Recently I spent time delving into Ephesians 5 to extract out of it all the truth in the passage on husbands and wives. A piece of scripture that has the tendency to horrify the feminists, leave wives bewildered and delight the husbands (until they get to the part about HOW they are called to love their wives)!
The key is in both understanding the cultural context at the time and the truths that underline the foundation of marriage: submission and sacrifice. So I have split my thoughts into 2 blogs. Wives first. Husbands second.
This teaching by the apostle Paul concerning marriage relationships was a radical departure from the culture of his day. A woman had no rights at that time. She was considered the property of her husband as he bought her from her father probably for a handful of cattle. He could divorce her for almost any reason. In the Greek world prostitution was considered a necessity of life. It was said that every man should have a courtesan for the sake of pleasure, a concubine for daily cohabitation, and a wife to bear his legitimate children. In Rome divorce was so common “Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.”
So I believe Paul teaching through-out his letters emancipates women. It draws out the beauty and sacredness of having but ONE wife with whom you enjoy sexual intimacy with her alone. And that you treat her so highly, with such a huge love that sacrifices for her. THIS would have brought an incredible smile to those women reading it.
Verse 22 calls on wives to submit to “their own husbands in everything” Simply put: the wife ALLOWS her husband to be the head. She yields, she comes under the authority of and she flows with. A man cannot carry out his God given role to lead if his wife is not submissive. You notice that Paul always addresses those under authority before those in authority—wives before husbands, children before parents, and servants before masters. His emphasis is first on the attitude of those coming under authority before the rest can flow.
A man cannot love, encourage, inspire, protect where a woman does not submit. Where she grasps for control and she fights to be equal in spiritual headship leadership. However, I know beautiful Christian wives who have found themselves in the place where they have felt the weight of carrying that leadership because husbands will not or cannot stand up. I believe there is a special grace over their world in such circumstances.
The challenge here is that Paul is in fact saying that she needs submits whether or not she feels her husband is WORTHY. Because this fact is true: submission is more a matter about trusting God than it is trusting man. Trusting that God has a way through and has ultimate authority.
V22. Submit in the same way you submit to Jesus. When I submit to Jesus…it does not take away my control. It frees me to be who I am. It keeps me positioned properly and allows a strong yet loving voice of authority in my world. The truth is that most Christian women agree with this truth of submission. They just have a problem trusting. Afraid that they may become a doormat for their husband to walk on!! Which is why reading part 2 is highly important!