January 22, 2023 Grace United Church Northampton

Ephesians 5:21-33

Ephesians 5:21-33

Paul just said to be careful how we live for the days are evil. He then gave two essentials for living wisely and well in an evil age. 

Ephesians 5:16... the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit...

First, we are to understand what the will of the Lord is; it's not whatever culture says. We discover this in Scripture, Christian community, and following Jesus.

Second, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Meaning, we are to be constantly open to God, prepared to follow Him and willing to be led. 

Paul explained several ways for us to do this, together,

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and [submitting] to one another in the fear of Christ.

The final verb should be translated "being subject" or "submitting" to one another since it is a present tense participle like every the verbs, speaking, singing, giving thanks; thus, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

Whenever we are told to do anything "in the fear of the Lord," we’re told to do something difficult and unpopular, something we may rather not do.  

And this is one. See, this isn’t a generic, “Everyone submit to everyone one; it’s not like anyone here has any authority over anyone else.”

Right after saying “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ,” Paul tells us exactly what he means: Wives submit to your husbands; children submit to your parents; employees submit to your bosses.

The THEME of this section is submission. We are to submit to those who have actual authority over us. And after each command to submit, our Lord tells those in authority, those to whom we submit, how to honor submission! 

After telling Christian employees to submit to your bosses, he tells bosses to treat your employees well. After telling children to submit to your parents, he specifically tells dads to parent them well. After telling believing wives to submit to your husbands, he tells husbands to love your wife, cherish her, and sacrifice as Jesus does you.  

Yet the theme is submission! So that’s where God has us start.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, [strong, beautiful, competent, Christian wives] be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For [the spiritual reality is] 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 [since marriage is based on the relationship between Jesus and the church] as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Elephant in the room alert: this is about as counter-cultural, and as politically incorrect as it gets.

People might read this and protest, "God is a misogynist!" Is He? No. God is not strongly prejudiced against women, He honors and esteems them. And what is said here is for partly for her protection and blessing and best.

Others argue, "Paul supports the patriarchy!" Well, if by patriarchy you mean “a social system in which the father is the head of the family,” yes, he does. For this the design of the God who made us and knows us and gave His life for us. So where is this hate coming from?

"Well, Paul is just stating his white, male opinion!" No. Paul was born in present day Turkey. And this isn't Paul's opinion.

This is the Word of the Lord, Holy Scripture. And “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

This is great stuff. And one thing that sticks out is how Jesus and the Church are set forth as “the pattern” for husband and wife.

Jesus and the church are The Model for marriage.

The world sees no connection between God and marriage. Marriage is said to be a "human construct," patriarchal, outdated.

Marriage is NOT a human construct. It is the design of God our Father and Jesus our Lord, who perfectly know and love and created us.

God also wisely, lovingly, designed marital roles for a husband and wife. There is a design for this to work. And contrary to the reigning view of marriage, these are good and for our good. 

You see this with Adam and Eve. God made the man first, gave him authority, and then formed his wife, directly from his side, and then our Lord presented her to the man as a HELPER, in order to complete him. That's a great role.

Before one takes offense, God wears this very title, "Helper," to describe Himself. God helps us, it doesn't mean He is beneath us. Anything but.

This Hebrew word for "helper" is generally used in military battles. The image is of a soldier, in this case, the wife, sword in her hand, standing "side by side", with her husband, facing life’s battle together. 

To understand marriage and to make the most of it, look to God for how it looks, rather than to a spiritually dead, unbelieving, and unhappy world. 

Just look at the world’s view of submission: submission is the worst. It's anti-woke, anti-woman, patriarchal, controlling, repressive, and archaic.  

Yet, in the biblical understanding, submission is a love word, and it's a free choice; it is never forced.

If we submit out of fear, that’s compliance. If we submit out of duress, that's abuse. But if we submit freely out of love, that’s biblical submission.

Submission honors God and the other person’s God-given role.

Submission allows a husband, parent, boss, to carry out their role with joy, with grace, and without an internal power struggle. 

Submission allows another to love you. Without submitting, one cannot receive the other's love, no matter how much love (wisdom, guidance, protection, etc.) the other has. This is often because of unresolved hurt, shame, insecurity, fear, control. And by refusing to submit, it feels safer, we feel more in control. But we don’t feel loved.

By refusing to submit, it feels safer, we feel more in control. But we don’t feel loved.

Since Jesus is our Model here, understand, submission is the very principle by which Jesus lived His life.

When Jesus walked this planet, He submitted Himself to God by honoring His authority. Remember, He is eternally God, equal in essence to God the Father, yet He freely submits to Him in love.

Jesus was infinitely superior to His parents, yet He freely submitted to each.

Jesus even submitted to a corrupt law and political leaders. He submitted to whoever had authority over Him in this life.

Stated as a principle: Jesus submitted to God by submitting to the roles and authority of others. So... 

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

I.e., with both eyes on the Lord. Submit to your husband as you would to Jesus, because Jesus has delegated His authority and responsibility to your husband. 

Submission is ultimately a way to worship God. It’s more about your faith in Jesus than in your husband.

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church…

Again, marriage is not a human model. It’s how God designed it. The call is to submit to the husband believing God designed it this way and for our good.

The husband is head of the wife? Yes, even if he doesn't act it. Even if she doesn't act it.

This is the reality of the role and identity of the husband.

Being the “head” signifies authority. Husbands, since this is God's design and not man’s, understand, biblical authority is given for the sake of those under your care. Jesus used His authority to bless and forgive, to protect and heal.

Biblical authority is given for the sake of those under your care. Husbands. This is your wife and children.

Ephesians 5:24 as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Consider for a moment the church’s submission to Jesus.

Submitting to Jesus, the church honors Jesus. His authority. Submitting to Jesus receives from Him and lets Him fulfill His role. Submitting to Jesus, we experience His love, and the relationship deepens.

So, a wife submits to her husband in faith because this is how God set it up, so this is how a wife honors Jesus, and honors God's intention for their marriage. Submission also honors and ignites something in your husband.

Submission is itself an act of love. Through her submission, a wife can powerfully love and bless her husband in a way that touches his heart, and cultivates his love, and relational intimacy and unity.

A wife thrives on being loved, on being known and cherished.

A husband thrives on being respected, honored. Submission communicates respect like nothing else.

Respect? Yes. The opposite of being ignored, treated like a child, being told what to do, nagging, arguing. The book of wisdom, Proverbs, reveals to women what a man feels, whose wife does not respect him.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.

The opposite of respect is shaming him, the opposite of being the crown of her husband is hollowing him from the inside out, rot in his bones. But the wife who submits, respects, honors him; that husband finds excellent. 

Submission is a significant way for a wife to love her husband in a way that touches his heart, and honors God’s design.

Choosing submission is to relate to your husband in a way that promotes oneness in marriage.

That said, the Lord addresses husbands, those delegated authority for their wife's sake.

While wives are to imitate the church’s submission to Jesus, Husbands are to imitate Jesus’ love for the church.  

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, [agape] love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her [as Jesus sacrificed His life for us]… 

What wife doesn’t want to be loved like that?

Agape love your wife. Do what is best for her. Lead her. Protect her. Know her. Understand her. Bless her. 

Agape love is not ultimately based on your feelings, or how your wife makes you feel in the moment. God doesn’t command husbands to love your wives only when she is cute and smiley or flirty and she thinks your great and she respects you and you feel like a king. God calls for the husband to commit to love her, REGARDLESS how she make you feel—or not—at any moment… 

A husband is to love his wife regardless how much love she merits. A wife is to respect her husband regardless how much respect he deserves. The most powerful time to give these is when they're least deserved. 

Let Jesus be your guide: He gave His life for us when we were at our worst, when we were sinners! Jesus died for us when we were His enemies—why?

Ephesians 5:26 so that He might sanctify her [set her apart to Him, and set her heart on Him], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

"Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word..."

Husbands, your words are powerful to build up your wife. So, walk with Jesus. Submit to Him in your marriage. Learn from Him. Tell her you love her, show her you love her. Be quick to listen, slow to anger, gentle when criticized.

If you're not good at this, join the club. Turn to Jesus. In your hurt. Your anger. He heals. He helps. He frees.

And may you see your wife as a deep part of you.

Ephesians 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.

To conclude this, Paul writes,

Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. [The mystery, what the world doesn’t understand about marriage, is how it is patterned after Jesus and the church.] 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you [each husband] is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

A wife desires and needs to be and feel known, loved, and cherished by her husband. In the same way, a husband desires and needs to be and feel respected by his wife.

Big question, does your wife feel loved?

Does your husband feel respected by you?

It may be they don’t receive these, but do we give them? Jesus is our model. Jesus is our strength. The fruit of the Spirit is love. Allow Jesus to center your marriage in Him.

O and the word respect, in verse 33, is equated to submitting in verses 21-24.

A wife may say she respects her husband, but without submitting, without letting Him carry out his role, he doesn’t feel respected.

And husbands, you may tell your wife you love her, but without listening, caring, and enjoying her she doesn’t feel love.

So, marriage is to reflect both God's love and our worship. Looking to Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, wives, respect your husband.

How does this look? Respect him in your heart. Honor him. Honor his role. Don’t fight him. Don't argue or nitpick. Don’t tell him what to do or what he’s doing wrong. Don’t lead him. And don’t ignore his lead. Do. Affirm him. Be gentle. Patient. Come beside him to support him. This is an act of love that honors Jesus, marriage, your husband, and God may use it to open his heart to love and cherish you.

And because God is awesome, even in a deep dive on a wife’s submission, God calls husbands to agape-love our wives, regardless if she ever submits to you or hardly respects you. (Submitting to you is between her and God.) 

But loving her is between you and God! So looking to Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, love your wife, listen, understand. Be gentle, patient. Lead her. Shepherd her. Oversee the family. She may be better at all of it, but you are responsible. So ask for help. And welcome her by your side. Battle together.