Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 163 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Ephesians 5 today and our focus is on Must Wives Submit To Husbands? Is That Not Unfair? We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Probably the most controversial topic we’ve covered on the podcast so far – submission. The modern world gets all aghast at some of the teachings of the Bible, taking only a superficial look at them, and being offended. Today’s passage, when properly understood as to what exactly Paul is commanding, is not even remotely sexist, but rather quite beautiful, and models the relationship that Jesus has with His Father. Let’s look at what is probably the single most controversial verse in the Bible – at the very least in the top 3:
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:22)
Whoa, Paul – that is sexist! Why should wives submit to their husbands? Have you met husbands? This is a bad idea! Maybe the Greek can help us out, and we’ll discover that this is a bad translation. Except, when we look up this passage in the Greek, it is really clear beyond question that we have a good translation here. Maybe this verse is just isolated – the only one of its kind? Maybe a sexist husband snuck it into Paul’s letters and the early church missed it? Except, no – this is not an isolated verse:
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18
In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live 1 Peter 3:1
5 For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also adorned themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and do not fear any intimidation. 1 Peter 3:5-6
So, that settles it – the Bible is sexist, I guess. Except…no, I don’t believe it is. The fact is that there are many commands in the Bible that are set up in couplets: wives and husbands, children and parents, masters and servants, etc. There is almost always a challenging and difficult command for one side and then the other, and sometimes when we try to paint the Bible as sexist, we absolutely miss the challenging thing said to husbands in this passage. Let’s read the text and then discuss it.
So, yes – the Bible calls wives to submit to husbands – AS IS FITTING IN THE LORD…Which does seem to say that there are times when submission is NOT fitting in the Lord, perhaps a situation similar to what the apostles encountered in Acts 4:
19 Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20
The Bible tells us to obey the government, Peter’s epistle tells us to obey the government, but there were times when the apostles did NOT obey the government – and those times are when the government commands something that contradicts God’s Word. Likewise, our Colossians passage seems to indicate that women must not submit to husbands when they ask for something contrary to God’s Word.
What about husbands? We haven’t gotten to them yet:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
I see one command to wives in this passage: submit. That is hard and difficult and goes against our flesh, no doubt. None of us particularly like submission…but what about husbands? I see at least TWO commands here.
- Love your wife like Jesus loved the church
- Love your wife like you love yourself.
Let’s deal with the second command first, because it is far easier: A husband must love his wife in the exact way he SHOULD love himself. This means he must take care of her needs, show compassion to her, be gentle with her, provide for her and care for her, exactly as the text says. The first command is the far deeper and more difficult. Not only must the husband love his wife like himself…but he must love her like Jesus loves the church. How did Jesus love the church? As Paul points out in vs. 25 – HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER. In other words, He DIED for the church. He suffered for the church. He sacrificed EVERYTHING for the church, and did it without whining, or complaining, or manipulating, or demanding anything in return. This is the kind of love that husbands are commanded to have for their wives. And I note profoundly that wives are NOT commanded to have this kind of love for their husbands. I take this to mean that husbands have a peculiar and particular call to SACRIFICE themselves – their interests, their time, their well-being, their preferences, etc for the sake of their wife. And wives have a peculiar and particular call to SUBMIT to their husbands.
You might think it should all be equal – equal sacrifice, equal submission – equal roles, etc…but that just doesn’t appear to be the way that the Word of God calls us to behave. Instead, it appears that husbands, in SACRIFICING, model a particular facet of the life and ministry of Jesus – in that He sacrificed Himself for His bride, the church. Wives, likewise, appear to be modeling a particular facet of the life and ministry of Jesus – in the same way He submitted to the will of His Father (Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, “not my will, but yours be done.”) so wives are called to submit to their husbands.
Submission and Sacrifice – which one is easier? Which one would you choose if given the choice? Which one is better? I’ve no idea – they are both hard.
Let me close with this one thought and challenge: Both husband and wife are called to SERVE each other. Wives aren’t called to serve husbands in a particular and peculiar way, nor are husbands called to serve wives in a particular and peculiar way. They are both called to serve each other. Thus a husband who comes home from work, grabs the remote, kicks his feet up, and expects his wife to wait on him hand and foot is a disgusting scene. He should serve her. She should serve him. Mutual serving. The Bible would call male chauvinism in all of its forms an absolutely selfish and sinful abomination that in no way reflects the life and ministry of Christ in the way that the relationship between husbands and wives should. Husband: You are not the BOSS of your wife. Instead, you lead the way Jesus led, and sacrifice yourself for her. Wife: You are not an underling – you are modeling the nature, nobility and character of Jesus, the King of Kings, as you submit to what should be a gracious and self-sacrificing, selfless husband. Sacrifice and submission are not easy, and are not meant to be, but perhaps it is easier to submit to somebody who models the selflessness, humility and graciousness of Jesus, and perhaps it is easier to sacrifice for somebody who models the submission and overall attitude of Jesus.
Bible Memory verses for the month of June: Daniel 6:23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his God.
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