Would you turn in your Bibles tonight to Ephesians chapter 5. We were there last week, we started, tonight we’re in verse 22, now I’ve got to tell you, telling you turn to Ephesians 5:22, I feel like the pastor in a cartoon that I saw, it was in a newspaper, where the pastor had built his pulpit area like a fortification. And he was peering out from the slit in the machines gun area and he said, “My text this morning is Ephesians 5:22 ‘Wives submit to your husbands.’ Because it’s not an easy text some think to preach from, although hey it’s the Bible. And so we’re going to look at Ephesians 5:22, 23 and 24. I heard of an African chief who called all of the men in his village to his hut in the middle of the village. This chief that there were no (in his words) real men left. So he got all the men in the village and he said, “men I’m concerned that we don’t have any real men left, that your wives are running the homes. So, if you fell like you are being bossed around by your wife, I want you to leave my hut through the right door. If you feel like you are the man and you’re in church, you can leave through the left door of the hut. Ever man in the village went through the right door of the hut, except for one guy. He stood there and then after a minute went out the left door. Well then the chief called all of the men back into his hut. And if to single whit guy out and praise him for what he had done he said, “now here’s guy that is a real man. At least there’s one left in our village, share with us your secret. So the man looked sheepishly at the chief and he said, “Well chief. Before I left this morning my wife turned to me and she said, ‘Husband, never follow the crowd.’
Last Saturday I performed a wedding in the late morning. I love doing weddings, I love performing them. I love to see the looks on the faces of the bride and groom, their flush with excitement and hope for the future. I love the way they look, they’re dressed up like a king and a queen, the music’s playing, the candles are going, they’re all excited. And it’s wonderful to see that, it’s wonderful to hear that but I like to remind them that the rest of their life isn’t going to be like that wedding day. He’s not going to look that way in the morning. She’s not going to always run around with the wedding dress on, unless of course they’re Ward and June Cleaver, there’s not going to be candles and soft music, there’s going to be real life. The marriage made in heaven will soon crash back down to earth. There will be bills to pay, tears to wipe, responsibilities to go through. And there will be conflicts in a relationship. And some of those conflicts deal with what are the roles in a relationship. What are the roles? And right there gets to be a little bit of conflict. Now if you were to ask the question, whose role is the easiest, the man’s or the woman’s? Well it would depend on who you ask, wouldn’t it? He might say, “Well my role is the hardest because I’m supposed to love you like Jesus Christ loved the church, how hard is that? Of course, then she would respond and say, Yeah, but I have to submit to you, as unto the Lord, that’s tough as well. What are the roles in a marriage? They are not simplistic but they are simple, at least they’re put simply in the text. Simply put, the role of a wife is submission to her husband, the role of a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. However, there is a context if you’ll remember and if you didn’t come last week, you have to get last week’s message to find that context. The context is a mutual submission based upon the fear of the Lord, that stems from each person in the marriage being filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. That is God’s order and that is the context here. So, marriage isn’t a fifty-fifty proposition. “I’ll do fifty percent, you’ll do fifty percent.” Oh no, it’s a 100-100 proposition. If it’s fifty-fifty you’re going to fail. It needs to be one hundred percent, “I’m going to give my role to you,” and one hundred percent “you’ll give your role to me.” And by the way, in a marriage relationship, God call us to do 9our part, to perform our role, not to make sure our husband does his role, or our wife performs her role, just that we would do our role. I love what Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham said. She said, “My jog is to love Billy, it’s God’s job to change him.”
Now this evening as we work our way; through this text we have before us, if you’re expecting to hear the crack of the male whip on the female psyche you won’t get that. You will get I hope a fair and balanced exposition of what this means from the Bible when it says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” This text has been abused by tyrants over the years. There are some guys, not all of them thank God but there are some guys who have the domestic ethics of Jabba the Hut. (laughter) They think their role is to be the couch potato, her role is to be the slave. “Csh, csh, submit.” And some husbands have no clue as to how crushed their wives feel in a relationship.
This evening I want to look at two things, basically in our text. I want to look, first of all, at the role and the responsibilities. First of all, the distinguished role of being a wife. And I want to frame for us that first word in our text tonight. Let’s read through it and then let’s go back to that first verse, verse 22. “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church. And He is the Savior of the body. Therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands, in everything.”
He is speaking to Christian wives. And I underscore that, Christian wives, those who are in the new community called Christians living in the town of Ephesus. It’s a whole new way of life, and the wives in the Christian ethics are liberated women. Listen women, you do not owe your liberation to Gloria Steinham and to Kate Millet, or to Barbara Erinwright. You owe your liberation to Jesus Christ, who treated women within such honor and such respect in an age, in an era, where they were despised. I hear sometimes people badmouthing Christianity, “Oh, it’s such a patriarchal religion, they’re so abusive to women, they’re all chauvinists.” Really? Go back and study your history. For that matter, just go over to the Middle East. I was in a Bedouin tent one time and I spent the day there and I interviewed the men because they were the ones doing all the important work. That’s right, they were drinking coffee and laying around all day long. Their wives had it made, all they had to do was work in the hot sun twelve hours a day. And you contrast that with Christianity, it was a whole new world.
What I want to do is to get the background of this is to look at the Greco-Roman world first of all, and compare Christianity with that. And then the Jewish world, back a couple thousand years ago, when the Greco-Roman value system was in vogue, men were basically autocrats. Fathers and husbands ruled and I mean ruled with an order by the Roman government called the patri potestos, the absolute authority of the male. What that enabled the father to do in a family if he wanted to, is he could sell his wives, his children, into slavery if he wanted to, he had absolute authority. He could even execute capital punishment on any of them at his whim. He was given by the Roman government that authority, to that the woman’s life was tantamount to enslavement. In fact, during that time the status among the Romans for a wife, or for a woman, was the status they described as imbecilitos, where we get the term imbecile because their thinking is that women were fall intellectually inferior to the male. In fact, the great orator Cicero said (quote) “Our ancestors made it a rule that women because of their weak intellects should have guardians to take care of them.” Even Socrates said, “Is there anyone to whom you entrust more serious matters than to your wife. And is there anyone to whom you talk less?” I don’t think he had a good marriage. In fact, Socrates once went on record as saying, “By all means, if you get a good wife you’ll be happy, if you get a bad wife you’ll become a philosopher. And that was Socrates. Women in the Roman empire were not even included in the census taking, they didn’t even have their own names. Think of that, their identity was stripped. And what I mean by that is that girls in a family took the feminine form of their father’s name. If his name was Julius, her name would become Julia. If a family had more than one daughter she was simply called Secunda, second. If there were three daughters, she was simply called Tertia, third daughter. In a family where there was just two they were often designated daughter major and daughter minor. Marriage in the Roman and Greek system was not sacramental, there was no holy matrimony, it was really contractual. It was done to get kids, to give men their offspring and to give men sexual satisfaction. Demosthenes describing the setup said, “We have mistresses for our enjoyment, we have concubines to serve our persons and we have wives for the bearing of legitimate children. And did you know that nobody asked the bride and groom if they loved each other, that wasn’t an issue. They usually never met, marriages were arranged, long before they ever met. And there was a huge age gap. Normal girls would be consigned to a marriage immediately after puberty. Roman men married around age twenty-five to thirty, Greek men thirty plus. So because of this huge age gap you can imagine that later on in the Roman empire there was a huge amount of widows, their husbands died off. And if a woman who was a widow proved her worth by the fact that she could bear a child, she was of higher value for a remarriage. But also because there were so many women with this kind of a setup, eventually a women’s liberation movement did foster, around 100 AD in Rome where women wanted the equality with a man and even got involved in politics. And they could because there was so many of them, their husbands died off. That’s the Greco-Roman world.
If you switch to Jewish society it’s a whole lot better but not what we would call good. Nobody in those days had the high ideal of marriage like the Jews had. It was almost compulsory that a man marry if he was Jewish, theoretically no nation had a higher ideal than the Jews. There was only one reason that a Jewish man could abstain from marriage and that is if he were to give himself to the reading of the Torah daily, become a full-time student. If a man refused to get married, he was said to have broken the positive commandment that God gave to us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Now a Jewish man who refused to get married, they said “lessened the image of God in the world and slain his own posterity.” So they had a high view of marriage but they had a very low view of women. Pious Jewish men as part of their daily ritual routine, on a daily basis, would wake up and pray this prayer, “Oh God, I thank you that I am not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.” That’s in the Jewish religion 2000 years ago. Part of the problem stemmed from interpretations by two famous rabbis, Hellel and Okiba who said that a man could divorce his wife for any reason he saw fit but a wife could never divorce her husband for any reason unless he became a leper or a degenerate. And so there was this problem even in the Judean ethic.
A cynical Roman jest 2000 years ago sort of summed up how a woman had to live back in those days. It said, “marriage brings only two happy days, the day when the husband first clasps his wife to his breast and the day when he lays her in the tomb.” Now think of that as a background, and now let’s look at this new community called the Christian church, there’s a big difference. If you just look at the life of Jesus Christ, you know that women played a huge role in His ministry. There were many women that followed in the team of the disciples where Jesus was. They would listen to him, they would be at his feet, they would travel with him, on many occasions. It seems that women felt drawn to this new rabbi named Jesus. He had a message for them. In fact, he was so different from the other guys in the religious community. You remember the time in the New Testament when the leaders of the Jews brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. And of course we wonder today, where would the man be in this equation? Why just the woman? But that’s their thinking, “A woman committed adultery.” Well the man did too but who cares. But “stone the woman,” they said. Jesus defended her and said to them, “Okay, if you’re without sin, you cast the first stone.”
Then there was the Cyro-Phoenician woman that Jesus used as a prime example of faith before the crowd when he spoke to them. Women were the last at the cross. Women were the first at the tomb. Women were the first to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s statistically proven from that time onward, that when it comes to doing volunteer work in a church, getting involved in the ministry, praying, etcetera, women far outstrip men, and that’s coming from a guy. Women are the backbone of volunteer work in any church. And in the early church they were very active, there were deaconesses, there were prophetesses in the early church. Women who exhibited leadership qualities. And there were also couples, there was Priscilla and Aquila. And that’s all because they were allowed to in an era that put women down they were allowed to do these things. It was revolutionary. Listen to this revolutionary statement, Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This was considered a dignified role among Christians. Wives.
Now look at the responsibility, “Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” You remember the word, don’t you, from last week, submit is hupatasso, same word as verse 21. it means as we discussed, to rank underneath. For our purposes, we would say it means to relinquish one’s rights willingly, that’s the idea of submit. Notice something closely, women are not told to obey but to submit. Hupatasso is the word Paul used, submit. The word in chapter 6 verse 1 for children obeying their parents is hupacao. Or servant slaves, obey your master, same word hupacuo. And that’s because in a marriage, a wife isn’t a slave. Neither is a wife to be treated like a child. Marriage isn’t the Marine Corps, men. “Twenty pushups now, woman, submit. You didn’t listen to what I told you to do.” It is to be this beautiful, willing, submissiveness to a man who is filled with the Spirit, loving like Christ loved the church. Submission does not imply superiority versus inferiority, it’s simply a matter of functionality. We discussed that last week, in fact we used I Corinthians chapter 11, you don’t have to turn to it, let me read it to you again, “The head of every man is Christ and the head of woman is man and the head of Christ is God.” That’s in a functional sense, that’s not in essence or nature or character. The Father is the head of the Son Jesus Christ, not in essence, not in nature, they are equal in essence, they are equal in nature. But in order for the godhead to function, somebody has to take orders from somebody else. It’s that way in a marriage, it’s that way in the godhead, it’s that way in government. It has to do with function and role. So in a marriage, a husband is not superior to a wife. And all the wives would say, “Amen,” to that. I get irritated sometimes when I hear guys talk about their wives. Not all guys, but sometimes you’ll have a guy talk as if his wife’s lame or something. “Oh, she’s kind of dumb.” Well that’s interesting in light of the fact that when you asked her to marry you, she said yes. I would say that’s pretty indicting. I think my wife’s the smartest girl on the earth. (applause)
You may have heard the story, it’s a legend, it’s not true, Adam and God were having a conversation and Adam really loved his new bride but he didn’t quite understand her. So he said, “God thank you for this great gift. But can I ask you a question? Why did you make her so soft?” God smiled and said, “I made her so soft so that you would love her.” “oh, yeah right, great idea, because I do. But God, a second question, why’d you make her so foolish?” And God smiled and said, “So that she would love you.” So, be careful men how you talk about your wives. They are God’s gift to you, to complement you. In fact the truth is, she so complements the husband by this relinquishing of rights, to submit to her husband, that no doubt that’s what God had in mind. Back in Genesis, when he said, “I will make a helper that is comparable to the man.” One definition of submit is to voluntarily complete, to adapt or blend so as to make a complete whole or a complete pattern.” In other words, by her submissiveness, her yielding, the blending of these two personalities, that man can blossom. I’ve seen guys who really you know by all intents and purposes were kind of losers. They get married to a woman and their life just blossoms, it’s like, “Man have you changed. And I know why.” God brought the woman to the man.
There’s a great story of a county commissioner back in Pittsburgh named Pete Flaherty and Pete had an important role in the city. He was out one evening with his wife and they were checking out a city construction project. He was on the sidewalk and he was examining it, he had his plans, he’s got his hat, he’s a bigwig. On the construction site was a worker, a laborer, who stood up and recognized Pete’s wife Nancy. He said, “Nancy, do you remember me? We dated in high school, I’m your old boyfriend.” And they exchanged words back and forth, it’s good to see each other. Then as Pete and Nancy walked away, Pete said, “Aren’t you glad you married me? Just think, if you’d married him, you’d be the wife of a construction worker.” She said, “No honey, if I’d have married him, he would have been the county commissioner.” I tell you, I’ve seen women make men into great people by fulfilling their role. So, sometimes a wife has the best husband but sometimes, many times, a wife makes the best husband out of whom she has.
So, that is the role, submit. Notice that there is a purpose to this submission, there is a goal to the role. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Look at that, think about that, you are to submit to that man as you would submit to the Lord. To please, to glorify the Lord, as an act of worship to Jesus Christ. Each meal you cook, each runny nose you wipe, each word that you speak, could be “lord I’m doing this for your glory, for your purpose.” What if Jesus asked you to prepare a meal for Him? “Sure.” What if Jesus said, “Can I stay at your house for a while,” like he did to Zaccheus, “Zaccheus, come down, I’m staying at your house.” “Absolutely Lord.” Now those that we submit to, those men that are in our lives, in your lives, women, they may not command much respect, they might be cruel, they might be ungrateful, thoughtless. They might not inspire much respect. In fact, they may be so insensitive, they might even be unbelievers who don’t care anything about your Christianity at all. And yet, it says, “Submit as to the Lord.”
Turn over to I Peter for a moment, it’s the complementary text from Peter’s own writings, I Peter chapter 3. Verse 1, “Wives likewise be submissive to your own husbands.” Now notice this, “that even if some don’t obey the word…” You’re married to a guy who does not obey the Bible, doesn’t care about following what God said. If they don’t obey the Word, “they (your husbands) without a word (that would be a word from you) may be won by the conduct of their wives.” They, without a word, they, without a sermon from you, they, without nagging from you or criticizing, by your godly example could be won over to Christ. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion.
I heard a story of a guy who was out one night with his buddies at a bar, it was past midnight. In fact, it was almost closing time, almost two in the morning, and this guy wagered his friends, he said, “You know what? I’m going to bet you that if we went home right now if we went home right now, with alcohol on our breath, I could wake my wife out of bed, make her cook us a meal, and she’d do it without grumbling, without complaining.” They said, “No way. That just doesn’t happen.” So they bet him. Went over to his house, 2 in the morning, he woke her out of bed, she came down, smile on her face, cooked them a meal, served it to them. And the other guys were stunned, they said, “You know, I’ve got to compliment you, I’m actually astonished by this. We be your husband, he said it would and it has, how are you able to have such a wonderful demeanor and such a pleasant attitude at this time?” She smiled and she said, “You know let me tell you something. I’m a Christian, I love the Lord. My stay on this earth won’t be for long. Soon I will be forever enjoying heaven and my Lord, forever, eternity on end.” She said, “My husband is not a Christian, his future is dark and dismal. And so I want to make him as happy as I can here before he leaves this world.” They were stunned. Her husband was stunned. Within a couple of weeks, he gave his life to the Lord. Without a word she won her husband.
Look at the pattern of submission in this same text. It goes on to say, as it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord” back in Ephesians chapter 5, “for the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church and He is the Savior of the body.” Please notice that marriage is based upon redemption, that each member has a role model. The role model for the husband is Jesus Christ Himself, to love as Christ loved the church. The role model for the wife is the church, who would submit to what the Lord would direct the church to submit to. We mentioned last week that every role that is mentioned from verse 22 onward is actually an act of submission. Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, submit to your wives by loving them as Christ loved the church. And we mentioned the greatest act of submission in history was Jesus coming to this earth, to die for our sins. He submitted to his Father to become a servant, to become a man, and to be led a cross to pay for sins. That’s the ultimate act of submission. So that in a home, a servant-leadership is the role of a husband, and then the response to that is the wife. There’s no room for tyranny in a home, because the example is Christ loving the church, the wife is submitting as unto Christ like the church would. There’s no room for “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” mentality here. Jesus and the church are the example. So a wife is to regard her husband and submit to the husband, as the body of Christ, the church, the members of the body of Christ, us; would submit to the head of the church, the brain, the one giving the directions; Jesus Christ. Our physical bodies won’t work well if they’re paralyzed, if the message doesn’t get from the brain to the other members of the body. It will be deficient, it will be crippled. And so, for function, the wife is to submit to the husband. There’s one time in the scripture by the way where the husband submitted to the wife, that was in the Garden of Eden. And we saw what happened there and we paid of our sins.
Notice again, before we go on and close this up, it is your individual role that you are responsible for, not your husband’s. I’ve heard this too many times, “Well I’ll submit to you if you love me like Christ loved the church.” “Well I’d love you like Christ loved the church if you’d just submit to me.” That’ll go on ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad frustratum, ad divorceam. Loving servant-leadership coupled with willing submission is the idea that Paul presents.
Now look at verse 24, these are the parameters of submission. “Therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Uh-oh, it says in everything. Yeah, it says in everything, but notice again Jesus is the example so that in everything is in everything that is consistent with the nature of Jesus Christ. In fact, listen to Colossians chapter 3 which is Paul’s complementary verse on this as he tells them, he says, “Wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” The limit would be if your husband asks you to violate anything that is not fitting in the Lord. You don’t follow your husband into sin and say, “I’m submitting to my husband.” No, that’s not submission, that’s just stupidity. You don’t follow him into sin if he goes, “let’s go get drunk, honey, you have to submit.” Unh-uh. “Let’s have wife-swapping, honey, you have to submit.” Oh no, there is a limitation, it’s the same limitation in the book of Acts when the early church was called upon by the authorities of Jerusalem not to preach the gospel. And the disciples said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
I also don’t think that God would require a wife to submit to the physical abuse of her children or herself, just to stay there and take it, “Go ahead, beat me more, beat them more.” I don’t think that’s proper submission. Christianity Today did a study of battered Christian women and they discovered two-thirds of these women that they interviewed said it was their Christian responsibility to endure their husband’s violence. Fifty-five percent noted their husband said that if they’d be more submissive, the violence would stop, and one third believe their husbands when they told them this thinking submission was the key to resolving domestic violence. The truth is it’s not. Remember the chain of command, as we saw I Corinthians 11, the Father, Jesus, the man, the wife. That’s God’s order, that’s God’s chain. If that chain is broken, God’s order is broken. So that if your husband tells you to do something that violates what the Bible tell you to do, what Jesus Christ tells you to do, then you must submit to Jesus Christ in that instance, as it says in Acts chapter 5.
I think this leads to a very important conclusion, don’t you? Women, be careful who you marry. Be cautious who you marry and ask yourself this, “Can I submit to this guy now? Before I’m married. Because something magical won’t happen at the altar where he turns into a________. It’ll be him turned up to 10. So, can you submit to him now? Be very careful. Does he represent Jesus to you? That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to wear sandals and a robe and have long hair, but he has to love you like Christ loved the church.
Part of submitting is being flexible. Wives, if you expect perfection, if you have that high expectation, there will be high frustration. You must be flexible in a relationship. And you know it might be hard for him to lead, it might be hard for him to initiate. So, ask yourself, not just “Is he a good leader?” But, “Am I a good follower. Am I allowing him to take control?” Or, “Am I on his case all of the time?” And maybe you could just pull back a little bit and find those areas where he really is doing his role, performing the husband functions, taking the responsibility and initiative and come alongside of him and encourage him and appreciate him for that. Flexibility. It might surprise you.
Like it surprised this one woman, she got up in the morning, her husband got up, they were at the breakfast table and she said, “I be you don’t remember what day this is.” He got very defensive, “Oh of course I do.” And he went off to work and to the office, ten o’clock the doorbell rant, she opened it, ten long-stemmed roses; one o’clock two-pound box of chocolate wrapped in foil, her favorite chocolates. Four o’clock in the afternoon, special deliver from the boutique shop, a designer dress. He comes home in the evening, “honey, ah, firs the flower, then the chocolates, then the dress, it was the best Groundhog’s Day I’ve ever had in my whole life.” (laughter) He thought he smurfed on the anniversary, what a delightful day she had. Now she could have said, “I can’t believe it, you thought it was our anniversary.” She just said, “What a great Groundhog’s Day.”
Heavenly Father, I believe that You desire our lives to be filled with joy, fulfilled. And to be fulfilled with other people takes commitment and it takes hard work, because truth be known, every person on earth is incompatible at some level with every other person on earth. So we must work through those areas, and be flexible to one another. A man is certainly not superior to a woman. She is to be as so many have said, his equal, taken from his side be loved by, protected by him. But in any kind of structure, for the sake of function, there must be order, and this is Your order. The Father, the head of Christ, Christ the head of a man. A man, the head of a woman. Lord, that places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of men because we’re responsible to you now for the decisions we make in our families. I pray Lord, that we as men, would become lovers of our wife, sacrificially, unconditionally, so that submission is a joy to the wives you’ve given us. Lord I pray that no one would give up looking around at the world and seeing the dismal state of so many relationships. Oh Lord, we would give in to You, we would surrender to You, we would be filled with the Spirit. As You control us, we would submit to one another and that in a home the wives of our fellowship, and we pray that we would see it, would lovingly rank underneath, for the sake of function, husbands. Lord, we pray for peace and for fulfillment in marriages in our community. In Jesus’ name.