The man licked his lips and ran off to share with his wife the verse he had just found in the Bible, “Wives, be subject to your husbands.” Now to get his own way! In his mind, she was meant to meekly obey him. He soon discovered that it wasn’t that simple! The verse had a context. The context had other truths. Truths that meant he had very, very real demanding obligations towards his wife. His responsibilities were even more demanding than hers.
We have to read these verses from 5:22 onwards in their context. They follow from the command in verse 18, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. We saw in the previous article that four things follow from this “filling. They are linked to the main verb “be filled” in verse 18 by a series of participles indicating the result of being filled with the Spirit. i). Eph 5:19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, ii). singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, iii). Eph 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, iv). Eph 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
It is at this point from verse 21 onwards that Paul spells out in detail what that mutual submission to one another looks like in practice. He outlines the submission required in the major groupings in the body of Christ. (5:22-24 Wives to husbands.) (5:25-33 Husbands to wives.) (6:1-3 Children to parents). (6:4 Fathers to children). (6:5-8 Slaves to masters.) (6:9 Masters to slaves.) We look here at those in Chapter 5. (I will include most of the scripture verses to show how they fit into the over-all picture).
1). The Submission Of Wives To Husbands. (We note of course that Paul is not talking here about submission of women to men. Rather he is talking about the deep loving intimate relationship of Christian marriage). Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands. But what does the verse really say? There is no “submit” between “wives” and “husbands”. The Lexham New Testament translates it correctly as Eph 5:21 being subject to one another [out of reverence for] Christ 22 –wives to their own husbands as to the Lord. It is not the stark “Wives be subject to your husbands” seen in many translations. Rather it is the softer translation seen in the Lexham version.
- Why should they be submissive in this way? Paul explains, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the Saviour of the body). There is both unity and order in their relationship. They belong to each other. They each have responsibilities towards the other in their mutual submission.
- In what measure are they to be submissive? “as to the Lord”. (As though they were doing it to Christ Himself or for Him).
- Why should she? Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife. What pattern of “headship” is she to submit to? Submission to headship such as that of the church (the body of Christ) to Christ (the head of the body), even as Christ is the head of the church, his body
- What has the head (Christ) done for the body? and is himself its Saviour. His sacrificial death on the cross provided salvation and forgiveness for the people of God, the body of Christ.
- Paul reaffirmed the principle of submission as he compared the submission of wives to husbands with the submission of the church to Christ, Eph 5:24, Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives (should submit) in everything to their husbands. But even here we note that there is no “be subject” or “should submit” in the original Greek. It is the softer “wives in everything to their husbands”. But it is still submission nevertheless as part of the mutual submission in the body of Christ.
2). The Submission Of Husbands To Wives. Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives. In what measure? as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The husband has to love his wife with a sacrificial totally self-giving love, even being willing to die for her if necessary. He has to have the same attitude of self-giving love seen in Jesus’ love for His people in Philippians 2:3-8, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. As the husband looks to the best interests of his wife, he too may find such commitment very sacrificial on his part. But he does it in his love for her as part of his submission to the will of God for him as a Christian husband.
- The purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice for the church? Eph 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
- We see here Christ’s ultimate purpose as the head of the body. Eph 5:27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. The husband’s protective self-giving love should provide the safe environment for his wife to grow more fully into the grace of God.
- Christ as the head loved His body the church. Husbands need to love their wives in the same way. Eph 5:28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
- Husbands love their own bodies in nourishing them and protecting them. Eph 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,
- The pattern to follow? Nourishing and cherishing his wife, just as Christ does the church,
- Why do husbands need to do this? Because husbands and wives are both members of the body He loves and cherishes. Eph 5:30 because we are members of his body.
The prime commitment of husbands is to their wives. She becomes his number 1 human. priority. Eph 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The magnitude of this commitment? The commitment of Christ to the church! Eph 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
3). The Overall Principles To Be Acted On.
- Husbands are to love their wives as themselves. Giving her (at the very least) the same detailed attention he gives to himself and to his own needs. Eph 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself. In meeting her needs as he should, he discovers his own needs can be met. It is a more personal application of the general principle in the second Great Commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Mat 22:39
- Wives are to respect their husbands. and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Respect” here is “phobos” which can be translated as “reverence” rather than “fear”. She can respect and even reverence him because he has a truly awesome responsibility before God. He has to be like Christ to his wife and to love her with Christ’s love. He needs all the support he can get from his wife as he seeks to fulfil that great obligation and privilege to love her with the love of God.
Is it possible to love and submit in this way in practice? One wife said, “I would be willing to submit myself completely to a husband who loves me as much as Christ loves the church”. What love that would be! Caring! Protective! Unselfish! Self-giving! How much easier it would be for any wife to submit to a husband with a truly genuine Christ-like love, life and behaviour.
It behoves every Christian husband and wife to pray that the truth of Romans 5:5 is fulfilled in them, And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. His love is poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit, that it might flow out through us to touch the lives of our loved ones, especially our husbands or wives. We are to love them with the love of God as part of our mutual submission.
Blog No.045. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 22nd November 2011