership as its main meaning. That is what I think is the case. The key verse on headship here is Ephesians 5:23: “The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” So the husband is to take his unique cues in marriage from Christ in his relationship to his church. I take that to mean that the husband bears a unique responsibility for leadership in the marriage.

The Husband as Leader

I suggested last time that a biblical definition of headship would be: Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. The more I have thought about those three facets of headship—leadership, protection, and provision—the more it seems to me that they really resolve into one thing with two expressions. Leadership is the one thing, and protection and provision are the two expressions. In other words, a husband’s leadership expresses itself in taking the lead in seeing to it that the family is protected and provided for. So protection and provision are not separate from leadership. They are the two most fundamental areas where the husband is called upon to bear primary responsibility.

So what we need to do is see the support for this in the text and then some application or illustration of what it means. Let’s give a few arguments from the text for why we think the word head in verse 23 involves a unique responsibility of leadership.

The Husband as Head

1) Head is used for leader in the Old Testament. For example, Judges 11:11, “So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them (eis kephalēn kai eis archēgon).” (See also 10:18; 11:8, 9; 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 18:43; Isaiah 7:8.)

2) Ephesians 1:21–23 says that Christ is “above every name that is named . . . and God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body.” The focus in this text is on Christ’s rule and authority when he is called head of the church. So the emphasis falls on his leadership over the church.

3) In Ephesians 5:25, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” While the stress here falls on Christ’s sacrifice for his bride and so tells the husband to love like this, we must not miss the inescapable truth that Christ took an absolutely decisive action here. He was not responding to the church. The church did not plan its salvation and sanctification. Christ did. This is leadership of the most exalted kind. But it is servant leadership. Christ is taking the lead to save his bride, and he is doing it by suffering for her.

But we see leadership in Christ’s sacrifice not just because he planned it and took the initiative rather than responding to her initiative, but also in the fact that he died to give an example to us. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). In other words, I have taken the lead in suffering for love’s sake; now you take up your cross and follow me. This is why leadership is not mainly a right and privilege, but a burden and a responsibility.

4) Finally, in view of these three reasons why headship involves leadership, the fourth argument is that the concept of submission, when related to headship, implies that headship is leadership. Paul says in verses 22-23, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife.” When the ground of submission is expressed as the headship of the husband, it is clear that headship involves the kind of leadership that a woman can honor.

The definition of submission that we will unfold after Easer is: “Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” The point today is simply that when submission is correlated with headship, it implies that headship involves leadership. The wife honors and affirms her husband’s leadership and helps carry it through according to her gifts.

So from these four observations—and there are more for other parts of the Bible that we could look at—I conclude that headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Protection

Now where in this text do we see the idea that this leadership takes special responsibility for protection and provision in the family? First, consider protection. In verses 25-27, Paul shows the husband how to love his wife—that is, how to exercise the kind of servant leadership that Christ did: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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.”

In the words “gave himself up for her,” we hear the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Christ gave himself up for us, he took our place. He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24) and became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) and died for us (Romans 5:8); and because of all this we are reconciled to God and saved from his wrath. Romans 5:10: “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

If there ever was an example of leadership that took the initiative to protect his bride, this is it. So when Paul calls a husband to be the head of his wife by loving like Christ when he leads, whatever else he means, he means: Protect her at all costs.

Provision

And what about provision? I am contending that headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. Are there evidences in this text that a husband’s leadership should take primary responsibility for the provision for his wife and family? Yes. If anything, this is even more explicit. Consider verses 28-29: “In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church.”

The words “nourish and cherish” are significant. The word nourish (ektrephei) is most often used in the Bible for raising children and providing them with what they need, but the part of that meaning that applies here is not that the husband is a parent but that he is a caring provider. It’s used more in the sense of Genesis 45:11 where Joseph says to his brothers, “There I will provide (ekthrepsō) for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come.” So the point is at least that the husband who leads like Christ takes the initiative to see to it that the needs of his wife and children are met. He provides for them.

Similarly, the other word in verse 29 points in the same direction but even more tenderly. The husband “nourishes and cherishes (thalpei) it [his body, his wife], just as Christ does the church.” This word for cherishing is used by Paul one other time, namely, to refer to his tender love for the church in Thessalonica. He compares himself to a mother caring for her infant. First Thessalonians 2:7: “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” The point was not at all to belittle the church; the point was to emphasize his tender care and that he would do anything he could for them the way a mother does her child.

So I conclude that there is good reason just from Ephesians 5—not to mention Genesis 1-3 and elsewhere—to lift up the divine calling of the husband as bearing a primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Life Hangs on Protection and Provision

Now notice something about protection and provision. The reason they stand out is that they are so basic. Without protection and provision, life itself is threatened. So the reason these two rise to the surface so quickly is that if a husband fails in his leadership here, there may not be any other place to exercise it. The life of the family hangs on protection and provision. Life itself must be protected and nourished, or it ceases to exist.

But there is another reason these two stand out. Protection and provision both have a physical and a spiritual meaning. There is physical food that needs to be provided, and there is spiritual food that needs to be provided. Husbands need to protect against physical threats to the life of the family and spiritual threats to the life of the family. So when you think it through, virtually everything a husband is called upon to do in his leadership is summed up in one of these four ways: 1) physical provision (like food and shelter), 2) spiritual provision (like the word of God and spiritual guidance, instruction, and encouragement), 3) physical protection (as from intruders or natural disasters or disease), and 4) spiritual protection (like prayer and warnings and keeping certain influences out of the home). Provision: physical and spiritual. Protection: physical and spiritual.

Encouragement of Husbands

Before I give some examples, let me give a word of encouragement and caution. The encouragement is to men. If this sounds new and overwhelming, be encouraged that Christ does not call you to do what he won’t empower you to do. My father loved to quote to us as a family Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Husbands are called to do some very hard things. Leadership is not easy. That’s part of what being a Christian means: Take up your cross and follow me. But with every command comes a promise. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). So be encouraged. Leadership is hard. But you’re a man. You’re a man. If your father never taught you how to lead, your heavenly Father will.

A Caution to Wives

The caution is to women. You cannot demand that your husband take leadership. For several reasons: 1) Demanding is contradictory to the very thing for which you long. It is out of character. If you become the demander, he’s not the leader. 2) Demanding will be counterproductive because if he had any impulse to try harder, your demanding will take the heart out of it, because it won’t feel like leading any more; it will feel like acquiescence. 3) It has to come from inside him worked by the word of God and the Spirit of God. So, instead of demanding, 1) pray earnestly for him that God would awaken his true manhood. 2) Ask him for a time when the two of you alone, when you are neither tired nor angry, can talk about your heart’s desires. When you express your longings, do it without sounding any ultimatums, and with a sense of hope grounded in God, not man. Express appreciation and honor for any ways that he is leading.

Examples and Explanations

That’s the encouragement and the caution. Now some examples and explanations. These must be brief and provocative rather than complete and an attempt to answer all your questions. Consider what leadership is in each of the four spheres mentioned earlier.

1. Leadership in Spiritual Provision

To provide spiritual food for the family, you must know spiritual food. This means that a man must go hard after God. You can only lead spiritually if you are growing in your own knowledge of God and love for God. If you are feeding your soul with the word of God, you will be drawn to feed your wife and your children.

Gather your wife and children for family devotions everyday—call it whatever you want: family prayers, family worship, family Bible time. Take the initiative to gather them. If you don’t know what to do, ask some brothers what they do. Or ask your wife what she would like to do. You don’t have to be a loner here. Remember, headship takes primary responsibility, not sole responsibility. The wife, we pray, is always supporting and helping. And regularly has gifts that the husband doesn’t. What women rightly long for is spiritual and moral initiative, from a man, not spiritual and moral domination.

And remember there is no necessary connection between being an effective leader and being more intellectual or more competent than your wife. Leadership does not assume it is superior. It assumes it should take initiatives. See that the family prays and reads the Bible and goes to church and discusses spiritual and moral issues, and learns to use the means of grace and grows in knowledge, and watches your example in all these things.

2. Leadership in Physical Provision

The husband bears the primary responsibility to put bread on the table. Again the word primary is important. Both husbands and wives always work. But their normal spheres of work are man: breadwinner; wife: domestic manager, designer, nurturer. And that never has meant that there are not seasons in life when a wife cannot work outside the home or that the husband cannot share the domestic burdens. But it does mean that a man compromises his own soul and sends the wrong message to his wife and children when he does not position himself as the one who lays down his life to put bread on the table. He may be disabled and unable to do what his heart longs to do. He may be temporarily in school while she supports the family. But in any case his heart, and, if possible, his body, is moving toward the use of his mind and his hands to provide physically for his wife and children.

3. Leadership in Spiritual Protection

The spiritual dangers that beset the family today are innumerable and subtle. We need valiant warriors like never before. Not with spears and shields, but with biblical discernment and courage. First, husbands, pray for your family everyday, “Lead them not into temptation but deliver them from evil.” Fight for them in prayer against the devil and the world and the flesh. Pray the prayers of the Bible for them. Don’t grow weary. God hears and answers prayer for our wives and children.

Set standards for your wife and children. Work them through with your wife. Remember the path of leadership here is primary responsibility, not sole responsibility. Wives are eager to help here, but what frustrates them is when we don’t take any initiative and they are left to try to determine and enforce the standards alone. Take the initiative in thinking through what will be allowed on TV. What movies you and the children will go to. What music will be listened to. And how low your daughter’s necklines will be. I am tempted to preach a whole message on the relationship between dads and the way their daughters dress. Yes, mom is the key player here in helping a young woman learn the meaning of modesty and beauty. But dad’s role for both of them is indispensable both in celebrating what they look like and telling them when the way they dress means what they don’t think it means. Dads, you know exactly what I mean. What you need here is courage. Don’t be afraid here. This is your daughter, and she must hear from you what she is saying to men with her clothes.

One other example of leadership in spiritual protection: Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” In other words, one wide open door to the devil in your house is unresolved anger as you go to bed. In the children and in the marriage. Leadership means we must take the lead in reconciliation.

I don’t mean that wives should never say they are sorry. But in the relation between Christ and his church, who took the initiative to make all things new? Who left the comfort and security of his throne of justice to put mercy to work at Calvary? Who came back to Peter first after three denials? Who has returned to you again and again forgiving you and offering his fellowship afresh? So husbands, your headship means: Go ahead. Take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That didn’t stop Christ. Who will break the icy silence first? Who will choke out the words, “I’m sorry, I want it to be better”? Or: “Can we talk? I’d like things to be better.” She might beat you to it. That’s okay. But woe to you if you think that, since it’s her fault, she’s obliged to say the first reconciling word. Headship is not easy. It is the hardest, most humbling work in the world. Protect your family. Strive, as much as it lies within you, to make peace before the sun goes down.

4. Leadership in Physical Protection

This is too obvious to need illustration—I wish. If there is a sound downstairs during the night and it might be a burglar, you don’t say to her: This is an egalitarian marriage, so it’s your turn to go check it out. I went last time.” And I mean that even if your wife has a black belt in karate. After you’ve tried, she may finish off the burglar with one good kick to the solar plexus. But you better be unconscious on the floor, or you’re no man. That’s written on your soul, brother, by God Almighty. Big or little, strong or weak, night or day, you go up against the enemy first. Woe to the husband—and woe to the nation—that send their women to fight their battles.

For God’s Glory and Our Good

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God came to call them to account, it didn’t matter that Eve had sinned first. God said, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). That’s God’s word to the family today: Adam, husband, father, where are you? If something is not working right at your house and Jesus comes knocking on the door, he may have an issue with your wife, but the first thing he’s going to say when she opens the door is, “Is the man of the house home?”

When a man joyfully bears the primary God-given responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership and provision and protection in the home—for the spiritual well-being of the family, for the discipline and education of the children, for the stewardship of money, for holding of a steady job, for the healing of discord—I have never met a wife who is sorry she married such a man. Because when God designs a thing (like marriage), he designs it for his glory and our good.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know

You can listen to the audio here. by C.J.Mahaney (from the 2004  Desiring God Conference)

Family Series 14 A – Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1

By John Piper,Pastor of Bethlehem Church at Desiring God, Minneapolis,MN.

You can listen to the audio here.

Ephesians 5:21-33

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

If the Lord wills, both today and next week we will focus on what it means for a married man to be the head of his wife and of his home. We focus on this for two reasons. One is that the Bible says in Ephesians 5:23, “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” We need to know what the Bible means by this statement so that we can exult in it and obey.

The other reason is that few things are more broken in our day than manhood and headship in relation to women and families. And the price of this brokenness is enormous and touches almost every facet of life. So for the sake of faithful biblical exposition and exultation, and for the sake of recovering biblical manhood and Christ-exalting family structures, we will, Lord willing, spend two weeks on this important issue of headship.

First Things First

Our emphasis in these weeks so far has been that staying married is not mainly about staying in love, but about keeping covenant. We did eventually come around to saying that precisely by this unwavering covenant-keeping the possibility of being profoundly in love in forty years is much greater than if you think of the task of marriage is first staying in love. Keeping first things first makes second things better. Staying in love isn’t the first task of marriage. It is a happy overflow of covenant-keeping for Christ’s sake.

We have spent most of our effort in these five messages so far pondering the foundations of covenant-keeping in the way Christ keeps covenant with us. We have looked at marriage as a showcase of covenant-keeping grace and as a combination of forgiveness and forbearance. And the last time we were together we took up the question: Can you help each other change? And if so, how do you do that graciously?

Headship Seen in Light of the Gospel

Up till now we have spent little time on the distinct roles of husband and wife—headship and submission. This was intentional. Foundations in the gospel are needed before these things can shine with the beauty they really have. There is nothing ugly or undesirable in these distinctions of headship and submission when they’re seen in the light of the gospel of grace.

So now the question presses on us: What is headship? And what is submission? The plan is to deal with headship in the next two weeks and then after Easter deal with submission and other issues relating to marriage.

This week will be largely foundation for headship, and next week will be largely application. What does it actually look like in practice?

The Mystery Revealed

Let’s move into this text at verse 31. It’s a quote from Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” In the next verse (v. 32), Paul looks back on this quote and says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Now why is the coming together of a man and woman to form one flesh in marriage called a mystery? Mystery in the New Testament does not mean something too complex or deep or obscure or distant for humans to understand. It refers to a hidden purpose of God that is now revealed for our understanding and enjoyment. Paul explains what the mystery is in verse 32. The marriage union is a mystery, he says, because its deepest meaning has been concealed by God during the Old Testament history, but is now being openly revealed by the apostle, namely, that marriage is an image of Christ and the church. Verse 32: “I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

So marriage is like a metaphor or an image or a picture or a parable or a model that stands for something more than a man and a woman becoming one flesh. It stands for the relationship between Christ and the church. That’s the deepest meaning of marriage. It’s meant to be a living drama of how Christ and the church relate to each other.

The Parallel Between One Body and One Flesh

You can see how this is confirmed in verses 28-30. They describe the parallel between Christ and the church being one body andthe husband and wife being one flesh. Verses 28-29: “In the same way husbands should love their 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 . . . .” In other words, the one-flesh union between man and wife means that in a sense they are now one body so that the care a husband has for his wife he, in that very act, has for himself. They are one. What he does for her he does for himself.

Then he compares this to Christ’s care for the church. Verses 29-30: “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Be sure to see the parallel: Christ nourishes and cherishes the church because we are members (that is, arms and legs and hands and feet) of his body. And husbands nourish and cherish their wives “as their own bodies.” No one ever hated his own flesh. Wives are our own flesh as the church is Christ’s own body. Just as the husband is one flesh with his wife so Christ is one body with the church. When the husband cherishes and nourishes his wife, he cherishes and nourishes himself; and when Christ cherishes and nourishes the church, he cherishes and nourishes himself.

All of this underlines what Paul calls a “profound mystery”—that marriage, in its deepest meaning, is a copy of Christ and the church. If you want to understand God’s meaning for marriage you have to grasp that we are dealing with a copy of a greater original, a metaphor of a greater reality and parable and a greater truth. And the original, the reality, the truth is God’s marriage to his people, or now in the New Testament, we see it as Christ’s marriage to the church. And the copy, the metaphor, the parable is human marriage between a husband and a wife. Geoffrey Bromiley says, “As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people” (God and Marriage, pg 43). I think that is exactly right. And it is one of the most profound things you can say about human life.

The Roles Are Distinct

One of the things to learn from this mystery is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are distinct. Consider the way Ephesians 5:22–25 unpacks the role of husband and the role of wife in the mystery of marriage as a copy of Christ and the church: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Husbands are compared to Christ; wives are compared to the church. Husbands are compared to the head; wives are compared to the body. Husbands are commanded to love as Christ loved; wives are commanded to submit as the church is to submit to Christ.

It is astonishing how many people do not see this when they deal with this passage. Or, seeing it, neglect it. I have in mind those who would be called egalitarians—the ones who reject the idea that men are called to be leaders in the home. They put all the emphasis on verse 21 and the teaching of mutual submission. All agree that verse 21 is overflow from verse 18 where Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit. Verses 18b-21: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with 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.”

So submitting to one another is seen as an expression of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Husbands and wives who are filled with the Holy Spirit serve one another. They humble themselves and get down low to lift the other up. They find ways to submit their immediate preferences for comfort to the need of the other. Amen to that! May it happen more and more. I have no desire to minimize the mutuality of submission and servanthood.

Mutual Submission and Unique Roles

But the problem is that egalitarians seem to stop with mutual submission, as if that were all one needed to say about roles in marriage, or as if that is all that the text has to say. And when they stop there, most people today are left with great ambiguity and great confusion about the proper roles of husband and wife. Once you clarify for people that a husband and a wife should be mutually humble, and mutually ready to serve each other, and mutually eager to meet each other’s needs and build each other up—once you have said all that, there remains a great uncertainty as to what, if anything, distinguishes the role of husband and wife. Is it only the biological gift of childbearing that distinguishes the roles? Or is there something more pervasive?

What is so astonishing is that egalitarians don’t embrace what every ordinary reader can see in Ephesians 5. After declaring that there is mutual submission in verse 21, Paul devotes twelve verses to unfolding the difference in the way a husband and wife should serve each other. You don’t need to deny mutual submission to affirm the importance of the unique role of the husband as head and the unique calling of the wife to submit to that headship.

Jesus, the Bridegroom, Served His Bride

The simplest way to see this is to remember that Jesus himself bound himself with a towel and got down on the floor and washed this disciples’ feet (the bridegroom, serving the bride), but not for one minute did any of the apostles in that room doubt who the leader was in that moment. In other words, mutuality of submission and servanthood do not cancel out the reality of leadership or headship. Servanthood does not nullify leadership; it defines it. Jesus does not cease to be the Lion of Judah when he becomes the lamb-like servant of the church.

After calling attention to the mutuality of submission or servanthood in verse 21, Paul devotes the whole passage through verse 33 to making distinctions between the role of the husband and the role of the wife—between the loving headship of a husband who takes his cues from Christ, and the willing submission of a wife who takes her cues from how the church is to follow Christ.

What we need to hear from this text today is not just a call to mutual submission that leaves young men groping for what it means to be a husband and young women groping for what it means to be a wife. What we need to hear is what headship and submission mean. What are the positive, practical implications of being called head that give man his distinct role in marriage? It is not enough to say, “Serve one another.” That is true of Christ and his church—they serve each other. But they do not serve each other in all the same ways. Christ is Christ. We are the church. To confuse the distinctions would be doctrinally and spiritually devastating. So also the man is the Christ-portraying husband, and the woman is the church-portraying wife. And to confuse these God-intended distinctions, or to abandon them, results in more disillusionment and more divorce and more devastation.

The Roles Are Not Arbitrary or Reversible

One of the things that are crystal clear in Ephesians 5 is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are not arbitrarily assigned and they are not reversible any more than the role of Christ and the church are reversible. The roles of husband and wife are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church. The revelation of this mystery is the recovery of the original intention of covenant marriage in the Garden of Eden.

You can see this most clearly when you ponder what sin did to headship and submission and how Paul’s teaching here in Ephesians 5 is so perfectly suited to remedy that corruption. When sin entered the world, it ruined the harmony of marriage not because it brought headship and submission into existence, but because it twisted man’s humble, loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. And it twisted woman’s intelligent, willing, happy, creative, articulate submission into manipulative obsequiousness or groveling in some women and brazen insubordination in others. Sin didn’t create headship and submission; it ruined them and distorted them and made them ugly and destructive.

Recovering Roles from the Ravages of Sin

Now if this is true, then the redemption we anticipate with the coming of Christ is not the dismantling of the original, created order of loving headship and willing submission, but a recovery of it from the ravages of sin. And that’s exactly what we find here in Ephesians 5:21-33. Wives, let your fallen submission be redeemed by modeling it after God’s intention for the church! Husbands, let your fallen headship be redeemed by modeling it after God’s intention for Christ!

Therefore, headship is not a right to control or to abuse or to neglect. (Christ’s sacrifice is the pattern.) Rather, it’s the responsibility to love like Christ in leading and protecting and providing for your wife and family. And submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That’s not the way Christ wants the church to respond to his leadership and protection and provision. He wants the submission of the church to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening.

In other words, what Ephesians 5:21-33 does is two things: It guards against the abuses of headship by telling husbands to love like Jesus, and it guards against the debasing of submission by telling wives to respond the way the church does to Christ.

Defining Headship and Submission

So let me close for now with brief definitions of headship and submission and then come back next week, Lord willing, with practical application of what this headship in particular looks like.

  • Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. (See next week’s message for the biblical basis of the words “leadership, protection, and provision.”)
  • Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

A good deal is at stake here. I hope you take it seriously whether you are single or married, old or young. Not just the fabric of society hangs on this, but the revelation of the covenant-keeping Christ and his covenant-keeping church.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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