© 2001, Steve Bydeley
Francis Schaeffer said, "Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now."
Have you wondered about the close relationship between the church and the world? That relationship has apparently always been a problem.
Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)
Consider the divorce rates as an example. According to the Barna Research Group, the divorce rate among non-born again adults stands at the 34% level. That means that a third of the marriages in the world today are ending in divorce. When we compare that rate with the rate determined to represent those born again we are told that at 33%, it is nearly the same.
Let me ask a question, if both rates are so similar, has the world has adopted the church's teaching on the marriage relationship, or has the church adopt the world's teaching on that relationship?
I think you will agree it is more likely the church has adopted the world's teaching on marriage. They both would do well to return to God's teaching on the marriage relationship - for the good of everyone.
What is God's model for the marriage relationship?
God's Model - Chapters 1-3
The book of Ephesians is an excellent place to start. Paul begins in chapters 1,2 and 3 with greetings and prayers for the church in Ephesus. He ends this section with the words:
You are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. Every structure knit together in him grows into a holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built up into a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit. Eph. 2:20-22 (NJB)
Notice he writes, "every structure knit together in him grows into a holy temple in the Lord". God is building a temple using Jesus as the cornerstone, the apostles as the rest of the foundation, and His people as components or structures that are added to complete the temple. It is these structures that Paul is going to explain to the Ephesians because, as he writes, "you too...are being built into a dwelling-place for God". These structures are the local churches (4-5:21) which in turn are made up of families (5:22-6:9). The family component is made up of a husband and wife (5:22-33), and of children in relationship to their parents (6:1-4). In those days slaves were often a part of a family component in relationship to their owner (6:5-9). The pattern is one of a spiral from larger structure to smaller components. This spiral starts with the church, which is made up of families, to families which are made from husband and wife, then to children and, finally to slaves. These components are in relationship to each other and are described in the chapters and verses that follow.
The Church Structure in the Kingdom - Chapters 4-5:21
Here Paul gives us a model of a body of believers, a church. He opens this section with a call to holy living and to unity:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:4-6 (NASB)
He continues by drawing attention the structures within that body:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Eph. 4:11-12 (NASB)
This describes the organization of leaders Jesus has set in place on which to build this holy temple.
... having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone Eph. 2:20 (NASB)
The structure starts with the cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and to it are added Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and finally Teachers - in that order. Their function is to "knit God's holy people together" into the structure He has designed. Could we do a better job of knitting if we held more closely to that order of leadership?
He ends this section with some quick words about the activities of the church as they gather together:
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Eph. 5:19-21 (NASB)
Please notice this last verse. Many wrongfully add this verse to the next section or structure. This is usually an attempt to "modernize" the churches position on the marriage relationship and so follow the world's model of the marriage relationship. In fact, doing so basically cancels the intent of the verses that follow regarding the family structure. To be fair there is something to the mutual submission but it comes out of the loving and honoring husbands are commanded to do:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8 (NASB)
Love 'does not seek its own' way. These verses do suggest mutual submission but it comes out of love, a part of the husbands role as we see in the next level of the structure - marriage.
The Marriage Structure in the Church - Chapter 5:22-33
In this structure Paul gives us a model of the marriage relationship, not in detail, just the basics - wives submit to and respect your husband and husband love your wife as you love yourself. He goes on in this section to clarify that this is not an issue of equality but one of authority - leadership.
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. Gal.3:28 (NASB)
We are all equal in Christ, we are all equal in the church, and we are all equal in the family structure, however, He has organized us such that some have been given authority and responsibilities to lead.
It is interesting that in the world every society recognizes the need for structure. Every organization in the world - including communism and feminists - function with one person in a position of authority over others in that organization. The others in that organization place themselves under the authority of that one person for a specific role or job. Any other arrangement results in anarchy as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees:
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? Matt. 12:26 (NASB)
How can any organization stand if they are locked in opposing plans or procedures with each member determined to follow their plan? To prevent this God has defined the structure:
Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you. Gen. 3:16 (NASB)
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, Eph 5:23 (NASB)
Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Cor. 11:3 (NASB)
Under that structure wives are commanded to submit to and respect their husband and the husband is commanded to love the wife as they love themselves and to show her honor (1 Pet. 3:7).
God's word is abundantly clear on this point (also see Col. 3:18-19, Titus 2:4-5 and 1 Peter 3:1-7), and point is one of authority not equality, because God see us all as equal (Eph. 6:9). The world appears to be pushing for equality but is actually in rebellion against authority - hence the present divorce rates. Let me ask a question of the wives. Given a choice, would you choose AUTHORITY or FULLNESS OF JOY in your marriage relationship? Will it be the world's model or God's? And husband do you want fullness of joy in your relationship? Then start to fulfill your role by loving your wife as much as you love yourself, by giving yourself to her as Christ gave himself to the church. He can fulfill both our roles in us as we yield ourselves to Him.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11 (NASB)
Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Deut. 28:1 (NASB)
So, what will it be, His way, or the world's way. Authority or His Joy - it is one or the other. There is no question which option I would choose. His way and His plans are always for our best.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 29:11 (NIV)
I believe the correct approach to the verses in Eph. 5:22-33 is to consider them as private instructions individually to the wife and to the husband. In other words, God is commanding wives to submit to and respect their husband. That command is from God to the wife. It is not the husband's responsibility to enforce that command. Husband, God is commanding you to love your wife, as you love yourself. That command is from God to the husband. It is not the wife's responsibility to enforce that command. The Father has given those commands and He will see that they are obeyed. This is where the fear of the Lord becomes a significant factor.
The term submission does not mean to enslave yourself. The Greek word is a military term and carries the meaning that wives are to give themselves, in submission, to the husband in much the same way as when one enlists in the armed forces. You sign up, placing yourself under the authority your commanding officer. In marriage wives do this because God has appointed the husband to be the head of the wife and of the family structure. Wives are responsible to God for their conduct. The husband is required to love their wife as he would love himself. And, remembering who her Father is husband, you would be wise to put your whole heart into that command. The same goes for wives. Again, the fear of the Lord plays a key role becasue the Father does discipline those he loves.
Husband, the world has presented an image of you as an incompetent fool and an idiot through television, movies, and advertisements. Shows like 'All in the Family', 'The Simpson', 'Home Improvement', 'Married With Children', and others have push that image onto the world and at the same time the wives are portrayed as the hero. We and our children have adopted that image and it has affected the church and society. We need to reverse that trend. Fatherhood is not just an honorable role; it is fundamental to the development of our children, to the church, and to society. It is a role that is actually more important to our children than even the role of the mother. I believe the enemy knows this and has therefore attacked the role of the father so viciously in the media, in the courts, and in society.
As the church, let us swing back into teaching the model of marriage and the honorable roles of husband and wife as depicted in God's word.
The Children Structure in the Marriage - Chapter 6:1-4
Now Paul brings the children to the equation.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Eph. 6:1 (NASB)
This verse contains its own incentive in a promise - 'that it may go well with you and you live long'. Conversely things will not go well with you if you not honor your parents. There is no allowance mentioned for 'good' or 'bad' parents. Parents are to be honored. Look over your life, if you find things are not going well in your life or there are patterns of bad 'luck', look here first to see if you need to confess, repent, forgive your parents and ask forgiveness of them. There is a lot at stake for our children according to the words of that verse.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4 (NASB)
This is an interesting verse - often misused by children against their parents. It is nearly impossible to discipline any child without them getting angry about it. The word 'provoke' means to do things in such a way and for the express purpose of making them angry. 'Do not drive them to anger' may be another way of expressing this verse. Parents who love their children will discipline them; children who are not disciplined when necessary do not have parents who love them. This is another area where the church has wrongly adopted the teaching of the world.
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Prov. 13:24 (NASB)
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Heb. 12:8 (NASB)
The Slave/Owner Structure in the Family - Chapter 6:5-9
Lastly, Paul gives instruction to the slaves of a believer's household. Although this scenario does not exist in the western world it may be wise to look at it in the light of the employer/employee relationship rather than part of the church body structure.
And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Eph. 6:9 (NASB)
We would all do well to remember the words of the last verse in this section. There is no partiality with God. He sees all as equal whether male, female, child, or slave. Where ever we are in the body of Christ and who ever we are required to work with we do well having a fear or reverence for the Father who watches over them.
Closing - Chapter 6:10-24
Paul brings closure to this topic with instructions for standing on God's principles and truth along with instructions on praying for one another.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:11-12 (NASB)
Be aware of the schemes of the devil, he want us to conform to his ways not those of Christ. He wants to destroy families and fatherhood. His teaching has taken too much place in the church today. The first piece of armor we are instructed to put around our waist is truth - God's truth. Following the addition of the rest of the armor we are admonished to 'be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints' (v 18). Stop adapting to the world by adopting the world's ideals.
We need to live in obedience to God's commands and if we do we will find ourselves 'over run' by His blessings in every area of our lives. This sounds great to me!