In Person or Virtual
Ask your group to share what marriage advice they would give someone or to share the best marriage advice someone gave them. Even if there are singles in your group, ask them to share marriage advice they would give, based off of observations of the marriages of others. Reflect on how the advice your group shared compares with the marriage advice Paul gives in Ephesians 5.
He Said/She Said
In Person or Virtual
This is a game that will allow your group to simulate a marriage and how to respond in respect and love. Divide your group into two teams, based on gender. Give each team a couple minutes to work together to brainstorm things their gender might say that might irritate the other gender in a marriage. (Some examples for men: “Honey, I’m going fishing!” or “How come the dishes aren’t clean?” Some examples for women: “I spent some money at Macy’s today” or “You forgot that today is our anniversary!”)
To play the game, have one team start by reading one of the things they wrote on their list. The other team needs to come up with a response that would be biblical and appropriate. For women, their responses would want to show respect and submission to their husbands. For men, their responses would want to show that they love their wives as they love themselves. Then have the other team read one of their items and the opposite team would respond. Go back and forth until there are no more items left or until time is up.
Note for virtual groups: Send your two teams to two different breakout rooms so they can initially create their list of items. Then bring the two teams back together to play the game.
Note for men’s only or women’s only groups: One option is for the leader to create a list of things that the opposite gender might say that would irritate the gender of the people in your group. Then the leader could read off items one at a time and the group could work together to respond in a biblical way. The other option is to split into two teams, but each team would create a list of things that the opposite gender might say (rather than creating a list of the things their own gender might say). Teams would then play the game as described above. It is possible, in this version, that both teams might have similar items on their lists.
1. Read Ephesians 5:18-20. A. Is there a song that has encouraged you in your walk with Jesus? How did it speak to you? B. Recount a time when a fellow Christian told you of a song that impacted them spiritually.
2. How can we thank God for everything–even for circumstances that appear bad? See Romans 8:28 and James 1:2-4.
(Intent: In faith, we can trust that God’s providence is in every circumstance to transform us, making us increasingly like His Son.)
3. Take a look at Eph. 5:21-24. A. What does it look like for a wife to submit to her husband? Also see 1 Peter 3:1-6. B. Why do you think that so many people find these passages uncomfortable? See Genesis 3:16.
(Intent: A. Wives should submit to their husbands in the same way that they submit to Christ–with “respectful and pure conduct” and a “gentle and quiet spirit.” B. In Gen. 3:16, God tells Eve “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” – ESV. Commentators have various interpretations of this, but T. Constable views it as “the woman will desire to dominate the relationship with her husband.” This is a result of the Fall. In Christ, God calls us to restore the unity between man and woman that was broken in the Fall.)
4. In vv. 25-30, Paul mentioned several ways that Christ loves the Church. For each of these ways, what is a practical parallel of how a husband should love his wife? Also see 1 Peter 3:7.
(Intent: Some examples might include: Filling their home with the Gospel and God’s Word, serving her, having patience in disagreement, and honoring her by praising her to their children and his friends.)
5. Read Eph. 5:31-32. How is marriage like the relationship between Christ and the Church?
(Intent: God has established marriage as an institution by which we can see a picture of Christ’s relationship to His own bride, the Church. His authority is mirrored in the husband’s authority over his wife. Christ’s desire is to be unified in relationship with His Church, just as in marriage, where husband and wife are “one flesh.” Our union with Christ came at a price: He layed down his life. In the same way, godly marriages are only possible when we lay down our lives, setting aside our own desires and pour love out to one another.)
6. Verse 33 is a summary. Why do you think Paul emphasizes a husband loving his wife, and a wife respecting her husband?
(Intent: Though neither male nor female is “greater” in God’s sight, He created us with differences that complement one another. Together in unity, those differences reflect God’s image. But in our sin, that image is corrupted in different ways for each. The antedote for husbands, who might tend toward either harsh authority or callous indifference, is love. For wives, respecting their husbands is an antedote against a desire to be superior. Since they are a picture of Christ’s relationship to His Church, marriages can either point to the glory of that relationship or they can distort it. When a husband loves his wife, he is showing others what Christ’s love is like. When a wife respects her husband, she is showing others what it looks like to be a faithful follower of Christ.)
APPLICATION AND PRAYER
In our society, marriage is often seen as a contractual obligation that can be dissolved when it no longer “feels right.” But the Bible points to a different vision for marriage. Think and pray about what the Lord is saying to you in this passage. If you are married, is He calling you to repent of any thoughts, attitudes, or actions toward your spouse? If you are unmarried, what is He telling you about your relationship to Christ and other believers through this passage?