Summary: Good marriages may be designed in heaven but they are made on earth.

“Building Quality Relationships: With Spouses – Master Marriage”

Eph. 5:18-33

There’s a theory that states “Good marriages are made in heaven.” Sounds good – but I don’t buy it. Good marriages are designed there, but they are made on earth. And since they are, we must learn how to master marriage. There’s no better place to turn than Eph. 5:18-33. While discussing Christ’s relationship to His Body, the Church, Paul wrote some critical words about marriage.

He began with WORDS TO WIVES. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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.” I can already feel the temperature rising! But hold on as we come to an understanding of these words. When we’re done I’m convinced you’ll be glad you did. Part of the mutual submission of verse 21 is that wives are to recognize THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE. I admit that for too long many have misinterpreted and abused these verses to justify male domination. So it’s important to understand both the word Paul uses and the world in which he lived. In Paul’s day women were, at best, a piece of property owned by and under the control of men. Paul’s words, when rightly understood, actually elevated the status of women and wives.

The key word here is kephale (from which we get our word cephalic) – meaning ‘head’. Greek scholars have listed 25 possible meanings for kephale and words like ‘authority,’ ‘superior rank,’ ‘leader,’ are not on the list. Rather the word as used in Ephesians has more to do with source or origin. In English we speak, for example, of a river’s source as the ‘headwaters.’ The river has a source, at its ‘head’ that brings it water and life. So when Paul stated that Christ is head of the church he meant that He is the origin, the lifeline of the church. Eph. 4:15 – “…we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love…” So the husband is the head of the wife not in having authority or superior rank, but as the life-giver and sustainer for the wife. Authority is not the focus of headship. Rather “headship has to do with care more than with control, with responsibility more than with rule, with self-giving rather than with dominance.” (1) So wives, relax. Paul is not the anti-feminist he’s often portrayed to be. He’s on your side. No; actually He’s on God’s side. He’s given you a life-source.

In fact, Paul continues the parallel between Jesus and the husband by stating that as Christ is the savior of the church, SO THE HUSBAND IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WIFE. “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.”Headship is not so much lordship as saviorhood. I’ll say more about that shortly when I address the role of husbands. For now, realize that God expects the husband to be the saving, redeeming, life-giver for his wife.

And it’s from within this context of the husband as the life-source and savior that Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” The whole key once again is the parallel points us to Jesus. Wives, how do you relate to Jesus Christ? Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, because of His undying love for you, you submit to Him – joyfully and willingly. Paul simply said to submit in the same spirit to your husband: SUBMIT TO YOUR HUSBANDS AS TO THE LORD. Wives - how do you submit to Christ? You make a decision to do so. It’s voluntary. It’s not forced; it’s something you choose. You submit because you have chosen to love him and want to honor him. This submission is whole-hearted; it’s the most exciting relationship imaginable. Last week we said submission means to give preference to another, to place oneself under voluntarily; to give up your own interests for sake of one whom you love. Does that describe your attitude towards your husband? Willingly receive the life he gives you. Let him love you. It’s not an issue of what he does but of what you do. MARRIAGE IS NOT SO MUCH FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON AS BEING THE RIGHT PERSON. You be so loving and lovable that your husband longs to give you life!

But remember the Lord. Debbie Hedstrom once shared her discovery about the meaning of submission. “I needed to know what submission really meant. I’d heard definitions that ranged from ‘strict obedience’ to ‘joint effort.’ Unfortunately there’s no place in Scripture that states ‘submission is…’ But the Lord defined it for me one day as I read the crucifixion account. Coming to the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, I’d noted Christ’s words: ‘Not what I will but what Thou wilt.’ His words not only defined submission but they revealed one of the reasons why I had failed so terribly at being submissive – I was starting at the wrong place. SUBMISSION DOES NOT BEGIN WITH MY HUSBAND, IT BEGINS WITH GOD.”

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