The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 14, 2012


1) Ephesians 5:23-27 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 5:23-27
by Tom Edwards

In Ephesians 5:23, Paul gives the principle for why the wife should be in subjection to her husband: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."  

Thayer shows that the word "head" is used metaphorically to mean "anything supreme, chief, prominent."  It is the same Greek word that is used in referring to Jesus as the "CHIEF corner stone" (Matt. 21:42).  And we can also easily see how this word expresses supremacy in Colossians 2:10 where Jesus is spoken of as being "...the HEAD over all rule and authority."

The headship of the man over the woman is also set forth in 1 Corinthians 11:3: "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

This doesn't mean that the husband is to serve as some type of iron-fisted tyrant.  But, rather, the husband should learn of his rule over his wife from Christ's rule over the church.  For "...as Christ gave himself to save his body, the church; as he practiced self-denial and made it an object of intense solicitude [deep concern] to preserve that church, so ought the husband to manifest a similar solicitude to make his wife happy, and to save her from want, affliction, and pain. He ought to regard himself as her natural protector; as bound to anticipate and provide for her needs; as under obligation to comfort her in trial, even as Christ does the church. What a beautiful illustration of the spirit which a husband should manifest is the care which Christ has shown for his 'bride,' the church!" (Albert Barnes).

Notice, too, that Jesus is referred to in Ephesians 5:23 as being "the saviour of the body," which is defined in Ephesians 1:22,23 as being the church: "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."  Therefore, the church is the saved; and anyone who is not a part of the church is not a recipient of God's salvation.  For, according to Acts 2:47, it is God Himself who adds the saved to the church.  

We can also note that because there is this similarity, between the husband and his wife and Christ and the church, that the church is also referred to figuratively as being the "bride" of Christ.  For instance: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev. 19:7,8).  

We often hear of couples today referring to themselves as being "made for each other."  But as we think more about this special relationship of husband and wife, note what we see in the latter portion of 1 Corinthians 11:7: "...the woman is the glory of man." Paul then goes on to explain this in verse 8: "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man."  Since Paul says "man does not originate from woman," then he is not referring to the birth of males; but, rather, God's first creation of man.  For Eve, that first woman, came from the rib of Adam; so she came from man.  Notice, too, what Paul then says in 1 Corinthians 11:9: "for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake."  This is also seen in God's explanation of the woman: "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'  Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.  The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.  The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.'  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:18-25).  

The NASB, NKJV, and various other Bible translations refer to Eve as a "helper," which the KJV renders as "help meet."  It is from the Hebrew word "ezer," meaning an "aid" (James Strong) -- or, as seen in Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions, as "one who helps."  In all that God had made, no creature would be able to serve as a better aid to Adam than Eve -- since she was also of human kind.  

Paul then says in Ephesians 5:24, "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."

In the previous verse, we read that Christ is the head of the church which also implies the need for the church to be subject to the Lord, just as the members of a physical body -- such as legs, feet, arms, and hands -- are subject to the body's head.  

One major difference, however, is that the members of our body do not have a choice. If the  head, therefore, wills to walk, the legs will move (unless they are physically impaired).  But as members in the body of Christ, we must each be willing to comply with what the Lord wills.  Then, by obedience, we will be cooperating as smoothly as the members in a healthy, physical body.  

Paul says that this subjection of the wife is to be to her husband "in everything."  This, of course, does not mean that she must comply with any demand.  For though she must also be in submission to him, she cannot obey any demand that would be contrary to God's word.  Notice, for example, the command in Colossians 3:18: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord."  The term "fitting" implies that which is proper.  This can be likened to the instruction that Paul gives concerning children: In Colossians 3:1, he exhorts the children to "be obedient to your parents IN ALL THINGS...."; yet in Ephesians 6:1, this is qualified.  There, Paul states that the children are to "obey your parents in the Lord...."

What does that phrase "in the Lord" denote?  Does it mean that if the parents are not Christians, then the children do not have to submit to them or obey them?  As we have seen in 1 Peter 3:1, wives are to submit to their husbands even when those husbands are "disobedient to the word."  The phrase "in the Lord" implies anything the parents would demand of the child which would not be a violation of God's word.  When that is the case, the child is to obey.  

We can also note in Colossians 3:22 that slaves are to obey their masters on earth "in all things."  But again, this does not mean they are to violate God's word to do so. Rather, what they do is to be done unto the Lord and with the proper fear of Him; and, as Paul shows Titus in Titus 2:10, bondslaves are to be showing "all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect."  To adorn the doctrine of God expresses their adherence to the truth.  

In addition, how about the phrase in Ephesians 5:24 that shows the wife's submission to her husband is to be likened to "as the church is subject to Christ"?  Would Christ ever demand of the church anything that would be contrary to God's word?  Of course not. So since the church is in submission to Christ to do only those things that are in harmony with God's word, that same harmony needs to be maintained in the wife's submission to her husband.  

But even without these qualifying passages, couldn't we infer from elsewhere in the Scriptures that the Christian is to always be obedient to the Lord and should never violate God's word for anyone --  and even if it be the elders of the church who would want to steer the congregation in a wrong direction?!  Sadly, I once knew a man who began attending a non-conservative church that practiced some things that the man viewed as being wrong; but he had also mistakenly believed that he would not be held accountable for it, since he was simply obeying the elders.

In Ephesians 5:25, we see how the husband can make it easier for his wife to be in submission to him: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."  There is no greater love than that.  Christ's love for the church is a sacrificial love that was carried out very willingly.  As the Lord states in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."  And in speaking of His life in verse 18, Jesus declares, "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This commandment I received from My Father."  The Lord's willingness to go to Calvary is also implied in Matthew 26:51-54, on the night of the Lord's betrayal and arrest: "And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  Then Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?"

When the Hebrew writer exhorts the Christians to "run with endurance the race that is set before us," he also cites the example of Jesus, whom we need to fix our eyes on, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1,2).  So this, along with the previous passages, makes it clear that Jesus truly did go to the cross willingly; and, as seen elsewhere, He was motivated to go through that torturous suffering, due to a very deep love He had for humanity and their salvation, as well as His love and total loyalty to His Father in heaven.

What wondrous love we see at the cross of Calvary; and that highest of all loves is also what the husband is to have for his wife.  In describing this, J.W. Shepherd writes, "The love here required of the husband is not of passion, but of the soul in its spiritual purity and from its innermost depths.  It should be Christlike, patterned after God's love, self-forgetful, self-sacrificing, and self-devoting, even unto death."

Notice, too, how the idea in Ephesians 5:25 is expressed in Colossians 3:19: "Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them."

Something else we can say about this love for the wife that is modeled on Christ's love for the church is that it "is the ground of Christianity's having raised woman to her due place in the social scale, from which she was, and is, excluded in heathen lands" (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown).  In other words, instead of treated merely as the property of the husband, who could pay little regard to her, she is to be loved, cherished and cared for, as much as Jesus loved the church.  

In Ephesians 5:26,27, Paul shows why the Lord loved the church to the extent of giving His own life for her: "that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless."

The meaning of "sanctify" is to make holy, to set apart.  Thayer defines it as "2) to separate from profane things and dedicate to God... 3) to purify...free from the guilt of sin."  

Sanctification is made possible by Jesus, but there is also a need for the individual to submit to the gospel in order to receive that. For instance, consider these following passages: "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17). "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth" (v. 19).  "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21).  "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).  The Lord told Paul that his mission would involve proclaiming the gospel to others in order "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).  And that faith comes by hearing God's word (Rom. 10:17) and is made effectual when we obey it (Jms. 1:22- 25; 2:14-26).  So we see of the need for Jesus, as well as our own cooperation, in order that sanctification can be acquired.  But, by far, the Lord has accomplished the biggest or most difficult part of making it possible.  Therefore, may we each always submit whole heartily and thankfully to His will.  For what wonderful benefits anyone can have who will do so -- and not only for now, but especially for all eternity! 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember in prayer the following:

Pam MacDonald who is having serious back trouble; Linda Lefort (Harris Lefort's sister-in-law) who has cancer and is on hospice care; Bill Barfield (Virginia Fontenot's brother) who has been hospitalized in a step-down unit for the last several months; Jean Calloway who is a diabetic with a foot problem; Shirley Young, for her continual trouble with fibromyalgia; and Cheryl Crews, for her various health problems.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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