- WHY Does She Submit? (verses 22-23)
- a. Lordship (verse 22)
- b. Headship (verse 23)
- HOW Does She Submit? (verse 24)
- a. Ecclesiastically (verse 24a)
- b. Extensively (verse 24b)
Chapter 5 of Ephesians and we begin, as I've been announcing, a kind of sub-series within our series here in this epistle. I don't want to unnecessarily lengthen out our studies in this little book, but I feel it is important that we don't scour over quickly anything that is important within the word of God. Therefore we are entering in this evening to a passage that deals with 'Christ in the Home' - or at least that's what I have entitled it - how we relate within the home to the relationship that we have now come into in the Lord Jesus Christ, with those that we relate to within our families and indeed within our friends. As we'll see, as this chapter goes on, it also deals with the relationship of parents to children and vice versa, and also the relation between bosses and those that serve them, servants and masters. So we see the immense practicality of this little book before us, so I don't want to skip over anything needlessly - so we're going in, if you like, to a new series tonight looking at 'Christ in the Home'. In the weeks that lie ahead we will be looking also at the armour of God in chapter 6 - and I don't want to deal with all those facets of that armour in one week, we're going to take our time as we go through each individual piece of armour. It'll take us over Christmas, not too much hopefully, but we want to deal with what God is saying to us through His word.
So let's begin, and we'll read from verse 21 - although our study tonight will incorporate verses 22 to 24 we need to read, I feel, verse 21 to get the flow of the passage. Verse 21: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" - we dealt last week with the fullness of the spirit, and there were many results and evidences that you are filled with the Spirit that we found in these last verses, and the third of those, if you look at your sheet if you still have it, was submitting unto other people. From there Paul now enters into this discourse on Christ in the home: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband".
We've said many times that chapters 1 to 3 of this epistle deal with doctrine. Now we can't make a clear-cut definition like that, but it is in a general sense we say it, that the first three chapters deal with doctrine and the next three chapters, 4 to 6, deal with duty - what we should do, all the practicalities of our beliefs incorporated in the way that we behave as children of the light. Therefore we are coming into an extremely practical section of the word of God in this second section to do with duty. And it seems, as I've already said, that we're coming into a new section, but although it's new in itself it's still linked to that verse 21 that we've already read, dealing with the fullness of the Spirit: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God". Therefore if we are submitting ourselves in such a way it will filter into the home life.
Martin Luther, the great father of the Reformation, called this passage of Scripture - 500 years ago - 'The house table of the word of God', in other words this is where the word of God comes home. It's set upon the kitchen table, it's immensely practical, it kicks in within our lives day-by-day within the home. As we read through this passage we see that Paul is now talking about subjection to one another in the family relationships that we have - but if we were to go into this passage without realising the connection that it has to the words that come before it, we'd be foolish. We dealt last week with the fullness of the spirit, and that is the key, that's the key, that indeed is the key of all Christian life - the fullness of the Spirit - and if we have the fullness of the Spirit, we can be sure that the home life will be intact and it will be the way God wanted it to be in the first place. Therefore in chapter 5 and verse 22, right through to chapter 6 and verse 9, Paul cites three specific areas in the Christian home where submission is the will of God - as Luther said, 'the table duties' of the child of God at home.
We read of the relationship between wives and husbands - what we'll be looking at this week and next, chapter 5 verses 22 to 33 - the verses we read this evening. Then in chapter 6 verses 1 to 4, look down at it, we find the relationship between children and parents - very topical in the age in which we live. And then finally, chapter 6 verses 5 to 9, we read about the relationships of submission between slaves and masters. As I look at this passage of Scripture it brings to my heart and mind how we ought never ever in this world - the contemporary world, the modern world that we live in - never to underestimate the impact of the Christian family upon a pagan, irreligious, godless world. Never underestimate it! Just as the church, tattered and broken as it may be, that we've been studying in the weeks that have gone by, just as it is worn and lukewarm, just as it is going through trials and tribulations that perhaps it has never gone through before in these last of the last days, it is still God's chosen method to work through. And so in the home, even though it's attacked from every side, every angle: religious, political, cultural, every single angle - it is still God's way for a man and a woman and for boys and girls to be together. Never underestimate the impact that the Christian family can have on a pagan world.
Now, we have to enter this study tonight - we're looking at Christian wives - with care, not just because my wife and your wives are here and they're listening to everything we're saying, but in the world in which we are in there are two reasons why we need to be careful as we handle verses 22 to 24. The first reason we need to take care is that it teaches a divinely given order in marriage, and we are declaring tonight that it is from God - and in this world in which we live when you declare that anything is from God it is sneered upon. If it is from the Bible it's laughed at, but to actually say that these old worn pages - as the world sees it - is God's council and oracles for the way a modern age should live, will be laughed at. And so as we come upon these verses we need to realise that that is the reaction that we will get from this modern world. And also for the fact that these verses mention the word 'submit' - and in our age of liberation it seems that in the minds of modernists and academics that the word 'submit' is outdated, it's old-fashioned. It conjures up within their minds the idea of oppression, of dominance, of being trodden down - and therefore as we enter into such a study we need to be ready and prepared to be lambasted by a modern society, and even by a modernistic church that misunderstands what we say when we speak of submission. We need to also realise that not only do we have a society that misunderstands what we are saying, but we live today in a politically correct society that perfectly understands what we are saying, but rejects it because it's of God.
The second reason we have to beware is the fact that these three verses that we're looking at tonight have been the most abused, perhaps, and perverted by sinful men within the church of Jesus Christ. You see, we need to walk a fine line in these verses, we need to be very careful that on the one hand we are not compromising the word of God, yet on the other hand we are not falling over into legalistic Pharisaism. One writer who had experience himself as a pastor says this: 'God's holy word in the hands of a religious fool can do immense harm. I have seen couch potatoes who ordered their wives and children around like the Grand Sultan of Morocco - adulterous men, with the domestic ethics of Jabba the Hut who cow their wives around with Bible verses about submission - insecure men whose wives do not dare go to the grocery store without permission'. It's because of such men that some, even within the church, have thrown out these verses from their Bible.
Much of the problem within marriage, and even Christian marriage, today comes from these two faults: either a blatant disregard of these verses (and any biblical truth with regards to Christian wives, or Christian husbands and Christian marriage) - on the one hand those who throw the baby out with the bath water, and on the other hand there is a great attack by those who hijack these truths for themselves. Ignorant, arrogant, egotistic men - who, for self-promotion and thrill, batter their wives into the ground. All biblical truth with regards to headship within the word of God teach order, that is important. There are roles within life, in God. There are roles within the church of Jesus Christ, and roles within marriage and in the family home. But that order, we must never neglect to find, is ordered equality between men and women. The difference between that ordered equality is order itself - in other words, men and women in the sight of God are all equal. They are human beings, they are immortal souls, they are each priceless in the sight of God - but their order is not the same. There's a difference - and this is where the world, and often the church, gets confused - there's no superiority or, indeed, inferiority but there is order. In other words, there are those that are first, and there are those that are second.
Now within the society that Paul was writing to, in the city of Ephesus, it was within the bounds of the Roman Empire, and we need to understand the cultural backdrop that there was there. A woman within that society was unimportant, they had no authority in the home, the only duties that they had were preparing food and bearing children. Men could do as they pleased within the home in Rome. But a Christian home - a home that was now coming on the scene through Paul and the preaching of the Gospel, and these apostles within the whole of the Roman Empire - this was a new thing, this was a new man, a new people that we were learning in weeks gone by, a new nation of God. There was something revolutionary about the Christian home, because the Christian home was where a husband and a wife were united in loving fellowship - and that was a concept unknown to the Romans. Believe it or not, actually within the New Testament Scriptures - as the oracles of God are revealed in Christ and the apostles doctrine within the New Testament - you find the elevation of women to a position of honour, respect and dignity which was a product alone, not of the women's liberation movement, but the product of Christ and Christianity. It came through Christ. If you want proof of that you only need to look at the Middle East at this moment, and see the religions that there are there - particularly Islam - that suppresses and, indeed, oppresses women. No regard for them at all, they are not equal.
Now as we look at this passage of Scripture, verses 18 to 21 have to be noted for I said to you in weeks gone by that these verses are one long sentence, and indeed we are still in that one long sentence. Verse 18 to 21 are dealing with the fullness of the Spirit as we've already said, and now we're coming into this passage about Christ in the home and the thought is - in the one, same sentence - that to be filled with the Spirit of the Living God, to be full of the third Person of the blessed Trinity, will bring harmony in the home. That harmony will be seen in the Christian life. She is described in verse 22 as one who submits to her husband as unto the Lord. And the question in our age, and indeed within a modern church is: why does she submit?
Our first point: why should she do it? We have been reading already in this epistle, and studying in great detail, that believers are all one in Christ - there is no doubt about that, all the walls of partition have fallen down. But as that has happened we ought not to make the error that all relationships, earthly speaking and in worldly capacities, are now eliminated - they clearly aren't. There are still men and women, there are still masters and slaves, there are still children and parents - and therefore, although we are all one in Christ, we still must respect the various types of authority and government which God has instituted and ordained. Indeed, if you think about it for moment, every well-ordered society rests on two supporting pillars. There is authority - and if there is authority, for that society to work and not break into chaos and anarchy, there must be submission and subjection to that authority. And that is why we see anarchy and chaos within our own nation and, indeed, within the nations across the world - there may be authority, but there is no submission to it. And there may not be any submission to any authority, and yet at times in our own land there is no authority at all. There must be those who exercise authority, there must be also those who submit to authority - and the reason for that is that it is a God-given order. Now that must be understood before we go any further into talking about the relationship between a Christian wife and a Christian husband, and parents and children, and masters and slaves, we need to lay the foundation that this truth is of God and it's found in the very Godhead itself!
Turn with me 1 Corinthians 11 - now we don't have time to go into the whole teaching regarding the head-covering this evening, but it is related to the subject of headship. And as Paul begins his discourse in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, he mentions how there is order within the Godhead - 1 Corinthians 11 and verse 3: 'But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God' - order in the Godhead. The head of Christ is God, and there we lay the foundation right away that this is not something that some chauvinistic theologian with a long beard, who is dated and out of date, has thought up - that Paul the apostle has conjured out of nowhere - this order that is found within the family home, within the church of Jesus Christ, is one that you find in the Trinity of God Himself. We see it in governments around us - now, we are taught within the word of God, no matter what loyalists or republicans say, the word of God says that we are to obey and submit to the government - it is ordained by God. I grant you, it is evil, very evil, but if you can obey the government without denying or disobeying the Lord - God says we ought to obey them that have the rule over us. In fact, within the word of God, it seems to me that bad government seems better to God than no government at all. The absence of government within a land brings anarchy and chaos, and no society can survive without it.
The home is very similar. You see, Paul is saying in these verses [that] there must be a head in the home, and there must be obedience to that head - there you have it: authority and subjection. Without those two pillars there will be anarchy and chaos - there must be a head in the home and there must be those who are obedient to the head. In the book of Genesis and the first few chapters you will note that God indicated the man is the head at creation, it was from the very beginning, before the fall. You will note also - as Paul mentions on other occasions - that the man was created first, and the woman was created for the man. And by the man being created first, he was placed in a position of authority and the woman placed in a position of submission. Now that's clear - it's not very popular, it's not very 'PC' or fashionable, but that is the word of God, that's what we find God has revealed to us - and as the children of God it doesn't matter, I say again, it doesn't matter what the world does, we ought to obey God rather than men! But that relationship of authority and submission never, ever, ever implies inferiority. And that is why the world and liberal Christians and theologians would have you believe it implies inferiority, because they want to destroy this beautiful and essential doctrine from the word of God. Now think about it for a moment: this doctrine cannot mean inferiority! The foundation of the doctrine, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11 verse 3, is found in the Godhead - the Lord Jesus Christ is subject to the Father, but in no way is He inferior to Him! Of course He isn't! But yet, within that Godhead, there is order. And the woman is not inferior to the man - in fact, in some respects, some would say that she is superior in her devotedness, in her sympathy, in her diligence and heroic endurance.
Verse 21 and 22 should be read like this, I believe: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God, wives unto your own husbands, husbands loving your wives'. In verse 22 in the Greek the word 'submit' is not found, for we are carrying on - at least Paul is carrying on in his long Greek sentence from verse 21: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God, wives unto your own husbands, husbands loving your wives'. And the fact that it is not mentioned, is the fact that it is inferred - I'll read it again with the inference: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God, wives submitting unto your own husbands, husbands submitting unto your own wives, loving them'. The idea is mutual, it is mutual submission - but submission in different ways. The submission of the woman is to be found within verse 22, submitting unto your husband as unto the Lord for he is your head, verse 23, even as Christ is the head of the church and the Saviour of the body. Verse 25 we find the husband's submission, he is to submit in love to his wife, giving himself for her! And if that's not submission, what is? So men, don't get on your high-horse - it is mutual, it is both parties, and in a sense it is right when we say this expression: 'They would do anything for each other'. We can 'Christianise' it: 'They would do anything for each other in the Lord'!
The Lord taught His disciples, did He not, to cease from throwing their weight around - not any longer to seek to be greater than another, and in fact you will note as you read the New Testament that they failed many times to understand that great truth. Even at the Last Supper, before the Lord would die, they were still arguing about who would be the greatest among them. And the Lord had to get up and wash their feet to teach them that the greatest among them is he that serveth! In other words, the one with authority builds other people up. You see, that was the difference between our Lord and the Pharisees, the Pharisees built their own authority up in the eyes of men to make themselves more important - but our treatise from the word of God, our remit, our agenda as believers, walking in Christ and meant to have the mind of Christ, is to esteem others better than ourselves! By nature we want to promote self, but verse 21 shows us that the fullness of the Spirit enables us to submit.
Now I want you to remember - and this is extremely important - that this passage of Scripture Paul is writing to believers, never forget that in these epistles. Paul is writing to believers, he is speaking of the Christian home, he's not speaking of your neighbours that aren't saved, he is not speaking of the world around us - although marriage is important for them - he is talking, if you look at the passage, of those who are in the Lord. He is talking of a Christ-pleasing home - don't get it in your mind for one moment that Paul is telling a woman to submit to the abuse of an unbelieving husband, don't have the idea that he is telling a woman to be silent to a dictating, legalistic prude who behaves like a Christian Stalin - that is not what Paul, nor the Holy Spirit is saying! But note that Paul is speaking to purely believing couples who are seeking to please the Lord and walk in His ways. That's important.
What secondly is important is also that this is not an exhaustive discourse on marriage. Paul gives no directive to widows who are left on their own, Paul doesn't speak of the one parent family that we have inherited in our society, because they were very rare in that day. He doesn't speak of domestic violence or wife battering because, as far as men were concerned probably in those days, they closed a blind eye to it all. He doesn't tell us what to do in the case of unwanted divorce, or the dysfunctional family that we have in this great century that we have entered into. But what Paul is speaking of here is not a cure for the circumstances that we find in the world and also flowing into the church, but he speaks of a prevention, of how married couples, two married Christians, ought to avoid [problems] in the home.
Now, in light of that, the first reason why you should submit as a wife is lordship, verse 22: '...as unto the Lord'. Submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord - now some men that you might read could be classed as chauvinists and say that the husband is like the Lord, and he's to be treated like the Lord, and some of you husbands might like to be treated that way! But that is not what Paul is meaning here, what he is saying is: submission is a duty to the Lord. It's as if you are doing it for the Lord, doing all things as unto the Lord! So you are submitting to your husband as unto the Lord. The inference is that if you are woman who has submitted to the lordship of Christ in your life, you'll have no difficulty submitting to a godly husband - no problem! If Christ is the Lord of your life, in submitting to your husband you would be submitting to the authority of the Lord Himself - if...if...he is behaving as unto the Lord! Now mark that, men! If she has to treat you as unto the Lord, you ought to treat her as unto the Lord - and we will look at this next week - as Christ treated the church and gave Himself for her! And if he is a godly man, and she is a submissive [wife] there'll be few arguments in the home. There'll be little or no reluctance or attitude of rebellion.
Now, I really don't want you to misunderstand tonight - this doctrine is not teaching that she has to become a slave to her husband. It's teaching that the husband must first submit to Christ, and if he is submitting to Christ then there is no reason why a woman who is submitted to Christ also ought not to be able to submit to her husband - do you see the thought? If both are living under the lordship of Christ there will be harmony in the home. And her attitude is to see her husband as God's divinely appointed head, the one who He has placed in authority, who represents the rule of God in the home - and she is to accept his decisions as best, as he walks unto the Lord. Now that doesn't mean there's to be no discussion between the husband and the wife, indeed he should listen to her counsel! It doesn't mean that the husband can't leave responsibilities in the hands of a trusted wife. I want you to see this: that this is not a dictatorship, this is mutual respect within the happy Christian home! If it is happy it will be built upon that foundation of mutual respect.
Now the question, therefore, that comes from this point of lordship is: do we cultivate our walk with God in our marriage? And this convicts us all - not just in our own personal lives, but as a couple, as a family - do we seek to walk with God, for the lordship of Christ, as in our own personal life, must be cultivated in marriage also. That's why Paul tells us that a Christian should never marry a non-Christian, you should never be unequally yoked with an unbeliever - and that verse is not talking about marriage, by the way. It's talking about every association that compromises you - that can be business, that can be church life, that can be a religious order, that can be anything under the sun where light cannot have fellowship with darkness, nor God or Christ with Belial. Young Christian, it's not just marrying a non-Christian, but the yoke - as we looked at in a Gospel meeting not so long ago - was something that went on two oxen, and there was a stronger one and there was a weaker one, and I believe that you can be unequally yoked if you seek a relationship with a carnal Christian. I believe there is no difference, for that carnal Christian - you will be sure - will pull you down. Warren Wiersbe says: 'Such a home invites civil war from the beginning'.
This submission to the lordship of Christ must begin in marriage, but I believe it must begin far, far before that! Before you're even, perhaps, praying or thinking about marriage, you must be praying that if you enter into a relationship with a girl or a fellow that there will be that submission there to the lordship of Christ. And if you're going with someone, before you're married with the prayer of God and the word of God, [make sure] that you start building a foundation - for if you enter into marriage with a bad foundation, sins committed before marriage have a bad habit of being carried into marriage and causing problems. William Culbertson, the ex-president of Moody Bible Institute, warned of the sad consequences of forgiven sin - read the life of David and you'll see those. His son rebelled against him, his kingdom was in chaos, the illegitimate child died. Oh, we see from Psalm 51 that his sin was forgiven and God saw grace upon him and lavished it in forgiveness, but there were consequences.
The second reason why she ought to submit, and why you wives ought to submit is headship. It's the reason given in verse 23, not only '...as unto the Lord', but, '...For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body'. Her husband, your husband, is the head and the head has the sense of the head in the body, but also the sense of the head as a leader, as the spokesperson, as the person that will be responsible at the judgement seat of Christ.
Paul says it's the same relationship between Christ and the church, we have one head - Christ Jesus. Now the idea in 'head' is 'servant-leader', that is clearly the idea, for the illustration that Paul gives is Christ. And if we look at the life of Christ we find that, that He was the servant, you see Him taking the towel from round His waist and washing and drying the disciples feet. You see it, the servant-king of God! He is the head and, verse 22 says, and also the Saviour of the body. That word 'Saviour' that you read there in the Greek can also be translated and has a meaning 'preserver'. So you see what Paul's saying, the husband is the head, he is the servant-leader, and he is also the preserver of the wife. As the head he loves her, he leads her, he guides her in godly ways and as the preserver he provides for her, protects her, and cares for her as saviour. Is the Lord Jesus Christ not our head? Was He not our head sacrificially? We read in Mark 10:45: 'For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister', or not to be served, but to serve, 'and to give his life a ransom for many'. Luke 22:26: 'He that is greatest among you', Jesus said, 'let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve'. The apostle told the elders - the oversight within the assembly - not to lord it over the brethren, isn't that right? Not to lord it over the church, and in the same way the husband as head, he is the head, he is not to lord it over his wife.
There are certain boundaries and they are God's boundaries, God gives them. As one writer has said: 'It can never be used selfishly', the doctrine of headship, 'and can never command what God forbids'. Your husband can never tell you to do something or inflict upon you something that God forbids, or forbid what God commands. A husband cannot instruct you to refrain from what is God's counsel. Headship is not unlimited, it is not unconditional but in connection with lordship it is a great responsibility. Women, maybe you thought I was going to be hard on you tonight, but this responsibility of men is awesome. The boundaries that they have to work within, they have the greater judgement - James 3:1, 'My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation'. Men, in a marriage relationship, are asked to be like Christ! What can be more difficult? To be like Christ when the church isn't watching, to be like Christ when your brothers in Christ aren't watching, when it's just you, the wife and the children! A Christian husband, you see, is called to a life of Christ-likeness, and as Christ was for the church we are to be as family men. As Christ rode, and trod and kneeled a life of prayer for His own in John 17, we are to pray for our own, our family. We are to be priests, great high priests before God, in intercession for those that are our kith and kin, we are to seek God's counsel for them through the word of God and through prayer. And men! - we sin...oh, we sin when we do not lead our wives.
How can we expect our wives to respect us and submit if we aren't submitting to Him? The problem today, I believe, within the church - and maybe it's a filter through from society where men have been trodden underfoot by the women's lib movement, and maybe they deserve it for many a year, but it has got so out of hand that it has turned on its head and men won't be men anymore! And that's why in fellowships around here there are women ministering at the table, there are women praying, there are women giving out the emblems, there are women doing everything! And that is wrong! But what are the men doing? Young man what are you doing? What are you doing within the life of an assembly? What are you doing for the Lord? Are you usurping, - are you sitting back and letting the women take the lead? There's many a woman missionary had to go to the field because God couldn't find a man who He could speak to. Oh, that we would suffer this word of exhortation tonight and realize the power that this marriage can be for God and for Christ. And women (for it's your night tonight!) you need also to realize the value that you have in the eyes of God. You have great value and you need to value yourself, you need to realize that you're needed by your husband, that you're needed by the church - yes, you're needed by the church! For if God believed that Adam could live self-sufficiently, Eve would never have been created, isn't that right? Ivor Powell in his commentary on this book wrote this: 'A world without women would be a battlefield upon which men would die for supremacy. A world of men would never know the laughter of children and the joy of being young. A masculine world would eventually become an international graveyard. Men may furnish a house, but only a woman's touch can make it a home. Males enjoy a sense of importance, but the lustre of achievement is only made possible by women whose influence sometimes removes mountains'. And I believe it is true to say, generally speaking, that behind every good man is a good woman.
Now women, take the challenge from the word of God, you don't have to have a position within the church of Jesus Christ, it baffles me that nobody can do anything unless you give them a title or position within the church. There are plenty of things that can be done, and that the Lord may have you to do, if you would only go and do it, women. I'll not stop you, the oversight won't stop you. For in the New Testament it strikes me the importance of women in God's plan: Mary worshipped at the feet of Christ, Martha prepared meals for Christ, Dorcas made garments and helped the poor, Priscilla helped her husband to instruct a young preacher named Apollos, Peter's wife's mother arose from her bed to serve the Lord, a devoted band of women served the Lord. Paul commended Phoebe to the church at Rome, chapter 16:2, 'That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also'.
A good woman in a marriage, a good woman in the family, and a good woman in the church is a jewel of heaven. If you want to know how to be a good woman look at Proverbs 31. There is nothing more attractive, you can read it when you get home, nothing more attractive than a woman fulfilling the role that God has assigned to her. Why is it that people, even Christians, even the followers of Christ hate this doctrine? They detest it! Paul is accused of being a bigot, of being narrow minded, a woman-hater, or that his views just reflect the social customs of the day and therefore aren't applicable today at all. Do you know what that is? Whenever you find that, beware! You would be surprised at the places where I did find that, reading today - but that is a subtle, indirect attack on the inspiration and infallibility of the word of God: 'It was for then, not for today' - you better believe that it's for today, friends, right today. History testifies that if you refuse God's word you refuse Him!
If you look at history you can see the chaos where God's order is altered. By usurping the place of leadership and authority, and acting for her husband - Eve, what did she do? She introduced sin into the human race! And it has happened down the ages in families, it's happening through the cults and through liberal Christianity, where women have left their God-given sphere and wreaked havoc in the local church! And do you know something? Whether they realize it, or admit it or not - ultimately the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ is at stake. When divorce is used by Christians as the natural, desirable option and answer - and my heart goes out to those who have this inflicted on them - but when Christians in the world see it as an option, see it as a 'get-out clause', when young people run into marriage with non-Christians, or without consulting God and rush into marrying any Christian, the name of Christ is dishonoured!
Finally then: how does she submit? Quickly, verse 24: 'Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing'. How does she submit? First of all: ecclesiastically. 'Ecclesia' is the Greek word for church, and that's simply what it means: like the church, 'churchily'. She submits 'churchily' unto him, just as the church submits unto Christ, you - wife - are to submit unto your husband. Christianity is not down on women you know - for nothing could more exalt the role of a woman than comparing her with the role of the church that Jesus Christ shed His own blood to purchase! The church's subjection to Christ is your pattern as a wife, that's your pattern. Imagine that! To live as Christ and His church together in holy matrimony. Yes, I acknowledge what Paul says in Galatians 3:28: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus' - but get this, as we go into this study in the weeks that lie ahead, get this into your mind: equality of worth is not equality of role. They are different, and just as our submission to Christ elevates our spirit - you know, as you bow to Him in your own spiritual life - so when the wife bows to her husband who is Christ-centred and falling under the lordship of Christ, so her life, her walk and her very countenance will be enriched.
She is to submit ecclesiastically, and secondly extensively. Look at the very last word in verse 24: '...in everything' - now note that is not a carte blanc obedience, that is in everything in accordance with the will of God! No wife is expected by God to obey her husband when it would mean a compromise of her loyalty to Christ. Paul says in Colossians 3 verse 18: 'Wives, submit', and obey, 'yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord' - as it is fit in the Lord, that's the quality, that's the qualification.
As we close, to submit to his godly authority is obedience. Wives, listen: to not submit is sin. You can discuss it, you can disagree about it - but woman, for Christ's sake and God's sake, have a desire at the end of the day that he fulfil his God-given role. The beauty about it all is, as verse 32 tells us, that this is a great mystery - for Paul speaks not only concerning man and woman, but Christ and His church. And marriage is given an exalted state by God, for we are living out a picture of Christ and the church - the married couple is playing out an illustration of the greatest theme of the ages. The loving husband is likened to Christ, and the holy wife will be likened to the church that He will marry! What a weapon in the hands of a holy God to use in His conquest! So let us begin to live out, by the Spirit's help, that great drama of the ages of Christ and His glorious church.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the practicality of Thy truth. We thank Thee that there's nothing that we need apart from it - and we pray, Lord, for all those wives in this building tonight, we commit them unto Thee and ask for them the power and the grace to live godly in Christ Jesus. We pray for the husbands, that as they seek their wives to submit to them, that they would submit to our Lord Jesus Christ. And Lord, for all of us, that we would do all things to the glory of God, that in this dark, sinful age, that the bright light of Christ may be seen in us. Hear us we pray, in Jesus name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty fourth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Christ In The Home Part 1: The Christian Wife" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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