Nov 14 2021 Submit to One Another - Building Better Families

Last week we finished with this verse:

Ephesians 5:21-22 Be subject to one another

in the fear of Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,

as to the Lord.

Our understanding and definition of submit is different from Paul’s – we think of someone who is passive/quiet, acquiesces – just do what you’re told!

But Paul is telling them to rank themselves under one another. Where society is based on rank – we are to all rank ourselves under one another. That is what Paul is talking about – we need to define it HIS way – and not ours

Ephesians 5:21-22 Be subject to one another

in the fear of Christ.

Jesus is our example of this. We see this through the footwashing – the lowest person in the household code is to do this. Jesus: See what I have done? You call me Master – of the highest status – and I have made myself of the lowest status. Go and do the same.

When I do weddings – I used to say – Now, the roles of husbands and wives according to the book of Ephesians. I would not say that anymore. When we say roles – it is confusing – distracting – and turns us away from what Paul is saying – causes us to misunderstand.

I have four reasons – not three – so I am better – because I have four! They teach us to have 3 reasons!

First – when they say ROLES – that assumes that this is the sum total of God’s instruction on marriage. Yes, it is one of MANY important passages on marriage in the Bible.

Second – when we say ROLES – we tend to stereotype those roles into some idyllic time when we believed that they did marriages biblically back then! Whatever that time was for you – you think it was the right way. Yes, they may have done some of it biblically – and yet so much unbiblically!

Third – when we say ROLES – we fail to read the passage in Paul’s context. He is writing this to those in Ephesus in the first century. We rip it out of its context and set it as its separate passage as the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives! That is not what Paul is doing. This has to be understood in the context. This causes us to forget Paul’s main point. What is his purpose here? What is he trying to get at?

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,

as to the Lord.

Tearing down division

All of reality is cosmically contested space – Tim Gombis

Paul is saying – the household is a cosmically contested space.

The purpose of Christian marriage and family – the household – is to bring the new creation into the present evil age, by living out the drama of the gospel in the already and not yet!

Paul gives an entirely new vision for what the household is to be. That center of the Venn diagram is the stage we are on! Are we presenting the drama of the gospel in our households.

Paul’s concern is that they were doing things the world’s way in their households.

The battle for the family – we blame many things – politics, courts, etc. – but the prince of the power of the air is the real enemy in this battle.

The past couple years – I’ve talked to many pastors – have been the most perplexing time in ministry – and I would say – one of the saddest times in ministry – and it relates to the family. I have heard countless stories of strife, division, and offense – in families – because of two things – an election – and a pandemic. Think of the ridiculousness of that! So many have been hurt by that!

There is a solution – it is Ephesians 5:21 and it is not easy – RANK YOURSELF UNDER ONE ANOTHER!

Wow! You don’t have to throw away your opinion. Get the vaccine – don’t get the vaccine – wear a mask or not, vote Republican or Democrat – but you do have to be subject to other people who hold a different opinion and rank ourselves under them! The example is the cross. Philippians 2.

See what Jesus did. How do we go to the cross in these situations? When these difficulties and struggles come up – arguments and divisions – each member of a household must say – How do I go to the cross in this situation?

The Roman household is different from ours. They had ‘household codes’ – a lawbook of sorts that described how a household should function

These were always addressed to the man alone who ruled over his household including women, children and slaves who were by nature inferior. – “Tim Mackey” – and he might not agree with that – he is just saying that is how it was.

And Paul uses that as a guide and subverts it!

Aristotle: Of household management – there are three parts – one is the rule of master over slaves – another of a father, the third of a husband. Aristotle is talking about these three categories – what does Paul talk about? These three categories.

The rule of a father/husband – based on nature –

Aristotle, Politics, 1:12: “Of household management we have seen that there are three parts: one is the rule of a master over slaves, another of a father, and the third of a husband. A husband and father, rules over wife and children, but the rule differs; the rule over his children being royal, and the ruler over his wife is based on natural constitution. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature.”

Ruler: Patriarch


Subordinates: wife — children — slaves

There is one glaring difference in our households – none of us is a master over slaves.

Then there were subordinates – wives/children/children’s spouses/grandchildren.

Paul does not attempt to tear down – the roman household structure. He does intend to subversively transform it! Gal 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.

All these superiority rank and status divisions – in Christ – they are all gone – you are all one.

How do we, our world, perform the gospel – in the already and not yet -

Ephesians 5:21-22 Be subject to one another

in the fear of Christ.

We are all subject to one another.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,

as to the Lord.

The words ‘be subject’ are in italics – they are ADDED IN!

Ephesians 5:21-22 Be subject to one another

in the fear of Christ, Wives, to your own husbands,

as to the Lord.

He is connecting being subject to one another. Paul is going to show how each member of the household is to rank themselves under every other member of the household.

In the Roman codes – who was ONLY addressed? Husbands. The fact that he addresses wives at all is scandalous – and he addresses the wives first.

Each to another – as to Christ

Wives to husband – as to Christ – patterned on your relationship with Jesus, not on the rules and codes of men – not on someone being of superior rank and status (there is only one of superior rank and status – and that is Jesus!)

23 For the husband is the head of the wife,

(Oh no! Where is THIS going to go?! He will further explain. What Paul does – not talking about ROLES like we might – but there are responsibilities – every member has them. Differentiated responsibilities.

Romans – Husband head of the wife? I’m good with that!

Christian to Christian – Christ

Wife to husband – Christ

as Christ also is the head of the church,

He Himself … the Savior of the body.

Greek scholars will tell us this – there are two phrases here – one after the other – the second, an apposition to the one before it. It defines or explains the one before it. What it means that Christ is head of the church? He is the SAVIOR of the church.

This keeps coming up in this passage as there is a point he is trying to make.

He closes off his instruction to wives:

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

We don’t have time – but sometime it would be good to discuss this indepth. So much has been written about this – so many trees have lost their lives!

25 Husbands, love your wives,

(Is there a pattern developing here?)

How the husband obeys verse 21? This is how the husband does it – by loving his wife…

just as Christ also loved the church

in the roman code context – for a husband to have something else to do besides rule? Scandalous! And to say to love by giving himself up for her? Even more so.

and gave Himself up for her,

Jesus became a slave – the lowest ranked human – and went to the cross. What is he talking about? It is Christ’s saving work. This passage is first about the cross! A crucifixion passage! A gospel passage!

The responsibilities of the husband and wife are related to the saving work of Christ.

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

The cross is the example of how all members of the household are to treat one another. Paul is saying – here is how you perform the gospel in the midst of a watching world.

26 so that He might sanctify her,

having cleansed her

by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she (the Church) would be holy and blameless.

Some would say that Paul has totally drifted! But I think Paul is doing this very specifically. He understands that this is what really matters. This is what makes the household work – this is God’s vision for the household – the cross.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh,

but nourishes and cherishes it,

just as Christ also does the church,

It is just constant, isn’t it? You can’t get away from it. Nourish/cherish – like a nursing mother caring for her children.

Paul is telling the husband to be a nursing mother – tenderly caring for his children!

31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.

Paul goes back to Genesis. One flesh. Oneness. We are one church, one faith, one body, one baptism – He is trying to rid them (and us) of the divide – to bring about unity and he is using the marriage relationship.

32 This mystery is great (how two people become one!); but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

He is? I thought he was talking about roles! But THIS is what he is talking about – all members living like Christ – laying down their lives for one another – being subject to one another. This is how it works. This is the solution to all marital problems – yes, we need to communicate – but it all comes back to this heart attitude.

Philippians 2 – the attitude of the savior – what drove him to the cross – the focus of this passage – laying down our lives for one another. That is what Jesus wants us to do in this time of hurt, divide, and conflict.

When the Christian household does this – we bring the new creation into this present evil age.

Let’s pray.

33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

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