Exalted Submission-pt.2

Last time, we were considering Ephesians 5:22 only. The summary of that verse is clear-“Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Borrowing the participle from v. 21, it means that wives should exemplify appropriate subjection in their relationship to their own husbands. This assumes: 1) Husbands are to exercise authority over their wives, and, subsequently, their families. 2) Wives are under obligation to have a heart dedicated to subjection to their husbands. 3) The manner of submission to the Lord should also characterize her submission to her husband.

I also attempted to give a fuller picture of this submission. In God’s kingdom, the slave is supreme. In God’s kingdom, the one in subjection to the authority over them with faithfulness and a whole heart is that one who will, one day, be elevated in His presence (Mark 10:41-45). The woman who looks upon submission with disdain, is that woman who does not understand Jesus Christ. He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He is a High Priest, and yet became the sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10). He was Lord, and yet became a slave (Philippians 2:5-11). He is the source of life, and yet gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Too man women demand their rights to places of seeming honor in the world. They seem to have forgotten the honor of subjection.

In Ephesians 5:23-24, we will see the profound reason why the wife is instructed by God to subject herself to her husband. It is, quite simply, the way God created the marriage relationship. But the purpose behind that marriage relationship is tremendously profound.

“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. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:23–24, NASB95)

What Paul is teaching here is the proper outflow from chapters 1-4. In those chapters, the theme is, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, NASB95)

The thrust of this entire epistle is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is that message by which we are made sons if we believe the claims of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that we, being dead in sins, can be made alive in God. Not alive like we used to be, but alive to God, indwelt with His Holy Spirit (who was the promise of the New Covenant-Ezekiel 36:26-27). That being said, Paul elaborates on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in that He will “cause” us to walk in the commandments of God (Ezekiel 36:27). That affects your marriage! How could it not?

Thus, the commandments of God that the Spirit of God enables us to obey are: wives be subject to your husbands, and husbands love your wives. But, our motivation in the New Covenant era is profound. The example before us is sufficient. The provision of the Spirit to enable us to do these things is enough. Thus, our task is to be filled with Him, i.e. to fill ourselves with the truth of Scripture (not philosophical knowledge, but comprehending and understanding the truths the Scriptures teach and subjecting ourselves to what it demands-Is.66:1-2). Doing that throughout our lives, fills us with the Holy Spirit since it is His Word and His power.

The Husband is the Head

Categorically, the husband is the head of the wife. There is no qualification. He did not say, “The husband should be the head of the wife”, or “The Christian husband is the head of the wife.” Paul teaches, on the basis of Genesis 1-2, that the husband, as far as God is concerned and as He has created, is the head of the wife. The husband, before God and in His eyes, is the head of the wife and the husband will give an account to God for that responsibility, whether squandered or taken seriously and done well.

What does this mean? What did Paul intend when he writes that the husband is the head of the wife? This is not the first time that he had written this instruction. Years before, he had instructed the Corinthian church on the very same issue. Just as it was then, it is now for the Ephesians, it is a matter of the image and likeness of God.

The Triune God

When God created man He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, the desire of God is that the man would be, in some way, the image and likeness of God. In other words, the man would be all that God is, in some representational, yet actual, way. It is out of man that came the woman. It is out of the man and the woman that would come children. Thus, in a very real way, the man is the head of everything in the realm of humanity. You could also say that he is the head of humanity because he, particularly, is made to represent God. Or as Asaph wrote centuries later, “I said, ‘You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.’” (Psalm 82:6; cf. John 10:34-35). The man is the unique person in whom God would display Himself, and as such, is highly accountable to that purpose of God.

So, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that “God is the head of Christ”, this is no small matter. God had made a man to be both a son and a father and thus uniquely would be the image and likeness of a God who is also both Son and Father. Yet, even in that holy, eternal, glorious, and immense reality of God, there is structure, recognition of authority (although neither has less authority than the other), and the willing submission of the Son to the Father out of love. Do we get this? Jesus Christ said in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Further, Jesus said speaking to the apostate Jewish religious leaders, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42). Jesus here indicates that in the eternal plan of God (Ephesians 3:10-11), the Father had planned to send the Son, the Son did not plan to come on His own. However, that does not mean that He came reluctantly. He came willingly, as an obedient Son. In fact, we can understand the mind of Christ from John 12:49-50 when He said:

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

Jesus trusted the commandment of the Father. So much so, that He was willing to believe the Father’s purpose and will even to the point of death (see Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 6:38). He was willing to obey, even to the point of death as a scoundrel (Philippians 2:7-8). This was willing, educated, and purposeful submission on the part of the Son to the will of the Father. And what was the motive? What would allow the glorious and powerful Son of God to obey the Father even through the cross? Love. Love is a willful choice to abide by the authority of another regardless of status or ability. Jesus Christ is God, Creator God. He is the King of the earth. He is the Lord of Lords. Yet, He is a Son to the Father and, as such, although of the same essence, loved the Father. The evidence of love is His willingness to submit to the Father from all eternity, and was exampled for us in His earthly life. The cross was the magnanimous display of such loving obedience-the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father.

So, when Paul writes that women should submit themselves to their husbands, why is it a problem? Jesus submitted to the Father. When Paul writes that husbands are the head of the wife, even as the Father is the head of the Son, why is that confusing? The Father was a loving and purposeful head, even during the crushing blows the Son received from the Father on the cross of for the sins of mankind (Isaiah 53:10).

The Gospel Is The Motivation In Marriage

With that as backdrop, what Paul writes here makes more sense. The husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the Head of the church. Jesus Christ only does what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). Thus, the headship of Jesus Christ is commensurate with the headship of the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). Jesus is the head over the church (Ephesians 1:22). So also, husbands are head over their wives. Remember, man was made in God’s image. This headship is of the same kind, although not of the same quality, as that of the Father over the Son. Further, this headship is of the same kind as Christ over the church. A loving head giving the Word of the Father to a lovingly submissive church. What a picture of marriage! How comprehensive!

However, the church was not always lovingly submissive. In fact, Christ died while we (the church) were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). We were unfaithful. We were dirty. We were unclean. Jesus Christ responded to His bride, not with disdain and hatred, but with a kind of love that He had already expressed to the Father-a willful love of sacrifice. You see, Jesus Christ did for the church what He also did for God. He sacrificed His life. Jesus Christ was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death, i.e. sacrifice. Jesus Christ loved the church even to the point of death, i.e. sacrifice. To the one was a satisfaction of the plan of the Father. To the other was a satisfaction of a debt of death owed (Genesis 2:17). To the One, He showed His love by dying on the cross. To the other, He showed His love by dying on the cross. Love truly covers. Husbands, that is the love you are to have for your wives! Further, a man with the love of Christ in himself, by the work of the Spirit, affects his entire household. You see this in 1 Corinthians 7:14. The believing spouse (a believer is characterized by sanctification, i.e. love) affects the condition of the entire household, and in fact can bring unbelieving family members to God. They are convicted by their own lack of love and may be won without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Thus the influence and affect of God’s love in the home is sufficient.

So, wives, chose to love God and submit to your husbands. They are head over you. Not by personal ability or wonderful character. They are head over you because God created it that way. Thus, to respond to what God designed with loving, willful, purposeful, submission is to emulate the One who rescued you from sin and hell.