Husbands, do you love your wives enough to die for them? Wives, do you love your husbands enough to live for them? That is what the latter part of Ephesians 5 is all about. The husband must learn to love his wife as Jesus Christ loves His church. A husband, if need be, should be willing to give up his life for his wife. On the other hand, a wife should so love her husband that she is willing to live for him. She must be willing to pour her life into being his helper. This involves living for him, just as the church is required to live for Jesus Christ.
Somebody must have the final say. Somebody must be responsible to God for the family’s decisions. Where everybody is responsible, there really isn’t anybody who is responsible. Any organization must have a point where the buck stops. In the home, which is an organization, it stops not with the wife, but with the husband. It is his job to oversee all, make sure that everything runs the way God says it should, and his wife must help him to do so.
A home with no head is a disaster, one with two is a monstrosity.
Since the marriage relationship is to reflect the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church, it is imperative that biblical submission and love be practiced in all of its aspects between husband and wife.
Nowhere has selfishness done more damage than in homes. God’s fundamental building-block for society is now displaced by self-assertion. Wives are too self-important to minister to their husbands. Their own names and careers are too significant for life to be wasted in helping husbands and living “for them.” Husbands are too self-absorbed to share all of life with their wives, too self-centered to be thoughtful of and loving towards their spouses. Wisely the Scripture returns to the center point. “Wives, submit.” “Husbands, love.”
How soon marriage counseling sessions would end if husbands and wives were competing in thoughtful self-denial. If the woman were anxious to yield to her God-given head in the home, and the man were ambitious to serve her comfort and welfare as being his own flesh, there would be no room for contention and strife. “Wives, submit” and “husbands, love” must be repeated until the message reaches beyond ears to the hearts of spouses.
True. It was absolutely necessary, especially after sin had entered the race that a foundation for social order should be laid down in a family government. This government could not be made consistent, peaceful or orderly by being made double-headed, for human weakness, and especially sin, would ensure collision, at least at some times, between any two human wills. It was essential to the welfare of both husband and wife and of the offspring that there must be an ultimate human head of the family. Now let reason decide, was it necessary that the man be head over the woman, or the woman over the man? Was it right that he for whom woman was created should be subjected to her who was created for him; that he who was stronger physically should be subjected to the weaker; that the natural protector should be the servant of the dependent; that the divinely ordained bread-winner should be controlled by the bread-dispenser? Every honest woman admits that this would have been unnatural and unjust. Hence God, acting, so to speak, under an unavoidable moral necessity, assigned to the male the domestic government, regulated and tempered, indeed, by the strict laws of God, by self-interest and by the most tender affection; and to the female the obedience of love. On this order all other social order depends. It was not the design of Christianity to subvert it, but only to perfect and refine it.
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. 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.
The Son and the Spirit do not resent submission. Rather, it is their joy. They love to submit. That is because submission to God’s authority is inherently good, virtuous and beautiful. The Father does not feel superior because He exercises authority. He is a servant. He directs the Son with infinite love.
We can say then that a relationship of authority and submission between equals, with mutual giving of honor, is the most fundamental and most glorious interpersonal relationship in the universe. Such a relationship allows interpersonal differences without “better” or “worse,” without “more important” and “less important.” And when we begin to dislike the very idea of authority and submission—not distortions and abuses, but the very idea—we are tampering with something very deep. We are beginning to dislike God Himself.
New Testament commands concerning marriage do not perpetuate any elements of the curse or any sinful behavior patterns; they rather reaffirm the order and distinction of roles that were there from the beginning of God’s good creation.
The roles and responsibilities in a household according to Scripture – Fathers: Provide for family/children (2 Cor. 12:14) and ensure proper nurture and discipline (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21; Heb. 12:6). Mothers: Raising of children/motherhood (1 Tim. 2:15) and managing the home (1 Tim. 5:14). Children: Obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20) and care for parents in old age (1 Tim. 5:8).
Although Father and Son are the same in essence and equally God, they function in different roles. By God’s own design, the Son submits to the Father’s headship. The Son’s role is by no means a lesser role; merely a different one. Christ is in no sense inferior to His Father, even though He willingly submits to the Father’s headship. The same is true in marriage. Wives are in no way inferior to husbands, even though God has assigned husbands and wives different roles. The two are one flesh. They are absolutely equal in essence. Although the woman takes the place of submission to the headship of man, God commands the man to recognize the essential equality of his wife and love her as his own body.
When two people know, accept, and fulfill their varying but complementary responsibilities, oneness in marriage is promoted.
God patterned marriage purposefully after the relationship between His Son and the church, which He planned from eternity. And therefore marriage is a mystery; it contains and conceals a meaning far greater than what we see on the outside. What God has joined together in marriage is to be a reflection of the union between the Son of God and His bride the church. Those of us who are married need to ponder again and again how mysterious and wonderful it is that we are granted by God the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves.
The husband is to take his special cues from Christ as the head of the church. The wife is to take her special cues from the church as submissive to Christ. In doing this the sinful and damaging results of the Fall begin to be reversed. The Fall twisted man’s loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. The fall twisted woman’s intelligent, willing submission into manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others.
When sin entered the world, it ruined the harmony of marriage not because it brought headship and submission into existence, but because it twisted man’s humble, loving headship toward hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. And it twisted woman’s intelligent, willing, happy, creative, articulate submission toward manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. Sin didn’t create headship and submission; it ruined them and distorted them and made them ugly and destructive.
[In Ephesians 5] husbands are compared to Christ; wives are compared to the church. Husbands are compared to the head; wives are compared to the body. Husbands are commanded to love as Christ loves; wives are commanded to submit as the church is to submit to Christ.
Headship is not a right to control or to abuse or to neglect. (Christ’s sacrifice is the pattern.) Rather, it’s the responsibility to love like Christ in leading and protecting and providing for our wives and families. Submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That’s not the way Christ wants the church to respond to His leadership and protection and provision. He wants the submission of the church to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening.
As husbands sacrifice their lives for the sake of their wives – loving, leading, serving, protecting, and providing for them – the world gets a glimpse of God’s grace. Sinners see that Christ has gone to a cross where He suffered, bled, and died for them so that they could experience eternal salvation through submission to Him. They also see in a wife’s relationship with her husband that such submission isn’t a burden to bear. Marriage onlookers observe a wife joyfully and continually experiencing her husband’s sacrificial love for her and then gladly and spontaneously submitting in selfless love to him. In this visible representation of the gospel, the world realizes that following Christ isn’t a matter of forced duty. Instead, it’s a means to full, eternal, and absolute delight.
The core role of a husband is to be a servant-leader, leading as Christ leads and loving as Christ loves. The wife’s core response to this leadership is submission. The core role for a wife is to be a helper-homemaker, filling the gaps in her husband’s life and prioritizing her life around home and family. The husband’s core response to his wife is praise and honor.
When a husband and wife walk in the Spirit and fulfill their core roles, they complement one another, bring unity to their marriage, joy to their hearts, a reversal of the fall and proof they are being recreated by Christ.
Why is the wife in marriage required to be the one who submits (Eph. 5, Col. 3, Tit. 2, 1 Pet. 3)? Because God set it up this way, based on the order of creation (1 Timothy 2) and ultimately to show the primary purpose on marriage. Marriage is to be a visual picture of the Gospel. Sex before marriage is wrong because we do not have intimacy with Christ until covenant. Adultery is wrong because we are to be entirely devoted to Christ and not other idols. Divorce is wrong because God would never leave us nor would we ever want to leave Him. We are one flesh in marriage to show the oneness we have with Christ – Him in us, us in Him. We leave our parents and cleave to our spouse to show how we leave the world and cleave to Christ. Marriage is between one man and one woman to show the marriage between Christ and His bride. And we have God designed roles in marriage whereby the husband would show Christ by leading through example and sacrificial love and the wife would show the bride of Christ (the church) by trusting her husband’s spiritual leadership for her well-being. After a lengthy discourse on the marital roles, Paul in Ephesians 5 makes the point clear in verse 32. “This mystery is great [marriage]; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. It’s all Gospel-centered.
Headship in a marriage works when both a husband and wife love Jesus, want to show Gospel and are both walking in the Spirit. Together they ultimately want the Lord’s glory. Together they discuss everything. The husband should never need to demand the wife to submit. They are a team. They have a shared vision for the family. When a certain spiritual direction is needed, the husband provides the leadership. But that decision is not implemented until they both have time to talk and pray through the issue. Together they may seek wise counsel. Perhaps the wife will give a new perspective to the husband. This is what teamwork is all about. This is the meaning of “one flesh.” If we both have the Holy Spirit, why would the Spirit guide us in two different directions? Yet only when all these avenues have been exhausted and the husband feels a certain direction is necessary for the family, then does the wife need to support her husband’s decision. Realizing it is the husband, not her that stands accountable before God.
One of the most difficult things to admit or to understand is that there is probably nothing that a man wants more from his wife than her admiration. There is probably nothing that a woman wants more from her husband than his attention, taking her seriously and treating her with the greatest dignity. Here what we are getting at is the question of respect. If I exercise my headship over my wife in a tyrannical way, I am not respecting my wife. If my wife gives slavish obedience to me without any love, she is not respecting me. The whole basis of the relationship is built upon love, cherishing and respecting one another.
Man and woman are one in essence. That is to say, Adam and Eve are equal in dignity, value, and glory. In essential unity there is absolutely no room for inferiority of person. The man and woman are equal in every respect except one – authority. Two different tasks are given to people of equal value and dignity. In the economy of marriage, only the job descriptions are different.