God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family (3)
Obey?! Submit? You’ve got to be kidding! (2)
1. We are studying now a section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:22-6:9), dealing 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.
2. 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." (Olyott)
3. Paul transitions us into this whole discussion of life in the Christian home and family, by calling every Christian to what he calls mutual subjection. This mutual subjection 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.
4. Last week, in Ephesians 5:22, we began to tackle the very politically incorrect teaching of the Bible on wives submitting, or subjecting themselves to their husbands.
5. We began by noting that all Christians are called to serve one another, to subject themselves to one another. Then we noted the unique aspects of God’s call in this area to Christian wives.
6. Important note: Some theologians, called egalitarians, will say that God does not call wives to submit to their husbands, but rather he merely calls for mutual submission of husbands to wives and wives to husbands without any specified order in the relationship. Wrong. We’ll demonstrate this conclusively from this passage.
7. We found John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s definition of this helpful – "Submission refers to a wife's divine calling to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is not an absolute surrender of her will. Rather, we speak of her disposition to yield to her husband's guidance and her inclination to follow his leadership. Christ is her absolute authority, not the husband. She submits "out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). The supreme authority of Christ qualifies the authority of her husband. She should never follow her husband into sin. Nevertheless, even when she may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband (e.g., 1 Peter 3:1, where she does not yield to her husband's unbelief), she can still have a spirit of submission - a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony." (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)
8. Today, we return to Ephesians 5:22-24 to get even more specific on this uncomfortable issue.
1. God commands nothing but which is good for his people, and this generally principle is not forsaken even in this area.
2. More marriages are broken because of a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s design for marriage, and an accompanying failure to embrace and manifest the biblical role responsibilities of husband and wife, than because of adultery.
3. Today, I want you to consider the command, the context and the comprehensive scope of this exhortation to Christian wives.
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."]
II. God says there is an analogy between the Christian husband’s relation to the wife, and Christ’s relation to the church (23) [The Context]
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.
III. God says that Christian wives have the Gospel challenge and joyous privilege being subject to their husbands like the church is to Christ (24) [The Comprehensive Scope]
24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.