Living your best life
In partnership with each other and the Lord
George Methodist Church
Sunday 8th September 2019
8am and 10am communion
With Peter Veysie
Ephesians 5:21 -33
One of the most difficult topics to discuss is submission! We all find ourselves struggling in the 21st century to work out what relationships should look like especially as we begin to see that our Lord is in the business of equal status and empowerment of both male and females when it comes to leadership.
The starting point is to see that the message Paul begins with is a very clear and direct one – submit one to another. The Greek word ‘hupotasso’ is quite interesting as it refers to God-given authority and not just any authority.
The word also can be divided into two parts. ‘Sub’ – part and mission ‘apostello’ – to send away or to dispatch. It’s also interesting that the apostle was the sent one on a mission – dispatched for Jesus. Never a title but a function.
So the starting point for today needs to be that we are all equal in Christ and Paul makes this very clear in Galatians 3:28 and that we are all in partnership with Christ as his servants and friends.
We do, however, clearly see that the Lord has placed leaders who are in relationship with Him and we are to understand that as Christ is in submission to the Father so we also need to be in submission to Jesus. This is a powerful partnership of empowerment rather than the old picture of a finger pointing down at us.
Paul then goes on to talk about marriage which is where it might seem to get a bit tricky.
It is clear from verse that he is wanting us to recognise that he is talking about the church and Jesus, although there is also some very clear direction that helps us in marriage.
One cannot be part of a mission that you don’t believe in or commit to and so there is always free choice and empowerment in marriage.
We can only begin to understand this partnership when we fully get what Paul is saying about husbands who have a complete commitment and desire to serve their wives giving themselves completely to them, as Christ did for the church.
A self-sacrificing male has the best interest in mind of any female and will therefore choose to constantly be going to Jesus to understand what he should be like with his wife.
Putting her above yourself
Enabling her to be the best that she can be
At the same time the wife has the ability to share on an equal basis – the two become one flesh because she recognises that as she is in love and submitted to Christ so too she is able to be a part of the mission of her husband, as he is a part of the mission of her.
It’s very much like a dance – where there is a flow but someone takes the lead.
Debbie is a much better dancer than me and she leads me in the dance as otherwise I would not have the ability to dance and when I submit to her in this way we have the most fun.
I am the administrator and organiser in our home when it comes to ensuring that everything is paid and accounted for but I would be a fool if I did this without consulting with Debbie and especially on the bigger issues.
We are both fortunately submitted to Christ but this becomes a bit tricky if one of you is not.
I think we always need to remember that we are in partnership with the Lord and that He is our ultimate authority and so just three things to take hold of today:
- Submission has to begin with “one to another”. I am not ruling it over you but because I really am excited to be a part of your life I would want the best for you. It is not this “obey” stuff that is belittling and gives no room for self-worth and dignity.
Christian submission is not an act of human will. It is divine work. We can submit to God’s authorities and His will, only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ imputes His righteousness to believers so the work of submission is faith. Through faith in Christ, we receive His righteousness as our own and keep His commandments through the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Christ eternally intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Christ empowers us to follow Him in submission.
How should Christians submit?
Out of our love for Christ and our gratitude for His work of salvation, Christians choose to submit their way, wills, affections, thoughts, desires and understanding to God. (Spurgeon) In all matters of submission our conscience guides us to obey.
We trust ourselves to Christ knowing that He submitted Himself to God for our sake. He laid down His life for us, so through the power of the Holy Spirit we can lay down our life for Christ for the sake of the Gospel.5:21–6:9 Submission to One Another. Ephesians 5:21 connects the previous section to what follows. Submission is illustrated in various family relationships in 5:22–33 (wives/husbands), 6:1–4 (children/parents), and 6:5–9 (bondservants/masters). See also Col. 3:18–25.
5:21 Although this verse begins a new section (5:21–6:9), submitting is actually the last item in the list of ways in which believers are to “Look carefully . . . how you walk” (5:15). The previous items in this list are “making” (v. 16), “addressing” (v. 19), and “giving” (v. 20). Submitting to one another means “submitting to others according to the authority and order established by God.” This can be seen in the examples Paul gives in the following verses.
5:22 submit. Paul begins with the right ordering of the marriage relationship (see also Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1–7). The submission of wives is not like the obedience of children, nor does this text command all women to submit to all men (to your own husbands). Both genders are equally created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–28) and heirs together of eternal life (Gal. 3:28–29). The submission described here is to the husband’s leadership for the health of the marriage relationship.
- Husbands love and serve their wives as Christ did the church. A bowl and a towel image.
According to Paul, a faithful husband willingly lays down his life for his wife. He is not a tyrant who forces her to submit to his sinful human desires but abandons his own will, affections, and needs for her sake. Further, Paul exhorts the husband to love his wife as he loves his own body and equates the husband’s care of his wife with that of Christ’s for His church (Ephesians 5:28-30). A loving husband submits his will to that of Christ, and, in doing so, imitates Him in the marriage relationship. In this context, the wife willingly surrenders to her husband just as her husband chooses to surrender his will to Christ. Submission based on love brings peace and harmony to the family.
5:23–24 the husband is the head of the wife. The wife’s submission to her husband is modeled on Christ’s position as head of the church and it’s Savior. “Head” here clearly refers to a husband’s authority over his wife. See note on 1 Cor. 11:3.
5:25 love. Paul now turns to the duty of husbands. Paul tells the husband to give himself up for her. Husbands are to love their wives in a self-sacrificial manner, following the example of Christ with the church. This model is directly opposed to any kind of male tyranny or oppression. Notably, Paul gives three times more space to the subject of the husband’s duty (nine verses) than to the wife’s (three verses).
5:26–27 The focus in these verses is on Christ, for husbands do not “sanctify” their wives or “wash” them of their sins. Sanctify. Set aside for the Lord’s service through cleansing. Washing of water. Perhaps baptism (see Rom. 6:3–4). There may also be a link here to Ezek. 16:1–13, where the Lord washes the infant Israel, raises her, and eventually makes her royalty and marries her. This would correspond to presenting the church to himself in splendor at his marriage supper (see also Ezek. 36:25; Rev. 19:7–9; 21:2, 9–11).
5:28–30 The body for which Christ sacrificed Himself was the church.
- The two become one flesh 5:31- I always say to couples that there are five parts coming together in marriage and it’s like the fingers on your hand and when they join together in unity and harmony there is a strong bond :
Pinky – emotions
Ring finger – physical
Middle finger – the tallest one – spiritual (most important)
Pointer – communication
Thumb – social and relationships with others (family, friends, sport, outdoors etc…)
5:31 God joins husbands and wives together to become one flesh (Gen. 2:24; see also Matt. 19:5; 1 Cor. 6:16).
5:32 By ‘mystery’ Paul means the hidden plan of God that has come to fulfillment in Christ Jesus (see 1:9; 3:3–4, 9; and 6:19). Paul interprets the original creation of the husband-and-wife union as being modeled on Christ’s forthcoming union with the church (see 5:23).
In conclusion let us be reminded that it all starts with submission to Christ and then to each other.
We cannot expect a marriage to go well if we become autocratic and dominant as either partner. We are called into partnership with each other and husbands are called as servants to their wives just as Christ in humility did the same thing.