You are reading the Ephesians Project. Read more from this series of articles.
- introduction to paul’s letter to the ephesians
- ephesians 1:1-14: greeting and spiritual blessings in Christ
- ephesians 1:15-23: thanksgiving and prayer
- ephesians 2:1-10: by grace through faith
- ephesians 2:11-22: one in Christ
- ephesians 3:1-13: the mystery of the Gospel revealed
- ephesians 3:14-21: prayer for spiritual strength
- ephesians 4:1-16: unity in the body of Christ
- ephesians 4:17-32: the new life
- ephesians 5:1-20: walk in love
- ephesians 5:21-33: wives and husbands
- ephesians 6:5-9: bondservants and masters
- ephesians 6:10-20: the whole armor of God
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21
It can cause a stirring of rebellion in any heart. This simple word can make one feel powerless and out of control. “Submit” screams of putting aside my wants, my desires, and maybe even my own perceived needs. Nevertheless God calls us to submit to one another and to do it out of reverence for Jesus.
Paul has driven home this message of unity to the Church in Ephesus and this section is no different. He is daring to delve into our practical day-to-day matters, even daring to step into the very center of the marriage relationship.
This revolutionary passage is a hot-bed for arguments in marriages, political circles, and feminist rights rallies. It has been misused and abused within church circles and by the world at large.
The word used in the original Greek was, “hypotasso” which means to “yield”, “submit” or “make yourself subject to”.
To make oneself subject to…
This is a choice God calls us to make out of our love for Him. Mutual submission. Just as I am not forced to follow God’s will, but instead God gives me promptings through His Holy Spirit, and the guidelines for life through His holy Word. It’s a choice which I face daily.
This works the same for submitting to my husband.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22
I used to bristle at these words. Why should I submit to a man? Was this statement by God’s word implying I was stupid, weak, or inferior? I had seen very few men worthy of submitting to. I had been abused by men, and used by them, but ultimately the problem resided in the fact that I had not read the rest of this passage.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church… – Ephesians 5:25-29
My God wasn’t asking me to submit to being bossed around and abused by my future husband. He had instead laid out the parameters for just the opposite.
Paul’s words are even more revolutionary when you think of the times in which he wrote them when women were seen as little more than property. Paul’s radical words were a call for change from the Ephesian men in their attitudes and the treatment of their wives. Even from our own experience, the relevance of this passage is just as strong today as it was in Ephesus.
From a man’s perspective, here are my husband’s thoughts on these scriptures…
Mutual submission. Upon first glance, as a guy, you think “No problem, my wife submits to my authority in the household through respect, and I submit to her by providing for her and loving her.”
Not exactly. Further examination shows that I cannot just love my wife as I see fit, but that I must love my wife as Christ loved the church, and if you know anything about Jesus Christ, then you know this; that He came as a humble servant, loving all to the point that He gave up His life for them.
Suddenly, the “fair trade” looks a little lopsided. The equality factor of this command is, however, a moot point of debate when it comes to obedience. Now, I have to alter my definition of love, which takes effort, but not as much as you might think. You see, it’s a simple matter of putting her needs before my own.
When I do this, I start to become the knight in shining armor which my wife secretly longs for. It’s not intuitive because we are born with a sinful nature and everything in this world seems to be sending a message to take care of oneself first and foremost.
By using Christ’s definition of love, I am becoming more like Him. As I follow this model I start to see the wisdom in God’s plan from the beginning.
My submission to my wife and her needs makes me a stronger man, not a weaker one. It makes me her great protector and shining knight; a hero and a servant; a better man than I ever would have been by following my own plan.
Out of our love for Christ we strive for this beautiful model of mutual submission.
I know my husband is striving to put not only my needs, but also my children’s above his own. He humbles me with his love and care. I know, see, and hear his heart for the Lord. So when we have those moments where we don’t agree on a course of action, I know it’s my choice to willingly submit or to continue to cause division.
Since I know my husband has truly listened to my concerns about the situation, I choose to trust him and submit to God’s call on my life in allowing him to lead. It is no small feat when I submit for I am horribly stubborn. Prayers are definitely lifted to the Lord for the strength when it comes time to submit.
Do you know what is amazing?
There is always a blessing around the corner after I finally choose to yield to my husbands leading.
It always seems to come to a head on a Saturday night. Finally, after a night of prayer for the Lord to give me the strength to follow my husband’s will, we arise and go to church in the morning.
Slowly the answers I could not see before start unfolding during the praise songs, the worship, and time of prayer. In that blessed space I hear the Lord’s direction clearly and with finality.
Peace settles in around me and I lean into my loving and trustworthy husband’s shoulder. I can see now, through the Lord, that my husband’s leading was the right path after all.
I thank God for this marriage. I know it’s not perfect and it’s definitely not the norm, but it’s ours and it is worth following God’s plan for it.
Submission is a choice I choose to make because my husband has chosen to submit and love me as Christ loved the church. His job is much harder. I know myself, believe me it is, but he rises to God’s call and in our good times and bad God anchors us through it together.
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