2008-06-01am Ephesians 5:22-33 …We Love
Some people don’t like this passage. They think it is offensive. They think it puts down women. They say it is old fashioned, it was written for a specific context. It no longer applies to us today because we live in a liberated world. We’ve finally thrown off the evil patriarchal society and we finally have an egalitarian society. Women are now free to do anything a man can do, and do it better.
So, when we read a passage that says, wives, submit to your husbands, husbands are the head of the house, it strikes us as just wrong. It brings us up short. Our culture doesn’t think this way anymore. Men do not have the ability to lead the house. Men are deadbeat dads, men are lazy, and if you want something done you’d better ask a woman to do it.
Unfortunately, those statements are not only blatantly false; they’re hurtful and damaging to men.
Now, we owe our culture nothing. Our culture doesn’t love us, our culture didn’t die for us, our culture didn’t save us, and our culture didn’t restore our relationship with God. In fact, our culture wants to take us as far away from God as possible.
God loves us. God sent His Son to die for us. God saved us, God restore our relationship with him. Indeed God created us, and because He created us, He knows the best way for us to live.
Now, three weeks ago, we looked at this very same passage, in preparation for this sermon. In fact, even before that, we prepared ourselves for this sermon by examining what it means to submit. Submission, we learned is not becoming a wet blanket, it isn’t about being walked all over, submission is loving and being loved, in a godly relationship.
God the Father loves His Son, and the Son loves the Father, perfectly. The Son, in love for His Father, submitted to the Father’s authority, and willingly humbled Himself, became human, became a servant, humbled Himself to the lowest point, even to the curse, to death on the cross.
That’s love and submission.
So, when we read this passage, we have to have Christ in mind. In fact, just in case we were so obtuse as to not get it, Paul makes it clear for us: “wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.”
What is he getting at here? Submission to husbands is worship. In submitting to husbands, wives submit to Christ.
Why? What is the ground for it? Why does Paul so confidently say these words, and how do we know that this is not simply a product of a cultural influence?
First, it is consistent with scripture, listen to God’s instructions, the creator’s instructions as I read the following verses: Genesis 3:16 “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” Romans 7:2 “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” Titus 2:3-5 “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” 1 Peter 3:1-6 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
Now, do not misunderstand God’s word. These passages have nothing to do with a woman’s worth. As it says in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Before God, we are all equal.
But our equality as to salvation does not negate Paul’s teaching, God’s teaching concerning the relationship between husbands and wives. If it did, then Paul, who also wrote Galatians, wouldn’t have written this passage in Ephesians, the one in Colossians, and the ones in Timothy and Titus.
And no, we can’t say, as some have said, that Paul was a woman hater. He was not; read through his letters, he often speaks highly of women! Besides, we just heard that Peter said the same things as Paul. Furthermore, there is a huge danger when we start saying, such and such passage is a result of cultural influence, or such and such passage is the personal perspective of the author and may or may not be inspired.
There are three reasons for being wary of such thinking. First, none of us is able to travel back in time to prove what those cultures were really like; all we can do is infer the culture from what we read in the scriptures, and in extra-biblical documents. I’m not saying we can’t know anything about those cultures, rather I’m saying we can’t speak authoritatively as to what those cultures really were like. Second, we don’t know what Paul and Peter were thinking. We don’t know definitively that they were anti-women, or stuff like that, or that in these passages, they were addressing women from a cultural perspective. Third and most importantly, Paul tells Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” So even if this passage seems contradictory or wrong in our minds, we need to illumine our minds to God’s word, bringing it in line with scripture.
So, with all that in mind, we have to ask, what’s Paul’s point, if it isn’t the subjection of women, specifically wives?
His point is this, there is a Godly way to have a marriage relationship, and it is based on the church’s relationship with Christ, which reflects the relationship within the Trinity.
Wives submit to their husbands as to the Lord. In this way, they are not merely serving, not merely loving their husbands, they are serving and loving the Lord.
The relationship between man and woman is based on the created order. God created a man, Adam, then from Adam he created a woman, Eve. Adam, in speaking about his wife Eve said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). Indeed, the Hebrew word for man is Ish, the Hebrew name for woman is Ishsha. This is paralleled in English, man and woman, male and female. There’s a continuity, a connection between men and women even in our language.
And that is a good thing. Essentially, what is going on here is a perfect interdependence. We are completely dependent upon God. And we are completely dependent upon one another. The Ten Commandments reflect this dependence. The first table of the law, the first four commandments concerns our dependence upon God, maintaining a healthy, dependent relationship with God. The second table of the law, the remaining six commandments, concerns our dependence upon one another generally as human beings, and then specifically has husbands and wives, as parents and children.
Now, in honour of this reality of our dependence upon God and on one another, and in order to fulfil the summary of the Law and the prophets as given by Jesus, we show our love for God and for one another in the marriage relationship.
Marriage is a foundational structure. It is integral for a healthy community, a healthy life, a healthy church, a healthy society. It was set up, in the beginning, before the Fall, by God. God sanctions it. That is why the church ought to be very concerned with the social engineering taking place in society. Our society is disregarding God’s natural order. But that is not surprising, because we know so well, that even Christians struggle with rebellion against God, even though we know better. Society acknowledges God not at all, so they don’t give a rip. Nevertheless, Christians know where the path society is headed goes. It will lead to chaos.
But we’re not talking about society so much this morning. We’re talking about God’s commandments concerning wives in relationship to husbands.
Wives submit and respect their husbands, understanding that the created order places men as the head of the household, as Christ is the head of the church.
This is so easily used and abused, so we must tread very carefully.
When wives submit to their husbands, the husbands, clearly must be worthy of such submission.
This means that submission isn’t blind. Nor is it stupid. If your husband forces you to do something that is unbiblical, you are not expected to submit to him in those things. It says in Acts 5:29 that “We must obey God rather than men!” A wife is not at all required, obligated to do whatever a husband demands, without discretion. God has the final word. God gives very clear instructions for husbands; we’ll look at those in more depth next week.
Clearly, this is the case, for look at the context. Wives submit as to the Lord, who gave himself up for her. They submit to husbands who love them more than they love themselves. In this way, a husband ought to have his wife’s best interests in mind at all times. So, a husband never uses his position as head of the house in lordship over his wife. It is not a license for abuse, not at all! For Christ came not to be served but to serve. Christ is the model, not just for the wife, but also for the husband, make no mistake.
One last point. The Lord commands wives to respect their husbands. This, of course, assumes a proper, loving relationship. But again, a proper loving relationship requires respect. A wife must respect her husband, she must honour him, appreciate him, love him.
A wife must not constantly nag and complain about her husband. Also, it is unfair to compare your husband with another woman’s husband. You are not in their lives, you don’t know what life is really like for them. Your reality is with the person you married. Deal with that.
Praise your man. Compliment him in front of other women. Tell people how much you love and appreciate your husband, and do it within his hearing. Then he will know how much you appreciate him, if you’re proclaiming your love and admiration for him around others. Of course, you have to mean it. Tell your man you love him.
Live your life in such a way that it gives glory and honour to your husband, for as you do that, you will be bringing glory and honour to God. God commands us to be imitators of him, to be holy, to be set apart. We do that in all the normal activities of life.
But, when we get married, we set ourselves apart from others. This is why there is the commandment, “Do not commit adultery.” Adultery violates the holiness of marriage, the set apartness of marriage. Now, Jesus said, anyone who looks at a woman and here I’ll apply his words to women, anyone who looks at a man lustfully, commits adultery with him in her heart.
What are ways of committing adultery? According to Christ, it doesn’t just involve violating the marriage bed. It involves the heart. Is your heart committed to your husband? Have you given it away in other things, even books and movies, which fill the heart with evil desires? What about envy, or jealousy? Do you honour and respect your man so much that your actions show your devotion to him, which reflects your devotion to God?
How are you choosing to love your husband? Love is action. Next week we’ll see the kind of action love requires of men. What actions are you doing? Do you desire to be a loving, respectful, submissive Christian woman? Anyone can desire that, and the desire is a good thing. But what are you doing to show your love, respect, submission and honour?
Are you obedient to God? Are you obedient to your husband, as to God, being obedient in the ways that God requires, not the ways that the world might, or an evil husband might require. Examine your life. Examine your relationship with your man. If it is pretty good, give glory to God. If there are areas that need work, then work on them. Take action. Confess them to God first. Then confess them to your husband. Submit to him, love him, honour him, and respect him, as to the Lord. Amen.