Ephesians 5:21 – 6:4
The opening words before us are the tail end of a sentence. The instruction to submit one to another in the fear of God is linked to that which comes before. It is linked to a command, “…but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18).
If one were to read all of Ephesians 5 (and one should), one would find that every bit of the instruction given is with the intent that we exemplify the love of Christ. Paul is speaking to believers. He is speaking to them who follow Christ.
The instruction to submit one to another in fear of God is not intended for them who have no fear of God. Being filled with the Spirit and submitting to the will of one who has little or no respect for God is not going to work, and it is not what Paul is telling us to do. Paul’s words are directed to the born again.
All born again Christians are to submit themselves one to another in the fear of God. Believers trust God to do that which He has promised. Believers should fear God because God shall do all that He has promised to do. He has promised to chasten all who do not do as He has instructed. The command to submit one to another is not from Paul; it is from God.
The Apostle Paul has incurred the wrath of self-willed women with the instruction of verse 22. Paul, however, is not speaking to the self-willed women. He speaking to them who love God and want to honor Him. If a woman does not love God and does not want to honor God, the instruction to submit to one’s husband as unto the Lord, really does not apply. Paul is speaking only to them who know that the Spirit of God authors all scripture.
That said, is the Spirit of God requiring more of the wife than of the husband? I do not think so, but I do know that God requires much from them to whom He has given the most. If God is requiring more of the wife, it is because He has given her the grace to fill those requirements.
One thing which is very clear, however, is that God intends for the Christian family to be a portrait of His church. The husband is to head the family as Christ heads the church. Christ does not rule with a club of terror; He wields love. Men are to head the family in like manner. The husband is to bestow love upon his wife as Christ so loved the church.
Christ’s love of the church is made manifest by His actions. Christ gave himself for the church. Verses 26 and 27 state the reason that Christ gave Himself. He did not give Himself for the church such that the church should go its separate way. He gave Himself with the express purpose of making the church holy and pure. His bride is to be glorious and without blemish. He washes His church with God’s word such that it might be without spot or blemish. The Son desires good things for Himself.
As Christ’s love results in action, so should the love of believers. Men should love their wives as they love their own bodies because he that loves his wife, loves himself. If one considers verse 28 with the wisdom of this world, it makes absolutely no sense. How can loving one’s own body be equated to the love that Christ has for the church? Paul answers this question with the wisdom of God in verse 30. The church is the body of Christ. Individual believers are not apart from the body. Believers are individual members of His body. When one looks upon a body, one sees interconnected flesh and bone. Believers are the flesh and bone of Christ. Believers are not separate from Christ; we are joined in Christ. A husband (who is a believer) cannot love his wife (who is a believer) without loving himself because both are of Christ.
In verse 31, Paul cites Genesis 2:24 to illustrate that husband and wife are not independent but are joined in a single body. The joining of husband and wife into one flesh in Genesis 2 is a mystery — something which God has made known from the beginning, but kept the understanding hidden until the Holy Spirit revealed that the church is the body of Christ. It is God’s intent that the love and concern that Christ has for the church be mirrored by every husband and wife.
The spirit of God directed Paul to address the relationship between child and parent and parent and child. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord and parents are to avoid discouraging their children as they nurture them in the Lord. The Lord intends the focal point of parent/child relationships of believers to be doing as He has instructed.
Believers are the only Christ that the lost can see. May His glory be seen in us.