God Glorifying MarriagesEvery person or couple should experience at least three marriages. To spend one's whole life in one marriage is to choose to remain immature and refuse growth."
BY GENE A. GETZ
When I first read that statement in a book entitled "When Enough Is Enough", I was startled. I was startled especially because the author, David Augsburger, is a well-known teacher and writer. I instinctively knew that there must be more. And there was, for Augsburger went on to say, "The three marriages, for maximum growth, should be with the same partner."
In marriage number one, he wrote, the emphasis is on "oneness": that is, "we are we". In marriage number two, the emphasis is on "twoness": "I am I and you are you". And in marriage three, the emphasis is on "threeness": "I am I and you are you and we are we".
Unity with diversity. In a sense, that same theme is what Paul presents in Ephesians. In the practical half of this letter, which begins in Chapter 4, he introduces this concept of "I am I, you are you, and we are we" as he stresses in verses 4-6 that we believers are one body under the direction of one Spirit, called to serve one Lord, one God and Father of all.
He then continues in verse 7, "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it" and in verse 16, "From him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
In other words, though we are one body, each of us is an individual contributing to the growth of the Church. To maintain this unity with diversity, we must not allow the concept of oneness to squelch our individuality, nor allow our individuality to destroy unity.
So, in verse 2 of Chapter 5, Paul tells all Christians to "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us", and concludes his instructions to the church in general with the injunction: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (v. 21).
Extra emphasesIn verse 22, Paul begins to speak specifically to the smaller social units within the church. He turned his attention first to married women, saying, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" (vv. 22-24).
The apostle Paul then tells Christian husbands to "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (5:25-27).
He closes the section on the family with this remark: "This is a profound mysterybut I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (vv. 32,33). In short, the analogy of Christ and the church is meant to show how Christian couples are to relate to one another.
Since all Christians are to love and submit to one another, why then has Paul specifically emphasized submission for wives, and Christ-like love for husbands? Let's examine this in the same sequence as Paul introduced it in the Ephesian letter.
Why are wives told to submit?I believe Paul stresses the need for wives to submit to their husbands because of the following factors:
1. Natural resistance to authorityUnder God's ordained plan, as Paul points out, the husband is to be the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. And even back in the Garden of Eden, God had told Eve that "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
But with sin having entered the world, human beings naturally rebel against Christ, and women naturally resist the authority of their husbands. Very often, to be sure, prevailing social standards have kept this resistance under wraps. But wherever such constraints have been removed, that resistance has manifested itself.
2. Overreaction to libertyAs suggested above, in most cultures, women had until recently been kept in a position of servitude. Even today, in those nations where Christianity has little or no influencethe Arab countries, for instancethat continues to be so. But wherever the gospel has been introduced, women have been elevated to a higher status in life.
When people in bondage are set free, there is a natural tendency for them to overreact. And this has been true with women throughout the New Testament era. Even back in the first century, there was a powerful women's liberation movement in Ephesus and the surrounding areas.
This is why Paul told Timothy in his first letter, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve" (2:12,13). Timothy was ministering in Ephesus then.
3. Security and self-worthIn I Peter 3:7, God commands husbands to be considerate of their wives and to treat them with respect as the weaker partner. It is God's desire that husbands care, protect and provide for their wives.
In the world, people try to gain respect by controlling others. But in the kingdom of God, blessed are the meek. Likewise, to be the weaker partner of the marriage is to be respected by the husband. When a family follows this spiritual principle, the wife will enjoy a sense of security and self-worth.
4. Vital ministry to the husbandsWhen I was young, I had a boss who was terribly overbearing and insensitive. He was a difficult man to work for. Later on, after I had left that job, I discovered that he was married to a domineering woman. In the home, he had to cater to her every whim and desire. It was because he was so unhappy inside that he let it out on others when he was at work.
You see, God created Eve to be "a helper suitable" for Adam. Being submissive is one way a wife can help her husband. When a man has a supportive wife, he is truly ministered to and he, in turn, can better minister to others.
5. Highly special to the childrenWe read in Titus 2:4,5 that women are to "love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure" and so on. The love for husbands tends to go hand in hand with the love for children.
Conversely, wives that do not submit to their husbands tend also to domineer over their children. Not only will this deny her children motherly affection, it will give them the wrong conception of what a Christian family should be. It could also adversely influence the way they behave as husbands and wives when they have their own families.
Why are husbands told to be loving?Although all Christians are to live a life of love just as Christ loved, I believe husbands are especially commanded to love their wives because of these factors:
1. Ordained to be Christ-like leadersIn I Corinthians 11:3, Paul writes, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Then, in verse 7, he declares, "A manis the image and glory of God."
In other words, because the man has been given the headship of the family, he is effectively a representation of Christ in the home. For that reason, he has the responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves His church.
2. Requires submissionTrue love involves submission and self-sacrifice. Christ demonstrated this comprehensive concept when He submitted Himself to the will of God by emptying His heavenly glory to come to this world and die for the sins of His people.
Paul talks about this divine example of love and humility in Philippians 2, where he says in verse 5, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." So, here in Ephesians 5, God reminds husbands that as they carry out their role as the head of the family, they should be unselfish and willing to self-sacrifice for their weaker partners.
3. Natural misuse of authorityThis is especially true, of course, in those cultures where women are still treated as servants or just means of procreation. But even in western cultures, many men have actually found it hard to love their mates with respect.
Much of this can be traced to our sinful nature. Whereas women tend to rebel against authority, men tend to usurp their authority as heads of the household. So, Paul emphasizes to Christian husbands that in the kingdom of God, they must treat their wives not as the world does, but as Christ treats His church.
4. Helpful to own well-beingI have never met a selfish, domineering husband who is happy. Yes, he may appear to be strong and self-sufficient on the outside. But on the inside, he lacks self-respect. Like the insensitive boss I mentioned earlier, he is probably bossing his wife around to compensate for his underlying insecurity.
On the other hand, I have never met a loving husband who is unhappy. A man who responds to God's will in this matter generally walks closely with the Lord. He is not guilt ridden; he does not have to constantly hide his hypocritical way of life. He feels good about himself; he experiences the joy of obedience.
5. Beneficial to the whole familyWhen they are loved by their husbands with a Christ-like love, there are few wives who do not respond in kind. Submissionwhich may normally be a difficult thing for them to dowill come to them naturally. Reason: as they feel secure in their marriage relationship, they will find it a blessing to be submissive and supportive.
A father who is a loving husband also becomes a good role model for his children. To start with, his leadership of being loving to his wife lays the foundation for a happy home. And when the children have grown up, they will have a good conception of how to be good Christian husbands and wives.
Concluding thought. It is indeed possible for a man to be the head of his wife and still be submissive to his wife. It is also possible for a woman to be submissive to her husband and yet be respected by her partner. If both husband and wife practice God's principles of love and submission, they will have a marriage that brings them joy all the days of their life and brings glory to God at the same time.o
Dr. Gene A. Getz is pastor of Fellowship Bible Church, 200 Chisholm Place, Suite 234, Plano, TX 75075.
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