(To begin with I’m not a legalist, a chauvinist nor a misogynist. I do believe bullying, abuse, heartache and divorce are the most painful of times and not the desire of God for our lives. I do believe running away from a relationship in order to survive can be 100% the best thing to do. I do have close friends who I have supported all over the world who have gone through hell in these matters.)
Let’s see what the Apostle says next:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5 v 24
Paul has been criticised the most amongst the New Testament writers for the way he writes about women though Peter also says wives should submit (1 Peter 3 v1).
In Paul’s day men always held the power. It was held within Roman law. The male as head had complete authority over his wife and children. Wives were not equals.
Three centuries before Paul, philosophers like Aristotle would develop instructions for the man on how to govern wives, children and slaves. They became known as ‘household codes’.
When people came to Christ and found their new identity in Him, it would be a challenge to their culture and law. So the new community of followers of Jesus would provide their own set of household codes modelled after the philosophers on how to govern wives, children and slaves.
This is most probably why the Apostle brings his own version of the household code.
Can a household code of 2,000 years ago have anything to say for us today? Yes so long as it can be applied and most importantly we see it through the lens of Jesus Christ of which Paul is keen for us to do just that.
So the wife should submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. How the Church submits to Christ should be seen in how the wife submits to her husband. Paul doesn’t attack his culture or his law, he could have done but he says nothing, he just points to Christ. The model to centre our whole life on and the answer to life’s problems: Jesus Christ.
What kind of relationship does the Church have with Christ?
- Submission is voluntary. It is not subjection. It is a willingness, a desire, a longing to do so. The Church wants to do this. It is not forced obedience. Christ’s work isn’t to force the Church to submit. But to demonstrate love so the passion of the Church is to do so.
- Submission is intimate. The Church doesn’t submit to a stack of rules (though we do have the moral code of the 10 commandments) nor a deity that is unknown. Christ flows into our lives daily, constantly by His Spirit and we know Him and we are known by Him.
- Submission is tender. The Church doesn’t submit under fear that Christ will strike us down at any moment. Even if we have been like an adulterous spouse He will forgive us. There is no destructive fear in this submission. In fact, (I mentioned Peter earlier agreeing with Paul that wives should submit to their husbands) Peter also goes on to say that if husbands mistreat their wives in anyway then God isn’t going to listen to them at all (1 Peter 3 v7). The Church knows that Christ will not take them down a road of damnation even if the path seems like a shadow of death they find He is with them, comforting and encouraging them and telling them it will all be okay.
- Submission is not robbery. The Church submits all that we have and are but Christ doesn’t remove our character, our personality or our identity, He fashions them. Christ works in us and with us to make us the best version of us we can be. We become all that we can become through our submission to Him.
- Submission is everything. The Church doesn’t give just a part of herself to Christ. I love the hymn: Take my life, and let it be. Don’t just take my attendance, but my finance, my time, my agenda, my past, my present and my future. The Church gives their all.
Let’s take a pause.
That’s what the wives should do.
What about the husbands?!!
Well, they’re modelled after Christ anyway and they’re hanging on the cross dying for their wives!
It is impossible to take these words and use them abusively if the man is on the cross dying to himself.
It is also impossible to take these words and for the wife to ‘abuse’ the husband who is on the cross.
6. This submission is the utopia. A note to single people perhaps who live in a world and in the Church which says relationships and marriage is the big deal, it is everything, paradise and more. In fact if you don’t have this then there is something wrong. Marriage is just an example of the real deal. The big thing is indeed the relationship with Christ of which the Apostle who is probably single whether by abandonment of his wife or family intervention when he became a follower of Jesus is saying we should all look to as the utopia. Two human beings living together all their life is bound to be tiring, disappointing and sometimes leave the spouse longing for more. Your husband is not Christ. Your wife will not be the perfect bride. It will not feel like a marriage made in heaven. However what is made in heaven is you/the Church’s relationship/marriage with Christ.
7. Submission only feels like love. When we go deeper into Christ and all He has done for His bride then all we see is love.
(Please note this is obviously part of a series so read my further blogs as we continue through this book of Ephesians)