Faith in Focus


"Husbands Submit to your Wife!"

There are a lot of jokes around about marriage. John McArthur (Jnr) tells about the decline of marriage through the common cold: The first year your wife had a cold, you wanted to take her straight to hospital! The second year she had a cold, you called Doctor Miller straight away. The third year she had a cold, you said that she better lie down. The fourth year she had a cold, you suggested that she better be sensible and after she had fed the kids and done the dishes she better lie down. The fifth year she had a cold, you suggested she better take an aspirin. The sixth year she had a cold, you told her she better gargle or something rather than barking around like a seal all evening. The seventh year of marriage she had a cold, you told her that "for Pete's sake she better stop sneezing and certainly not over me - I don't want your cold!" Then there are some jokes that are not even funny, just sad. In the Readers Digest there was a joke "Being in love is only a temporary mania which after marriage changes into something more lasting - Hate." In a newspaper article some years ago a feminist group in Palmerston North stated that the Christian teaching of headship of the husband in marriage was greatly to blame for domestic violence and abuse in marriages today.

Biblically, however, marriage is one of the most beautiful and precious gifts God has given to mankind. There is no closer, no more intimate and fulfilling relationship than marriage: a husband and wife joined together in a lifetime love relationship. In fact, it is so beautiful that the Bible teaches it reflects the relationship of Christ and His church! As Christians we are in a unique position to appreciate it more than the world. We can really enjoy nature, not only in and of itself, but more so because we can see the Creator and the wonder of His design. We can have a whole and richer outlook on life because we can see and understand life from the Bible (God's design manual)

In this series of two articles we will look at Leadership in marriage from this passage of Ephesians 5: When we consider Ephesians 5:21-33 - the passage on husbands and wives, it must be seen in the light of Verses 18 & 21. Where Verse 18 says: "Do not get drunk on wine which leads to excess but be filled and go on being filled with the Holy Spirit." The background here is that of pagan worship. Getting drunk was considered to be part of the ritual of ecstasy through which they communed with the gods. Paul teaches however, that communing with God is not through such drunkenness rather through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For no man or woman can possibly do what Paul is about to say in these following verses 5:21-6:8 without being filled with the Holy Spirit. A man who is drunk is not about to submit himself to anybody! He is too busy asserting himself: losing control, boasting and praising himself, a drunk thinks he is wonderful.

Now the outworking of being `filled with the Spirit' is on the personal level by being filled with JOY and singing in your heart and towards God by worshipping and being thankful. But being `filled with the Spirit' also has an outworking towards one another as we see in Verse 21: by, "...submitting to one another in reverence for Christ." Then Paul goes on in the following verses to show how this submitting to one another works in family relationships of the day: Husbands and wives, Parents and children, Masters and slaves, so that the foundation of God's design for family relationships is Submission. The word "submission" means to get in under, to rank under. The picture being one of a soldier in a regiment standing in line and listening to the orders and instructions of the commanding officer. We who are `filled with the Spirit' are to behave voluntarily in that way with respect to one another; to yield our rights and desires to serve and place ourselves under each other (under our Commander - Christ Jesus).

Characteristics Of Being "Drunk With Wine."

It may be helpful for us to consider firstly, the characteristics of those who are `drunk with wine.' What an unloving and unsubmissive husband looks like. If we look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: we find the list of what love isn't: Love does not envy, not boastful, not proud, not rude not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. In other words love is not: thoughtless, selfish, self-assertive, self-opinionated, self-seeking and resentful. Let's consider these in some detail.

i) Not Thoughtless.

The first thing we are not to do as people `filled with the Spirit' in relation to one another is to be thoughtless. A lot of troubles and clashes and falling-outs come because people do not think. If people would but think before they act or speak or look, it would make a great difference! Instead, natural man tends to get an idea and immediately expresses it. He has an impulse and acts on it. But a man `filled with the Spirit' does not lead an instinctive, intuitional kind of life. The Christian is governed by truth and Biblical principle; not emotions and gut feelings. Paul talks about this in earlier in Chapter 5:15: "Be very careful then, how you live - not as unwise, but as wise..." A wise man is one who thinks. One who "looks before he leaps." He considers, "What would Jesus do?" and is governed by thought and Biblical understanding and spiritual consideration.


ii) Not Selfish.

Secondly - the man who thinks realises that he cannot be selfish and self-centred. Selfish people never think, except about themselves. But not thinking is being but like an animal. A Christian is an individual but not `individualistic.' Once we are individualistic we are already wrong! As it is impossible to run an army of individualistics so it is impossible for Christians called to submit to one another to be individualistic!

iii) Not self-assertive:

To put it another way, we are not to be self-assertive for being self -assertive is the opposite of submitting to one another. A person who is subject to their brother or sister in Christ is never self-assertive. For SELF is the root of all our troubles. Take Adam and Eve, they sinned in their self-assertion, demanding to be equal with God and so plunged the whole world under the bondage of sin.

iv) Self- Opinionated.

An extension of self-assertion is being `self-opinionated.' We must always have views and opinions, but never self-opinionated. For to be self-opinionated is being self-conscious and proud of your opinions, parading them before everyone else; being more interested that you believe rather than in what you believe. The problem here is that you are then not really interested in the Truth. Opinionated people always cause clashes because in essence they `lord it over others.' by imposing their views on everyone else. But, in 1 Peter 5, the Elders are warned not to LORD it over those entrusted to their care, rather they are to be examples - by submitting to one another.

v) Not Self-Seeking.

And of course being self-opinionated leads to `self-seeking.' which is being thoughtless and unconcerned about others. In fact, tending to despise others - really by treating them with a certain amount of contempt. We see this for example with the Corinthians - in 1 Corinthians 12: where there were those who were the more comely parts were despising those who were the less comely parts. The less comely jealous of the importance and honour paid to the other. Paul, however, teaches we are all part of the one Body, all equal with each having their own function.

VI. Resentment

Finally, a self-seeking person resents criticism and is impatient with other points of view. It is what `I believe' that matters. A challenge to my opinion is seen as a challenge to my person, which leads to threatening to resign. Any query is seen as mistrust and therefore I am leaving for no one appreciates me. Such a man lives in FEAR which breaks down a relationship rather than building it up as submission does.

This NOT the way to submit to one another. This is the way not to yield yourself in serving others. Rather this is the way of the natural man, the man who metaphorically gets drunk on wine.

Now this is important to understand for it determines how husbands and wives will relate together in marriage. So many marriages are dysfunctional because husbands and wives do not submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Through my work as a minister it appears that many women have suffered under their husbands so called `leadership' which at times was nothing short of a dictatorship! Marriages where husbands enslaved their wives to fear and to abide by their instructions, rather than spiritually leading by serving and submitting to their wives out of a love for Christ. Feminism grew out of reaction to such enslavement. Unfortunately the pendulum has now swung right over the other way. We need to be able to recognise the symptoms of "drunken" behaviour so we can repent of it and instead live in the joy and blessing of being `filled with the Spirit' within our marriages.

Next time we will consider what "submission" of husbands to their wives DOES look like.

Mr Alan Douma is the Minister of the Reformed Church of Christchurch.

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Faith in Focus /NZ Reformed Church / / revised July 2000 / Copyright 2000