On Lordship and Love
August 14, 2016
Part 1: There Is A Difference
One day, you just might get the following question from the backseat of your car: “Mommy, Daddy, why do we have to follow the speed limit?” If this question ever comes your way, do collect yourself and be aware of the teaching moment. Do take a sip of whatever source of energy you’ve got in your cupholder. And then, do remember that there are basically two ways to answer your kid’s simple but profound question.
The first way is to say something like this. “Mommy, Daddy, why do we have to follow the speed limit?” “Well, if we go too fast and don’t follow the speed limit, then the police may pull us over and give us a ticket. And we don’t want a ticket. If we get a ticket, then we have to pay money. And that’s not good.”
Now that sounds like a good answer. And it is a good one - that is, if you’re not a Christian parent.
But if you are a Christian parent, then it is arguably one of the worst answers you could give to your child.
The second way to answer the question goes something like this. “Mommy, Daddy, why do we have to follow the speed limit?” “Well, we follow the speed limit because God commands us to love him and love our neighbors. When we follow the rules of people that God has put in charge over us, then that’s loving God. And when we drive carefully and think about other people and their safety on the road, then that’s loving our neighbors. And we do all of this because Jesus loves us and died for our sins.”
These are two very different answers. The first answer is what any human being on earth could give. But the second answer is what any believer in Christ should give. The first answer is fundamentally man-centered. It’s about tickets and money. The second answer is fundamentally Christ-centered. It’s about the Lord and his command. The first answer is what you might say if you were the lord of your life. The second answer is what you would say if Jesus were the Lord of your life. There is a difference.
And Paul wanted the Colossians to see the difference.
Part 2: Jesus is Lord
The problem with the Colossian church was simple. They drifted away from Jesus Christ. They relied on other things for their spiritual growth and maturity. Their lives at church and at home were not centered on Christ. And so Paul instructed the church to be compassionate and humble and forgiving and loving. We went through these things, these characteristics of God, last Sunday. But today, I want you to notice the grand motivation behind all of these things. The grand motivation in Christian life is the lordship of Christ.
Notice Paul’s words. We are to forgive one other… as the Lord has forgiven us (verse 13). We are to maintain unity within the body… in light of the peace of Christ (verse 15). We are to have wisdom and thankfulness… because of the word of Christ (verse 16). We are to do everything… in the name of the Lord (verse 17). Paul goes on to say that wives are to submit to their husbands… as is fitting in the Lord (verse 18). Children are to obey their parents… because it pleases the Lord (verse 20). Bondservants are to obey their masters… out of fear of the Lord (verse 22). And they are to work heartily… for the Lord… and serve… the Lord… in order to receive an inheritance reward… from the Lord (verses 23-24).
Brothers and sisters, the grand motivation in Christian life is the lordship of Christ. We care about the commands because we love the commander. We love the law is because we love the lawgiver. We do good works is because we worship a good Lord. Brothers and sisters, we do what we do because we have a Lord. And his name is Jesus.
What does it mean for Jesus Christ to be our Lord? It means that Jesus has authority over us. His will is our command. It means that we stop doing bad things (and even good things) that we want to do and start doing all things that he wants us to do. It means that when we are faced with a decision, we go to him first. It means that his presence is acknowledged everywhere and all the time. It means that our walk with him has a royal and reverent texture to it. It means that he is not really our homeboy. It means that we worship and love and trust and obey an almighty king.
And all of this starts at church.
Part 3: Beauty and Excellence Behind the Gas Station
In the final chapter of the book Proverbs, we get a portrait of the excellent wife. But it ends with a fascinating twist. At the end of the portrait, we are told these words: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain. But a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Now, if the Bible were a handbook on mundane life, then every sister should read the end of Proverbs as a lesson on how to be an excellent wife. And every brother should read it as a lesson on what to look for in an excellent wife. But the Bible is not ultimately about how to live a regular life. The Bible is ultimately about the salvation of Christ Jesus. This portrait of an excellent wife is ultimately a portrait of what the church should look like as the bride of Christ. Paul himself confirms this way of reading when he describes the husband and wife marriage relationship as a mysterious portrait of the relationship between Christ and his church. Proverbs 31 is ultimately a portrait of the excellent and beautiful bride of Christ.
And we are left with this thought: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain. But a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
What makes a church truly beautiful? Is it the architecture or the interior design? Is it the quality of its programs or the tastiness of its food? Is the beauty of a church lodged in the overall experience or feeling that one gets on Sundays? Is a church beautiful when it is full of photogenic members? Is a church beautiful when it has a charming welcoming team or a great sounding praise team? Perhaps. But not really. Not really in the eyes of the bridegroom. You see, in the eyes of Christ the King, earthly charm is deceitful and humanly-measured beauty is vain. But a church who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Highland Church, let us focus on fearing the Lord. Let us be a church full of the compassion and kindness of Jesus. Let us be a church that is humble and meek, patient and forbearing. Let us be a church that overflows with forgiveness and unity. Let us be a church that is rich in the word of Christ. Let us be a church that is most excellent in the love. And let us be a church that submits to the Lord Jesus Christ. May people say about Highland, “It’s hard to see them behind the gas station, but it’s not hard to see that they have a king.”
But that’s just church.
Part 4: The Plain and The Ordinary
Let us also be a church that never hears this question from the backseat of the car: “Mommy, Daddy, why are you nice at church but mean at home?”
In the second half of today’s Scripture text, the Apostle Paul does something interesting. He talks about Christian life at home. He talks about the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and bondservants. It turns out that Jesus’ lordship doesn’t end at the church doors. It ends at the dinner table. It ends in the workplace. It plays out in the regular relationships of routine life. It is revealed in how you treat the people that are closest to you.
And there is no better place to start than the relationship between husband and wife.
Part 5: I Do
There are tons of books out there on marriage. It’s insane. And yet, verses 18 and 19 will never die. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Let’s get right to it.
Wives are to submit to their husbands. Dear wives of Highland Church, you are to submit to your husband, and you are to do so as the church submits to her head, which is Christ. Ephesians 5 also goes through this. Now, the verb “to submit” has generally a negative connotation. But the verb here in the Bible simply means that wives are to follow the husband’s lead and honor him and his authority over the family. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
A few qualifications are in good order. First, to be submissive does not mean to be unimportant. Submissiveness does not mean inferiority. The last chapter of Proverbs clearly shows that the wife and mother of the household is absolutely important to the husband and family. Furthermore, Paul’s ministry often counted on the work and support of women in the church. Submission does not lead to insignificance. Second, submission is not exactly the same thing as obedience. While wives are to submit to their husbands, that does not mean that they must absolutely obey unlawful or ungodly direction from their husbands. Third and finally, it is worth nothing that God’s Word does not say, “Women, submit to men.” It says, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” We are talking about submission in the context of marriage. If you’re a male who gets pulled over by a female cop, you better submit to her or else.
Husbands are to love their wives. This is huge. To love your wife means to sacrifice yourself for her. It means to put her needs and wants above yours. It means that you protect her physically and emotionally and spiritually. It means that you listen to her and understand her. It means that you respect her. It means that you are patient toward her. It means that you are not harsh toward her. It means that you show affection to her through your words and actions. It means that you do everything you can to love her better than you did yesterday. It means that you pray for her. It means that you pray with her. It means that you praise her. It means that you deny yourself and consider her better than you and more important than you. It means that you should and could and would lose your life and die for her.
In other words, husbands of Highland, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Brothers, think about Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…. Think about how Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Brothers, think about how nothing can separate the church from the love of Christ. Not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword. Brothers, think about how neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate the church from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Husbands of Highland, love your wives as Christ loves us each and every Sunday. For just as Christ begins each worship service with a call to worship, brothers, take the initiative in your marriage and be its leader and foundation. Just as Christ proclaims his gospel of grace and forgiveness and and love to us, so must you speak graciously and abound with forgiveness and and love toward your wives. Just as Christ gives us his sign and seal of the covenant of grace each first Sunday of the month in the Lord’s Supper, so too must you regularly and visibly encourage her with assurance of your covenant promises to her. Just as God listens to us as we confess our faith before him and sing to him and pray to him, brothers, listen attentively to your wives and take pleasure in her words to you. And just as God blesses us at the end of each worship service, brothers, bless your wives.
And do all of this for the Lord.