(For over 20 years I have been rising early to pray, to read the Bible and to journal some thoughts. This is not a teaching blog, with lots of research to accompany it. Others are far more qualified to do that. These are just thoughts coming out of my prayer time. I made it available firstly to my church that I Pastored in Yorkshire to encourage them to read and apply the Bible for themselves. When I moved from there to serve the Elim missionaries as their International Director I was asked to continue and here I am in 2020 in my new role as a (Pastor to the Pastors) continuing to just open my journal to anyone in order to let the Bible speak today. The difficulty is of course I purposely restrict my word count and some mornings are shorter than others but I try not to write too much because I don’t want it to become what it was never intended to be. That’s not the difficulty. But there are times when the Bible throws up subjects that are huge and I feel a pull to avoid, to skip over those verses and certainly not publish them. I forget sometimes that I am no longer publishing to a church or missionaries, friends who truly know me but to a world who are acquaintances or strangers who may never have met me. That’s the difficulty which I need to remember more in this new world of ours.)
Just like yesterday I have to ask myself do I believe this title. I do.
However, I have vivid images from being a Pastor and a Missions Director of sitting with scores of women and men who have been the victims of horrible abuse from their spouse. I’ve lived alongside the victims of the Eastern side of the DRC, known by the UN as the rape capital of the world, where woman are taken to be ‘wives’ of soldiers until they can find a way to escape. I have sat with trafficked girls of Asia who for years have been the ownership of men. One of my earliest recollections of abuse was in my first church when a husband who appeared very righteous but who beat his wife at home would sit in our church like everything was normal.
Should these women submit to their men? Of course not. They absolutely need to find an escape or be set free by us. We must do all we can to rescue them. The word submit does not apply.
Similarly when I wrote the title on the top of my page this morning I was immediately reminded of my days in Bible College where a student was married quite quickly. There wasn’t any immorality, there was no need or pressing urgency to get married so quickly having not known each other for very long, but they were convinced God had told them to be married and so they went ahead within months of meeting each other. It was only days, maybe a week, that my friend, the new husband was rescued from his home because he had been beaten up by his wife. Should he have laid down his life for his wife? Of course not!
However, the Apostle gives the context for what he is saying, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’. How? A further context, ‘go on being filled with the Spirit.’ He then speaks about wives and husbands. Wives submit to your husbands. Some may say ‘oh he doesn’t tell husbands to submit to their wives.’ He does, he started with that statement, ‘submit to one another’.
I think the word ‘submit’ needs to be redeemed in marriage. The Greek word means to initiate and participate in that submission. When done by both spouses it is a beautiful thing. When done correctly, both parties submit to each other and strengthen the relationship. But let me continue by us looking at this next verse which on first reading can be quite shocking:
Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.” Ephesians 5 v 23
So let me repeat what I said from the verse before in yesterday’s blog as I journey verse by verse through this amazing letter. And then I can share from this verse today.
“I am sure we can think of lots of reasons and seasons when a wife shouldn’t ‘obey’ … This is not blind obedience nor hurtful inequality or destructive inferiority.”
So let’s get into the verse.
The Husband is the Head.
Does this mean authoritative? So he has the final say? Does he win every argument? I don’t hold to that position. In fact he must lose the argument. Everyone who wins the argument loses something anyway.
Does this mean a non-authoritative source? For example like the head of a river feeding it. I do believe as we are going to continue to see over the next few verses that the husband should love like no other. I also believe he should laud her with worship (for those readers who are not British I am not using the word worship in place of God but for us Brits it also means ‘used in addressing or referring to an important or high-ranking person, especially a magistrate or mayor.’ The word is found in the 16th century wedding vows which some couples still use today.)
The husband the head?
Is that authoritative or a non-authoritative source?
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.”
This is what the Apostle says: Christ is the head of the Church as a head is of a body; Christ is the Saviour of the Church of which the husband is to the wife.
The husband’s role model is not a bully or any form of being the boss. His role model is Jesus.
Paul introduces us to something quite extraordinary.
The Church is the bride of Christ. How did this happen?
Was it through aggression, manipulation, abuse, pushing down, treading all over her identity? No. Men who use the words of the Apostle to make their wives do what they want know nothing of Christ.
It was by being her Saviour, and how did he do that?
The complete and total, pure, selfless laying down of his life on the cross. Amazing!
But is this applicable today or is this just for the first century?
In Paul’s day women were second-class beings, they were even considered too impure to be accepted into the place of Temple worship at certain times of the month.
Into that society Paul talks of a beautiful marriage modelled by an even more special one, that of Christ and the Church. It is where both men and women, obviously different, but who wonderfully complement each other.
And within marriage the husband is the head. Not in any other way except in taking the lead to be the first to lay his life down, the first to initiate and participate in the submitting to one another, to model Jesus Christ, who did that for His bride. The Apostle will continue to reveal what Christ did for His bride and how the husband should also model their life on Christ.
(Please note this is obviously part of a series so read my further blogs as we continue through this book of Ephesians)