Sermon Notes: “Submission and Love in the Christian Marriage” (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Notes

Sermon Title: “Submission and Love in the Christian Marriage”

Text:Ephesians 5:21-33

Date: Sunday, May 20, 2018

Speaker: Pastor Joseph

Concept of Submission in the ancient world

  • Absolute obedience to the husband
  • Meekness
  • Silence
  • Quietness in the presence of men
  • The call for wives to submit to their husbands would not have been a shock for the Christians including the Christian wives and husbands in the churches at Ephesus, as this was a cultural normality (But, we make it a big deal in our culture); the most surprising thing in this culture was to ask the head of a nation, as the husband is the head of his wife, to love it or to love her. That would have been shocking to all the Christians in the churches at Ephesus.
  • “In our culture, his exhortation to wives to submit stands out more strongly; in his culture, the exhortation to husbands to love, rather than the normal advice to rule the home, would have stood out more strongly. Further, Paul does not address the husband’s role in the wife’s submission; he does not urge the husband to inculcate submission in his wife. Paul’s only instructions to the husband are to serve her as Christ served the church, and, since husband and wife are “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24), to lover as he would his own body” (Keener, p.166)
  • “Effectively he is denying them the rights and the powers that their society would have assumed were theirs. Their lot is to be identified with a crucified Savior who gave himself up for the ones he adored, and to give up their lives for their wives” (Lucy Peppiatt, Unveiling Paul’s Women, p. 64)
  • According to Craig Keener, “To submit oneself could mean to ‘give in’ or ‘cooperate’,’ and need not mean ‘obey’; the closest thing Paul gives to a definition of the term in this context, in fact, is the word ‘respect’ in 5:33” (Keener, p.168).
  • Mutual submission: “But the context in which Paul places his exhortation qualifies it much more: it is an expression of the kind of submission on all Christians render to one another, the kind that Christian husbands would thus also need to render to their wives” (p. 159)

 

Love and Headship in the ancient World

  • “The responsibility of the husband to love his wife is not explicitly stressed as much in ancient literature as the wife’s responsibility to submit to him…the household codes normally instructed the head of the household how to “rule” or “govern” his wife, rather than how to lover her.” Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, 167
  • “Paul does not call on wives to take charge of their husbands, but call on husbands to love their wives in such a radical way that husbands become their wives’ servants, too”—Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, 166
  1. The mutual duty between the husband and his wife, and Christ and his church (vv. 21-24)

Some Principles of Marriage

  1. “Marriage is part of the ‘mystery of God’s will’ (Eph. 1:9; 3:3; 5:32)
  2. “Paul’s instructions are directed to Spirit-filled believers” (Eph. 5:18)
  3. “Wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love” (Eph. 5:18)
  4. “Headship entails authority” (Eph. 5:23-24; 1:22; 4:15)
  5. “Marriage involves spiritual warfare, which requires husbands and wives to put on the full armor of God” (ESV Study BIBLE, Ephesians, p. 2271)

 

The meaning of “Kephale” (head): 5: 22

Several propositions or suggestions

  1. It means head.
  2. the term carries overtones of authority (i.e. “authority over”)
  3. it expresses the notion of leadership and provision
  4. it bears the idea of preeminence

“Rather than meaning ‘authority over,” Paul is merely employing a head-body metaphor in which the head is the topmost and most conspicuous member of the body” (Richard Cervin, qtd Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, p. 150)

  1. it expresses the notion of (There is no evidence in Ephesians where it says that God has ordained leadership roles to husbands in relationship to their wives, Ephesians 5:23)
  2. “The cultural expectations of Paul’s readers led them to understand kephale as a metaphor for the husband’s authority in the marriage relationship” (Thielman, Ephesians, p. 377)

The use of the Head-Body Metaphor in the Ancient World

  • “The body was a common topos in antiquity in political speeches arguing for unity in the form of homonoia, or ‘control’ speeches.”
  • “What often characterized the use of the head in the metaphor was how it commonly depicted the superior and the leading part of the body, the one most important for the overall health of the body”
  • “When the concept of headship was applied politically, there was often an emphasis on the power and authority of the head.”
  • “The head is sovereign because it is the highest part of the body” (Philo)
  • “overall, the head was considered preeminent because its highest position indicated its superior role”

Source:” (Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, pp. 152-3)

Moreover, “Because of the head’s prominent status and role, a common theme emerges in treatment of headship in antiquity of the head as the most important member of the body… The head played perhaps the most critical role in the survival of the body. As a result, a vital concern was to protect the head at all costs…Not only does the body seek to protect the head, but the head’s duty is to ensure its own preservation.”” (Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, p. 155)

“Finally, another aspect of the tradition was that the head, as ruler, was not called to be the one who loves but rather was more deserving of being loved. Thus, Seneca specifically states that the people’s actions in sacrificing themselves for Nero are their demonstration of ‘love’ for their head,’ in response to which Nero is to show not love but mercy.”” (Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, p. 156)

  • “In conclusion, the normal expectation for the metaphor is that the head is the leader and provider of the body. Consequently, it is the head’s responsibility to ensure its own safety, and the body’s responsibility to sacrifice itself for the sake of the head… The metaphor was a graphic representation of the roles of the head and the body. The superior physical placement of the head was symbolic of its leading role in the body and resulted in specific behavioral expectations for both parties” (ibid).

 

Submission or Control

  • Paul never tells the Christian husband to “control” his wife, and the form of submission (hypotasso) that is suggested to the wife is a voluntary one. Paul patterns the authority of the Christian husband “after Christ’s headship over the church. In Ephesians, Christ’s authority has been used not to control the church but to reconcile it to God at the cost of his own life (2:13, 16; 5:2; cf. 1:17) and to equip the church with what it needs for accomplishing God’s purposes (4:7-16)” (Thielman, p. 378).
  • This the appropriate context we should understand Paul’s usage of kephale as authority, implying service, sacrifice, nurturing (both physically and emotionally), support, and provision. Interestingly, Christ uses his authority (kephale) to save the church.
  • On the other hand, “the basic idea presented here and repeated in 5:24b is that women should not seek to assert themselves in the home in a way that could be viewed as ruling, controlling, or dominating. Rather, they must acknowledge the God-given role assigned to the husband and respect the leadership he endeavors to provide for the family” (Arnold, Ephesians, p. 380).
  1. How to love your wife (5:25-28)
  • To always look out for your wife’s interest.
  • “Christ’s love is explicitly defined in this passage in terms of self-sacrificial service, not in terms of his authority (vv. 25-28)” (Keener, p. 167)
  • “When the husbands are addressed, the male role is not described in terms of the expected categories of responsibilities in the public domain of warrior, protector, provider, and patron. Instead, the imagery quickly shifts to household scenes of bathing, clothing (spinning and weaving), laundering, feeding and nurturing, because Jesus is depicted as providing these services for the church, which is both is bride and his body. Bathing, spinning, weaving, and laundering were perpetual household needs, but the cleansing with water in 5:26 may include a figurative reference to a bride’s prenuptial washing, and the clothing and laundering (including spot removal, washing, and ironing) in 5:27 may refer to obtaining and maintain a bride’s wedding clothes.” *Westfall, Paul and Gender, pp. 56-7

 

  • “The inferiority and low status of women are subverted when men are commanded to exercise their headship by acting more like women. More specifically, by bathing, clothing, feeding, and nurturing the women, men are treating women as the superior when viewed from within the Greco-Roman cultural paradigm. On the other hand, the function of the entire church as Christ’s bride reverses the shame that was directly connected with the female’s sexual function in the Greco-Roman culture” (Westfall, 59)

To show love or to love thy wife

  1. “The husband as the head is called to give himself up for the wife as his body, just as Christ gave himself up for the Church, which is his body. Furthermore, where normal expectations would have the body being the one to love the head, Paul states that the husband as head is to love his wife as his body as Christ loved the church.”
  2. The reversal in expectations regarding love would also seem shocking in light of traditional honor conventions because Paul tells the most esteemed part, the head, to love the body”
  3. “Maintaining the natural order was key to preserving society, and one accepted aspect of this order was the husband as ruler over the wife, due to his superior nature”
  4. “When Paul asks husbands as heads to sacrifice themselves for their wives, he asks them to do something that goes against this fundamental order of society, which could be considered disrupted and even dangerous”
  5. “Since honor for men was gained through domination of others, the husband would have been expected to dominate and be served by his wife. However, Paul states that he should instead do the opposite and exercise his headship through service and sacrifice.”
  6. Power, freedom, and masculinity: “As the head of the wife, the husband would have been expected to exercise power over his wife, and not to do so would have been considered shameful.”
  7. Conclusion: “When Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands and to do because he is the head (Eph. 5:22-24), he would seem to be agreeing with these values. But when he instructs husbands in the content of this headship, he presents a starting reversal. Contrary to common conceptions of what is fitting and thus honorable, husband is to love their wives and give themselves up for them.”
  8. “While this behavior would be shameful in the larger culture, it was considered honorable in God’s economy” Source: Lee-Barneville, p. 157-8
  9. The command from the husband to show consistent sacrificial love to his Christian wife undermines his position of honor as head and man and all the privileges and rights associated with being the head of the household and man in the Greco-Roman society (5:1-2). This is the great reversal in Christianity
  10. The initiating love of the husband to his wife and the wife’s call to volunteer and unforceful submission to her husband lead to unity and connectedness between the two of them.
  11. If Christians are called to love one another sacrificially as Christ has loved them (5:1) what is the uniqueness of the husband’s sacrificial love to his wife? (vv.25-30)

 

  1. The Great mystery of unity and sacred marriage (5:29-33; Genesis 2:24)
  • “The emphasis here is not on hierarchy but one oneness, spiritual and sexual unity… the wife recognizes her husband as “head” in terms of submitting to his authority (5:22-23), but the husband recognizes his headship in terms of loving and serving his wife (5:28-30). The image of head and body here is meant to emphasize especially that the husband and wife should see themselves as one and work together with a common purpose and goal (5:31)” (Keener, p.168).
  • These two verses (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:32) is a declaration about Christ and the Church.
  • Paul reinterprets Genesis 2:24 considering the coming of Christ and his relationship with the church which he constituted through his blood.
  • What Paul is saying here is that God created the marital union between the husband and the wife because the Church is the body of Christ just like the wife is the husband’s body, and both the husband and the wife are Christ’s body (5:30).
  • God instituted marriage so that it could prefigure the intimate union between Christ and the Church just like in marriage the husband and the wife are intimately connected as one flesh (vv. 29-33). That is the great mystery.

 

Conclusion:

  • Male headship for Paul means “service” and sacrificial love
  • The specific duty given to the Christian husband is to love his wife, that is his role and his only role is to love her. The wife’s love for the husband is not a specific duty given to her; however, both the husband and the wife as followers of Christ are commanded to bear one another and love one another not out of their marital duty, but of their Christian commitment or their devotion to Christ—because the husband as a believer and the wife as a follower of Christ are connected and united as one in Christ and joined as one as his body (Col. 3:12-15; Ephesians 2:15-16, 21-22)

 

Husband and Christ = union

Wife and Christ= union

  • Christ is the head of the church, his body.
  • The husband is the head of his wife, his body.
  • The church submits to Christ
  • The wife submits to the husband
  • Christ loves the church
  • The husband loves his wife
  • What unites Christ and the Christian husband is love and service
  • What unites the church and the wife is submission and obedience
  • What unites both the husband and wife is that they are both under the leadership of Christ and loved by Him.

 

 

Amen!

 

 

Sermon notes (PowerPoint Presentation)

“Submission and love in the Christian marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What did it mean to submit in the Greco-Roman world?

  • To submit oneself to another person or one in authority means to “give in” or to “cooperate.”
  • In Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Paul does not use the term hypotassomenoi (“to submit,” 5:21) to mean “to obey.” He employs the Greek term hypakouete (“to obey”) as a command to Christian children “to obey” (6:1) their parents and slaves to obey their masters (6:5), not for Christian wives to obey their Christian husbands. Therefore, the call upon Christian wives to submit to their Christian husbands does not mean for the wives to obey their husbands.

What did it mean for wives to obey their husbands in the Greco-Roman society?

  • It meant for wives to obey their husbands.
  • It conveyed the idea that wives would be meek, silent, and quiet in the presence of men/husbands. This was a cultural expectation in the marriage covenant in the Greco-Roman society.
  • The call to submission from the wives to their husbands was to maintain the honor, dignity, authority, and power of Greco-Roman men/husbands. The failure of the wives to do so would not only bring shame/dishonor to their husbands, as it was a cultural expectation/norm/practice, but the attitude would threaten the order of society and the order of the Roman empire.

Ephesians 5:21

  • Submission in the Greco-Roman world were connected to masculinity, rights, and privileges of husbands/men.
  • Mutual submission: “But the context in which Paul places his exhortation qualifies it much more: it is an expression of the kind of submission on all Christians render to one another, the kind that Christian husbands would thus also need to render to their wives” (keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, p. 159)

 

  1. The responsibility of the Christian wife and the Christian husband (vv. 22-24)

Some Principles of Marriage

  1. “Marriage is part of the ‘mystery of God’s will’ (Eph. 1:9; 3:3; 5:32)
  2. “Paul’s instructions are directed to Spirit-filled believers” (Eph. 5:18)
  3. “Wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love” (Eph. 5:18)
  4. “Headship entails authority” (Eph. 5:23-24; 1:22; 4:15)
  5. “Marriage involves spiritual warfare, which requires husbands and wives to put on the full armor of God” (ESV Study BIBLE, Ephesians, p. 2271)

The meaning of “kephale” (v.23)

Some common usages or definitions of the term

  1. It means head.
  2. the term carries overtones of authority (i.e. “authority over”)
  3. it expresses the notion of leadership and provision.
  4. it bears the idea of preeminence.
  5.  It means source.
  6. 6. Kephale expresses the notion of (There is no evidence in Ephesians where it says) that God has ordained leadership roles to husbands in relationship to their wives (Ephesians 5:23)

Conclusion

  1. “The cultural expectations of Paul’s readers led them to understand kephale as a metaphor for the husband’s authority in the marriage relationship” (Thielman, Ephesians, p. 377)
  2. “Rather than meaning ‘authority over,” Paul is merely employing a head-body metaphor in which the head is the topmost and most conspicuous member of the body” (Richard Cervin, qtd Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, p. 150)

The use of the head-body metaphor in the Greco-Roman world

  • The body was a common topos in antiquity in political speeches arguing for unity in the form of homonoia, or ‘control’ speeches.”
  • “What often characterized the use of the head in the metaphor was how it commonly depicted the superior and the leading part of the body, the one most important for the overall health of the body”
  • “When the concept of headship was applied politically, there was often an emphasis on the power and authority of the head.”
  • “The head is sovereign because it is the highest part of the body” (Philo)
  • “overall, the head was considered preeminent because its highest position indicated its superior role”

“Loving the head” (v.25)

  • “Another aspect of the tradition was that the head, as ruler, was not called to be the one who loves but rather was more deserving of being loved. Thus, Seneca specifically states that the people’s actions in sacrificing themselves for Nero are their demonstration of ‘love’ for their head,’ in response to which Nero is to show not love but mercy.””
  • “The responsibility of the husband to love his wife is not explicitly stressed as much in ancient literature as the wife’s responsibility to submit to him…the household codes normally instructed the head of the household how to “rule” or “govern” his wife, rather than how to lover her.” Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, 167
  • “Paul does not call on wives to take charge of their husbands, but call on husbands to love their wives in such a radical way that husbands become their wives’ servants, too”—Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, 166

 

Conclusion:

  1. “Because of the head’s prominent status and role, a common theme emerges in treatment of headship in antiquity of the head as the most important member of the body… The head played perhaps the most critical role in the survival of the body. As a result, a vital concern was to protect the head at all costs…Not only does the body seek to protect the head, but the head’s duty is to ensure its own preservation.”” (Lee-Barnewall, Neither Egalitarian nor Complementarian, p. 155)
  2. “The normal expectation for the metaphor is that the head is the leader and provider of the body. Consequently, it is the head’s responsibility to ensure its own safety, and the body’s responsibility to sacrifice itself for the sake of the head… The metaphor was a graphic representation of the roles of the head and the body. The superior physical placement of the head was symbolic of its leading role in the body and resulted in specific behavioral expectations for both parties” (ibid).

3. Husband: how to love your wife (vv.25-28)

  • To always look out for your wife’s interest.
  • To sacrifice for her (Self-denial).
  • To serve her (To be a servant).
  • To show physical affection and connect with her psychologically.
  • “Christ’s love is explicitly defined in this passage in terms of self-sacrificial service, not in terms of his authority (vv. 25-28)”
  • “When the husbands are addressed, the male role is not described in terms of the expected categories of responsibilities in the public domain of warrior, protector, provider, and patron. Instead, the imagery quickly shifts to household scenes of bathing, clothing (spinning and weaving), laundering, feeding and nurturing, because Jesus is depicted as providing these services for the church, which is both is bride and his body….
  • Bathing, spinning, weaving, and laundering were perpetual household needs, but the cleansing with water in 5:26 may include a figurative reference to a bride’s prenuptial washing, and the clothing and laundering (including spot removal, washing, and ironing) in 5:27 may refer to obtaining and maintain a bride’s wedding clothes.” *Westfall, Paul and Gender, pp. 56-7
  • “The inferiority and low status of women are subverted when men are commanded to exercise their headship by acting more like women. More specifically, by bathing, clothing, feeding, and nurturing the women, men are treating women as the superior when viewed from within the Greco-Roman cultural paradigm. On the other hand, the function of the entire church as Christ’s bride reverses the shame that was directly connected with the female’s sexual function in the Greco-Roman culture” (Westfall, 59)
  • “Effectively he is denying them the rights and the powers that their society would have assumed were theirs. Their lot is to be identified with a crucified Savior who gave himself up for the ones he adored, and to give up their lives for their wives” (Lucy Peppiatt, Unveiling Paul’s Women, p. 64)
  1. The “mystery” of unity and sacred marriage (vv. 29-33= Genesis 2:24)
  • A “mystery” is something that was previously hidden but is now revealed through divine revelation.
  • What is the mystery that is now revealed about the marriage between the husband and the wife, and Christ and the church?

Amen!