Ephesians 5 v 24
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ today is under a severe attack from Christ's enemy the devil. Indeed she has been under this terrible onslaught since she was in her early development even before New Testament times. The attack comes in the form of an undermining of the institution of marriage, that glorious picture of the union between the Lord Jesus Christ and His believing people, the whole body of them. The devil knows the scriptures. He is aware of God's word written and the power of its authority and sufficiency. He knows the reality of the beautiful relationship between the saviour and His precious body and he does His best to attack it at every opportunity. In pre Christian times he was involved in influencing men to practice polygamy, in corrupting the design of God for women leading them to prostitution, temple harlotry and the like and in the encouragement of all the perversions possible with regard to the man and woman relationship. He knows that if he can alter human opinion with regards to relationships between men and women with all of the facets of those relationships, including headship, submission and so on, satan can effectively remove the model of God-centred ideal marriage as a picture of Christ and His church. In his perverted way he attacks human thinking. If marriage is a thing of the past - so is the church. If men and women can jump into and out of relationships never making any life long commitment, then religion with the label Christianity can be the same - you can be in and then be out - you can start but then go off and believe something else. Or you can be married but then be unfaithful and apostatise - leave your first love, making a travesty of the pure relationship pictured of Christ and His church. The devil suggests that it would be wise to try marriage first to see whether it works or not - co-habitation, trial relationships with the proviso that either partner can withdraw is a feature of modern western society. But it is a relationship without commitment - from either side. The man is not prepared to forsake all others for the woman, and the woman is not prepared to submit herself in loving obedience to the man. Can we imagine the Lord Jesus Christ dying on a cross 2,000 years ago simply to express His love for His church that is conditional - that if it doesn't work out then it won't matter? NO! NO! That was not His intention - Christ died for His church to whom He was utterly committed before the foundation of the world! His commitment was total and absolute towards the objects of His deep love. Christ loves as the best husband that there has ever been.
Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
With these thoughts in mind let us think this morning about the third verse of the set of three in Paul's 5th Chapter of his letter to the Ephesians
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Verse 24 appears to be Paul's summary of v 22 and 23 -
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
He began by telling wives to submit as unto Christ - pointing from the wives' submission to their own husbands TO the submission of the believer to Christ. He then explained why - because Christ is the head of the church. Now he seems to turn the doctrine on its head and points from the submission of the church to Christ TO the submission of the wife. However it is not merely a reversal, or an expression of the same doctrine differently. In verse 24 Paul adds a vital phrase not apparent in verse 22 - they are the words - IN EVERYTHING. What is the main thrust of this verse then? Is it the submission of the wife to the husband already exhaustively dealt with? Or is it the subjection of the Church to the Lord Jesus Christ her head? I believe that we must look at it as both and perhaps we can observe the truths of scripture here in these verses as a kind of progression. Like this - Verse 22 - teaches the NATURE of the subjection of a wife for a husband - and that nature is the same submission that all believers show to the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23 - teaches the GROUND of the subjection of the wife to her husband - and that ground is God's appointment of the husband to be head and ruler, as Christ is of the Church. Verse 24 - teaches the EXTENT of the subjection of the wife to her husband - simply put - in everything. The word SUBJECT here is, as we have seen, the same word as submit in verse 21 and 22. The original verb has the meaning of self-subjection - let the wives submit themselves - not forcibly but willingly. The idea is not that of a divine command which forces the wife or indeed the church, to submit - but it is a blessedness to do so. Perhaps we have not seen it quite like this. Husbands have the opportunity to demonstrate to their wives HOW to submit to them, by their own submission to Christ. Inspired leaders are those who are careful not to ask anyone to do something that they are not prepared to do themselves - these are those who get cooperation from others. Husbands therefore should take the lead even in the matter of their wives submission. But let us adhere to the order of Paul's thought here and the teaching that flows from the verse and think firstly
1. The Subjection of the Church to Christ.
How miserable we believers would be if we were separated from our Lord Jesus Christ. If we did not have the comfort of His presence, the shadow of His wings, the assurance of His love and the moving of His hand in providence - where would we be? We would be robbed of all our expectation of eternal life, all the benefits of life that come from Him and would be as we were before we were saved, without God and without hope. The Spiritual state of Christ's church is one of blessed communion between our Lord our Head, and us His body. And He is ever present with us by His Holy Spirit, living in our hearts. Yet the church is to be subject to Him. How is this subjection expressed? What kind of subjection is the Church's subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ?
1. It is a VOLUNTARY subjection.
In the OT where we find the picture of the church to come, we can notice how the Israelites offered sacrifices -
Leviticus 1:3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
In the letter to the Hebrews we find the picture of sacrifice fulfilled and worked out in Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The Lord's sacrifice was a voluntary sacrifice and a voluntary submission to His Father's will. So the believer submits the WILL to the Lord Jesus and willingly subjects that will completely to Him. Volunteering is something that not everyone finds easy, sometimes due to a reserve in character; sometimes due to a reluctance to be seen as prominent in any way; and sometimes because they may not be much in it for me if I volunteer - little recognition, little praise, or even "I would rather be doing something else." But 2 verses from the Psalms illustrate this voluntary spirit that pleases the Lord God - <>
Psalm 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. Psalm 119:35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
Subjection is personal and corporate - personal as an individual Christian - we voluntarily surrender to the will of the Saviour as we read His word and see our Christian duty and calling. And it is corporate as we as a Church seek to discern God's will and then seek to obey His will. Both are voluntary subjection. God does not run a totalitarian Kingdom expecting his puppet disciples to dance to His tune - He places within our hearts as individuals and our corporate church heart the desire to submit to Him - voluntarily. <>
2. It is a WHOLEHEARTED subjection.
Again we first look to our Saviour for is leading in wholeheartedness -
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Can there be any more wholeheartedness than going in shame to a cross on behalf of millions of others? So what about us in these things? Various scriptures point us to wholeheartedness -
1 Samuel 12:24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. Jeremiah 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
These scriptures qualify wholeheartedness with words such as "serve Him in truth; seek, find and search; turn to me with earnestness - fasting, weeping and mourning." All of these are aspects of wholehearted submission. This is not a partial submission to suit me and my moods, obedient one day but suit myself the next. This is not a wavering submission that reacts to others "I'll only submit if you will; I'll only submit when I consider it right to." Wholehearted submission to Christ whether it is as individual believer or as a church corporately must be unconditional - whole hearted. How do we shape up in this my friends? Personally? Corporately? What a challenge this subjection is!
3. It is a SINCERE subjection.
It is possible to be submissive and in subjection with gritted teeth and an outward appearance of submitting to Christ, yet our hearts betray us often when our guard is down or we are caught in a bad time. The Word of God again instructs us - one of Israel's most gifted leaders, who brought the Children of Israel back into the Promised land in the conquest said at the end of the conquest -
Joshua 24:14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
Sincerity for Joshua meant leaving behind the idols and idolatry of heart - those things that are more important to us than the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul says the same using the illustration of yeast as being a permeating influence of sin in the heart that leads to insincerity.
Philippians 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
Again the Apostle calls us to be sincerely submissive to the Lord - we are to have "no sides" in our relationship with Him and with the rest of the body, our fellow believers. Are we sincere in our relationship to Christ and others? How we need to take stock. Christian history is littered with accounts of men who appear to be pillars of the church, present on the Lord's day, apparently serving the Lord in all sincerity - and to all intents godly men - and yet if you ask their wives and ask their children what these men are like at home, we hear a different story. We hear of tyrants, bullies, selfish monsters requiring submission from wife and children, but never showing submission to Christ by kindness, love and respect in the home. That is insincerity and the Lord hates it! Christian history also contains accounts of women who on the outside seem to be the salt of the earth, ministering angels both within and outside the church, valued and praised for their good works and happy disposition - but ask their husbands and children - at home they are sullen, assertive, unkind and self seeking, intent on "wearing the trousers and making the decisions" and when thwarted retire into truculent hostility. This also is insincerity - and the Lord hates this too.
4. It is a subjection prompted by CONVICTION.
The conviction that it is right and proper to subject ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and His authority is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes in the package of our conversion experience. Romans 6 speaks of this conviction -
Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
People, who have been brought to life from the deadness of their old ways before they were converted, are those who are glad to be alive and rescued from hell. They will be enthusiastic about the saviour who has come to deliver them from eternal darkness - and they will yield themselves in submission to Him to whom they owe their lives. And Paul makes the point in this same passage in Romans 6 that whoever it is that you yield to, then He is your master. The majority of people in the world are yielded to themselves. They are driven by their inner desires, instincts, cravings and lusts - they say that they are free - but they are not - they are yielded to their addiction to sin. They are sin dependant just as any user of heroin is drug dependant. This is what the Bible means and Paul says it in Romans 6:16
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
The Christian on the other hand has been won over by a new master to whom he yields and now is convicted in his heart that Christ and Christ alone is the best Master. The strong conviction, belief in and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ implies a subjection to this great saviour.
5. It is a subjection prompted by LOVE.
Just as a young bride will say that she worships the ground that her loved one walks on and will follow him to the ends of the earth; and just as the young bridegroom says that he will travel to the farthest corners of the earth to get what His sweetheart desires; so the believer has a new love and devotion leading to subjection to Him. It is a love for Christ that has its roots in His love for the believer.
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.
The truth is that we are utterly unable to submit to Christ without the love of Christ. Our natural love is nothing compared to His supernatural love. We were dead as Paul tells us in Titus 3:3
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
So when we realise the love of God in our hearts, that captures those hearts and overwhelms them, then our only possible response is to love in return - and demonstrate our love in subjection to Him who is our love - our wonderful saviour. It follows then that a rebellious, non-submissive believer is a contradiction in terms. And if a man or woman is living without voluntary, wholehearted, sincere, enthusiastic subjection prompted by conviction and love - then there must be a doubt cast on that person's salvation experience. But you may be saying, "Isn't that going a bit far? We all have moments of slipping and falling - could there not be some room for movement here?" I wish there was - and indeed there could be were it not for the phrase at the end of our text this morning. Subjection, submission to Christ is not in some things, or most things, or in 99% of things - but it is in EVERYTHING! The Church is to be subject to Christ in everything - because His word is perfect and pure and right and He never commands our subjection in any area that is not lawful. And this leads us back again to the other half of the text - that speaks of
2. The Subjection of the wife to the husband in everything.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ (in every thing), so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
It was said a moment ago that Christ never commands our subjection in any area that is not lawful. Everything that the Lord Jesus commands is lawful for us to do - we are to be subject in absolutely everything. But is this the same for the husband with regards to His wife? Great care is needed here. If a husband should demand of his wife the breaking of a moral law or a spiritual law of God should she submit? The answer is NO. Her first area of subjection and submission is to the Lord God to do His will and to walk in His ways. There is a scripture to help the wife here in Acts 5 - Peter and the other Apostles had been arrested in Jerusalem following the healing of many people. They had been in prison but the angel of the Lord released them overnight. They were arrested again
and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Their priority was obedience to God, who had called them to preach his word. To obey the rulers command to be silent would be disobedience to God. Ordinarily citizens must obey the laws of civil rulers - except when they go against the law of God. So it is with wives and husbands. No husband can make a wife do what God forbids her to do. Neither can he forbid her to do what God commands her to do. Obedience to her husband is made part of the wife's obedience to God - and in this fact she retains her liberty and her integrity. This indeed is a lofty ideal, isn't it? How much happier the world would be today if people got hold of God's order of things. The relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and His church is unique. Nearly all of the brides mentioned in scripture illustrate this unique relationship. We have not the time to think of Jacob and Rachel, Boaz and Ruth and David and Abigail. But we will consider three other marriages that for us can be pictures of the Church's Past, the church's present and the church's Future her prospects.
1. Adam and Eve.
The marriage of Adam and Eve illustrates the past and shows how the church was FORMED. Adam was put to sleep by the will of God. Then God opened his side and took what was needed from him, a rib, to form his bride. The scene is reminiscent of Calvary, where the Lord Jesus Christ entered into a sleep - the sleep of death in the will of God. But sleep is not meant what we mean - a period of unconsciousness from which we wake - but death - three days of death starting with a cross and laying in a tomb. On the cross His side was opened - pierced and out gushed water and blood, the elements that made possible the creation of the Church. From heaven He came and sought her, to be His holy bride, with His own blood He bought her and for her life He died. Do you see how important Genesis 2 is to us the Church? Do you see how vital it is that we reject the foolishness of modern science that consigns the 1st 11 chapters of Genesis to myth and allegory, to story and fable in favour of billions of years of evolution? As we said at the beginning - take away the fact of Adam and Eve and you take away the fact of the church - the devil knows what he is doing!
2. Isaac and Rebekah.
In Genesis 24 there is the account of this romance that illustrates the present history of the church. Their love story typifies the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit finding a bride for the Son. In Genesis 22 Isaac went to Mount Moriah as a willing sacrifice, obedient unto death. But in Genesis 24 he is a passive observer, waiting with his father for the coming of his bride. All of the action was in the hands of an unnamed servant whom Abraham, the father, sent to seek, invite, persuade, and persist in bringing the responsive bride to his son. In this present age the Son's work is a finished work and He sits on His Father's throne. The Holy Spirit is the active one. He is here to seek out the bride - the church - who is waiting to be found. There are still more members of the bride, elected in eternity past, chosen for Christ and in Christ, to be brought in - He is waiting at God's right hand in glory.
3. Joseph and Asenath.
Joseph the son of Jacob, who found himself by God's providence in Egypt at the Pharaoh's side as Prime Minister, was married to Asenath. In Genesis 41 we are told that Asenath was taken from obscurity and elevated to share a lofty position occupied by Joseph at the right hand of Pharaoh. In the same way, our past is blotted out and our future is to sit with the Lord Jesus Christ and share His glory forever and ever. Now since the brides of the Bible are so obviously intended to typify the unique relationship between Christ and His church then the marriage of every believer should do the same. Every married Christian couple should be an illustration to the world of the relationship that exists between the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Is your marriage relationship as sacred as that unique relationship between Christ and His Church? If we all take this perspective seriously then it should end all carnal quibbling over who is responsible to do what! All marriages are to function like Christ and His church. All decisions in a marriage should be made on a spiritual plane. Paul says IN EVERYTHING. To conclude then - these 3 verses are a comprehensive outline of the wife's duty in the marriage bond. The principle teaching is this - that the wife must go to the extremest limit of submitting herself to her husband for Christ's sake - short of violating the principles of her prime responsibility to obey God. In doing so she will be helped and enable to do so when her husband provides the loving environment in which she can submit in everything. To this end we can see how our husband the Lord Jesus Christ has provided for us the right environment to enable us as Christian believers, to subject ourselves to Him. He has first of all saved us - brought us to Himself to live with Him in the church. Then He has set us a task to do - worship, serve and love Him, keeping His laws and commandments willingly and finding in that our fulfilment as Christians. Are we fulfilled this morning? Are we happy in Jesus? Is there a glory shed on our pathway as we live for Him and serve Him? Do we know of our Saviour's smile in our lives, whatever the circumstances? These are ours as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, when we trust and obey - when we subject ourselves and submit - in everything. But if there are shadows and clouds in your mind - if there is unhappiness, distress of an abiding nature - if there is a lack of assurance that your sins have been pardoned and forgiven then perhaps they have not - perhaps you are still in rebellion against his desires of you - perhaps you are not in subjection in everything - perhaps you are not yet saved. And my friend if that is true of you then go home, sink to your knees, and cry out to God for mercy. Ask Him to save you. Plead with Him to place His Holy Spirit's power within you so that you CAN be in subjection in all things; that you CAN submit to the Lord in everything. Will you do that today?