Ephesians 5:25
Day: Sunday October 5, 2014 5 Stones Fellowship

We will start with a brief history lesson and then look at Scripture.  Because last week included the greatest tragedy in my life, I have written out this presentation.

As a child in the 1960s I remember watching a movie with my dad that retold an incident during the time my mother lived in Poland.  She was working for the Nazis about 200 miles away when this happen.  Four words from that movie have echoed through my mind for the last fifty years.

In July 1941 three prisoners had escaped from Auschwitz.  The deputy commandant, Karl Fritzsch decided to execute 10 prisoners to deter further escapes.  Fritzsch already had the reputation of being the camp horror.  About a month after this event he did the first experiments with Zyklon B on Soviet POWs.  He is one of the developers of the gas chambers that would be used to kill millions.

A large mass of prisoners were in formation and Fritzsch walked through and picked out 10.  One of the ten cried out “meine Frau, meine Kinder” (my wife, my children).  These are the words that have echoed in my mind.  In an unprecedented move, prisoner 16670 stepped out of line and approached the commandant.  Witnesses of the event were surprised that he wasn’t stopped.  Even the commandant was speechless for a moment when the prisoner said I will take his place.

After earning two doctorates, starting large missionary organizations in Poland and Japan, and hiding thousands of Jews from the Nazis, Maximilian Kolbe, gave his life for one man.  He did not even know his name.

The ten were sent to a small starvation room, stripped, and the door was closed.  Unlike the normal screams from these rooms, in the midst of the stench of urine, feces, and decaying corpses, witnesses heard prayers and singing.

After two weeks, on August 14, 1941, the room was needed so medical staff came to complete the job.  Six were already dead.  Three were unconscious.  Maximilian Kolbe was still clinging to life.  The four were injected with carbolic acid to cause a painful but quick death.

Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man whose life was spared, spent four more years in Auschwitz.  About six months after the war he was reunited with his wife and sons (“seine Frau und Kinder”).  He would outlive his wife and sons to die at 93, in the 1990s.  Fifty additional years of life granted by the Lord for the death of one.

When this story is told the verse that is often quoted is John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  We will take a different path and look at Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5 has that dreaded word “submit” told to woman.  Ephesians 6 has “obey” for children.  A lot has been written on these two subjects; some good, some fluff.  But the larger amount of text is focused on husbands, and that is where we will focus starting in verse 25.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so 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.

Verse 25 is not to yield to your wife on the selection of a dinner menu.  It is not to abandon your aspirations or calling for a more comfortable life for your family.  Christ looked at those who rejected Him, loved them, and stood in their place to receive the wrath of God.  For eternity Jesus alone can pay that price for you and me.  However, He did not completely remove the wrath due us in this world.  We will have punishment for some of our sin in this life.

My proposal is that when a husband is commanded to give himself up for her” it means that he must be willing to take the wrath due his wife for her deeds in this world.  It is the prerogative of the Lord to fulfill the request.  The Lord knows well the meaning of substitution.

We are called when necessary to lay our lives down for others.  In reality that is easy compared to living a life of sacrifice for others, and to carry another’s burdens.

In the late 1980s I started to learn what it was like to argue from Scripture a point that was not in vogue in the institutional church.  The more I study Scripture, the more this has become a grievous habit.  On April 18, 1521 Martin Luther gave his reply to the Diet of Worms who was commanding him to recant.  He concluded with profound words:

“Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, plain and unvarnished: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. May God help me.  Amen.”

For standing on his convictions of his understanding of Scripture, the Roman Catholic Church gave permission for anyone to kill Martin Luther with the church’s blessing.  Sometimes it is risky to stand on conviction.  Today I stand on my conviction of what this verse means.  As mentioned, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 was the greatest tragedy of my life.  Meine Frau, und meine Kinder have been denied me via the state.  Franciszek Gajowniczek received grace in 1941.  I still appeal to the Lord for similar grace while remaining obligated to stand on my convictions about Scripture.

I wrote an email Tuesday morning that I have no evidence it was ever read by my wife.  Please allow me to quote one paragraph.

“I have been asking the Lord for some weeks, and since about 3 AM this morning to fulfill my request and allow me to stand in your stead.  After I send this my plan is to take a long walk while the court is in session.  I will probably do what has become my norm and sing and pray during the walk.  My appeal to the Lord will remain to fulfill Ephesians 5:25, by the mercy of God, and stand in your stead.  If a man like Maximilian Kolbe, after earning two doctorates, would stand in the place of a stranger who cried “meine Frau, meine Kinder” (my wife, my children), to die a slow horrible death, it is my joy to petition the Lord to stand in the place of the woman I love.”

Two questions to conclude.  To the husbands, and future husbands:  Do you love you wife enough to lay down your life for her?  Are you willing to throw yourself on a live grenade to protect her?  Are you willing to take a bullet for her?  Are you willing to petition the Lord to stand in her stead for her sin in this world as well as your own?

To the wives and future wives:  1 Corinthians 14 tells woman to “keep silent in the churches” and to “ask their husbands at home.”  So when you get home, ask your husbands if the case made here is right or not.  If not, why not?  If it has merit, what are you going to do about it?

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so 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.

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