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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marriage and the Local Church

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
(Eph 5:32 ESV)
I recently spent some time with Jono Sims and Barry King and our conversations kept returning to the subject of the local church.  Jono preached upon this subject while we were in Illinois at the Encouraged to Endure Conference and Barry King is a man that God is using to start churches in London, England.  As I have reflected upon the sermon by Jono and the conversations that I had with both of these men I simply cannot get away from the text in Ephesians 5:32.

Paul uses the analogy of marriage from 5:22-33 to teach an unmistakable truth about the gospel and about the local church.  In brief bullet statements we should recount the marriage analogy and then apply it to the local church.  Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.  Husbands, love you wives as Christ loved the church.  After explaining how Christ loved the church the husband is told again to love his wife even as he loves his own body.  The man is to καταλείπω (separate/leave behind) his father and mother and προσκολλάω (to adhere to closely, be faithfully devoted to [BDAG]) to his wife.  This union is of such closeness that Paul would say that they are to become  μια (one/ a single person) flesh.  Lastly, Paul again says that the husband is to love his wife as himself and the wife is to respect/fear her husband. 

Now we can apply this to Christ and the local church.  A believer is to love Christ and his church.  A believer is to separate/leave his old alliances (world, devil, sin, unhealthy relationships, etc.) and he is to be devoted to Christ and His church.  As a husband loves his own wife so a believer is to love Christ and his own local church.  As a husband cares for his wife (sacrifice, sanctifying her, cleansing her) so a believer is to care for his local church.  A believer has not only come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but he has also come into relationship with a local church.  The church has spots, blemishes, and wrinkles, but this does not justify a man to hop from church to church.  A husbands responsibility is to be the spiritual leader.  A spiritual leader does not lead a wife of perfection, but a wife who is imperfect.  It is simply a matter of reality that a marriage has difficulty and those who work through the difficulties experience the joy of a more beautiful relationship.  A husband cannot simply hop from one wife to another when things get difficult.  A true husband lays down his life on the behalf of his wife, because he loves her.  The true believer lays down his life for the local church, because he loves Christ.  As sinful as it is for a man to always be looking for a better wife, it is just as sinful for a believer to always be looking for another church. 

There are a few permissible grounds for a marriage to end.  One reason for a marriage to end is for an unbeliever to depart (1 Cor. 7:15), but in that case the person should remain single.  A second reason for a marriage to end is that one of the partners dies (1 Cor. 7:39).  Lastly, a marriage may end upon the account of sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9).  If you terminate your relationship with your local church you will need some clear grounds to do so.  First, you have have to be able to substantiate clear grounds that your church is a group of unbelievers (thus, not a church) who have gone after the world.  Second, you would have to have clear evidence that your church died (Word is not faithfully preached, ordinances are not upheld, and a fellowship of accountability is not a reality).   Lastly, you would need clear proof that your church has gotten into bed with worldliness and refuses to repent out of it. 

I pray that you will evaluate your relationship with Christ and your local church.  Do you value your church as a man who loves his wife or do you simply view the church as something you use for your own selfish benefit?  Do you leave the local church every time things do not go your way?  Do you find yourself looking around the community in hopes of finding greener grass on the other side?  I pray that you will be a person of resolve and say, "come hell or high water I am committed to Christ and the local church where Christ has placed me".  

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