What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.21-24 Part 3

“A Wife Comes Underneath Her Husband’s Leadership”

Eph. 5:21-24

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.21-24 Part 3

Ephesians chapter 5. Today, we will resume our discussion of the Spirit-filled wife. I hope, ladies, you’re not feeling picked on!

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Since it’s been a couple of weeks, let me recap some of the points from previous weeks. Do you remember how we translated Genesis 2:18? an indispensable companion who is his counterpart.”

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And from this, we learned that the wife is her husband’s friend. And she is not just any friend, she is also his counterpart. So the special friendship has two parts to it: companionship and completion.

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So we talked about companionship… One of the principles there was the need for praying out loud together. The husband and wife should make a habit of praying together out loud together. One pastor from last century said, ” I have married hundreds of couples and counseled hundreds of others, and I have never yet known a marriage to fail where the couples had—or had acquired—the habit of praying aloud together.”[1]

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If you have not, get in the habit of praying together out loud.

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And today and when I return we’ll be discussing how the wife is her husband’s counterpart. That is, there is a completion that takes place.

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She completes him, strengthening him where he is weak…. I read about another pastor and he was confessing that he was often irritated that his wife did not see things exactly like he did. She wasn’t argumentative or disrespectful, just expressing her feelings. But he took this as a lack of submission and would tell her so! And it took him, by his own confession, 10 years before he realized from Genesis 2, that it was God who had made his wife different from him! And that it was God’s design for her to be different so that she could complete him. She is not to be an exact copy of him, but to be his counterpart…. It took this pastor, 10 years to figure this out.

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I trust that you, too, are learning these principles and that you desire to grow within your marriage.

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So, we said that a Spirit-filled wife is her husband’s friend, who respectfully comes underneath his leadership.

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Now, today, in Eph. 5, we’re talking about the wife coming underneath her husband’s leadership. So, we’ll be talking about …. Submission …shhhh! And I know that this is our wives’ heart. A Christian wife’s desire is to come undernearth her husband’s leadership.

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Ephesians 5:21–22 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

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Not Mutual Submission

Now, that word, submission or being subject, … It’s not actually found in the original in verse 22. But the idea carries over. Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

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In the New American Standard, the “be subject” is in italics and is carried over from verse 21.

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And then the rest of chapter 5 and into chapter 6 give us examples of submission. Wives to husbands… Children to parents, and slaves to masters.

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Now, it is common to call this mutual submission. And the design of that teaching seems to be an attempt to soften what seems like a huge “blow” that the word submission seems to carry. Because the word ‘submission’ is distasteful to these folks, the passage is often presented to say that the wife submits to her husband by coming underneath his leadership and also the husband submits to his wife by loving her as Christ loved the church.

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Sure the wife comes underneath her husband’s leadership and the husbands loves his wife like Christ loved the church, but both of those things are not submission!

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And so I am disagreeing with that husband and the wife mutually submit to one another. If that were true, what would the word submission actually mean? They are changing the definition of the word submit. If you do your study on it, it means to come underneath leadership.

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So, if that’s what the word means, it doesn’t make sense that the husband submits to his wife, because the husband does not come underneath the leadership of his wife. Same with the father to his children. The father does not come underneath the leadership of his children. So clearly, this cannot mean mutual submission… since the meaning of that word is to come underneath leadership.

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The verb itself always implies a relationship to authority. Someone has authority over someone else. For example in Luke 2:51 Jesus submitted himself to his parents. …. “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

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He indeed was not less than his parents, but he knew the order in the family and so he submitted himself to his parents; he came underneath their leadership and authority over him.

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And so it is here, and Ephesians 5. There are some who are to submit themselves to others: wives to husbands; children to parents; slaves to masters.

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This understanding best fulfills the picture of Christ and his church. We are told in Ephesians 5:24 that the church is subject to Christ…Christ died for and loves his church and the church is subject to Christ, but Christ does not submit to the church. Neither does the husband submit to his wife, in the proper sense of that term. And so what we have in Ephesians 5 and 6 are examples of one direction submission.

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Now, let’s deal with this command of submission within the marriage relationship.

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  1. The Command to Wives: Submit to Your Husband

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    Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

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  1. The Command for wives to obey (5:22a)

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  1. Why submission is a bad word today

Unfortunately, submission is a bad word today. Why is that the case? No doubt, it has to do with our rebellious sin natures that wants no submission to authority. We only want to challenge our authorities, not to submit to them.

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That’s always been the case, however. But this desire of wives not to submit to their husbands is actually a movement within, what may be called, Evangelical Christianity. The Evangelical feminist movement began in the 1970s with conferences and books being published, by both men and women alike. And it continues to this day.

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There has also been the misuse of this concept of submission. There have been one too many husbands who have forced submission and one too many pastors who have taught a domineering, tyrant-type of male domination in the home.

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And because of this, unfortunately, wives have misconceptions about submission. Submission doesn’t mean that marriage begins when you sink into his arms and ends with your arms in the sink!

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It doesn’t mean that the wife becomes a slave, and she never opens her mouth about her opinions, and that she allows her abilities to grow stale, and it does not mean she is inferior to her husband.

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  1. What it means

Submission is a matter of position, not of being. It’s a matter of position, not of your person. The wife could be the Queen of the country, hold a Ph.D in astrophysics, and be a CEO of a multimillion dollar company, and yet in the home she submits to her husband, who may have no education hold no authoritative position outside the home.

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The fact is, man and woman are equals in Christ and so submission is not carried out in the realm of being superior or inferior in your person, in your being. Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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But that verse doesn’t mean that there are not different roles for the genders!

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The point is that the worth of the individual is the same but the roles are different. So, it’s not a matter of being superior or inferior in personal worth…as if, being female makes you worth less than a male. That’s not it, at all! The roles are different, that’s the key.

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In the marriage, the wife is frequently commanded to submit, or to be in subjection, or to obey her husband. Not only in Ephesians 5 here, but also Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

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Titus 2:4-5 4 …encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

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1 Peter 3:1 1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, verse 5 … 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

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So, for a wife to be submissive or obedient, means that she comes underneath the authority of her husband. And again, this doesn’t mean that the wife becomes a slave, and she never opens her mouth opinions, that her abilities grow stale, and it does not mean she is inferior to her husband.

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It really is a friendship and partnership, [*left hand*] but there is to be no kickback to his authority, [*right hand*] but at the same time there is to be real discussion on particular matters and the wife should feel free to express her opinion and her abilities with the proper attitude. You see the balance there…

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ILL: And when things come to a head, the husband makes the decision. After careful discussion, my wife and I like to picture it like drawing out of a hat. After we’ve talked about it, when a decision has to be made, my wife and I both put in our decisions in the hat, but I, as the husband, draw out the decision.

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I attempt to be careful to value her opinions and thoughts, and attempt to allow for her input, knowing I have an authority in heaven and that I’m to be careful to love my wife as Christ loved the church.

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TRANS: And so the wife is to submit to her husband… she is to come underneath

his leadership.

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  1. The Sphere of Obedience (5:22a)

“Own Husband”

And notice it says in verse 22, that she is to submit to her own husband. Not to all men …. All women do not submit to all men. No, the wife is to come underneath the leadership of her own husband.

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Commanded yet Voluntary

Let me point out, that this is a command given to wives, not husbands. Husbands are not commanded to subjugate their wives … They’re not commanded to force submission. No, this is a command to the wife. She is commanded, but she can break God’s command. So in that sense, it is voluntary… It is of her will…toward her husband’s will! She has a choice to make. Now, her husband can help her with that, like any area of spiritual struggle she is having. But it’s not a demand from the husband… it’s a gentle shepherding and encouraging her like Christ would the church.

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What this means, then, is that submission on the part of the wife means that she exercise her talents, abilities, and employs all her resources underneath the control of her husband. Did you catch that? …. the wife is to exercise her talents, abilities, and employs all her resources underneath the control of her husband.

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The wife is to make known her desires and wishes to her husband but at the same time, the wife should know that her husband makes the final decision. If she does not support him in his leadership and speaks negatively of him to others or in the family, then the family will be filled with confusion and frustration.

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APP: Little things in your speech, wives, can give this air in the home. For example, think of this statement in the home… “I’m not trying to nag your dad.” What does that say? It says I’m spiritual and your dad is a lazy leader. That’s going to fill your children’s hearts with confusion, and eventually anger, along with your husband! What other statements are you using in your home that do this?

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Instead, wives, all of your words, actions and attitudes, with joy come underneath your husband as you employ your resources and abilities underneath your husband’s oversight. If you do, you’ll find great satisfaction in your friendship and service to your husband.

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A wife’s primary ministry in life is to her husband. When Adam and Eve were created by God, God took Eve from Adam and then gave her back to him.

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So as your husband leads you, as you give input and, men as you value their input, and as he makes decisions, ladies, express confidence in him. Make a point to express confidence in him. All too often the wife is afraid of what her husband chooses to do, or afraid of what he might ask her to do, or is afraid that he might fail, or that he is irresponsible.

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Ladies, cast all your anxiety upon the Lord and leave it there! If you are anxious and fearful, feel free to respectfully confess your anxiety not only to the Lord, but to your husband to gain some insight and help.

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Husbands lead knowing that it can be difficult for your wife to follow. Imagine being under someone else’s authority in a home setting. Put yourself there for a moment. It’s in the home that you follow! Not easy sometimes.

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TRANS: So, now, what every wife needs…is a little motivation!

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  1. The Motivation: As to the Lord

Coming underneath the authority of your husband can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you are tempted to want to take control of various other situations. Many wives can feel responsible for their husbands decisions, whether it be how he runs his business, treats the kids, or even his physical appearance. And this is a role that the wife was not designed to have. So it can be a very stressful situation for a wife.

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Remember this is a friendship, a partnership where one is the leader. And wives are responsible to not for their husbands. That’s a big difference! A wife who is responsible to her husband knows that she comes underneath his leadership. A wife who feels she is responsible for her husband, feels the need to control him and manage every decision he makes and manipulates him to get her way.

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Ladies, do you think your husband is overly angry? Well, husbands whose wives feel they are responsible for their husbands, can too easily resort to angry and will shrink away from leadership and feel disrespected and their wives will wonder why he isn’t leading.

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So, ladies, if you feel your husband is easily angered or is not leading, it may be you are testing him and his leadership and you are not joyfully having confidence in his decisions and in the leadership he does express.

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And so if you can come underneath his leadership in a God-honoring way, you will find yourself being relieved of stress you were never called upon to take.

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When done properly, you will be more at peace as you submit yourself to your husband. And how to do it properly is stated in Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

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That’s how you do it…that’s the perspective on this … “I’m going to do this as to the Lord.”

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A wife’s submission to her husband is a matter of obedience to our beloved Jesus. So wives, one way you will obey your gracious Savior is by submitting to your husband. In a sense, you are coming underneath the authority of Jesus when you choose to come underneath the authority of your husband.

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Think of coming underneath the authority of the gracious Master, the Lord Jesus: there is great peace in that! And you are coming underneath the authority of the gracious Master when you choose to come underneath the authority of your husband. You serve the Lord Christ! Jesus will take care of you! Be at peace, sister!

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And so, like growing in Christ, this demands something. If the wife views Jesus as a hard ruler and doesn’t know Jesus, she’s going to struggle with this. So, this demands that she know the One who instituted marriage…It’s God! So a wife’s ability to submit to her husband in a God-honoring way demands salvation in Jesus Christ and repentance of sin …. And as well, sanctification, growth in godliness, and growing in the knowledge of the One who gave her to her husband.

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So, men, if you’re having trouble in this area…is she able to spend the time in Word and in prayer that she needs? At all cost, help her be with Jesus, the one whom she serves as she submits to you.

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And… by the way …. And these passages as well demand that we marry someone who is a Christian. If the wife is to submit to her husband as she does to the Lord, that demands that she be a Christian when a Christian man pursues her.

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And if the husband is to love as Christ loves the church, he cannot do that unless he understands at least on the most basic spiritual level how Christ has loved the church. Therefore, for a Christian woman to marry a man, demands that the man be a Christian.

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TRANS: But why should she submit? What is the reason for why the wife should submit? Because…verse 23….the wife should submit to her husband because …

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  1. The Reason for the Command to Submit: The Husband is the head of the wife

Ephesians 5:23 … the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

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Meaning of headship

The husband is the head of the wife. That is why she should submit. She should come underneath the husband’s authority because he is her head.

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What does it mean that he is her head? The word clearly refers to someone who is a leader or a ruler …. Someone who is an authority. So the reason why she should submit to her husband is because her husband is her authority.

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She is his equal, submitting to his leadership.

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This is demonstrated even in the Trinity itself in 1 Corinthians 11. You could turn over to 1 Corinthians 11. Even Christ, the Son of God, submits to God the Father. God the Father and God the Son are equal in their being. But they have different roles.

Paul writes …

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1 Corinthians 11:1-3 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

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That last phrase there … God is the head of Christ. And verse 3, that Christ is the head of every man and the man (or you can translate that husband..) is the head of a woman (a wife).

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And so it is within the marriage. Just like the Father is the head … the authority over the Son, so also the husband has authority over his wife.

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The husband and wife, then, are on the same team. There is teamwork. The husband is like the team captain, and the wife is the key player. Or it’s like a king and a queen…. Or like a president and an executive vice president. There are not 2 presidents …but the husband is not the king, if his wife is his subject.

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TRANS: So what we have in verses 23-24, is the model of headship and then the application of that headship. And by headship I simply mean the role of authority. A head in this passage is an authority.

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So, first the model verse 23…

  1. The Model of headship (eph. 5:23)
    1. Christ head over church

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

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The model here is Christ as the head over…authority over his church. Just like Christ is the authority over his church, so also is the husband over his wife. … the implication seems to be this: … that the husband has a divine position as leader. The husband has a God-given position as leader.

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It may be similar to your perceptions of a political leader. You may not like him personally or his policies, but there is still respect for the one holding the office because of the office itself.

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And the truth is ladies, when you got married or if you get married, God is the one who gives you your head, your authority, your husband. God brings you together. Just like what happened in Genesis chapter 2 and God gave Eve to Adam… When that happened, God gave to Eve her authority in marriage, Adam.

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This is also seen in Mark 10:9 when Jesus says “what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

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So ladies, God has given you a leader, an authority. Your honoring of your friend and authority, your husband, will be enhanced when you begin to understand and know that it was God who put him in that position over you.

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ILL: If you are pulled over for speeding, and the officer wants to give you a ticket, you don’t say, “how do I know that you are a police officer… How skilled are you? Can I see your credentials …. Who hired you? Where did you go to school….” …. You wouldn’t be saying those things so that you know whether or not to receive the ticket. Why not?

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Because you know he is in a place of authority because he has been given that authority whether I like it or not. Now, naturally, there is some dialogue that can go on in a situation like that…. And that dialogue can be entirely appropriate. But if there is kickback and resistance to that authority, there are consequences for that.

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Now, that’s kind of similar to the husband and wife. There’s nothing inherently authoritative because of the man himself because he’s a good husband or because he received a good husband degree, but it is simply that God himself has placed that authority in him as the husband.

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Because it is God who has given him the authority, there is a response out of the fear of God toward the authority.

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The husband is his wife’s head and leader. To kind of go on that illustration of an actual head … she should learn that she isn’t the neck that turns him… She is the body that moves at the direction of his leadership.

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Now…to help with this. ….

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

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Christ himself is the Savior of the body. This phrase is meant to emphasize the model Paul uses for marriage. What’s the model again? Christ’s relationship to the church. Christ is the head of the church, he is the church’s authority.

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And just like that, the husband is the head of the wife. And this last phrase of verse 23 is emphasizing that comparison. Think of her gracious master who gave you your husband … He is the Savior of the body, the church.

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This should heighten our awareness of who it is who has given the husband as the leader in the marriage. He is the Savior of the church! As God over all, He delivers from sin and rescues by faith and gives grace upon grace to those who ask. He is our Savior!

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So ladies, as you submit to your husband as to the Lord out of reverence for the Lord, know that He is good. Your husband is sinner, unable to do anything good unless your gracious Master in heaven enable him. God is good in Christ to save the body, the church.

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So, wives, God has placed you in the marriage that you are in. And your ability to submit to your husband is not a matter of the character of your husband. No, God has placed him as the authority in your marriage. So it comes down to your trust in God. God gave you to your authority, your husband. Will you trust God as you come underneath your husband’s authority?

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TRANS: Now, we have the application…

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  1. The Application of the model (Eph. 5:24)

Ephesians 5:24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

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To what extent is the church subject to Christ? It is extensive, it is all-encompassing … The universal church entirely submits to Jesus Christ. For all time, the church is perfectly led by Christ. Now, this applies to marriage within the Christian worldview. The analogy is given within a Christian perspective on things and so it does not apply outside the Christian perspective.

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And what I mean is that there are times when a wife should not submit to her husband…. When his actions clearly violate his authority, the Lord Jesus. For example, she should not come underneath his leadership when he wants her to do something that would clearly violate a biblical principle or command… if he commands her not to meet with believers or not to pray.

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Also, if her conscience is violated. If her conscience is misinformed, a Christian husband needs to help her through that and be sensitive to her conscience. But Ro. 14:22-23 demands that she not disobey her conscience.

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Her husband’s leadership also must not compromise the care and protection of the children nor should she submit to encouraging her husband to sin. For example, if an alcoholic husband demands that his wife buy him alcohol, at all reasonable cost, she should not. Also, a wife should not submit herself to her husband’s abuse of her.

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These things are clearly not in the Christian worldview and so is not within the context of this verse. So, when this passage says that the wife should submit herself to her husband in everything, it assumes the Christian context, and the nature of Christ and the nature of the church.

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Apart from these things then, the wife ought to joyfully come underneath her husband’s leadership.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.21-24 Part 3

So wives, you would do well to ask your husband where you may improve in this area of coming underneath his leadership. Maybe you need to give more voice to your opinions and desires … that might make your relationship better. It may also be that he feels like you are controlling him and his decisions or that you are talking in such a way to the kids that undermines his God-given authority.

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Husbands, discuss these things with your wife as needed. Be gentle with her. Think of how hard it would be for you to submit to you… And have some compassion upon her. Ladies, entrust yourself to God and grow in your knowledge of Him and Hiss grace as you come underneath to your husband’s leadership. Men, your times a comin’ … but if you can love your wife like Christ does the church, that’ll make it a whole lot easier for her!

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and we must never forget the great picture of marriage, from the wife’s perspective: the church comes underneath the glorious leadership with Christ. Christ is gloriously exalted in His high position.

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And if the eyes of your heart have been enlightened, it is worthwhile to pray that we would come to understand His glorious exaltation! Christ has been raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion in every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.

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And the Father has put all things in subjection under his feet and has given Christ as head over all things …to the church!

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And dear wives, that same power that exalted Christ as head and ruler over all, is that same power working in your life to enable you to lovingly and respectfully, underneath the leadership of your husband.

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Christ rules gloriously over all. The church submits to Him … dear wives, know the wonderful news of Christ’s loving leadership of us and as you bow before your Reedmer, apply this knowledge of Christ every day to your spirit and your attitude as you submit, most graciously, to your husband.

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  1. Norman Vincent Peale

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