Hi, this is Pastor Ken, welcome to the Monday Marriage Message.
This week we are continuing with our study of Ephesians chapter 5 verses 21-33. Last time I spent the entirety of the episode exposing some of the truth contained in verse 21. There I shared with you the main idea found in that verse…we are to submit to one another out of our respect for The Lord. The specific words used in that verse are Submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord. In Romans 12:9-11 Paul expounds on this idea. There he wrote Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. How do we do this? Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Preferring one another, is simply another way of saying submitting to one another and offers evidence of two important things. First, we are serious about doing what God wants us to do, and second, we are willing to reflect Him by loving others just as He loves us.
As I said in that last edition, today I hope to begin looking at practical ways as husbands and wives that we can be in submission to one another. It is important that Paul offered these examples. Why? Without these practical suggestions the idea of submitting to one another might be viewed as circular reasoning. If we are to submit to one another, who goes first? As a husband am I to submit to my wife or is she to submit to me? Both. Am I supposed to lead in this endeavor or is she? We both are. The truth is that I am commanded to submit to her, she is also instructed to submit to me. My submission to her should occur without first considering if she has done so for me. She also is to be looking for opportunities to submit to me regardless of who the record indicates did so most recently.
Remember, submitting to one another can also be described as preferring one another. When we look at the intent behind this instruction it becomes less offensive than our vernacular has sometimes caused us to view it. We often misunderstand submission as a plight forced upon us. This belief is unfortunate. It can tempt us to accept further errant thinking. If God requires we be under subjugation that may be used to excuse abusive behavior we might begin to believe that God actually endorses marital abuse. This belief might then suggest that perhaps God is not always good. All of these conclusions are designed by our spiritual enemy to rob us of the blessing of operating our marriages as designed. An abusive person will abuse whether their spouse is submissive or not. Those individuals do not need an excuse to abuse…they need a heart transplant. Spousal abuse is a very real thing, and I am in no way condoning or minimizing it. Let me be crystal clear…abuse it is wrong…always wrong. What I am saying is that submitting to or preferring one another within a marriage is not going to cause someone to be, or somehow give the license to be abusive.
Submission is only correctly able to illustrate love if it is completely voluntary. Make no mistake, submitting to one another is voluntary though not at all optional. We are commanded to submit to one another out of our fear of, or respect for God. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to require our spouse to submit to us. I submit to my wife Lynn, as an act of obedience to the one who gave the command. She did not compel the Apostle Paul to write Ephesians 5:21, the Holy Spirit did. I submit to her as an act of submission to God…He is the One who gave the command. It is true, Lynn will get the benefit of my preferring her, but I do not do it for her, I do it for Him. Likewise the same is true for her. I did not command her to submit to me, God did, and she does it for Him though I am the beneficiary of her obedience to her Lord.
The original Greek text also intimates this is to be a voluntary action. The word used means to voluntarily place oneself under subjection to another. Submitting to one another can only be rightly accomplished when we choose to do so. We put into use the act of submission to another, they do not force it upon us. It is a position of strength not of weakness.
I mentioned that the scripture that follows offers practical ways to practice submitting to one another. Before I begin to expound on those it is important to understand a few additional truths so that minds and hearts can be clear to accept the truth of God’s word with minimal internal argument. It is for just that reason that I have spent so much time expressing the truth that our submission to one another is to be mutual. It is also Why I have worked so diligently to help you see that our submission to our spouse is actually an act of submission to God. Furthermore, I feel it necessary to point out that the following verses are not reliant on their order. What I mean by this is that the order of the instructions are not in relationship to their importance. Words cannot be overlaid, one sentence has to be written before another can follow, it does not always mean they are written by order of priority. Such is the case with this scripture. In the following verses wives are going to be instructed as to how to best submit to their husbands (verses 22-24) and husbands are informed how to best prefer their wives above themselves (verses 25-29). This order could leave the incorrect impression that the second is dependent upon the existence of the first. In other words we might errantly come to the conclusion that a husband must prefer his wife…if…she is being submissive to him. Thankfully this scripture bookends these commandments in a way that does not allow for that thought process to hold true. Verse 21 where we began indicates that the submission is mutual and given in response to God as I pointed out moments ago. The closing of the passage, verse 33, also goes to dispel that incorrect conclusion because it completely reverses the order. The initial part of this passage spoke to wives first, then husbands. Verse 33 begins instructing husbands and concludes with the responsibilities held by wives. I believe completely that though scripture often has an if, then connotation this is not such a case and that fact is noted by overtly reversing the order of the individual commandments given as to how to mutually submit to one another.
Additionally, I believe that this passage was written this way to point out to us that it is not about us, it also isn’t about our spouse…it is about God. Marriage is all about reflecting the image and likeness of God. It is about interacting with one’s spouse in a way that represents well the attributes and character of God. As we study this passage further we will see clearly that how we interact with our spouse is a clear picture of how we interact with our God. In fact I like to see my relationship with my wife as the practice field designed for me to perfect my relationship with Christ. I believe that is the underlying intention of this whole passage. In order for my relationship with God to be what it ought to be I must learn to submit to Him. In my marriage He asks me to submit to or prefer my wife repetitiously, in this way I am being trained to submit to Him in all things. Scripture reinforces this line of thought. Colossians 3:18-24 says; Wives, be subject to your husbands [out of respect for their position as protector, and their accountability to God], as is proper and fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives [with an affectionate, sympathetic, selfless love that always seeks the best for them] and do not be embittered or resentful toward them [because of the responsibilities of marriage]. Children, obey your parents [as God’s representatives] in all things, for this [attitude of respect and obedience] is well-pleasing to the Lord [and will bring you God’s promised blessings]. Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or exasperate your children [with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by favoritism or indifference; treat them tenderly with lovingkindness], so they will not lose heart and become discouraged or unmotivated [with their spirits broken]. Servants, in everything obey those who are your masters on earth, not only with external service, as those who merely please people, but with sincerity of heart because of your fear of the Lord. Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve.
This scripture clearly illustrates the relationship between how we interact with our husband or wife and how we interact with Christ. Here I am given instruction on how to prefer my wife and she is told how she can submit to me, but in the latter verses we are told that without question who we are supposed to be doing it for. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve.
Questions to answer:
Do you find that after a while your desire to do the things you know you should in response to your spouse begins to wane?
Do you think that it might be different if your motivation for doing the right things toward your spouse was more clearly defined as doing them for the Lord?
How can you help yourself keep the correct motivation in mind?
Actions to take:
Discuss your past views about submission in marriage.
If your thoughts of submitting to a spouse used to be of a negative nature, talk together about why you have had that view and how you and your spouse can support submitting to one another without unduly raising those concerns.
Talk about ways you both see where preferring one another is currently taking place in your marriage.
So now, recognizing that your submission to one another is really about submitting to God…Go be awesome!