Ephesians – Submission

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians 5:22-24 – Honoring God in Our Relationships 

March 29, 2015

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

I love the way Paul deals with things in the church. There are times where he illustrates a principle by using one idea to teach another and then there are times where he pulls no punches and he goes right to the heart and the core of a matter. In this passages before us today, the marital relationship is one of those subjects.

There is no doubt that this particular passage is one of the most controversial texts in the Bible. It is one of those passages that has been abused, misused, and taken out of context way too often. The problem is that this one passage has been used as an isolated scripture to define a set of theological boundaries that was never intended by God. In doing so the rest of the Bible and other pertinent passages that shed light on this subject are not considered in one’s analysis of this passage. And, the sad part is that it does not have to be this way. So today, we will look at what the passage says, why the passage says it, and what the passage does not say.

As with every passage in the Bible, we must understand a few things in order to grasp the purpose, the intent, and the meaning behind the passage. In this particular passage, we must understand the language Paul used, the culture into which he was speaking, and how we should interpret this passage into our modern culture. We must also be careful and not bend the text to the culture, but rather we are to bend the culture to the text.

So what does the Bible say here? To be honest, it is a straight forward text. It states that wives should submit to their husbands as if they are submitting to the Lord. There is no debate here and there no argument to be had. It is rather clear that God is saying that women should submit to their husbands but let us define the whole picture of how that relationship will look because submission is just one side of this marital relationship coin. To not consider the other side of the coin is to miss the totality of what God’s intent is here.

For many in our current culture, this seems like a strange command that wives should submit to their husbands. It is a strange idea to so many, especially in a day of radical feminism and the wussification of men in this culture. Not only is this a strange idea today, but it was a strange idea in Paul’s day, but for different reasons. In Paul’s day, women were considered a commodity. Prostitution was an acceptable trade and was very rampant in Paul’s day. Those who were enticed into such things were used, abused, and then cast to the street when their partner had no more use for them. Slavery was also very common in his day. While men would honor the command to be the husband of one wife, they would have many slaves and/or mistresses. And the fact is that too often men would treat their wives like slaves. To make matters worse, the husband could divorce their wive for any reason. She might burn the toast. Forget to iron his shirt. You name it. This was all that was needed for a divorce from the male perspective. The result was the wife had no home, no income, and no safety. She had no rights or social standing.

It was into this culture that Paul spoke these words. Because of the culture, and their experience, I am sure the women of Paul’s day grimaced at this command. How could they submit to those who abused them and thought of them as a commodity? It seemed to be an impossible task. But when we understand that there is blessing in following the path that God has laid out before us, we find that it is not impossible. The women of that day would submit but they were doing so with a slave mentality and not as a willing partner in the relationship. They did so because they were forced and not because they were honoring God. Paul was saying in essence this has to change.

To understand Paul’s command we must look at the fullness of the passage and understand that Paul was calling for change on both sides of the equation and not just the female’s side. He wanted passionate followers of Christ to live differently and act differently in the marriage relationship. He wanted them to live a life of respect and a life where love and respect were given. He wanted them to live a life where there was a mutual submission to one another as seen in Ephesians 5:21. God’s desire was that would submit not as a slave but as one who did so they would submit to Christ and in honor of Christ.

Paul’s desire through the leading of the Holy Spirit was to establish a life where women were valued, protected, and loved. It was God’s desire to establish a culture where the command of loving one another was fulfilled. God’s intent was not for man to master his wife but to love and respect her as a creation of God in the very image of God. Think about it. Why would a loving, caring, and godly woman not want to submit to a man who loved her, respected her, and provided for her emotional, physical, and yes her spiritual needs? Listen to Jesus’ own words A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The fact is this passage applies to the marital relationship as well as the other relationships in our life. When you combine Jesus’ words with Paul’s command to submit, what we have is the greatest act of love a wife could show her husband. She was not to strong arm her husband, or belittle her husband, or coerce her husband into doing anything that he did not believe in. She was not to usurp his leadership. She was to trust and respect him. In the DNA of a man there is built the need to feel respected and honored by those who love him, especially his wive. That is God’s plan here. The desire of God is that the wife would respect and love her husband.

While we understand what submission is, let’s take a moment to understand what submission is not. First, submission does not mean that women should be treated as a commodity to be traded but rather they are to be valued as a creation of God. Women are not a thing, they are prized possessions. I would submit to you that this is one of the greatest problems with pornography and the sexual exploitation of today is that it reduces a woman to a thing rather than  as a beautiful creation of God.

Second, while women have been created as a help mate to the man, submission does not mean that the female is subservient to the male as they have been created in the image of God. Do you know what that means? It means that we are equals in the sight of God. It for this reason that He chose a rib and a toe bone. He chose a rib and not a skull bone. It also means that sometimes our spouse will have a greater sense of finances and purchasing decisions than we do. It means that sometimes they will have insight into an issue that we do not have. True submission means that we honor and respect others. This means we honor and respect our wife’s ideas and opinions. I am indebted to my wife because she has insights into things that I do not have. If I had thwarted some of her opinions, I would have paid the price of wrong decisions.

This also means that she is not a door mat. Submission does not mean that the wife waits on the man hand and foot while he goes his merry way and never considers her needs or desires. The fact is we are to serve one another. One of the things that I have found is that when I seek to honor Michelle and meet her need, there is a reciprocal response from her. I bless her, she blesses me. Now let me hasten to say that a wife should not submit so husbands will love them but because are being obedient to God’s command and the respect the husband needs. Notice I said needs and not deserves. Submission is to be enacted regardless of the husband’s response.

Third, submission cannot be forced or coerced, it is be entered into willingly and lovingly. Forced submission was never God’s plan. That is bondage and slavery. The problem too often is that wives are forced to submit to a husband that has not learned to submit to God or others. Listen to the scriptures. Obey your leaders and submit to them (Hebrews 13:7). Submit yourselves to God (James 4:7). Submit yourselves to one another (Ephesians 5:21). The idea here is that too we want others to do what we ourselves are not willing or ready to do. It is also the refusal to force the spouse to do things they are uncomfortable with. For example, I have heard of men that felt their wife should have sex with them any time they wanted regardless of how the wife feels or her emotional state at the time. That is selfishness and barbaric rather than being loving and kind.

Fourth, submission does not mean that the wife sits idly by while her husband makes all of the decisions or not address issues in the home. A husband and wife must be a team that works together. That is why the man is called to leave his father and his mother and to cleave to his wife. They are to become one. It is into that relationship that we are called relationally.

As we close, let me say this about marriage and the covenant relationship. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. If you want to be more like Jesus, there is no better mechanism than marriage. Being married forces us to face character issues we might never face, otherwise. Submission takes humility. It also takes a lot of prayer and relying on the Holy Spirit. As a wife, look to Jesus as an example, and reflect His love and self-sacrifice as you lovingly choose to submit to the husband God has placed in your life.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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