Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Understanding And Applying the Text
This has become a hot topic in our culture. Many pastors and churches fear this passage because of the culture’s idea of equality. But this is the word of Gog. So let us go forth and proclaim it boldly. Let us not worry about political correctness. While we look at the details of this passage, we need to be careful and not get lost in the details. Doing so may cause us to miss the overarching theme. That theme is, that we have differing roles and in each role, we are to submit to each other and serve each other. That is how we serve Christ. Keep that in mind as we dive into the passage.
Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands in the same way that they submit to Christ. This is not only a difficult command it is a very difficult command. We know and understand that Christ is perfect. His judgment is perfect. We can find comfort in knowing that Christ is just and pure, even if we dislike or don’t understand it. My wife cannot rest in the knowledge that I am right and just or pure. I am a sinner. I am self-centered. I make bad decisions. And yet, my wife is to submit to me? Really? Yes! This is an unpopular teaching in today’s Western culture. But the scripture is clear here.
Husbands do not think that since your wife is to submit to you, you are in a privileged position. You are not. Notice the amount of space Paul gives to the wives and then to the husbands. Husbands are given an impossible task, to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Say what! Christ’s love is perfect. I am anything but perfect. How am I supposed to do that? Paul then goes on and says, the husband and the wife are one. Just as we, as members of the church, are members of Christ’s body. Paul does not try to explain this but only calls it for what it is, a mystery.
The idea men have it easier than women based on this passage is a case of selective reading. All wives need to do is submit and respect their husbands. Husbands must love perfectly, as Christ loves perfectly.
Children are to obey their parents. If they do, there is a promise that they will be blessed. But men in the role of father get again whammy. Men are responsible for the discipline of their children. They are responsible for their instruction and education. Women traditionally have had the largest share of the task of raising children. But this is an example of leadership. The leader is responsible for the actions of those he leads. In this case, the father has responsibility for the education and raising of the children. While the father may delegate many of the tasks, he may not delegate the responsibility.
Servants or slaves are to obey their masters as they would obey and serve Christ. But wait, should not a slave struggle for his freedom? Paul says no. And this flies in the face of everything we believe. We are taught to struggle for personal freedom and liberty in Western culture. Paul says obey your master even as you would obey Christ.
Slave owners and masters are to treat their slaves as they would Christ. Again this appears to be a whack on the side of the head. Are we not servants of Christ? Does Paul actually mean that the master is to serve the slave?
When read as a whole unit. The theme of this section becomes clear. We are to submit to each other. While we may have different roles our responsibility. We are to treat Christ’s body, i.e. his church, with respect, love, and service.
“Well, I just don’t believe that.” “That does not apply today.” The women’s movement hates this passage. Of course, they have no problem with verses 25 – 33a. They believe the idea that God commanded women to submit to their husbands is evil. No one is over another because of gender. But that is what the bible says. We have a natural inclination to rebel against any authority over us. Being in submission to another does not imply that one is less than another. Or that one is greater than another. The Son, Christ, is in submission to the Father. But the Son is also equal to the Father.
The responsibilities Paul outlines here for men are scary, to say the least. The idea that I, as a man, am to love as Christ loved is almost enough for me to throw up my hands in despair. There is no way a mortal man can do that. Only as Christ loves through me and I surrender to Him can I hope to love in this manner. I do not love with my love but with Christ’s love.
Here though is the summary of this section. How do we love Christ? We love Christ by loving his body, the church. We submit to each other. We love each other. While we have differing roles each role is to serve the rest of the body of Christ.