Study Notes

Ephesians 5:21-33


Paul has been telling us to make sure that our relationships with other Christians are godly. And there is no more important relationship between two Christians than between a husband and wife.

5:21 Be Subject To One Another

Although many men like to start reading at verse 22, when the wife's role is outlined, the proper beginning is verse 21. The word "subject" or "submit" means, "to cooperate by placing yourself lower."

In any relationship, someone has to place themselves lower, otherwise anything not agreed upon will result in conflict. Because no two people are unanimous in every one of their opinions and desires.

It is important to realize that submission and subjection have nothing to do with who is the most qualified to make the decision. Even at 12, Jesus had wisdom beyond His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. But...

Luke 2:51 ...He continued in subjection to them...

Governmental authorities sometimes make ridiculous decisions, but the Bible says...

Rom. 13:1 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities...

There are times that you know better than your boss, and yet the Scriptural command is...

Titus 2:9 {Urge} bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,

Husbands and wives, subjection to one another is not an issue of "I'm right, you're wrong, so you need to submit." It is an issue of peace.

Eph. 4:2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Is winning the argument more important than keeping peace? Is getting your way worth losing unity? Be subject to one another.

5:22-24 Wives

In any relationship, someone has to have authority - to have the final say when there is no agreement. In the case of marriage, God has appointed the man. Not because he is smarter, more discerning or spiritual, but simply because of the order of creation.

1Cor. 11:8-9 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake.

Of course, in relationship to God, we are all created equal:

Gal. 3:28 ...there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

But ultimately, the line of authority that God established in marriage is the husband is the head of the wife. If you have a hard time accepting that, I don't blame you. It's just like when God appointed the Levites as the priests. Certainly, there were godly people in the other tribes, and there were some real bad apples in the tribe of Levi. But God established it that way. And when Saul from the tribe of Benjamin stepped into the role of priest, God judged him.

God appointed Moses and 250 leaders as the authorities over the people of Israel, not because they were better than the rest, but simply because God had chosen them. Korah stood against them, saying,

Num. 16:3 ..."all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?"

When Korah rebelled against God's chosen authorities, the ground opened up and swallowed him.

You see, it has nothing to do with who is more qualified. It is simply about who God says He chooses. And rebellion against God-appinted authority is always judged.

Rom. 13:1-2 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Since God has chosen the husband to be the authority, when a wife refuses to believe or practice this command, to esteem her husband higher than herself, she is judged for rebellion. Worse yet, the Bible is blasphemed.

Titus 2:5 ...being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored ("Blas-fay-MEH-o").

But if, in spite of the fact that your husband does not deserve your submission, in spite of the fact that he might be so ungodly that it seems impossible to submit to him, if you do anyway, then you free God's hand to work on him.

1Pet. 3:1-2 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any {of them} are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

I credit most of my Christian growth to my wife, who, in spite of my frequent stupidity and thickheadedness, has submitted without complain to many of my decisions, and freed God's hand to thump my head!

5:25-33 Husbands

There have been far too many husbands who've told their wives, "You have to submit to me." Guys, before you even think that you have the right to demand that she perform her job description, you'd better make sure that you're performing yours. (Matt 7:1-5).

Now, have you ever really read what your job description is? "Yeah, I just gotta love her." Really? Is that all? These verses go to great lengths to define what kind of love this is. It is the same love that Christ demonstrated to the church: a completely selfless, giving, sacrificial kind of love that makes you empty yourself of all pride, let go of your position, and refuse to demand your rights.

Phil. 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death...

This is the kind of love we're talking about. Husbands, can you say to your wife right now:

- "I'm loving you just like Christ does."

- "I have sacrificed my own life, position, and desires for your sake."

- "I have cleansed you with the Word of God by reading and explaining it to you."

- "I have loved you like I love myself."

- "I have nourished you and cherished you."

If you can't say all of those things honestly, then you'd better not be saying, "Submit, woman!" And if you can say all of those things honestly, you wouldn't dream of saying, "Submit, woman!" Because if Jesus is really our example, then if we want submission, we need to see how he demanded submission:

Mark 8:34 And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

"If anyone wishes to follow Me, you are welcome to come along. I'm heading down this road of God's will, and I'd love for you to come along."

And if she doesn't want to follow right now, you just keep going down that path of God's will. After all,

1John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.

Rom. 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

So you just keep loving, and dying to self, regardless of the response. Don't let her lack of response sway you.

Col. 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.

Just keep loving God and loving her.

The Mystery

Finally, Paul's point is that this whole marriage thing is a mystery - a "moos-TAY-ree-on," which is something hidden or secret. The secret of marriage is that it is a living picture of Christ and the church. He loves us unconditionally and sacrificially, and we willingly submit to His authority. Our marriage is one of the most visible and vocal witnessing tools we have. I pray that we are using it properly.

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