The Root Of The Fruit In Marriage
“Portions of this post were adapted from Catching Foxes: A Gospel-Guided Journey to Marriage”
I now realize that any good discussion about the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives in marriage should first and often highlight our deep need for the grace of God. Fulfilling the roles is fruit. God reigning in our hearts is the root.
When reading the various instructions Scripture places upon husbands and wives we might easily assume they can be faithfully obeyed apart from God’s transforming grace. I’m coming to believe they cannot be. We desperately need help!
Let me try to develop this idea from Ephesians 5:18-21. These four verses immediately precede Paul’s address to husbands and wives in the body of Christ.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph. 5:18-21, bold italics mine)
These verses provide the truth and power for everything Scripture asks us to be and do in marriage. After telling us not to be drunk with wine, Paul says, “but be filled with the Spirit.” This is the key phrase for the whole text to follow. It contains the load-bearing, imperative verb for the passage. Everything else depends on it happening. So what does it mean?
If we try to understand the idea from Ephesians, be filled with the Spirit means being new creations in Christ and thus, Spirit-filled (Eph. 1:13-14; 5:14). It means trusting Him and honoring Him in our hearts by His word (Eph. 1:18-19; 5:18). It means being strengthened by His power in our daily submission to Him (Eph. 1:18-19; 5:18), not being ruled by worldly desires (Eph. 5:18). It means being under the control of God and His word rather than under the control of the flesh and the world.
Being filled by the Holy Spirit changes the way we relate to God, a spouse, and everyone else. Verses 19-21 contain four participles that describe the wonderful and natural consequences of God’s presence and power in our souls. They’re unavoidable and undeniable results of a Spirit-filled life.
· Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
· Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord
· Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God
· Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ
If we’re actively filled with the Holy Spirit, then we will speak to one another with loving, kind, and compassionate words. We will worship Jesus Christ together from our hearts. Our interactions with others will build up the body of Christ, not tear it down. We will constantly give thanks to God in the light of all that He has given us in Jesus Christ. Even when life hurts, we willpraise Him and encourage others to see Him and enjoy Him. Then we will voluntarily submit ourselves to whatever authority God has assigned to us out of reverence for Christ. When we trust Christ and follow Christ with the strength the Spirit provides all these qualities grow and flourish over time.
If we do not abide in the Spirit of Christ, we cannot honor and please God. If we abide in the Spirit of Christ, then we cannot avoid honoring and pleasing God, for His Spirit will bear fruit in our lives. Just as Jesus promised, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Isn’t this what we all desire for our marriages, and every marriage in the world? We long for gracious, humble, kind words; Unified worship of God; Constant gratitude in our conversations around the house; Joyful, humble willingness to yield to others in order to love and serve them. Isn’t this what we strive for? If these words defined our lives and marriages, would we not feel richly blessed? Paul gives us the key to such life and marriage: “be filled with the Spirit.”
One reason many of my efforts to help marriages in the past failed is because I tried to produce righteous speaking, singing, thanksgiving, and submission without the Spirit of God. For years I coached better words without desperate prayer. I called people to be thankful, but without thorough talk of the gospel. I asked them to obey God’s instructions for marriage without helping them feed upon the Word of God and delight in it. I counseled submission, but without the fear of Christ, who is the Master of submission, who has forever existed in submission to the Father, and whose submission purchased our salvation.
I am realizing more than ever that I need to change the way I talk about the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives in marriage. If I want to love my wife just as Christ also loved the church, then I need the Holy Spirit to rule me in every aspect of my life. I probably need to spend more time thinking with others about what it means to abide in Jesus Christ, and then doing it – Watching Him in action through His Word, trusting Him, talking to Him, obeying His commands, believing His promises, beholding His beauty, and a dozen other points of connection to Jesus Christ, the Vine. God, and the gift of His Spirit, really is our only hope and power.
Posted on July 10, 2015