Jesus is precious because he removes our guilt. He is precious because he gives us eternal life. And he is precious because through him we become authentic. Jesus Christ is the most important man that ever lived. To know him is more valuable than knowing all the most famous and powerful people of history. To be known and loved by him is a greater honor than if all the heads of state were to bow in your presence. When this world is over and we all stand before the judgment seat of God, many of you will look back with shame and dismay at how small was the place granted to the Son of God in your daily lives: how seldom you spoke to him, how little of his Word you learned, how half-hearted your resolve to obey, how narrow the sphere of life in which you eagerly sought his lordship. And on that day you will wonder no more why you were so unhappy in this life: unhappy at work,, unhappy in school, unhappy at church, unhappy at home. It will all come clear: half-hearted allegiance to the lordship of Christ in the practical affairs of everyday life not only robs Jesus of the honor we owe him, but also robs us of joy and purpose.
If it is true, as we saw last week from Romans 14:9, that Jesus desires so much to be Lord in your life that he died for that purpose, then is it not plain that in every part of your life Jesus wants to be Lord? There is no time or place or activity in your daily routine where Jesus does not want to be your owner, your provider, and your commander. And you will never know joy and authenticity in the minute by minute doing of your daily duties until you are wholly surrendered to him. That is, until you say, "Anything you say, Jesus, at work. Anything you say, Jesus, at school. Anything you say, Jesus, at church. Jesus, I will do anything, anything you say at home."
Ephesians 5:21–6:9 is a fairly familiar text. It deals with wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters. In a typical household of that time, those were the three dominant relationships that needed to be regulated. Paul was answering the question: what difference doers it make in a family when its members become Christians? The very existence of such a text in the New Testament (and there are several of them—Colossians 3:18–4:1; 1 Peter 2:18–3:7; Titus 2:4–10) shows that God is not indifferent about the ordinary give and take of home-life. If Christ is your Lord, he is Lord of all your daily life.
But my main point had another part. I said, "Christian family life is a work of God's Spirit in the lives of those who do everything for Christ's sake." Even though the Spirit of God is free to blow where he wills, there is a God-ordained correlation between submission to Jesus as Lord and the work of the Spirit. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus be accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." Wherever a person bows in humility under the lordship of Christ, there the Spirit of God is at work. It is the mission of the Spirit to exalt Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 16:14, when the Spirit comes, "He will glorify me." Therefore, when we are filled with the Spirit, we are in love with the glory of Christ and we delight to bow to him as Lord. Or to put it the other way around, if we desire to see the Spirit of God transform our family life, we must surrender totally to Jesus as Lord and turn all our daily doings into an offering of worship to him. When the Spirit reigns in your life, you do everything with a view to honoring Jesus. And in that way Jesus becomes the foundation and focus and goal of the family, and life at home is transformed.
And now I want to look briefly at two of Paul's applications of this truth in our text: first a word to husbands, then to wives, then a closing challenge to us all to be filled with the Spirit, yielded to the lordship of Christ for the sake of our families. The word to husbands is this: Be filled with the Spirit! Yield to the lordship of Christ! And then recognize this: your God-appointed headship in the family is to be exercised in love on the pattern of Christ's love for the church. I believe many people today make the mistake of saying that since mutual submission of all believers to each other is taught in verse 21, therefore there is no distinction between the roles of husband and wife. But the text simply will not allow this. What verses 22–33 do is spell out the peculiar forms that lowliness and submissiveness of husband and wife will take. And they are not the same. The wife is compared to the church, the husband compared to Christ. The husband is compared to the head, the wife is compared to his body (v. 28). If all Paul wanted to say was "Submit to each other," he could have left out verses 22–33 altogether. But we know from other letters he wrote (1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 2) that Paul sees in the created order a God-appointed distinction between male and female that makes the man's headship or leadership in marriage fitting and beautiful.
And now a brief word to wives. In its context Ephesians 5:22 means: if you are filled with the Spirit and yielded to the lordship of Christ, then you will be subject to your husbands as to the Lord. That little phrase "as to the Lord" has two implications. One is that a woman's first and ultimate allegiance is to the Lord Jesus and that other allegiances are subordinate to and derivative from this one. The other implication is that, therefore, the subordinate allegiances are limited by the revealed will of Christ. This means that the form which a wife's submission takes will vary according to the quality of her husband's leadership.