In studying a healthy marriage, we will look first at Ephesians 5:22-33. These verses relay a picture of a marriage under Christ, as Christ purposed marriage to be. This section has been very controversial because it discusses a husband submitting to a wife and a wife submitting to a husband. In our society today, both men and women tend to want leadership and dominance in their relationships and understanding this scripture has been a struggle for many. We will dissect what Paul is teaching so we can better understand marriage and submission.
First of all, the Bible puts no limits on a Christian woman’s authority, except in two areas. A woman is not supposed to have leadership over men in a church and not assume leadership in the family over her husband. This is also a controversial topic. In Greek, “subject” references to rank or authority and is voluntary subjection, as a wife should not be a higher rank than her husband. In a healthy marriage, a Godly husband and wife will partner in household duties and running the household. In a Christian family, where these principles are in use, it will appear that the husband and wife are in harmony in terms of authority.
Women like to make exceptions to Ephesians 5 in their marriage. They agree that they will submit to their husband only when they agree with his decision, or when it benefits them. A wife may agree to submit to her husband only when he follows a Godly lifestyle or he treats her with respect. While this may good, it actually defies the call to submit. If a wife only respects her husband’s authority when she agrees with what he’s saying then she’s never actually submitting. That’s just agreement. True submission means obeying when you don’t agree. (View Video on Communication)
Paul demonstrates a picture in Ephesians 5:23 when he describes a husband as the head of the household as Jesus is the head of the church. As the church submits to Christ, wives should submit to their husbands. Paul’s point is that Christian marriages are to live out a spiritual testimony for all marriages. When husbands and wives observe their God-given roles, their relationship is a picture of Jesus’ relationship with his church. Our marriage is a testimony of truth for what God wants the world to know.
Paul’s purpose in these chapters is about missional living. We are here on a mission and don’t have a lot of time to waste. How are we supposed to make the most of our roles as husbands and wives? Our Godly purpose is not to live our lives for what makes us happy or what we want in life. As Christians, we are supposed to live towards a life of holiness and what pleases God. God’s purpose for our life is not happiness but our holiness. Sure, God wants us to be happy and he rewards us with favor when we honor and please him. Our time is so limited here on earth and we don’t have time to waste on earthly pleasures and desires. Part of our purpose is to honor God with a Godly and missional marriage.
How do I make the most of being a husband or a wife? For one, to live a life in the direction of holiness. It is a matter of faith to respect and obey your husband. It is a matter of faith to submit to your wife. As a result, we move towards holiness and sanctification. We are serving a greater eternal purpose. (Our Battle with Selfishness in Marriage)
Husbands’ orders are delivered beginning in Ephesians 5:25 when Paul instructs husbands to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This is another look at the picture Paul is demonstrating. Husbands have more responsibility to submit to the needs of his wife. A husband is called to place his wife’s needs above his own. In Greek, love here is translated from “agape”, which is self-sacrificial love. Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for the church, husbands should sacrifice themselves for their wives. What does this mean in our society today? Most men will testify that they would die for their wives, jump in front of a bullet for them. Why is it that they would sacrifice their life but not even pick up their dirty socks? (Mr. Clean Testimony)
Part of our marriage testimony shows the difference between my husband before faith and my husband after faith. One of our biggest struggles was lack of submission to each other. I wanted control over every situation and he wanted approval and acceptance. We were in constant conflict. We used to have the biggest arguments about him not helping around the house, not helping with dinner or the trash, or helping with the kids. It created such a distance between us that eventually our respect for each other diminished. I was the nagging wife and I was left defeated and lonely with no progress made after a fight. It wasn’t until he started studying scripture, praying to God, and increasing his knowledge of the Lord that he learned how to be humble and helpful in our marriage.
A husband’s sacrifice also makes possible a sanctified partner in the body of Christ. Husbands are to sacrifice themselves so wives can be more holy. Many husbands will serve God in so many ways and see themselves as Godly examples but can’t find a way to serve his wife’s needs above his own. Paul is saying men need to stop asking what they want for themselves and start asking what they can do for their wives. Men will see fruit from the relationship with their wife when they serve their wives and commit to better conditions in the marriage. Wives take note of their husband’s sacrificial leadership in the home and his selflessness and it will cause her to love him all the more. Likewise, a selfish husband will find less happiness from his wife and less contentment in their marriage.
Paul’s second point is that Christ cherished us, the church, because we are his body. It was in Christ’s own best interests that he would care for us and sanctify us and make us holy and strengthen us to conform to his image because one day he presents us to himself as his bride. We reflect his glory back upon him. The more sanctified we are the better it is for him. If he had neglected the needs of the church, he would have robbed himself of the glory in the end. A husband who nurtures his wife through sacrificial living will achieve a greater glory for himself in eternity. Husbands can help their wives become more Godly and model for her what it means to be Godly. Paul says if you’re not helping your wife to become better and more sanctified, you’re actually hurting your own body and spirit.
If you turn to 1 Peter 3:7 you will find where Peter instructs husbands to be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Peter is saying that the more we build up wives and make them stronger in the Lord, the more holy the husbands will be. Honor her. Provide support and understanding.
Marriage is not only a commitment but also a partnership. Back in Genesis 2, God created woman as a suitable helper for Adam. It doesn’t say slave or house cleaner, but a helper, a partner. Eve, or woman, was created to be the support for Adam so he didn’t have to fight the enemy on his own and someone who would encourage him in obedience and in his walk of faith. Many new couples today do not see the marriage covenant as a forever contract. They place stipulations and exceptions in their values and see a way out if things go wrong. A problem is that most marriages lose the “tingle” and limerence within 2 years. The euphoric feelings and distracting thoughts of each other fade, and flaws and disagreements show their way. As Christians, we need to adopt a servant’s heart and lift up our marriage and treat our relationship with our spouse with a missional mind.