Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Neither male nor female" (3)


Ephesians 5:21-24

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Many translations err in placing the heading "Wives and Husbands" before verse 22, because this section of his letter commences with verse 21 where he teaches that mutual submission is the Christian ideal for marriage. In fact, the word "submit" does not occur in the best Greek texts of verse 22, but is dependent on verse 21 to sup­ply it as implied.

The word "submit" could mean to "give in" or "cooperate" and need not mean "obey" (Barth: Ephesians).

Verses 22-24 are an exhortation to wives to submit to their husbands (note that Paul is not encouraging the submission of all women to all men, but only wives to husbands).

The NT always phrases 'headship' in terms of responsibilities, not rights, and here the husband is the 'head' of the family only insofar as he reflects Christ's headship of the church. (See the notes on 'headship' under 1 Corinthians 11, to follow.)

Ephesians 5:25-30

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their ownbodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.

Verses 25-30 show how husbands are to submit to their wives and sets limits to the degree to which a husband can expect his wife to submit to him.

Paul elaborates his doctrine of mutual submis­sion with reference to the sexual relationship in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 "The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." The sexual relationship is seen as one of mutual submission and both husband and wife have equal authority over each other's bodies.

Ephesians 5:31-33

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The structure of this section is, therefore:

1. Mutual submission in marriage (21)
2. How wives are to submit to husbands (22-24)
3. How husbands are to submit to wives (25-30)
4. The unity of the marriage partners (31-33).

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