Wives and Husbands

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2013-03-03


Full sermon notes - Ephesians pt9: Wives and Husbands

(link to my own translation from the Greek text)

  • We are going to focus on the passage in Ephesians 5 on wives and husbands
    • First I am going to set up what the problem is
    • Then I am going to suggest a solution
    • Finally I will talk about some practical application, including single people
    • I should acknowledge that I got a lot of insights from a book, Marriage and the New Creation

Ephesians 5:22–24

  1. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  2. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
  3. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (ESV)
  • That’s the ESV, but all the translations are pretty much the same.
  • There seems to be a parallel between the way we are supposed to submit to Christ and the way a wife submits to her husband
  • But there are some problems:
  1. Christ is perfect, but husbands are not!
    • In fact, sometimes it is unfair, oppressive or even abusive
  2. Women are not in any way inferior, so what is the reason? (We are inferior to Christ!)
    • Sometimes women make better decisions
    • Often they are more responsible
    • so how does this make sense?
    • If we say that the reason was the social context of the time, we have a problem with the reason that Paul gives—the parallel with Christ and the church.
  3. What about single people
    • Is this passage in any way relevant to single women or men?
  4. 5:31–33 One flesh with Christ?
    • See that later: Paul seems to be saying that we, the church, become one flesh with Christ
  • Some people who don’t believe the Bible is God’s word say that Paul
    • began well by being counter-cultural in Galatians 3:28, “there is neither male nor female”
    • but later weakened and gave in to social pressure in this passage

What do you think?

  • My solution is going to be
    • Paul is going to turn upside down all the social ideas of the time
    • He has a new understanding of reality that radically changes everything
  • But before we get to that...

First point: The word submit is maybe not the best translation

  • The Greek word can be used to mean control and coercion, but not when it is used in this way
    • Just to be a bit technical here, active vs. middle or passive
    • The bottom line is that here it is a totally voluntary and free choice to follow the lead
    • A better (but more awkward) translation might be “voluntarily choose to lift the other person up and put yourself below them”
  • 1 Cor 15:28 Jesus submits to the Father
  • Now for three curious things...

First thing: The passage is about being filled by the Spirit

Ephesians 5:15–6:9

  1. …be filled by the Spirit,

19. speaking

to one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs

19b. singing and making music

with your heart to the Lord,

20. giving thanks

always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
to God the Father

21. submitting to one another out of allegiance to Christ.

  1. Wives … to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  2. Husbands, love your wives,
  3. Children, obey your parents in the Lord
  4. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
  5. Slaves, obey your earthly masters
  6. Masters, do the same to them
  • This is somewhat surprising
    • You might expect signs and wonders, healing, prophecy, tongues etc.
    • Not speaking, singing, giving thanks and submitting
  • This is our first clue that something much bigger is in view

Curious things

  1. The passage is about being filled by the Spirit
  2. Wives are only told indirectly to submit...
  • This is very strange and is a big clue (along with the Spirit) that something else is happening

Eph 5:21–24

  1. submitting to one another out of allegiance to Christ.
  2. Wives … to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  3.   For the husband is the head of the wife
      even as Christ is the head of the church,
        he is saviour of the body
  4.   But as the church submits to Christ,
    so also should wives … to their husbands in everything.
  • Passage has an almost poetic structure, not uncommon in Paul’s writings and other writings of the time
  • Every word is placed carefully to reflect what it means.
  • Wives are only told indirectly through the picture of Christ
  • Right in the middle it “saviour of the body” is a reference back to 2:14–15 where Jesus brings about a new creation at the cross

Curious things

  1. The passage is about being filled by the Spirit
  2. Wives are only told indirectly to submit (via a referenc to Christ)
  3. The New Adam and Eve
  • This is the strangest of them all, but suddenly everything makes sense

Ephesians 5:21–33

  1. submitting to one another out of allegiance to Christ.
  2. Wives … to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  3.   For the husband is the head of the wife
      even as Christ is the head of the church,
        he is saviour of the body
  4.   But as the church submits to Christ,
    so also should wives … to their husbands in everything.
  5. Husbands, love your wives,
      as Christ loved the church
        and gave himself up for her,
  6.       that he might make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water in the word,
  7.       that he might present to himself the church, in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
          that she might be holy and without blemish.
  8.   In the same way husbands should love their own wives as their own bodies.
        He who loves his own wife loves himself.
  9.     For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,
          just as Christ does the church,
  10.       because we are members of his body.
  11.   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
        and hold fast to his wife,
        and the two shall become one flesh.”
  12.   This mystery is profound,
        and I speak with reference to Christ and the church.
  13.   However you, each one of you should so love his own wife as himself,
        and the wife should respect her husband.
  • Up till now in human history, marriage has looked back to Adam and Eve for its pattern
  • Now it looks forward to the new Adam and the new Eve
  • It has been re-oriented towards the new creation
  • Instead of being a copy of the past, it has the potential to be a copy of the future
  • Explain what is meant—not a literal marriage

Picture of looking forward and not looking back (volunteers)

  • Men and women have the opportunity to pull the future into the present
  • Actually both have to submit
    • For both partners it is about submitting your own interests to the needs of the other
    • It is the new life of Christ in us, flowing out
    • It is the Spirit who empowers the New Creation

Quote from Miletic p.118

  • The potential for being hurt, abused, disrespected, betrayed as well as the potential for being accepted, affirmed, loved, healed and set free is greatest within interdependent relationships where the deepest and most intimate human vulnerabilities and needs surface.
  • It is precisely here where wife and husband might know the temptation to dominate, betray, destroy, or, to create, love and give the self to the other.

Quote from Miletic cont’d

  • The text addresses this core of human experience with a message of hope: the giving and receiving of agape love has the power not just to heal, but to take the husband and wife from brokenness to wholeness;
  • it holds out the promise to re-create both spouses into the image of the New Adam and New Eve.
  • The re-creating occurs in the depths of human experience, where the power to live the challenge of giving and receiving agapic love must find its home.
  • So here finally we have a reason for this relationship in marriage
    • When you act in this way, you pull the future into the present
    • You pull in the power of the age to come
    • You pull in the power of the Spirit
    • You pull in the presence of Jesus, who you are copying in this behaviour
  • It’s not that men are better than women,
    • and in the age to come there will be no marrying
    • but for now, we are given this as an opportunity
  • Practical Implications
    • Both partners in a marriage submit their self-interest and put the other first
    • Part of the husband’s role in loving his wife is to listen to her and make her views part of any decisionmaking process
    • There might occasionally be times when a consensus cannot be reached between them, and he must take the responsibility of showing leadership
    • Respecting her husband’s leadership does not in any way require that a wife submit to abuse, either verbal or physical
    • Nor should she submit to anything that is against God’s laws

Single People

  • Paul gives eight example relationships in this passage
    • Husbands, wives, parents, children, servants, masters
  • But we can extend the principles to any relationship
  • Every friendship carries commitment and requires self-sacrifice
  • Sometimes we have to give ourselves like Christ
  • Sometimes we have to put up with stuff out of love
  • Jesus love is the best we could ever hope for!
  • David & Jonathan
  • Have you ever said to yourself “I’m done with that person”
  • But the best news of all is that we are the bride!
    • What a perfect husband!
    • What an incredible example of love!
    • You can receive his love, and become part of that perfect marriage in the future

Updated on 2013-03-08 by Andrew Fountain


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