You're on, Mark

September 4, 2006

Mark, I’ll take you up on your challenge. It will give me an opportunity to give praise to God for his providence in my life, and to praise him for giving me friends like you, Al and C.J. It will also afford the opportunity for me to highlight the unique gifts each of you have, and the way you are each suited to be a blessing to the churches.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working through Ephesians 5 at First Presbyterian, and a Lloyd-Jones quote/thought has recently taken my breath away. While looking at Eph. 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her," we asked — so what does that love look like? How are we supposed to love? Paul doesn’t leave us without an answer. He points to the cross. What is Christ’s love for the church like? Look at the cross.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught me something about Ephesians 5:25 that I had never before grasped. How many times have I read, and preached, this verse and missed it? Then I read his pastoral words of application: "How many of us have realized that we are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement? Is that our customary way of thinking of marriage?. . . Where do we find what the books have to say about marriage? Under which section? Under ethics. But it does not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement." (Life in the Spirit, 148)

That means, by the way, that every time we hear a sermon on the atonement, we as Christian husbands are being shown and taught by our Lord how to love our wives. Yes, certainly, above all, whenever we hear atonement proclaimed, we are always first to consider the matchless work of God on our behalf. The atonement always and foremost is to evoke in us wonder, love, gratitude and praise for saving grace freely given to us at the cost of the Father’s only and beloved Son. It is about what God is doing for us, for our redemption, outside of us, without any assistance from us, or any input from us, or any contribution from us. For the atonement is the awesome display of the stunningly surprising saving love of God at work on our behalf. It is never a mere example of love. It is never a mere illustration. It is never merely a means of moral influence.

But here in Ephesians 5:25b, Paul bids Christian husbands to look at the cross, to look at how Christ gave himself for his people there, to look at how he gave himself totally, to look at how he gave himself to the uttermost, to look at how he endured the shame and suffering, to look at how he died – all for his bride, all for his people, all for the church.

And then the apostle Paul applies the atonement to Christian husbands. "Men," he says, "Christ lived, suffered and died for the eternal good of his bride – now, you go love your wives like that. Love your wives like Christ loved the church. Love your wives like Christ gave himself for the church. Love your wives in light of the atonement."

So next time you are wishing that the preacher would talk about something practical, and he’s up there again preaching about the cross, preaching about the atonement, just remember the triple practicality of it – (1) he’s not only teaching you about the love of God, a love so deep you’ll never see to the bottom of it in all eternity, (2) he’s not only teaching you about the glorious work of redemption by penal substitution, a work without which you would not and could not have been saved from an eternity in hell, (3) he’s teaching you as a Christian husband how to love your wife – Christ lived, suffered and died for his bride; you live, and if necessary suffer and die for your wife’s good.