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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Balmer

Turning Headship On Its Head

This is a sermon preview for the third week of our Kingdom Family Values series. Visit FBCM’s website to listen to our livestream.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ ….’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. ” – from Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

When it comes to family, a lot of us are going to think about marriage. Which made me think: there’s two kind of stories, in traditional Western theater. From the Greeks to Shakespeare. There are tragedies and there are comedies.

Tragedies end in death. And comedies aren’t like our modern comedies, except maybe our "Rom-Coms". They end in marriage. 

Photo from Melody Withers Photography (Wedding: Hanna & Nathan). A bride and groom stand in front of a projector screen with the lyrics "Oh, the night has been won, And I shall overcome! Yet not I, But through Christ in me."
Our church building is known in the community for hosting many weddings. But it is not the celebration we most value, but faithful marriages which point to Christ in their faithfulness and devotion. (Melody Winters, photograph)

The astounding thing about the Gospel is that it is both. There is a great tragedy. What happens at the end of the Gospels? Jesus dies a horrible death on a cross. Of course, Christians believe the story doesn’t end there. But Jesus rose again, he ascended to heaven, and we believe he will return. 

But it’s not just a comedy because terrible things do not have the last word.

The Gospel story is also like a comedy because it ends in marriage. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist says about Jesus, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). And at the very end of the New Testament, we read about rejoicing in heaven and an angel saying: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev. 19:9)

The return of Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom of God in fullness, is pictured as a marriage. There are stories, parables, Jesus tells about the waiting on the bridegroom to talk about his return. There is a marriage, a union, of heaven and earth: of Christ and the church. 

Ephesians 5 is an oft-cited passage when it comes to marriage. Some Christians see it as promoting a husband's "headship" (interpreted as final authority) in marriage. 

But what if Paul isn't advocating that only husbands are in charge, while wives only submit to their husbands? In fact, Paul turns headship on its head, and shows us how authority and submission work differently in the Kingdom of God. 

Join us this Sunday as we discover how mutual love and service in marriage becomes a profound mystery, a picture of Christ's love for the church. Paul is so shaped by Christ in his thinking, so shaped by Christ’s love for his church, that even in giving instruction on households, Paul cannot help but preach the Gospel.

Marriage, lived out in faithfulness and in service, becomes a sign which points to something much greater than marriage: Christ’s love for the church.


Reflection Questions:

  1. What teaching about marriage have you heard? Has the idea of mutual service in marriage been something you heard taught? Or was the idea of submission only one-way?

  2. Why do you think marriage is one symbol (among many) to talk about Christ’s relationship to the church?

  3. This passage talks about serving one another, honoring one another, submitting to one another. It has a very different focus than so much of our depictions of romance. Faithfulness becomes the defining mark of Christian marriage, and that is what points to Christ’s unyielding love. What does faithfulness look like in the Christ-honoring marriages you have seen?


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Find them on our church center app worship services (click "listen" on any service), or find "First Baptist Church Muncie" on your smart speaker or podcasting app of choice.


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