Hi, this is Pastor Ken and I want to welcome you to the Monday Marriage Message. For those who may be joining me for the first time, we began an in depth study of Ephesians 5:21-33 several weeks ago and today is the fourth installment in that series.

We have covered the truth found in verse 21 that we are to submit to one another in response to our relationship with Christ. Last week we began looking at how wives are instructed to submit to their husbands. I established that the wife’s submission is not due to her being inferior to her husband in any way. Since the beginning, God created men and women of equal value, differing from one another, but both necessary to the other to fulfill their purpose of reflecting God’s attributes and character traits. Verse 22, which we looked at last time is simply put, the instruction to the wife as to how she is to carry out her responsibility for verse 21. Today I will pick up where we left off with the continuation of that instruction in verse 23.

Ephesians 5:23 says For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the savior of the body. Again, allow me to reiterate, a husband is not created superior to his wife in any way. With this knowledge, (which we saw scripturally last week based on Genesis 2:18) we can reject any interpretation of this verse that would require that fallacy for its understanding. So, if the husband is not greater than his wife, if he is not superior, nor more valuable in God’s eyes, what was meant when Paul wrote that the husband is head of the wife?

I believe that Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17) was simply noting the order of the relationship. I think it critical to recognize that Paul is writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit or else we might conclude incorrectly; that at best his words were simply indicative of the culture at that time, or worse yet, that Paul himself held and intended to promote a chauvinistic view. I believe that is why this scripture uses the simile that “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church”. Logically we cannot say that our culture has evolved past the idea that the husband is head of the wife unless we are also willing to say that there is now no need for Christ to be head of the church. Every relationship requires order and consequently there must be those in authority and those in submission to the authority. Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that this is true even to the extent that it is exercised within the Godhead. There he wrote: But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Jesus Himself made the point that authority and submission were the modus of operation within the Godhead. It is recorded in John’s Gospel that Jesus noted that He did not do anything or say anything unless explicitly told to do so by the Father, found in chapter 5 verse19 and chapter 12 verse 49. If we are to read the scripture in Ephesians 5:23 and take it to mean that the husband’s authority is derived from his superiority, then we must also say that because Christ submitted to the authority of God the Father, Jesus must be inferior to the Father. That is preposterous. Jesus said that “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18) this would not be a possibility if he were inferior to the Father. I reference all of that to simply say that authority does not always indicate superiority and submission does not assume inferiority.

God ordained this system of authority and submission for the purpose of bringing order to our lives. This does not mean that selfishness and distrust in God’s precepts cannot infiltrate His plan for order. When these character flaws enter into His design there are undoubtedly negative consequences felt by all involved, but these are indicative of the misuse of authority not an indictment against the plan. The design for order is never the problem though it can be carried out selfishly and with abuse. In those cases, selfishness is the deficiency, God’s design is perfect.

This is easy to see when we look at government. God’s word clearly indicates that He placed governments in authority over the citizens they govern. His word also states that as Christ followers we are to place ourselves in submission to our governmental authority even if it is infiltrated with evil, godless leaders. The only time we are permitted to take opposition to our government is when it explicitly instructs us to act in direct opposition to God Himself. Other than those few times we are to submit to maintain His prescribed order. The only alternative to order is anarchy, which is always valueless.

It is no different in the marriage. Order is not only prescribed it is absolutely necessary. Man (Adam) was created before his wife (Eve) and is for that reason positioned the head. As we have already determined his headship is not a result of being faster, better, smarter. It is not so much a position of being placed in charge over her as much as it is that he has been charged with her…well-being, safety, and provision. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church; and He is the savior of the body. How does Christ exercise His headship of the church? He is the savior of the body. He (as the husband) is savior of the body (His bride). The term savior in this context means the preserver or the one who meets every need in order to preserve. When applied this means that the husband is given charge of the wife so that he may meet each of her needs so she might be preserved. By doing this, he fulfills his responsibility for her before God who placed it upon him. The wife must put herself in submission to her husband to afford him the opportunity to meet this God-given responsibility.

So often in our society, women want to circumvent this protection and preservation out of a desire for autonomy noted by God in Genesis 3:16. They resist coming under the headship of their husbands because they want to make their own decisions. They believe they are acting in opposition to their husbands for any number of “well-thought-out” reasons, but are actually acting contrary to God who is simply attempting to position them in a place of order and  blessing for their lives. The second reason women often try to be their own authority is that they have decided that their husband does not have their best in mind. They choose to remedy this problem by discarding God’s design because their human husband is not acting in accordance with His will. God’s word is clear that this is not wisdom and has zero chance of positive impact on the marriage. Instead, in 1 Peter 3:1-2 wives are instructed; In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate, not as inferior, but out of respect for the responsibilities entrusted to husbands and their accountability to God, and so partnering with them] so that even if some do not obey the word [of God], they may be won over [to Christ {and His ways of acting as head of the church}] without discussion by the godly lives of their wives, when they see your modest and respectful behavior [together with your devotion and appreciation…—love your husband, encourage him, and enjoy him as a blessing from God]. (As read from the Amplified Version)

Again, this call from God for wives to submit to their husbands is His plan to bring order within the marriage as well as to bless wives by placing the responsibility to protect, preserve and provide for their well-being squarely on the shoulders of their husbands. As such, if a wife resists this call on her life, it is not her husband she resists…it is her God.

Peter concluded his teaching about the wife’s responsibility to submit to God by submitting to her husband even if he is not doing his part in verses 5-6. Again from the Amplified Version: For it was thus that the pious women of old who hoped in God were [accustomed] to beautify themselves and were submissive to their husbands [adapting themselves to them as themselves secondary and dependent upon them]. It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority). And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you].

Peter purposefully used Sarah’s marriage to Abraham as the example. Peter ministered to the Jews, his audience of readers would have well known the story of Abraham and Sarah from the scriptures. Not only was Abraham the “Father of the Israelite Nation” he was also on record as being the worst husband of all time. Not once but twice he schemed to posture himself as Sarah’s brother rather than her husband. (Genesis 12 & Genesis 20) His purpose for doing this was to preserve his own life instead of hers. Twice while traveling through foreign lands he knew that because of her beauty the rulers of those lands would want to take her (sexually) for themselves to enjoy. If Abraham were thought to be her brother, they would simply take her and leave him unharmed. However, he believed if they thought him to be her husband, they would kill him and then take her and add her to their harems. Because of this, on both occasions, he twisted the truth and instructed Sarah to claim he was her brother (she was in fact born of Abrahams father’s lineage, but not by his mother). She was instructed by Abraham to say this in order to deceive those asking that he was not her husband, which he absolutely was. As I said a moment ago, Abraham committed this atrocity not once but twice and apparently did not teach his son the error of his ways because Isaac repeated this sinful behavior toward his wife Rebecca when he was older as recorded for us in Genesis 26.

As I said moments ago, the readers of 1 Peter would have been well aware of this history and the fact that Peter used Sarah and her choice to treat Abraham with respect in light of his reprehensible and unrespectable action toward her, made the example that much more impactful. Certainly, the female recipients of his letter would likely not find themselves with a greater reason for disrespecting, and shirking their responsibility to submit to their husbands than Sarah had. For the same reason, this example stands for wives even today.

Ephesians 5:23 is predicated on a God determined need for order and His desire to bring blessing, and cannot be excused or discarded because the people involved do not always act in accordance with the other good plans He has for us.

Questions to answer:

  • What have your thoughts in the past been in regards to this scripture and the statement that the husband is head of the wife?
  • How might this study change your view of this scripture if at all?

Actions to take:

  • In light of your understanding of this scripture, discuss together what impact it should have on your marriage.
  • Ask God to help both of you follow His design for order in your marriage and to do so in ways that reflect and please Him.

So now, recognizing that God’s design for order in the marital relationship is an attempt to bless you, take advantage of His desire for that blessing by accepting His design for your marriage…and go be awesome!