God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family (2)
Obey?! Submit? You’ve got to be kidding! (1)
1. Since Ephesians 4:17, Paul has been exhorting us to live distinctly as Christians, and not like the world. In the section we just finished studying, Ephesians 5:5-21, he’s emphasized four reasons or motivations or incentives for our pursuit of holiness, our quest for godliness.
2. The last part of that section (Ephesians 5:18-21) records Paul’s fourth and final appeal to us to live the Christian life (rounding out  the anticipation of the final judgment;  our new identity in Christ; and  wisdom) is based upon the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, indeed upon the ongoing filling of the believer by the Holy Spirit.
3. We have stressed that there is no factor more important in our quest for godliness than the filling of the Holy Spirit.
4. Note: by "filling of the Spirit," Paul means here (in Ephesians 5:18b) to an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers, which has the effect of assuring and maturing, forming character, making the heart a suitable habitation for Christ, and producing Spiritual fruit. Paul wants and expects all believers to experience this ongoing filling, to long for it and to depend on it.
5. Now, in Ephesians 5:18, in addition to Paul’s imperative that we be filled with the Spirit, there were five participles following in 19-21, in which Paul describes the effects of the filling of the Spirit: (1) speaking, (2) singing, (3) making melody, (4) giving thanks and (5) being subject (or submitting) to one another. Last week, we concentrated on the last participle, and the last verse in this section, in order to pave the way for a new series on a new section of Ephesians - Ephesians 5:22-6:9.
6. Ephesians 5:21 contains the last of the five participles (Hupotassómenoi – subjecting yourselves) that Paul used to describe what a Christian who is being filled with the Spirit looks like. It also provides his segue into the discussion of husbands and wives mutual obligations and roles, as well as those of parents and children, and masters and servants. Remember how the verse goes? – "and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." We have already said that this means that Paul expects Spirit-filled Christians (and that’s all of us, not just some special few) to manifest a Gospel-empowered, Cross-centered, self-denying, mutual service for the purpose of mutual edification, out of reverence for Christ.
7. In fact, we said: There is no better index of a life under the influence of the Holy Spirit, being guided by the Holy Spirit, being filled up or matured by the Holy Spirit than what Paul calls "mutual subjection."
8. As we enter into a new section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today (Ephesians 5:22-6:9), you will immediately realize that this passage deals with our household relationships from a Christian perspective. If we are God’s new community, then what should our family life look like. How are we to be different from the world? Paul tells us here. He deals with husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants – the sphere of the household in biblical and Mediterranean culture. The timeliness of this for us is obvious. Our culture can’t even seem to define marriage! Much less agree upon the dynamics of husband-wife marital roles and the discipline of children.
9. Stuart Olyott nicely catches the flow of argument from Ephesians 4-6 when he says: "The apostle Paul has made it clear that Christians live differently from other people. When they are together, their behaviour contrasts sharply with the social behaviour of the unconverted (4:1-16). When they are surrounded by the men and women of the world in daily life, their conduct remains distinct (4:17-5:21). Paul is now going to tell us that they also live in a radically different way at home (5:22-6:9). It is fairly easy to live the Christian life at church. It is much more difficult to do so in the world. But the hardest place of all to live as a Christian is at home. This is why the apostle comes to this subject last of all." (Alive in Christ)
10. When we looked at the subject of mutual subjection last week, we noted three things in particular: It is -- (1) Corporate: The filling of the Spirit is manifested not individualistically, but in the context of fellowship. (2) Radical: Grace-based, Gospel-empowered, Cross-centered, self-denying, other-serving, joyful, deliberate, willing subjection – In it, we commit ourselves to the service of others, are willing to be the least (Matt 18:1-4; 20:28), to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17), to prefer others ahead of ourselves (Romans 12:10), to do nothing from selfish ambition but from humility (Phil 2:3), to be willing to cooperate, to be "arranged under" others, not insisting on getting our own way, but placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, living so that our mutual service becomes a way of life and thus a matter of public witness; "There must be a willingness in the Christians fellowship to serve any, to learn from any, to be corrected by any . . ." (3) Christ-modeled and motivated – we live it out of sheer awe/esteem/fear of the greatest Servant
11. One caveat: the command of mutual subjection can be used as a terrible playground by controlling people, or can become a killing field for other-directed people or those with a tendency to over-responsibility. So, for the record: (1) Mutual subjection does not mean that you can never say no, or refuse a request; (2) Mutual subjection is not about somebody else getting to run your life; (3) Sometimes mutual subjection requires us to say no (it is not about enabling the evil, irresponsible, abusive or inconsiderate); (4) Mutual subjection does not take our personal choices, prior obligations, the realities of our schedule, our own distinct gifting or prudential wisdom out of the picture. No, all those things must be taken into consideration, and then we decide how best to express our joyful, willing service to our brothers and sisters; and (5) Now, all that being said though, there are also many times when we feel like saying no, that we should say yes!
Ephesians 5:22-24 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
1. ". . . will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to live with him after God's commandments in the holy estate of marriage? And will you love him, honor and obey him, so long as you both shall live?"
I. God calls Christian wives to a sincere respect, and a glad and willing submission to their husbands (22-24) [The Command]
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [cf. 5:33b "the wife must see to it that she respects her husband."]
A. Command: wives respect your husbands, acknowledge and submit to their spiritual leadership of the home.
1. Practically this means recognition of the divinely given order of the household. God has made the husband head.
2. Practically, thus, this means recognition of one’s own husband’s authority, under God.
3. It also requires a voluntary, sacrificial, self-giving, long-suffering (because he’s a sinner!) loyalty to one’s husband
1. Submission is not putting the husband in the place of Christ as if the husband is some sort of absolute authority. Christian husbands are accountable to God, the Bible, the Government and the Church for their conduct.
2. Submission does not mean giving up independent thought. [Isn’t it interesting here that Paul does not say, "Husbands, I want you to go back home and tell those women they better submit." Peter says, "Sisters, dear sisters in Christ, I’m speaking to you directly. I’m not asking your parents to pass this along to you. I’m not asking your husbands to pass it along to you. I’m speaking to you directly. Here’s how I want you to relate to your husbands." And so, he expects them to be able to think for themselves, to understand what he’s saying. He treats them like disciples. He’s not saying that you’ve got to shut your mind off and let your husband think for you. He goes directly to the wives and says, "Now here’s how I want you to relate to your husbands." He is expecting independent thinking from these women.]
3. Submission does not mean that a wife should give up her efforts to influence and guide her husband.
4. Submission does not mean that a wife should give into every demand of her husband.
5. Submission is not based on a woman having less intelligence or competence.
6. Submission does not mean being fearful and timid and cowering for a husband who can strike out in an arbitrary fashion at any point.
D. This, "to your own husbands," is a call for the voluntary submission of wife to husband, not of women in general to all mem in general. Whatever implications there may be from the creation order, Paul is concentrating on the marriage and home here.
E. Why wives first?: (a) for the protection of the order/structure of the home, (b) because of the new freedom they have in Christ (?)
F. Context: "as to the Lord" What Paul is explaining is: what it means to call Christ Lord for a married woman. According to Paul "there is no possibility of a married woman’s surrender to a heavenly Christ which is not made visible and actual by some submission to an earthly husband."
1. The wife is being asked here to give a particular expression of a general Christian duty.
2. The wife’s submission is to be given to someone who loves her.
3. In fact, the wife’s submission is to be given to someone who loves her like Christ has loved.
4. The husband’s love and self-sacrifice for his wife’s well-being is his expression of the Christian duty of mutual subjection.
5. The wife’s subjection/submission is an expression of and an aspect of Christian love.