Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Church in Marriage, pt 2, Ephesians 5:22-24

The last entry contains general command for submission--everyone must decide to submit themselves to the other members of the body of Christ. Ephesians 5:21 commands this, and sets up the rest of chapter 5 and beginning of chapter 6.
In Ephesians 5:22, Paul directs his attention to wives, the first application for the marriage. The subject is "How does a wife following Jesus apply the command in verse 21 to her marriage?" Or, "What is God's design for a woman to have a happy marriage?"
In vv. 22–24, wives are to submit themselves to their husbands as to the Lord. What is a wife’s command from the Bible to live like a redeemed person in her marriage?
Is it submission? What does that mean? Never having things her own way?
The word upatassw (uJpatavssw [hupatasso]) (no Greek text for this post yet. To see the spelling in Greek, use the teknia Greek font after copying and pasting the words to a Word doc), meaning “to cause to be in a submissive relationship; to subordinate”
It isn’t in v. 22, but it’s meaning is—most English put it there or it would be confusing (part of translating). It is passive, meaning “be subjected/submitted to one another.” In other words, make yourself available to serve one another. A husband cannot command his wife to serve the Lord by submitting. If he does, he has just taken away an opportunity for her to show her loyalty to Christ. Likewise, a wife cannot command her husband to sacrificially love her. In the same way, if she does, she has just taken away his opportunity to initiate submission to his wife and to the Lord.
Is submission Respect; i. e. v. 33 as well? Yes, read 5.33. The meaning is to subject oneself to her husband as well as to respect him. This is important (below).
Who is it towards? What does “as to the Lord” mean?
It is for the Lord, not for the husband.
Husbands—Men! You are not worthy of the kind of submission the Bible asks your wife to give you! Jesus is! It is for Him! (Sorry husbands!)
A man and wife attended a marriage seminar and a chauvinist speaker rallied the men to believe “The man is in charge! 100% of the house! Wives bow to their husbands’ every command!” The husband drove his wife home and she was fuming, but he was excited. Upon arriving home, he told her point blank, “That’s exactly the way it’s going to be around here from now on! You got it? I’m in charge!” After that he didn’t see her for about 2 weeks. After two weeks, he could start to see her just a little bit out of one eye.
Application: I know that some women will read/hear this message and are hearing exactly what they don’t want to hear. I know it sounds like I’m sentencing you, but trust God’s word.
But this answers the question many women keep asking: “How do I have a happy marriage?” Depart from the mindset that says, “I have a right to do what I want to, when I want to do it, no matter what my husband thinks!” “I’m going to dominate him, and he won’t even know it!”
You’re not only going against your husband (and if he’s loving, why are you doing that?) You’re going against the Lord.
This is just as bad as your husband living as if he did not love you, women. Have you ever met an unloved wife? Shrivelled up women inside. Bitter. Just like a disrespected husband. Awful. Requires deep surgery and counseling.
Objection: But Pastor Nate, you’re old fashioned! That’s not the way the world works today!
Reply: Well then I’d better change, because we all know the world is getting better and better, especially in the U.S. Right?
That is the gospel of late 20th century liberal thinking and has resulted in more and more unhappiness. Dr. Laura Schlessinger shares her views on how the philosophy of women placing themselves first has resulted in unhappiness for them and their families. (see for one example).
The mistake often made when looking at Scripture is to start with our current society and assume that we are better off today than when the Bible was written. We read today into the Bible say, for example, "Since women can be CEO's, certainly the idea of submitting at home is out of date." While we are better off in scientific and medicinal advances, as well as in many other areas, we are far behind the time of Christ in many academic, mental, and spiritual disciplines. The contentment of women being better in the 21st Century than it was at the time Paul wrote Ephesians is debated.
We also assume that equality of value means equality of function. God has designed certain aspects of His economy so that we aren't meant to always understand the "why" behind what He does. For example, why were the Levites alone able to touch the Ark of the Covenant? We don't know exactly why (we guess based on their zeal for God earlier), but we know that when a non-Levite wanted to touch it, he was struck dead. Why did God say in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus one for an elder/overseer/pastor of a church to be a man of one woman? (I do think the Biblical pattern allows for some occasional exceptions, and you can't read Scripture and deny that following a Biblical pattern allows for God to raise up women occasionally as pastor/shepherd of His people. We can get into the percentage of men vs women and other questions or points of view in another entry). The point is, we don't know the "why," but we do know the "what," and need to have faith and obey. Again, this is counter-cultural, and I believe there are rare, occasional exceptions, but that is for another blog.
Speaking of "not knowing the 'why,'" I don't even know why Jesus trusted human beings with sharing the great news of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection as the only payment for mankind's sin, and that all who believe will have eternal life! I suppose that would be like trusting a toddler to deliver a $1million deposit at a bank for you, passing candy stores for several blocks on the way. Why did He tell us to go into all the world? It would have a higher success rate if He would just go into all the world and save people! We don't know the "why," but we do know the "what," and our job is not to keep asking God "why" once we are sure we understand the "what." Trust that He who saved us is able to keep us, and has created everything a certain way for our good and His glory. Usually we're happier doing things God's way.
Here, why did God say that women were to submit to their husbands for leadership in the home and respect them? We don't know the "why," but we do know the "what," and must trust Him and obey.
From my experience in counseling marriages over the last 8 years, I have learned that if there is a failure in marriage, it is either a) the wife is not respecting her husband, b) the husband is not loving his wife, or c) both.
Elizabeth Elliot, one of the Mother Theresa’s of the Protestant world, whose husband was killed by Auca Indians in the 1950’s, said this on wives submitting, “Supreme authority in both church and home has been divinely vested in the male as the representative of Christ, who is Head of the church [Christ is head, not men]. It is in willing submission rather than grudging capitulation that the woman in the church (whether married or single) and the wife in the home find their fulfillment.”[1]
If we obey every desire of our flesh we eventually will end up with nothing, but if we submit ourselves to God’s will, God’s way, we end up with “every good and perfect gift, from above!”
There is one exception: An abusive husband or wife.
What is the bottom line for a wife in applying what Ephesians 5:21 says to her marriage? Respecting your husband. Respecting people is not as important to most women as it is to men. It is difficult for many women to understand why it is so important for us men. Men value another man or woman's respect more than almost any other social quality. Even when men confront other men, usually it is in a joking or sarcastic manner that breaks the ice. Direct confrontation happens only as a last resort, and even then only if the man believes he will come out better in the end. Men don't pick fights with men they believe can beat them.
Wives: Your husband will shrivel up and die if you don’t show him respect. It’s what your man needs more than anything else in marriage besides his eternal salvation from the Lord. A man can walk across broken glass and work ridiculous hours at his job, bend over backwards for his wife, and become a superdad if he believes his wife respects him.
1) do something spontaneous to show your husband that you love him.
2) Find an area he excels in, and encourage him in that. If you believe he deserves credit or praise for accomplishments (past or recent. Recent are more effective), then make sure you tell him.
3) When at an impass (this is the hard part, especially coming from me, a man!) give in and let him take responsibility for leading your home. He will fail sometimes, and hopefully will try to be a servant leader and loving husband.
Application: Wives—start showing respect for your husband. Someone has to start the cycle up again if it has died, where husbands love their wives and wives respect their husbands.
Objection: But Pastor Nate, what do I do if my husband is not loving me? I’m glad you asked . . .
[1] George Sweeting, Who Said That?, s.v. submission.

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