Summary: Submission is not a popular word in today’s society, yet it is a biblical concept. This sermon explains what biblical submission is and then applies it to how wives are to submit to their husbands.
Wives submit to your husbands
Well we have finally arrived at that famous or infamous - passage: Wives submit to your own husbands. Why is this passage so famous or infamous? Why is this passage controversial? Why is the whole idea of wives submitting to husbands is controversial? And not just wives submitting to husbands, but the whole idea of anyone submitting to anyone else? We live in an age of democracy, of equal rights, liberation, everyone can have their say. There is womens liberation, workers rights. Where does the idea of submission fit in this? What do we make of the Bibles command here? Not just for submission per se, but women submitting to husbands? Is it still relevant to us in the 21st century? Isnt the idea of submission in marriage outdated, to be replaced by the idea of mutuality, equal rights, equal say, neither partner needs to submit to the other.
Today we are going to look at these issues. We are going to look at the area of submission in a general sense as well as more specifically look at the issue of a wifes submission to her husband. Todays sermon is the start of a whole section on submission that goes from 5:21-6:9 and covers three human relationships: wife husband; child- parents; slave/servant master/boss. We are going to spend two sermons on the wife-husband one and then one each on child-parent and servant-boss. So, two sermons on the wife husband relationship. Today will be on the wife submitting to her husband and next week on the husband loving his wife.
Why split it into two, shouldnt they be read together? Well in one sense - yes they should be read together, but Paul addresses the wives and husbands separately. Verse 22 is addressed to wives, while verse 25 is addressed to husbands. Once, Marcela and I listened to a CD sermon series on this passage. We listed together to the whole thing from verses 21-33, that is, about the wife submitting to the husband and the husband loving wife as Christ loves the church. Do you know what happened after we listened to the CD? During the CD, I had only listened and paid note to what the wife was supposed to do to submit. Marcela had only listed to what the husband was supposed to do to love. After listening to the CD we proceeded to have an argument. I was telling Marcela she needed to submit to me more. Marcela was telling me I needed to love her more. Wed both missed the point. This passage wasnt telling me what Marcela was supposed to do. It wasnt telling Marcela what I was supposed to do. It was telling me what I was supposed to do and telling Marcela what she was supposed to do. So that we dont mix it up, today I will speak generally on submission and then specifically on the wifes role. So today this is primarily for the wives and next week for the husbands. But it will be useful for the husbands to listen in today
and also for wives to listen in next week. Also, mixed in with this is some beautiful theology on the relationship between Christ and the church that all of us can learn from.
So lets jump in. First, lets talk about submission in general and the context of these instructions. Remember last week: Eph 5 18b be filled with the Spirit. We talked about being filled with the Spirit, and that the next few verses give us four things that describe what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They are:
1. vs 19 addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
2. vs 19 singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart
3 vs 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
4 vs 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Last week we talked about the first three of those things, and today we start to address the fourth - submitting to one another. And I shall spend the first part of the sermon talking about submission in general before going on to talk specifically about wives submitting to husbands. Now this fourth one submitting one to another, is a biggie. Paul spends the next 21 verses talking about submission. He expands on in three sets of authority relationships:
1. wives to husbands
2. children to parents
3. slaves/servants to masters/bosses.
Each of these sets of authority relationships is very interesting because Paul doesnt just instruct the ones who are to submit: that is, wives, children and slaves; but he also gives instructions to those who are over them in the Lord: that is, husbands, fathers, and masters. And that is very significant, because in Pauls time, people like wives, children and slaves were regarded as possessions, chattels. You could do with them as you liked. If you had a child born to you and you didnt want it, you could abandon him or her on the street, to the elements, either to die from exposure, or for someone else to pick up and raise that child to be either a slave or a prostitute. These people were regarded as possessions to do with as you liked. So it is very significant that instructions were given to those in positions of authority, instructions that protected wives, children and slaves and re-inforced their value to God and to each other. And we shall cover those instructions in the next few weeks as get to them.