Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Love and Submission (Ephesians 5)

Southern Baptists, at their 1998 convention in Salt Lake City, adopted an addition to their statement of faith, which states:

“…A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect and to lead his family. A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

Those who are familiar with the fifth chapter of Ephesians recognize this statement as a simple paraphrase of the Apostle’s words. Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (vs. 24-25). What is amazing is the response of many to the adoption of the phrase. It indicates how distorted a view our world has to the concept of submission, and to the marriage relationship as designed by God. Note the following:

Robert Parham, the executive director of the independent Baptist Center for Ethics, said, “They’ve made June Cleaver the Biblical model for motherhood.”

Robert Bock, pastor of the First Christian Church of North Hollywood said that the Baptist passage, “disregards 2,000 years of evolution of faith and the roles people have grown into.”

The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, was even more scathing in his appraisal. “The Bible also says the earth is flat, epilepsy is caused by demon possession, slavery is a legitimate institution, women are the property of men and God orders the people of Israel to go to war and kill every man, woman and child from the nation of Amalekite.”

N.O.W. President Patricia Ireland said the resolution could be interpreted to offer “not just an excuse, but a grant of permission” to a man to abuse his wife.

While it is not surprising that Ireland would react as she did, seeing that she is a leader of the feminist movement in our society, it is disturbing to think that individuals who claim to be followers of Christ would be so virulently opposed to the concept of a woman’s submission to her husband. If we reject the concept of submission in the marriage relationship, we are arguing with God rather than man.

A simple reading of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (chapter 5) establishes the two most fundamental responsibilities God has given to each individual in marriage. In the remainder of this article, let us consider them briefly.

Husbands, Love Your Wives

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (vs. 25)… “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (vs. 28)… “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself” (vs. 33).

The greek term, agape, which is translated “love” in this text has reference to moral obligation. Though a husband obviously has tender feelings for his wife, the emphasis here is in his treatment of her. No man can claim to be loving his wife if he has not placed her interests before his own. His primary responsibility in the relationship is to actively seek her welfare. His failure in this is the primary reason why women have suffered so much throughout the history of mankind.

Husbands should consider the Apostle Paul’s description of love in his epistle to the Corinthians. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). If a man’s treatment of his wife is not the same in type to Christ’s treatment of the church, it cannot be said that he is obeying this command of God.

Wives, Submit to Your Husbands

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (vs. 22-24).

The concept of submission is an important aspect of each facet of a Christian’s life. It characterizes his relationship to his God, his government, his elders, his parents, and even to his relationship with other Christians. “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (cf. Eph. 5:21).

Someone has to be the head of the home, and God has given that position to the husband. He is the head because of creation (cf. 1 Cor. 11:8-10). He is the head, ultimately, because God has given him that place in the home. Christian women have no right to question the place given to them in the home. Their place is not in any way an indication of inferiority, rather it is a simple statement of position. Just as one’s submission to the governing authority does not indicate an inferior person, submission in the home does not indicate inferiority in person (cf. Gal. 3:28-29).

Husbands, love your wives… Wives, submit to your husbands. You must, for your God demands it!