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Christ and the Church Part 2

In part 1 of this post we examined the nature of analogy, freedom and equality. In this post we'll get into the text (Ephesians 5:22-33) and examine what it exactly means for wives to submit to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

Christ loves the church. Do you believe that? The messy, broken and beautiful church. He died for the church. It is his bride. Christ takes care of his church in a few ways. Christ leads the church (Eph. 1:22-23). He provides direction and oversight. Christ protects the church (Psalm 121). He defends the church. Christ nourishes the church (Matt. 6:25-33 and Eph. 4:8). He physically and spiritually takes care of it. As a church we submit to Christ. He is our chief shepherd and senior pastor. We look to his leadership and gladly submit to it. We ask for his guidance and protection. We seek his comfort. Paul takes this relationship between Christ and the church and compares it to the relationship between man and wife.

In this passage, Paul is specifically laying out the rules of the home between husband and wife. This is not a passage which applies to all women and all men, just to those whom are married. The most applicable time these rules come into play are when it comes to decisions regarding direction and leadership. Paul provides two guidelines. Husbands are to lead their wives as Christ loved the church by dying for her (what is commonly called headship). Wives are to submit to their husband's leadership. It would be helpful if we first laid out a definition of what we mean when referring to submission and headship. I will bow out and let John Piper provide this (the full sermon can be found here):

Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership. protection and provision in the home.

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

As one commentator has stated, "the 'submit-love' relationship is a beautiful mixture of harmonious partnership in marriage."

These roles in marriage find common ground in two places Biblically. First, we see the idea of leadership and submission within the Trinity. Jesus, being God, submitted himself to the Father as He lived out the Father's will on earth (Philippians 2:6-7). Within the Trinity, we see that all persons are equal and yet all persons have distinct functions. Secondly, we see this in the church where everyone is equally saved and redeemed within the body but God has called some to lead (elders) and others to follow their lead (members).

Finally, we must dispel a common misconception. Many will quote Galatians 3:28 or Ephesians 5:21 as nullifying verses to role and function. When we read the Bible, we always use the Bible to interpret the Bible. In this example we see that Paul elsewhere refers to particular roles in marriage such as in our current passage, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 2, as well as elsewhere in the New Testament. Therefore, we must conclude that Paul's declaration that man and woman are equal must complement his other claims for proper role. We can safely conclude that Paul here is stating the equality in salvation of all people yet not negating a proper function within the body.

The relationship between husband and wife is a fundamental exposition of the gospel. If we are to rightly preach the gospel in marriage, we must do so from a Biblical perspective. People are looking for the gospel, does your marriage reveal it?

For more resources on this topic you can visit a collection of resources here, here and here.