Saturday, October 16, 2004

Biblical Relationships

After a recent post by Kelly and a few others, I have finally got around to getting down some thoughts on the issue of Biblical relationships between men and women. There are two places in the Bible I’ll focus on – the first is Creation and the fall, the second is a look at Eph 5:21-33 in the context of Paul's writings. Hopefully, this will result in some good ideas about submission/headship. In the interest of brevity I can’t present complete arguments as to why I say some things, so forgive me if I seem too like I’m making unjustified statements. I'd be keen to hear others' ideas about all this...

Creation

There are some pretty obvious and not-so-obvious points to be found here. Firstly, both men and women together were given equal standing to God, because He created them ‘male and female’ (Gen 1:27, 28). But, God makes man first (2:7). Being the ‘first’ or ‘firstborn’ has associations with it in Jewish culture, with the firstborn typically being given more responsibility or seen as the ‘leader’ (check Col 1:18). Here we begin to see the first in a string of subtle hints of God’s indented relationship between men and women.

God makes woman “as a helper for him” (2:18) – but the Hebrew is better stated as “a helpful counterpart for him.” Again, there is the connotation of equality of status, but perhaps not exactly the same function in relationship. Then, Adam recognises the woman as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” (2:23) – expressing his recognition that she was his counterpart. However, another thing noteworthy here is that Adam names her (twice), because such responsibility again could imply a difference between the man and the woman.

God told Adam not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (2:17), and evidently left Adam to tell Eve. In this sense, Adam was again given a responsibility to ensure neither of them did as God asked. So, it is hardly surprising that the ‘serpent’, which we assume is a metaphor for the devil, undermines this responsibility by persuading the woman to go against what her husband had said (3:1-5). Thus, instead of being loyal to her husband, she obeys the serpent. Adam forgoes his responsibility by not only not stopping her, but eating the fruit himself also (3:6). So, perhaps there is more that ‘fell’ here than merely sin against God.

God calls Adam to account first (3:9), again indicating God views Adam as the one who is responsible. By shifting the blame (3:12), Adam tries to avoid facing the responsibility God had entrusted to him. After more blame-shifting and God punishing the serpent, He speaks to Eve. Notice that God did not state that it was ‘for eating the fruit’ that God states her husband will ‘will rule over’ her (3:16) – perhaps this was because the eating of the fruit was Adam’s responsibility. Thus, perhaps the consequences for the women are a result of her breaking of the Godly relationship, for now the husband will desire to ‘rule over her’. This ‘rule’ is not in a good sense, but a harmful sense (compare 4:7), and God ‘instituting’ such dominance but rather merely stating what the consequences are going to be. Indeed, for millennia men have seemingly wanted to ‘rule’ women.

God addresses Adam differently to Eve, saying “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree, although I commanded you ‘You must never eat its fruit’” (3:17). In contrast to His address to Eve, God highlights that He gave the command – and responsibility - to Adam, and He was irresponsible. Furthermore, it is interesting that God says “you listened to your wife” instead of ‘listening to God’.

So, I would suggest that this story illustrates a break of the ideal relationships involving God and people, that ‘the head of every man is God, and the head of the woman is the man’ (compare 1Co 11:3). But what does ‘head’ really mean, and in what sense do people ‘submit’ to the head? As I hinted throughout this look at Genesis, I think ‘headship’ involves responsibility, and ‘submission’ involves devotion. So, let’s look at Paul’s writings to find out…

Paul’s writings

The Genesis account seems a poor argument to assert the ‘headship’ of the man, but Paul clearly thought it was valid support of the ‘headship’ of the man, as he writes in 1 Tim 2:13, 14: “And I do not allow a woman to… exercise dominion over a man … for Adam was formed first, then Eve” (the teaching and silence matters are outside my current scope of discussion). Clearly, the fact that Adam and Eve were husband and wife cannot be overlooked. Paul points to the fact that Eve was deceived and ate as reason why a wife should not usurp the responsibility of the husband – again indicating this is a notable element of the Genesis account.

Paul states that the man is the ‘head’ of the wife and for wives to ‘submit’ to their husbands too often to ignore (e.g. 1 Co 11:3,7, Eph 5:21-33, Col 3:18, 1Pe 3:1-7, 1 Tim 2:11-15, ). Yet, he speaks of Christ’s ‘headship’ and our ‘submission’ to God even more commonly. So, the real crux of Paul’s teachings on the relationship of husband and wife is found in the parallel with Christ and the church, as outlined in Eph 5:21-33:

Submit yourselves to each other, in reverence of God. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands in the same way that you submit to the Lord. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. It is his body, and he is its Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He did this to make the church holy by cleansing it, washing it using water along with spoken words. Then he could present it to himself as a glorious church, without any kind of stain or wrinkle-holy and without faults. So, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hated his own body. Instead, he feeds and takes care of it, as Christ takes care of the church.

We are parts of his body. That's why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I'm talking about Christ's relationship to the church.) But, every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands.

Firstly, in verse 21, it is clear that we are told to “submit yourselves to each other, in reverence of God.” What follows in the rest of the chapter is a description of what the responsibility of service and submission involve for both the husband and the wife. Man and woman are different in how they relate, and therefore ‘submission’ will take a different yet complimentary shape for both.

In all cases, submission is a voluntary and willing form of service, loyalty, and devotion. The word is also translated a ‘subject’ – which would describe the ‘subjects’ of a King. It is portrayed as a proper and willing response to another. Submitting is not something we are compelled to do, but something that is right for us to do.

But, it should be noted Paul’s ideas of ‘headship’ seem often tied to the marriage relationship between husband and wife, and should not be carelessly taken to apply outside it. Plenty of people seem to apply ‘headship’ and ‘submission’ to all men and women. Yet, I am not sure if biblical ‘headship’ applies in general outside of marriage, but I suspect it does not – after all, a ‘head’ can only have one ‘body’. However, the principles found in Paul’s teaching on this matter of how to love one another can perhaps be applied outside of marriage to our friendships – without need to maintain a ‘authority and submission’ mindset.

That said, let’s list some things about the relationship of Christ and the church – because this is the key to understanding this passage.

Christ:

  • Is ‘head’ and ‘Lord’ of the church
  • Spiritual leader/’head’ (Heb 12:2 “Jesus, the chief leader and perfector of faith”).
  • As the ‘foremost’, He submitted to the church in the form of a servant (Mat 20:26,28). Christ made it clear that the ‘head’ is not a position to forcibly exercise authority over others, but rather it is the responsibility to serve in submission.
  • He is completely committed and devoted to the church, and does not waver (Heb 13:8)
  • Loves the church graciously, for nothing will separate the church from His committed love (Rom 8:35)
  • Completely obeyed and submitted selflessly to God’s will, rather than His own. (Mat 26:39)
  • Loved the church intensely, at the sacrifice of Himself (John 15:13)
  • Sacrificed Himself for the Church (John 10:11)
  • Lead by being the first to sacrifice for the church, which inspires love from us (1Jo 4:19, 1Jo 4:11, Eph 5:2)
  • Is the ‘savior’, of ‘rescuer’, of the church.
  • Is the shepherd of the church, protecting, looking after them, and bringing them back from going astray (John 10:11, 14, Heb 13:20, 1Pe 2:25)
  • ‘Glorifies’ the church, by living and dying for it
  • The giver and wellspring of life (John 4:14)
  • ‘Feeds’ the church (John 6:35)

The Church

  • Is considered Christ’s own ‘body’ (note parallels with Eph 5:21-33)
  • The church is co-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17)
  • Sacrifices itself for Christ,
  • Willingly ‘submits’ to Christ, loyally following Him – and serves ‘in the same attitude as Christ’ (Eph 5:24, 1Pe 4:1)
  • Should be completely obedient to God’s will (which is Christ’s)
  • ‘Glorifies’, respects, and praises Christ for what He’s done (2Th 1:12)
  • Loses its own life, but finds it in Christ (Mat 10:39)
  • Dies to its own desires, but is made ‘alive in Christ’ (Rom
  • Must love Christ far more than anything else on earth (Luk 14:26)
  • Finds fulfillment in Christ (John 6:35)
  • Is ‘one with Christ’ in spirit (Rom 8:9).
  • Is completely loyal to Christ

Comparing the two, we find that both Christ and the Church:

  • Cannot have purpose without the other
  • ‘Submit’ to serve each other
  • Sacrifice their own desires for the sake of the other
  • Love each other more than anything else on earth
  • Are (co-heirs) of the Father.

However, these similarities are expressed somewhat differently, and there are clear differences between Christ and the Church. I will attempt to summarise these differences below, while still highlight that each is living for the other, but I’m leaving out important aspects. For example, to maintain relevance to relationships between men and women, I am not mentioning some important things like Christ’s divinity. So:

  • Christ is the responsible spiritual leader who takes initiative to inspire, motivate, guide, nurture, care for, serve, and build the church into a ‘glorious bride’. As the ‘head’, He chooses to live for the body.
  • The Church is the loyal spiritual follower that responds with love, praise, honour, respect and devotion because of for His love for the church. The church finds its fulfilling purpose in serving and glorifying Christ, for the church is inspired (by Christ) to live for the ‘head’.

Now I cannot help but comment that these ‘roles’ fit rather well with how I observe men and women to show love for each other. Men seem good at showing love by caring for and doing things for (and with) their wives, and wives seem good at showing love by praising and encouraging and supporting their husbands for what they do. Men feel loved by their wives when they are praised and supported and encouraged, while (I think) women feel loved when their husbands take initiative to serve and care and do things for them and with them.

Both live for each other, both serve each other and both are submitted to each other, but men and women differ in how they can best do these things. Yet, in that difference, lies incredible strength because it makes a cycle, where each inspire the other to greater love. The husband and wife form a circle that feeds itself on the love each other provide.

So, it seems that the man is the ‘spiritual head’ of the relationship. Note that this has little to do with 'who's boss', but everything to do with responsibility. In this capacity, he is the one to lead, guide, and take initiative with wisdom, discernment and love – to build up his wife into a great woman of God in all respects by sacrificing himself wholly for her benefit. By loving his wife in this way, he is loving himself because his wife will respond in love and the whole relationship will be strengthened. This ‘role’ fits with what men are good at.

The woman is of an equal importance, but it would not be out of place to describe her as a ‘helper’. By supporting and encouraging and praising her husband, putting him first in the relationship, he will naturally respond by loving her even more. So one could say that by loving her husband in this way, she is loving herself because the relationship will be strengthened. This role fits with what women are good at.

Thus, using a body as a metaphor for the relationship between man and woman is very suitable, for the head and body cannot survive independently, both are of equal importance, both serve the other, and both function in complete harmony with their design.

‘Headship’ therefore, could be viewed as ‘selfless responsibility to the body’, and likewise ‘submission’ could be termed ‘selfless worship of the head’. In using these words, I am unsuccessfully trying to encompass all the aspects of Christ and the Church in only a few words.

Biblical relationships, therefore, have nothing to do with 'who's boss', but all to do with willing sacrifice – both of the husband and wife. So, I think the bar is raised equally high for both men and women, and when both love each other in this way, 'authority' will not be an issue. Men are called sacrifice themselves in responsibility for their wives; women are called to sacrifice themselves in devotion to their husbands. Husbands give their lives for their wives (under God); wives give their lives to their husbands (under God) - both are different yet complimentary. There are many more complexities and overlaps beneath these statements, but I think they capture the essence. Both are different expressions of the same thing – sacrificial love.

Edited last paragraph in light of comments, 21/10/04.

29 comments:

michelle said...

niiiiiiiiiiiiice Reubs :) very very comprehensive and well thought out.

Steve-a-saurus said...

I concur; I think you have done well Rueben. It is definitely a two-sided relationship and there is responsibility given to the husband and wife, and neither can survive without the other. It is a daunting command for both sides of the relationship both have high expectations. Thanks Rueben

Steve-a-saurus said...

I concur; I think you have done well Rueben. It is definitely a two-sided relationship and there is responsibility given to the husband and wife, and neither can survive without the other. It is a daunting command for both sides of the relationship both have high expectations. Thanks Reuben

Jim said...

Yo

"God makes woman “as a helper for him” (2:18) – but the Hebrew is better stated as “a helpful counterpart for him.” Again, there is the connotation of equality of status, but perhaps not exactly the same function in relationship."On this bit, Chris Finlay (pastor from ABC) pointed out to me the other day that the word (or combinition of words) translated here is used once in the bible in this context, about four in the context of a military ally, and like twelve or 13 to describe God.

Cheers,
Jim

Jared said...

Just a query reubz, what do you mean by 'Cannot have purpose without the other'? I understand that the church could not exist (as we understand it) without Christ but that Christ does not have a purpose without the church does not ring true with me.
Sorry to nit-pick.
BTW you took the words write out of my mouth.
God bless,
Jared

Katherine said...

Yes, yes, I also concur. No need to restate my position on this subject I'm sure, and I can't really think of anything you've left out, so nothing remains to be said except hoorah! How exciting! How pleasing are His ways, Who prescribes something so beautiful as a life of faithfully ministering to someone you deeply respect, as the right way! And Who allows us to love and serve Him in the same way! Yeah, bring it on (yo) (with appropriate hip-hop gestures?). Hm. Uh, yes. Well done.

incognito said...

Jared, what would be the purpose in the Incarnation and Jesus if not for the Church? It seems to me that there would be none, hence my statement.

Jared said...

Granted that the Christ's (or Messiah's) purpose would have been negated had it not been accepted by men as well as God, hence the church. However, the Son in his role as one of the Trinity had purposes beyond the church as St. John said 'All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made'. As I said nit-picking.

m said...

Hey, m here (and Richard too). After you commented on my post on this issue we thought we'd read yours, and let you know what we thought.

This might be a bit of a long one... sorry. We've listed our thoughts below.

1. You wrote "for now the husband will desire to ‘rule over her’. This ‘rule’ is not in a good sense, but a harmful sense (compare 4:7)". It seems to us, that in this scripture the word 'rule' doesn't have a harmful connotation. We checked it out in Strong's, and the same Hebrew word is also used to describe the Lord ruling over the men of Israel in Judges 8:23.
Also, the scripture doesn't actually say that the husband will desire to rule over the woman, it just says "Your desire [the woman] shall be for your husband,And he shall rule over you." (see Genesis 3)

2. Given what we've said above, we can't agree with your conclusion that "This ‘rule’ is not... God ‘instituting’ such dominance but rather merely stating what the consequences are going to be". We would have to say that "And he shall rule over you"(last part of Gen 3:16 NKJV) is God fairly clearly stating that men shall 'rule' over women

3. Quick note, although we don't think that any arbitrary male should be in charge of any arbirtrary female, ideally, we wonder if perhaps children (and grown but unmarried women) should submit to their parents (provided that this doesn't involve going against God). That is, perhaps (and I'm not sure I - m - like this) women really weren't supposed to be independent, but were supposed to be raised in Godly families, in such a way that they could submit to their fathers.

4. "As the ‘foremost’, He submitted to the church in the form of a servant (Mat 20:26,28). Christ made it clear that the ‘head’ is not a position to forcibly exercise authority over others, but rather it is the responsibility to serve in submission.".
We can't agree. Christ did not submit to the church. There's a fundamental difference between service and submission. Although Christ chose to serve us, He was always fully submitted to the will of His Father. This evident, as the apostles would not have chosen for Him to die. If He had been submitted to them (the beginnings of the early church) then He would not have gone to the cross. Also, the church didn't really begin until after Jesus had ascended into heaven - so He couldn't have been submitted to it.

5. Just checking the reference for this comment of yours "He is completely committed and devoted to the church, and does not waver (Heb 13:8)" as Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

6. "Loves the church graciously, for nothing will separate the church from His committed love (Rom 8:35)" it's probably worth noting that this is actually referring to God's elect (Rom 8:33) - the individuals in the church, not the corporate body (not that it makes much difference in the context you've used it in)

7. Most of your comments about how Christ loves the 'church' are actually referring to scriptures that describe the relationship between Christ and people more generally. Given that Ephesians 5 refers specifically to the church, we don't really think that the scriptures you've used are the most relevant ones for this discussion.

8. To say that Christ "‘Glorifies’ the church, by living and dying for it" isn't right. He glorifies the Father

9. Again, we think the verses that you've used to describe the church refer to individual believers (and sometimes also the Holy Spirit e.g. Rom 8:9) rather than to the church in general. Also, we don't think that the church sacrifices itself for Christ, or "Is ‘one with Christ’ in spirit (Rom 8:9).", or "Is completely loyal to Christ"10. In reference to your conclusions on Christ and the Church:
"Cannot have purpose without the other"Christ existed before the incarnation - with the purpose as we understand it of relating to the Father
"‘Submit’ to serve each other"As we've mentioned we don't think Christ submits to anyone but the Father
"Sacrifice their own desires for the sake of the other"Well... Christ's desire was to do the Father's will, and the Father willed for Him to be sacrificed.
"Love each other more than anything else on earth"On earth, but don't overlook the fact that Christ is part of a trinity.
"Are (co-heirs) of the Father."Again, we'd say that this refers to "as many as are led by the Spirit of God" (Rom 8:14)... which seems kinda important as it's easy to overlook the Spirit.

11. "each is living for the other", "As the ‘head’, He chooses to live for the body." This doesn't really work. Christ's relationship with the Father is clearly more important than His relationship with the church.
It doesn't really work for a husband to live for his wife, or vice versa. Both need to be living through Christ for God.

12."Men seem good at showing love by caring for and doing things for (and with) their wives, and wives seem good at showing love by praising and encouraging and supporting their husbands for what they do. Men feel loved by their wives when they are praised and supported and encouraged, while (I think) women feel loved when their husbands take initiative to serve and care and do things for them and with them."From experience, I (Richard) would tend to say that this is a bit of an over-generalisation. How do I feel loved? A large number of ways: Support and encouragement, yes, but also dinner on the table, ironed and folded washing, etc, etc, .... - the fact that Em wants to do (and does) these things for me makes me feel very loved. Em would say that she would feel loved when I do sweet things for her, but equally, and almost more importantly, when I say sweet things to her, encourage her, and let her know that I appreciate her.

13. "Both live for each other, both serve each other and both are submitted to each other, but men and women differ in how they can best do these things. Yet, in that difference, lies incredible strength because it makes a cycle, where each inspire the other to greater love. The husband and wife form a circle that feeds itself of the love each other provide. "I wouldn't say I live for Em (otherwise if she died ... ), also I can say that I am definitely not submitted to her. I want her to be happy, I want to please her, therefore I'll do things that I know will do this, but when it comes down to it, I know that I'm in charge, and I'm sure that this is the position that God wants me to be in. Also, it is not our love for one another that sustains our relationship, it is the love of God. Furthermore, the love that we have for one another has been given us by God.

Let me digress for just a moment; I was just thinking, that the notion of me being in submission to Em really doesn't sit well with me at all, it feels wrong. I guess what I'm trying to say is that over the last year God has changed me, in preparation for, and in being a husband. I am now responsible for two lives. I am now in authority over two lives. The thought of this would have daunted me a year ago - I would have argued more strongly for a more 'equal' sharing of roles. However, in this 'inequality' that we now have, there is enormous strength. There are two of us, heading in the same direction, not only are we going where we feel He wants us to go, but in the manner that he would have us adopt. Also, the 'inequality' is not really relevant, because that stems from adopting a view that men and women were created for the same roles - they weren't.

14. "Biblical relationship, therefore, has nothing to do with authority, but all to do with willing sacrifice". Em just said, "I like having you in authority over me - I feel safe." Referring back to an earlier comment (the one on Gen 3:16). God did institute an order with men in authority over women. This is not a bad thing. The way that men have gone about it in history may well be, but it was not intended for our ill. In a loving context I think that it is right for a man to be in authority over his wife. Willing sacrifice does come into it, but it is not the essence of a marriage.

15. "Men are called sacrifice their ambitions; women are called to devote their affection. Husbands give their lives completely to their wives; wives give their hearts completely to their husbands." This is probably where we disagree most. I believe that when we seek God's will he places desires and ambitions on our hearts. We should continually sacrifice our ambitions to God. His word says: "Delight yourself also in the LORD and he shall give to you the desires of your heart" (Ps 37:4), my point being that having desires in our hearts is God's intent, and it is also His intent for us to pursue them. Husbands, give your lives and hearts completely to GOD (wives, do likewise). I may have misunderstood you - could you clarify what you meant by "Husbands give your lives, wives give your hearts ..."



p.s. I hope you are enjoying the tomato sauce

Jim said...

Hey Rich, a couple of quotes from your's and emily's post seem to imply you have missed something I believe is vital to all this discussion and to marriage.

"also I can say that I am definitely not submitted to her."
"I was just thinking, that the notion of me being in submission to Em really doesn't sit well with me at all, it feels wrong."
That something I feel you have missed is Ephesians 5:21. Before Paul speaks specifically to Husbands or Wives, he writes "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (NIV)
I think this means that the submission thing is not just for wives to their husbands, but for all believers (possibly all people) to each other. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and so is Emily, then surely you should be prepared to submit to her, as she submits to you, and both of you submit to Christ.

The other day, in the first of mine and Joy=)'s pre-marriage preparation meetings with Chris Finlay, he pointed out that in marriage we have a chance to practice the type of love we should have for all Christians. This includes surrender and sacrifice, on both parts. Submission is part of love.

Richard said...

Hey Jim, I didn't ignore v21. I think the nature of Christian submission "one to another" is quite different from that of a wife to a husband, as this includes intimately the notion of headship: "...the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3 NIV).

I was trying to work out how to say what I wanted, but I found that the appropriate section of the Matthew Henry commentary has pretty much exactly what I wanted to say. Sorry it's rather long:

"Eph 5:21-33 -
Here the apostle begins his exhortation to the discharge of relative duties. As a general foundation for these duties, he lays down that rule Eph_5:21. There is a mutual submission that Christians owe one to another, condescending to bear one another's burdens: not advancing themselves above others, nor domineering over one another and giving laws to one another. Paul was an example of this truly Christian temper, for he became all things to all men. We must be of a yielding and of a submissive spirit, and ready to all the duties of the respective places and stations that God has allotted to us in the world. In the fear of God, that is, so far as is consistent with the fear of God, for his sake, and out of conscience towards him, and that hereby we may give proof that we truly fear him. Where there is this mutual condescension and submission, the duties of all relations will be the better performed. From Eph_5:22 to the end he speaks of the duties of husbands and wives; and he speaks of these in a Christian manner, setting the church as an example of the wife's subjection, and Christ as an example of love in husbands.

I. The duty prescribed to wives is submission to their husbands in the Lord (Eph_5:22), which submission includes the honouring and obeying of them, and that from a principle of love to them. They must do this in compliance with God's authority, who has commanded it, which is doing it as unto the Lord; or it may be understood by way of similitude and likeness, so that the sense may be, “as, being devoted to God, you submit yourselves unto him.” From the former sense we may learn that by a conscientious discharge of the duties we owe to our fellow-creatures we obey and please God himself; and, from the latter, that God not only requires and insists on those duties which immediately respect himself, but such as respect our neighbours too. The apostle assigns the reason of this submission from wives: For the husband is the head of the wife, Eph_5:23. The metaphor is taken from the head in the natural body, which, being the seat of reason, of wisdom, and of knowledge, and the fountain of sense and motion, is more excellent than the rest of the body. God has given the man the pre-eminence and a right to direct and govern by creation, and in that original law of the relation, Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. Whatever there is of uneasiness in this, it is an effect of sin coming into the world. Generally, too, the man has (what he ought to have) a superiority in wisdom and knowledge. He is therefore the head, even as Christ is the head of the church. There is a resemblance of Christ's authority over the church in that superiority and headship which God has appointed to the husband. The apostle adds, and he is the Saviour of the body. Christ's authority is exercised over the church for the saving of her from evil, and the supplying of her with every thing good for her. In like manner should the husband be employed for the protection and comfort of his spouse; and therefore she should the more cheerfully submit herself unto him. So it follows, Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ (Eph_5:24), with cheerfulness, with fidelity, with humility, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing - in every thing to which their authority justly extends itself, in every thing lawful and consistent with duty to God.

II. The duty of husbands (on the other hand), is to love their wives (Eph_5:25); for without this they would abuse their superiority and headship, and, wherever this prevails as it ought to do, it will infer the other duties of the relation, it being a special and peculiar affection that is required in her behalf. The love of Christ to the church is proposed as an example of this, which love of his is a sincere, a pure, an ardent, and constant affection, and that notwithstanding the imperfections and failures that she is guilty of. The greatness of his love to the church appeared in his giving himself unto the death for it. Observe, As the church's subjection to Christ is proposed as an exemplar to wives, so the love of Christ to his church is proposed as a pattern to husbands; and while such exemplars are offered to both, and so much is required of each, neither has reason to complain of the divine injunctions. The love which God requires from the husband in behalf of his wife will make amends for the subjection which he demands from her to her husband; and the prescribed subjection of the wife will be an abundant return for that love of the husband which God has made her due. The apostle, having mentioned Christ's love to the church, enlarges upon it, assigning the reason why he gave himself for it, namely, that he might sanctify it in this world, and glorify it in the next: That he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word (Eph_5:26) - that he might endue all his members with a principle of holiness, and deliver them from the guilt, the pollution, and the dominion of sin. The instrumental means whereby this is affected are the instituted sacraments, particularly the washing of baptism and the preaching and reception of the gospel. And that he might present it to himself, etc., Eph_5:27. Dr. Lightfoot thinks the apostle alludes here to the Jews' extraordinary carefulness in their washings for purification. They were careful that there should be no wrinkle to keep the flesh from the water, and no spot nor dirt which was not thoroughly washed. Others understand him as alluding to a garment come newly out of the fuller's hand, purged from spots, stretched from wrinkles, the former newly contracted, the latter by long time and custom. That he might present it to himself - that he might perfectly unite it to himself in the great day, a glorious church, perfect in knowledge and in holiness, not having spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing, nothing of deformity or defilement remaining, but being entirely amiable and pleasing in his eye, holy and without blemish, free from the least remains of sin. The church in general, and particular believers, will not be without spot or wrinkle till they come to glory. From this and the former verse together we may take notice that the glorifying of the church is intended in the sanctifying of it: and that those, and those only, who are sanctified now, will be glorified hereafter. - So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies, etc., Eph_5:28. The wife being made one with her husband (not in a natural, but in a civil and in a relative sense), this is an argument why he should love her with as cordial and as ardent an affection as that which he loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, Eph_5:29 - (no man in his right senses ever hated himself, however deformed, or whatever his imperfections might be); so far from it that he nourishes and cherishes it; he uses himself with a great deal of care and tenderness, and is industrious to supply himself with every thing convenient or good for him, with food and clothing, etc. Even as the Lord the church: that is, as the Lord nourishes and cherishes the church, which he furnishes with all things that he sees needful or good for her, with whatever conduces to her everlasting happiness and welfare. The apostle adds, For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, Eph_5:30. He assigns this as a reason why Christ nourishes and cherishes his church - because all who belong to it are members of his body, that is, of his mystical body. Or, we are members out of his body: all the grace and glory which the church has are from Christ, as Eve was taken out of the man. But, as one observes, it being the manner of the sacred writings to express a complex body by the enumeration of its several parts, as the heaven and earth for the world, evening and morning for the natural day, so here, by body, flesh, and bones, we are to understand himself, the meaning of the verse being that we are members of Christ. - For this cause (because they are one, as Christ and his church are one) shall a man leave his father and mother; the apostle refers to the words of Adam, when Eve was given to him for a meet help, Gen_2:24. We are not to understand by this that a man's obligation to other relations is cancelled upon his marriage, but only that this relation is to be preferred to all others, there being a nearer union between these two than between any others, that the man must rather leave any of those than his wife. - And they two shall be one flesh, that is, by virtue of the matrimonial bond. This is a great mystery, Eph_5:32. Those words of Adam, just mentioned by the apostle, are spoken literally of marriage; but they have also a hidden mystical sense in them, relating to the union between Christ and his church, of which the conjugal union between Adam and the mother of us all was a type: though not instituted or appointed by God to signify this, yet it was a kind of natural type, as having a resemblance to it: I speak concerning Christ and the church.
After this, the apostle concludes this part of his discourse with a brief summary of the duty of husbands and wives, Eph_5:33. “Nevertheless (though there be such a secret mystical sense, yet the plain literal sense concerns you) let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, with such a sincere, peculiar, singular, and prevailing affection as that is which he bears to himself. And the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Reverence consists of love and esteem, which produce a care to please, and of fear, which awakens a caution lest just offence be given. That the wife thus reverence her husband is the will of God and the law of the relation."

Richard (and Em)

Jim said...

So Richard, are you saying the word "submit" in verse 21 means something different from "submit" in verse 22. This seems kinda odd to me. I mean with two passages from different books, or different testaments, or maybe even different chapters, I could concede that context, and therefore the meaning, may be different, but to repeat the word in the very next sentence, I would assume the meaning is probably quite similar.

Admittedly I do not know greek, and have not looked at the greek to see if the word translated as "submit" in verse 21 is the saem as in verse 22.

However, I believe we are probably arguing over a non issue. We both have a concept of sacrificial love that a husband should have for their wife. I include in this a concept I think is called submission, whereas you do not choose to call it that, but probably include a similar concept.

Jim

incognito said...

Yeay! People who disagree with me =) Thanks for your comments. I think I see where you're coming from, but I think on the whole I still differ in opinion. In saying that, I'm not married, so I'm 'less qualified' to talk.

However, I agree with Jimmy here. A few points:

1-2: There is no OBVIOUS interpretation here, for several options exist, so one must interpret based on the rest of scripture. Hence our differences of opinion, I think. I shant try to pursuade you otherwise.

4: I think perhaps we differ in our understanding of 'submission'. I think, is really to do with devotion and love, rather than related to authority as such. If you look here , you'll see the word has both a military and non-military use. In non-military use, it meant ""a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden" - sounds like a good thing to do in marriage to me.

Further, Christ 'submitted' to His parents (Luk 2:51). .. and, in light of this meaning of 'submit', I would suggest His washing of the feet of the desciples was quite a graphic expression of willing subjection. Indeed, He practiced what He preached in Mat 20:26 - and that word 'minister' has in fact stonger connotations of 'obedience to authority' than the word 'submit'. I think Biblical 'headship' is the responsbility to serve and lead, not to BE served.

7: hmmm... but any reference to 'the church' is intrisically referring IN GENERAL to the church. I think you're splitting hairs here.

8: Your statement here just doesn't seem to line up with the passage we're looking at... "love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He did this to make the church holy by cleansing it, washing it using water along with spoken words. Then he could present it to himself as a glorious church, without any kind of stain or wrinkle-holy and without faults." If that's not making the church 'glorious' I'm not sure what it. But yes, He also glorifies the Father and is glorified by God.


9: Here: 'Also, we don't think that the church sacrifices itself for Christ, or "Is ‘one with Christ’ in spirit (Rom 8:9).", or "Is completely loyal to Christ"' Certainly the church as a whole doesn't do that perfectly, but as I understand it that's what the Bible says we should do. So, I can't really see why you'd disagree here. Being a 'Christian' literally means being a devoted follower of Christ - and if we follow Christ, we should sacrifice everything else (Lu 14:26).

Regarding Christ and the church not having purpose without the other: The 'Messiah' (Christ) would hardly be a Messiah in any sense without a people to save. Likewise, the church would not be the church without Him, because it would not have His Lordship.

"As we've mentioned we don't think Christ submits to anyone but the Father" See above - it seems pretty clear He does, particularly to His parents in Luk 2:51.

"Christ's desire was to do the Father's will, and the Father willed for Him to be sacrificed." But the PURPOSE was for the church. God did not 'In Chrust reconcile the world to Himself' for HIS sake, but for OURS. Christ therefore, also did everything for OUR sake.

11: "Christ's relationship with the Father is clearly more important than His relationship with the church." In a theological sense, perhaps. But with respect to us, certainly not. And considering Paul was talking about 'Christ and the church', I think this would be missing the point.

12: Yes, of course it's a generalisation.

13: "I wouldn't say I live for Em" But ultimately, the husband should consider the wife 'part of his body'. Thus, the husband IS living for both, just as you feed and care for your own body. Certainly, we live for God in the greatest sense, but we also live for those we love.

"I was just thinking, that the notion of me being in submission to Em really doesn't sit well with me at all, it feels wrong." Yes, that's not surprising from your understanding of 'submission'. I don't think I am suggesting any form of 'submission' in the sense you mean in marriage - because in marriage it is mutual. However, I agree that the man has the RESPONSIBILITY for them both. This is very different IMHO to saying the husband has AUTHORITY over them both. It seems from my discussions with married coupled the wife does have quite significant authority in the marriage, just as the husband has significant authority.

14: It sounds like you mean responsbility and care, rather than a one-way kind of authority. I doubt you mean 'authority' like a dictatorship. That's why I don't think 'authority' is really the point of Paul's statements.

15: I'm saying, 'marriage is not selfish, but centered on eath other'. The way men and woman 'center on the other' are naturally different.

"Husbands, give your lives and hearts completely to GOD (wives, do likewise)." Yes, I agree - but this is on a different level entirely. Part of being completely committed to God is being a good steward of what He gives us - so I suggest giving one's heart wholeheartedly will also include self-less devotion to one's spouse. Naturally, God is more important than a spouse, but nevertheless I think one can be entirely devoted to God and also entirely devoted to your spouse - just as you could be devoted to your children, or your parents.

Richard said...

Just happen to have my Strongs handy: same word, means - be under obedience, put under, subdue unto, be subject to, be in subjection to, submit self unto ....

I'm saying that the nature of the submission takes a different form as the roles of husband and wife are different from the relationships within the church. If God has appointed husband to rule over wife (Gen 3:16), then her submitting to him is respecting that.

I don't think that husband and wife can be submitted to each other at the same time. For me to say I was submitted to Em, would mean to me that she was in charge, had the ultimate say, etc.

So that's how I'm interpreting submission. I hope however, that it's fairly obvious that I'm not a dictator or an autocrat or anything in our relationship - see Em's post on her blog if you haven't already ...

Yeah, I think we both do have the same concept of self-sacrificial love, which I think is really important. Anyway, it would be cool to catch up sometime, and have a chat ...

incognito said...

Nice Jimmy, well said. I think making 'submission' mean a totally different thing in the very next verse is pretty un-merited.

Biblical 'headship' as I see it, is grossly misunderstood. It is not, IMHO, a right to boss others around ('authority'), but rather a responsbility to lead, care for, and serve. Hence, why I don't think it's about 'authority' at all, but about leadership, service, and putting the other first.

A few little things on Henry's commentary.

a) They must do this in compliance with God's authority, who has commanded it, which is doing it as unto the Lord No. The verse means to submit to husbands IN THE SAME WAY as they submit to the Lord - that's what the Greek means. Mr Henry has simply gone off the KJV here.

b) God has given the man the pre-eminence and a right to direct and govern by creation Only half-true, this role was given to BOTH man and woman. Check for yourself. There are lots of things against his line of thought here.



I think we also differ dramatically in our conception of how Christ relates to 'the church'. You tend to focus on the 'King of Kings' idea, I tend to focus more on the 'Suffering Servant' idea. In context, I'd say He was talking more about service than Kingship.

However, I think as Jimmy said we're probably just arguing a non-issue, because we probably would agree in practice how all this works out in a marriage.

incognito said...

I don't think that husband and wife can be submitted to each other at the same time. For me to say I was submitted to Em, would mean to me that she was in charge, had the ultimate say, etc. So that's how I'm interpreting submission. Yeah... Like I said before it seems you're associated 'authority' with 'headship' and 'submission', which I don't think is the point of those words. Clearly, we are to 'submit to each other', so I don't think submission is referring to authority, but rather, something more like service. Indeed, as I mentioned, that's really more what the word meant anyway at the time.

If God has appointed husband to rule over wife (Gen 3:16), then her submitting to him is respecting that. Yup, IF God has appointed husband to RULE over wife... but I don't think He has, for HE alone is to RULE over us. We can only have one Lord (master). This points again to 'submission' not being about authority but service, love, and co-operation.

m said...

There are obviously lots of different opinions here. I guess, as usual one of my greatest reactions is on a 'feelings' level. I don't feel good about the way you've used scriptures to support your argument. I think that the Word of God is really important, and I feel like you've taken scriptures out of context to strengthen your argument. This makes me feel sad, because there are IMHO much greater meanings behind many of the passages you've quoted - that I really feel are promises to individual believers not to the church in general. I also really struggle with the fact that you seem to be simultaneously looking at the church as she will be (when Christ returns) and the church now. They're kinda different. The church will be perfected, will be glorious etc etc.... but the only way we're going to get there is through submitting to God in love and His miraculous power to change us.

I don't know. I just think the comparison has been taken too far. Also, submission is a big thing. In Richard & my marriage, ultimately what he says goes, and sometimes I don't agree... that's not the point. The point is when we don't agree, we do what he says - I trust that he loves me enough that he won't ask me to do something that'll hurt me. I don't feel good about the way people seem really keen to take away authority from husbands. At work, they give me lots of responsibility and next to no authority - it makes things almost impossible - why are we so keen to do the same thing to marriage?

incognito said...

there are IMHO much greater meanings behind many of the passages you've quoted - that I really feel are promises to individual believers not to the church in general.
Well, yes. I think they are promises to individual believers - all the INDIVIDUAL believers that belong in the body of Christ, which IS the church. Hence, I don't see why this undermines their significance for us personally.

I also really struggle with the fact that you seem to be simultaneously looking at the church as she will be (when Christ returns) and the church now.
I didn't think I was. I was trying to say that what Christ did was for the purpose of bring people into 'God's community/household' by being devoted to God like Him and thus following Him in everything - these same people are the body of Christ. Hence, I think what Christ did was for the purpose of making us like Him, and therefore part of God's glorious people.

The point is when we don't agree, we do what he says - I trust that he loves me enough that he won't ask me to do something that'll hurt me. Yes. Often that's the way it best works, and I think that absolutely fits with what the Bible says. I would suggest that him trying to do the best for you is in itself 'submission' - in my understanding of the word. Which is exactly what I've been trying to say. I'm not suggesting you're doing anything wrong, rather it sounds like you have a great relatioship. I just wanted to made the point that women aren't supposed to be bossed around by husbands that don't really know how to love, and point to verses in the Bible about 'submission' as if it makes it OK. I am trying to say the obvious - that love is loving and not selfish and controlling.

Personally, I find the Eph passage really challenging as an illustration of how unselfish a husbands love for his wife should be, and likewise how unselfish a wife should be to her husband.

So long as both people in a marriage are happy with it and have a healthy, truly LOVING relationship - I think they'll be automatically doing what the Bible says anyway. So, I think all this is not too much of an issue anyway so long as we love in a Godly way. Thanks for your comments, BTW.

michelle said...

Helen and i were having a conversation about this issue on Sunday, and we wondered if perhaps God has different degrees for different people, eg. Em was called to give up certain things so that she could become one with Richard, but perhaps other women wont have to do the same sorts of things. Im wondering if you are all being a little nit picky and perhaps its not so important to have every little detail of your theories worked out? Not sure
Either way i felt it necessary to insert a useless comment to break up the tension :P

Katherine said...

Whoa, too many long comments to read on my *brief* study break, but I would like to suggest re. point #4 above, that the sense in which Christ submitted to the church by dying for her was in the sense of submitting to her good, not to her will, which, as you say, would have run contrary to her good, and to the Father's will, which are of course one and the same. To apply this to husbands and wives is necessarily difficult as no husband knows the will of the Father as clearly as Christ did; however, insofar as it's within his power, a husband ought to follow this principle of submitting to his wife's good, surely, as all human beings should towards one another.

Jimmy, top marks for your comment about arguing over a non-issue on which we are all basically in agreement. I think you're right to point out that the disagreement centres on terminology rather than sentiment or appropriate action. Or so it seems to me.

God bless, all.
-KT

incognito said...

Great point KT! Yes, that's how I view Christ's 'submission' to the church, which is perhaps better put 'submission FOR the church'. That's why I like 'responsbility' - He had a responsbility (to the Father) to do (and be) what was good for the Church. Likewise, the church has a responsibility (also to the Father) to follow Christ's leadership. So, by analogy, both husband and wife are responsbile to God to do what is good and loving for both of them. Seems sensible.

I thought it is interesting to think that the husband is responsible to lead his wife to be holy like Christ leads the church to holiness. I also think it's interesting to think that the wife is responsible to respond to that leadership with devoted respect and co-operation.

If we as guys don't do our part to lead toward Godliness, then I don't think the wife should be compelled to follow bad leadership. In other words, I think common sense is good. If women don't do their part, we should love and lead them anyway just like Christ. So I guess in a way it makes sense for Paul to always emplore women to hold up there part, submitting in devotion to thier husbands.

Anyway, I procrastinate... Back to writing my paper for the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (the pain...)

m said...

Hello all.

Richard and I were wondering if you would all like to come over to our place on Friday night - say 8pm for dessert & games (e.g. settlers) or a movie.

Given that we know each other well enough to argue over the semantics of scripture, it'd be really nice to know what everyone looks like, how their voice sounds and their favourite bad habits.

Anyway, if you're keen, give me a call at work on 3711204, or at home on 3317375, or email Richard on rgbrown@gmail.com . We'll give you our address then. Feel free to invite whoever you want, but let us know.

It'd be great to see you all.

m & Richard

p.s. I was kidding about the bad habits. If you want you can come dressed up as your favourite vegetable though.

Jared said...

Wow, this has got massive since I last checked. Obviously I should spend every waking minute blogging just to keep track.

I feel completely out of my depth surrounded by such biblical geniuses. The arguments or 'discussions' used so far are so coherent.

I would just like to say I agree with the concepts raised here. I think that submission in marriage is a two-way street between two equal partners. However, submission is expressed differently between both parties. Christ submitted himself to the Jews and the church should submit itself to Christ.

God bless

michelle said...

i agree, Jared... the biblical genius is blowing my brain apart *grin*

Em... the brilliance of it all!! I am sooo impressed that you mentioned dressing as your favourite vegetable... in my take of Strongbads kids book i had someone dressed as their favourite veggie!!

Mike said...

Just thought I would throw my 2 cents in. :)

One night I walked home from cell-group. I was walking my bike. In the rain. And it was cold. I was also taking my flatmate's bike home, as he had left it there from the flatwarming the night before.

Anyway. These two bikes were chained together, and I had forgotten the combination to the lock, so had to try and wheel the bikes back in the rain together, on one side of me.

This was a bigger task than I thought initially. The bikes kept getting tangled up with each other, the pedals kept getting jammed in the spokes, the handlebars kept interfering with each other, and it was really hard to get them to move forward at all without something going wrong.

As I was trudging home, (my jersey utterly soaked by this point), it occurred to me - perhaps this is what marriage is like.... We chain ourselves to each other, and try to move forward together as a unit. Quite often however, people arrive at loggerheads when the pedals get jammed, or the handlebars get caught up.

"Where does God fit into marriage?" I asked myself. Well in this case, I was doing for the bikes what God tries to do for people. God guides us, keeps us balanced, and under his care we move forward. By chaining themselves together so tightly, the bikes made it difficult for me to get them home.

The best method for me to get the bikes home would have been for me to have one on either side, with me moderating in the middle, as opposed to having them both on one side, and keep getting tangled up.

Perhaps while marriage makes two people "one flesh", we should consider it more of a joining THROUGH God, and let him have lordship over the relationship, with each party on either side, rather than one bike try and tell the other which way to go or what to to. Then as a 3-person unit, it may be easier to walk home through the sleeting rain....

incognito said...

Hey, mike... niiiiice... It's a great analogy, although all analogies do have their limitations. I agree with the spirit of it certainly, but perhaps, being bicycles, it's a bit limited in terms of the relationship between husband and wife. Letting God set our hearts and steps in the right direction is vital to any aspect of our Christian walk, and certainly in marriage also.

I heard once that a good marriage is like being side-by-side walking toward God rather than face-to-face just focussing on each other. This kinda ties in with your idea in a very loose way.

I think 'one flesh' means 'head+body = one being' - so it seems quite sensible to say that husband and wife are 'one flesh' if they are different parts of the same 'being' - one the 'head' and one the 'body'. I also think I see marriage as a 'level down' from the God-us relationship, in that it's like a triangle between God, husband, and wife - rather than a line of husband, God, and then wife on the other side.

Anyway, I blather...

Kelly said...

Really awesome post! Well-thought out etc. Someone else already commented on it, but it seems that because of Paul's cultural limitations, he didn't really conceive of single people outside of a family unit as such. Hence it's difficult to see how men and women can relate outside of marriage, since for Paul a woman was always attached to a man in some way -- whether husband or father etc. This is I guess, ideal, and most older single women I know want to part of some kind of family unit (sorry don't know any older single men!). But it does make it difficult for single women to find their place in the church. As a married woman of 4 years, I've struggled with most of what you've been talking about in a more practical sense -- for at least six years anyway, and I guess I still don't really understand. But what you have written is a nice clear, theoretical at least, explanation. I agree with Michelle in that there are different things that different women give up.

Jared said...

See Kelly Mike also associates chains with marriage.

Mike said...

What is wrong with chain may I ask? Chain is like the German people - very useful for some engineering applications, but have a history of being used for evil....