I don’t know about you but I have seen Christian women oppressed, humiliated, assaulted and dominated by their husbands. I have spoken in churches where the pastor’s wife could not sit at the front with her husband, I have spoken into cultures where the wife must walk behind her husband and all because the Bible says so… yeah right!
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
I think if we are honest, the above Scripture and the similar one in Colossians are generally interpreted as “wife, do as I say, when I say and how I say because God has given me authority over you”. This interpretation comes in varying extremes, but a large percentage of the Christian male population expect their wives to do as they say.
I have heard wives say “I am really trying to submit” when their husbands are acting like total fools. tweet
Who does the Submitting?
Starting in Ephesians 5:15 Paul lists some advice on how to go about living as a successful believing community; then he adds in verse 21 “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So who is to submit (hupotasso)? Everyone, by considering each other as better than themselves. The idea is to have no one trying to be the boss, but rather preferring one another out of reverence for Christ.
A community of servants
The church is a community where everyone submits one to another, and that submission operates not only in the gatherings but in the lives of every person, including the husbands and wives. This then leads into Ephesians 5:22 where Paul singles out the wives. Why? Most likely because within the Ephesian church there was a group of women who had come out of the Diana cult and believed themselves to be superior to men, some were claiming chastity within marriage due to wrong teaching on the resurrection and then there was the possibility of the church being shamed in the wider community.
My wife should submit to me as the church does to Christ
The wives are indeed told to submit to their husband as to the Lord. But what does that mean? To start with, as a husband, I am to treat my wife as Jesus does; wives are then supposed to do that for their husbands, and then we are all supposed to do it for one another. The irony is that the men I see demanding that their wives submit are not submitting to the Lord themselves. This isn’t about the wife blindly obeying her husband’s version of the Ten Commandments, after all the church submits to Christ by trusting in His unyielding and unmerited love for us, not by fearfully carrying out His perverse whims (that’s if He had any!).
But Mark, the husband is the head
In our 21st century mindset we fix head and authority (being the boss) together which develops the “you will do what I say” attitude from husbands to their wives. However, in the culture the letter of Ephesians was written to head meant something quite different. In ancient cultures it was believed that decisions were made in the heart or the stomach, not the head. The word head meant source, not sole decision maker nor he who must be obeyed; it can be argued that there is a degree of authority on the husband, but when we consider that in the wider context of the New Testament, he becomes doubly accountable not to lord it over His wife, and to demonstrate a servant lifestyle.
The woman in the man, the church in the Saviour
Genesis tells us that the woman came from the side of the man (think source), and this is a type of what Jesus achieved on the cross. Jesus went into the sleep of death, a spear was plunged into His side, blood and water flowed and from this God’s people were redefined in the new creation. This is worth some prayer and consideration, but in my humble opinion this is the point being made, it is not about being in charge but where we came from. Don’t forget Paul was challenging, among other things, the Diana cult teaching that taught Diana was superior to her twin brother Apollo because she was born first.
If I love you, I won’t want to dominate you. tweet
Love your wives
Paul’s instruction that husbands should love their wives was a cultural earthquake; women were already dominated by men, but for husbands to love their wives was a massive ask. Yes, the wife should submit to her husband (as we do to one another) as to the Lord and the husband should love the wife as Christ loves the church (verses 25-30). The reality is submission doesn’t stand unilaterally; whether we believe in egaliterianism or complementarianism, it is part of a bigger picture of a marriage that flows with love, respect, submission and passion. When these qualities are seen within a marriage, something of the mystery of Christ and His church is revealed to the world, our marriages become a signpost to the new creation and that is truly beautiful.
Well done readers!
Congratulations to all of you (from all over the world!) who have managed to stay up with this series, this will be the last on the topic for now but please let me know if you have questions, comments or would like me to write a post on another area of this vital subject.
Love and blessings 🙂
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