Note to Leaders:

We’re rethinking these discussion guides, so you may notice some changes in the coming weeks.  This week’s curriculum has far more content than you’ll need.  Don’t try to use all of it.

We’d encourage you to pick the one or two questions from each section and each Scripture reading that you feel are most relevant to your group.  Be sure to leave time for some of the application questions at the end. If we just talk about Scripture or about Gene’s teaching but don’t implement it in our lives, it doesn’t do us any good.

You’ll also notice that at the very end of this is some commentary on Ephesians 5.  This is simply provided as a help for you.  Feel free to share any pieces of it with the group that you find relevant, but there’s no need to read it all to them.


Series Theme

Good relationships are possible, but they are not probable.


Series Theme Verse

Romans 12:2 (MSG)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.


Introduction

  • Whether you’re single or married, which of the three marriage myths are you most susceptible to?

o Everything will get better in time.

o Marriage will make me happy.

o A spouse will complete me.

In his sermon, Gene talked about how men and women are equally valued by God, equally gifted by God, and equally loved by God, but we are different.  It’s why this crazy little thing called love can end up in a crazy cycle.

  • What do you think are the most significant differences between men and women? How do you think sin has corrupted these differences?

  • Why do you think God created us with prescribed roles in marriages?

  • Which natural tendency of your gender do you have the most difficulty handling in a godly way within the context of your home? Why? What affect does this have on your marriage?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 5:18-21.

Gene talked about how mutual submission is not just the key to great marriages but is also the key to great relationships of any kind.

  • How would you define submission? Why does the word tend to stir up controversy?

  • What does true submission look like? What does it not look like?

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 5:22-24.

Submission doesn’t imply losing your sense of worth or self. It is a voluntary and loving choice to follow in a way that displays how Christians follow Jesus. Christians don’t submit because someone forces them to do so; they submit voluntarily. Wives weren’t forced to think of themselves as their husbands’ property. They could see themselves as his partner and receive from him sacrificial love.

  • How is Jesus’ work on the cross an example of submission for us?

  • How does the church submit to Christ? Wives, how might this help you submit to your husbands?  Single women, what do you think about the idea of submitting to your husband?

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 5:25-32.

A husband is not to view his leadership as superior but as a responsibility and commitment to sacrifice everything for his wife. Paul also used the imagery of husbands loving their wives as their own bodies. Just as Christ nourishes and nurtures each of us as members of His body, a husband is to humble himself to seek his wife’s best interests, provide unselfishly for her welfare, and give priority to their relationship above all other human relationships.

  • What does the love husbands are called to model look like?

  • Husbands, what is the best example that comes to mind of a time when you have loved your wife like Christ loves the church?  Single men, how do you need to grow as a follower of Jesus in order to be able to better exhibit unconditional love?

  • How might a wife respond to a husband who loves her like Jesus? How does this type of love benefit her spiritually?

  • Who receives more instruction in Ephesians 5, wives or husbands? Why might this be?

Though Ephesians 5 is often quoted to remind women of their struggle of submission, it is the husband who actually receives the greater challenge from God. She must submit. He must love with the love of Jesus. It is clear that each action serves the other. The wife, in submitting, encourages her husband to Christ-likeness and the husband, in loving like Jesus, makes it easier for the wife to submit.

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 5:33.

Gene talked about one of the key differences between men and women: men’s desire for respect and women’s desire for love.

  • Why do you think God created man and woman to have such different needs?

Gene also referenced Emerson Eggerich’s “crazy cycle” in his sermon.

The wife is not feeling loved.  She may not even realize it – but she feels unloved, because her husband does something dumb. He’s busy, uncaring, not interested. 

So how does she react? She starts doing the number one thing that makes a guy feel disrespected: nagging. She doesn’t think of it as nagging or nitpicking.  She thinks of it as a suggestion to awaken him to his flaws.  And he feels shredded and his heart is reduced.

Now the more a wife nags and complains, the more he withdraws, and he pours himself into his work, because he feels respected there.  And now she feels he’s disinterested in her.  She feels unloved.

This crazy-cycle can go on for years, for decades of a dysfunctional, unhappy, miserable relationship: “Well I only did that because of what you did.”  “Well I only did that because of what you did.”

At the heart of flourishing relationships is unconditional love and unconditional respect.

Unconditional love says “I will love you in spite of what you do, what you say, how you hurt me.”  It’s how God loves us.

Unconditional respect may sound like an oxymoron, like a contradiction, but unconditional respect for a man works in the same way as unconditional love.  It’s not based on what he does, and it’s not based on a feeling.

Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

If you’re struggling with unconditional love or unconditional respect, this is where you can get some traction against that thing that has lodged itself down in your heart.  Do for your spouse what God has done for you.

And by the way unconditional love and unconditional respect do not mean that you ever tolerate abuse.  If you are being abused sexually or physically in a relationship you need to get out.  Tell somebody.  Let us help you.

  • Have you ever been stuck in the crazy cycle?

  • What do you think about the ideas of unconditional love and unconditional respect?  What would it look like if you were to apply them in your marriage?

  • For those of you who aren’t married, how does this affect your view and expectation of marriage? 

Gene gave us three ways to practice unconditional respect:

  1. Respect his desire for conquest.

  2. Respect his desire to analyze and counsel.

  3. Respect his intentions.

And three ways to practice unconditional love:

  1. Love her by getting to know her.

  2. Love her by accepting her.

  3. Love her by making her your priority.

  • How can you implement these practices in your relationship?  Which of these do you think will be most difficult to implement?

  • What other ways can we practice unconditional love and unconditional respect?


Application

What are some opportunities you might have to love those who seem unloveable in your workplace, neighborhood, or community this week? 

Sometimes relationships come to tragic, abrupt endings due to abuse, addiction, and more.  The crazy cycle became a downward spiral that bottomed out. Families end up broken, left to pick up the pieces emotionally, physically and mentally. What are some ways you and your group can support these families in your community? 

Women, what is one tangible thing you can do to show respect to your husband this week?

Men, what is one tangible thing you can do to show respect to your wife this week?


Pray

Ask God to strengthen the marriages in your church based on the truths of His Word. Pray that marriages would reflect the unconditional love and unconditional respect God desires spouses to show each other.


Commentary

Ephesians 5:18-33

5:18. Ephesus was a center of pagan worship and ritual. The Ephesian culture worshiped Baccus, the god of wine and drunken orgies. They believed that to commune with their god and to be led by him, they had to be drunk. In this drunken state, they could determine the will of their god and determine how best to serve and obey him.

Paul was talking about how to commune with the God of heaven, how to live for Him, how to serve and obey Him, how to determine His will. It was natural for Him to draw the contrast between how the god of Ephesus is served and how the God of heaven is served. With the God of heaven, you do not get drunk with wine. Rather, you are filled with the Spirit. Being drunk with wine leads to the sexual sins and immorality of darkness described above. By being filled with the Spirit, you can determine God’s will and serve Him faithfully in moral living.

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Some interpreters equate this command with instances of being filled with the Spirit in the Book of Acts in which miraculous things happened: people spoke in tongues; prophecies and visions were given; people were healed. “Be filled” in this verse is not the same word as the one used in the Book of Acts, nor are the consequences the same. Rather than understanding this command in verse 18 to have anything to do with miraculous or extraordinary happenings, it is better to understand it in context. In this ethical context, it means directed, influenced, and ultimately governed by the Holy Spirit. This filling, then, is best understood, as a command for the believer to yield himself to the illuminating, convicting, and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. As He works in our hearts through His Word, our lives are brought into conformity with the will of God (v. 17).

5:19-21. Four Greek participles—”speak, make music” (melodying), “giving thanks” (thanking), and “submit” (subjecting)—in verses 19-21 modify the verb “be filled” of verse 18, describing the person filled with the Holy Spirit. The first two participles suggest the importance of music and Scripture in being filled with the Spirit. An attitude of gratitude is a third characteristic of being filled with the Spirit. Finally, an attitude of mutual submission among believers is a characteristic of being filled with the Spirit.

5:22-24. Paul knew that both male and female are equally created in God’s image, equally recipients of salvation by grace through faith, and of no fundamental difference in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). The phrase “to your own husbands” reminds us that Paul did not expect each woman to submit to any and all of the males in the church. On the other hand, the verb submit is quite strong, expressing the idea of “follow the leadership of.” This term suggests an organization in which different roles are assigned in order for the group to succeed. (In an army, if soldiers do not follow the leadership of the general, chaos will follow and battles will be lost.) For Christian wives to submit to their husbands, then, is for them to acknowledge their God-assigned role for the success of their marriage. Paul provided an incentive for this submission by the phrase “as to the Lord.” On the basis of their personal relationship with Jesus—and their obedience to Him—wives were to submit to their husbands. He viewed this as an act of service to Christ. Of course, Paul was not implying that Christian wives are exempt from seeking to follow Christ directly as they develop their own personal spiritual lives. Paul had taught earlier in Ephesians that Christ is the Head of the church (1:22; 4:15). Here, however, he made a comparison that he had not made before. There is a parallel between the role that Christ has as Head of the church and the role that the husband has as head of the wife. Moreover, the essential characteristic of Jesus’ headship is not so much dominating as it is delivering: He is the Savior of the body. His headship over the church is that of care more than control. Husbands can never be the saviors of their wives in the same way that Christ is their Savior. Yet Paul implied that wives who see their husbands exhibiting sacrificial care will have no trouble submitting to their leadership. Both husbands and Christ have been called head (or leader). Both wives and the church have the responsibility to submit to their leader. The phrase in everything implies that all areas of life are included in the wife’s submission. Yet surely Paul would have considered it unthinkable for a wife to submit to a husband’s asking her to do something immoral or ungodly.

5:25-30. The words translated “love” and “loved” are forms of the verb (Greek, “agapao”) used in John 3:16 for God’s sacrificial concern for the world. Such love is more than mere affection or emotion; it includes actions based on care for the object of love. Although many husbands have literally died for their wives (and vice versa), Paul’s focus is more on the responsibility of the husband to live for his wife than to die for her. These verse provide the theological foundation for understanding a husband’s responsibility to his wife. To make her holy describes what happens now (in this lifetime) to believers as a result of Jesus’ self-giving. Everything in our conversion as well as in our daily Christian living has as its goal setting us apart for Christ. Paul explained this as an experience of cleansing. The image of washing helps us understand what being holy means. To present the church to Himself describes what will happen (throughout eternity) to believers as a result of Jesus’ self-giving. The verb “present” suggests a bride on her wedding day approaching her beloved groom, and the phrase “in splendor” hints at the bride’s wedding attire. No bride would want to appear on her wedding day in a spotted, wrinkled gown. The words “holy” and “blameless” sum up the effect of Christ’s love and sacrifice for His people. And the Lord will most certainly accomplish this result in His people, for holy and blameless are the same words used to describe God’s plan for His chosen ones from the foundation of the world. Christian husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ does. This means they are to do all they can to make their wives more beautiful (in the spiritual sense of being holy and blameless). Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. A husband is the head; the wife is the body; and the husband loves his body. It is as if their wives were an extension of their own bodies. When the apostle wrote that he who loves his wife loves himself, he used the verb “loves.” Just as a man should seek his own spiritual welfare, so he should seek the highest good of his wife. The husband seeks the highest good of his wife in the physical realm as well. God has so wired us as human beings that a person provides and cares for his physical well-being. The normal pattern of life is for a person to take care of his own physical body. For a husband, this includes the responsibility of caring for the body (wife) to whom he is married.

5:31-33. A couple’s unity is based on recognizing that previous family ties are to be reprioritized after marriage. Husbands and wives are intentionally to leave their parents, the human relationship that normally dominates the life of children. This leaving includes emotional and spiritual separation from one’s parents too—and likely physical and financial separation as well—so that the marriage relationship can be primary. If leave puts the matter negatively, then be joined puts the new relationship positively. Be joined could also be translated “united to” or “bonded with.” The two will be one flesh includes the intimacy of sexual union, but it extends to all other dimensions. The husband and wife are to be united in their values and decisions as they join together emotionally and spiritually. Here Paul returned for a moment to his doctrinal reflection on Christ and the church. It was no mystery that husband and wife join together as one flesh. That teaching went back to Genesis. The mystery was that the redeemed and the Lord Jesus are joined together in one body, which a godly marriage reflects. A godly, “one-flesh” marriage visibly models the one-flesh relationship between Christ (the Bridegroom-Head) and His people (the bride-body). Then the apostle offered one final word for each spouse within a marriage. In summary, a husband’s responsibility is to love his wife as himself. This is the third time in the passage that Paul urged husbands to love their wives. The wife’s responsibility is to respect her husband. This verb is different than “submit,” which Paul had used earlier. The verb rendered respect is usually translated “fear.” Yet here it refers not to a sense of terror but to the high regard a wife expresses for her husband, who sacrifices and serves her so that she may become holy.