Summary: Is marriage dead? No way - it’s alive and well and a way God communicates the gospel. There are a lot of misconceptions about the roles of husband & wife that this section clears up.
Here’s today’s trivia quiz: which country has the highest and which country has the lowest divorce rate? (highest is Belarus 68% [divorces as a % of marriages]. Lowest is Macedonia 5%. U.S. Rate is 49%)
When looked at another way - the number of divorces per 1,000 population per year - Sri Lanka has the lowest (.15) and the U.S. has the highest (4.95) - source: Divorce Magazine September 2004 www.divorcemag.com
Last year the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (yes, there really is one) released a study of the five top reasons for divorce: financial difficulties, poor communication, lack of commitment, mid-life crisis or major change in priorities, and marital infidelity.
Marriage is under attack - not only are marriages failing in record numbers - but the very definition of marriage is being redefined in the courts and city halls of our state and other states around the country.
It’s getting to the point where people are thinking that marriage is dead! I say - not so fast. God created marriage long ago in the Garden of Eden and He is still working through men and women who commit to each other - and even better, He uses marriage to draw people to Himself. That’s what we’re going to study today - what marriage is, how to be the best husband or wife you can be, and how God uses marriage as a picture of His love.
Last time we studied verses 1-20 of chapter 5. It was about imitating God instead of aping the vulgarity of the world system that surrounds us. And I said that the first 20 verses are really an introduction for the rest of the chapter and the first part of chapter 6. The reason is that first we must unglue ourselves from the pattern of the world - so that we can mirror the pattern of Christ and the church.
We don’t want to send mixed messages. But we do want to paint a picture of God’s love - in our marriages, our families, and in our activities. This way the lost around us can see a clear difference and get an idea of what God really intends - to shower us with His love and salvation. I want this to be the bedrock as we study what can seem to be a controversial section.
Verses 21 - 33 are really part one of a three part discussion on relationships - husband and wife, parents and children, worker and boss. The pattern is the same - Paul first talks to the wife, child, and worker - then addresses the responsibilities of the husband, parent, and boss. We’re going to actually break it up - today talking about marriage, then next time about the other relationships.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There is some discussion about whether verse 21 belongs with verse 22 and following, or finishes up the thought begun in verse 18 - but most scholars seem to agree that verse 21 looks forward - supplying the verb "to submit" to verse 22 which does not have a verb.
Why is this important? Because it flavors everything that is said in the remainder of the chapter (and the beginning of the next)
We need to understand that we are all equal under Christ - remember Galatians 3:28? "There is neither male nor female ?" Given that equality, there are roles for each of us to play in order for relationships to function correctly. That’s why Paul in Chapter 4 says that we are each individual joints supplying important, yet different functions to the body of Christ.
The Message renders this: "out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to each other."
It’s important because bottom line: men and women can greatly affect the other - men can demean their wives and women can undermine their husbands.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Remember, now - the word "submit" is not actually in this verse - it is added from the verb in verse 21. The actual Greek phrase is: "(feminine) wives, (masculine) unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
Neither the chauvinist or feminist position on these verses are correct.
Wives submitting means to lovingly accept the spiritual leadership of her husband and supporting and caring for him, rather than undermining his efforts to lead the home. The submission is "as unto the Lord" or "as is fitting to the Lord." It doesn’t mean he IS lord - but as the church submits to Christ’s leadership, so too a wife to her husband. Notice that if the husband ever asks his wife to do anything that Jesus would not ask - she is under no obligation to obey.