!! Love and Submission
!!! Stuart Briscoe
(second in a sermon series on Family Business) \\ Ephesians 5:15-24 \\ \\ When people get married, they often say, "We have decided to "tie the knot."
Given the numbers of people who are deciding not to tie the knot at the present time, I think that is an admirable decision.
I try to point out to them that when we think in terms of Christian marriage, it's not so much two people deciding to tie the knot as God deciding to join two people together.
It's not so much a human decision as a divine action.
Marriage is all about God joining two people together.
I say this on no less of an authority than Jesus Christ Himself.
In fact, He went even further, saying, "Whom God, therefore, has joined together, no man should separate!”
So when we think in terms of marriage in these terms – “God having joined two people together” – it's rather obvious that two independent people now being brought together in some new union are going to have a lot of adjustments to make.
In Ephesians 5 and 6, the apostle Paul gives some very helpful teaching on this whole business of how the husband and the wife adjust to each other.
He does it in a very balanced way.
For instance, here is a familiar verse, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (5:22).
It's very familiar because the wives have heard it over and over again.
It’s also very familiar to the men.
Some men, who don't know any other verse in the Bible, know this one very well, indeed.
However, if we're going to look at what Paul actually said in verse 25, he said, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church."
You see, it's rather like a pair of scissors – when you have a pair of scissors, you've got two things (blades) that have been joined to form a new whole.
If the scissors are going to work, then both sides have got to be in operation and in harmony.
So Paul would say, “Look, half the story about marriage is ‘wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord;’ the other half is ‘husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves the church.’”
Today I'm going to talk to you about the first half of this relationship, this business of adjustment.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
Next time it will be about “Husbands, love your wives,” and no you cannot go and play golf!
You have to listen to both of these, unless you're going to try and operate with half a pair of scissors.
An old man is walking along a country road in the Deep South with his mule and his dog.
A pickup truck comes around the corner too fast, knocks the old man, the mule and the dog into the ditch.
Some time later, the old man is suing the driver of the truck.
The attorney defending the driver is cross-examining the old man.
“Did you, on the day of the alleged accident, tell my client you had never felt better in your life than you did that particular day?” asked the attorney.
The old man replied: “Me, and my mule, and my dog were walking on the road.
This gentleman came around the corner in his pickup truck.
He knocked me and my mule and my dog into the ditch.
He jumped out of the cab carrying a shot gun.
He went up to my dog that was bleeding, and he shot it.
He went to my mule that had broken its foreleg, and he shot it.
He walked over to me with his shot gun and said, ‘Are you all right?’
And I said, ‘You know, I've never felt better in my life!’”
The moral of the story is: If you take a text, out of its context, you're left with 'a con.'
It's very important that we understand the context in which Paul is giving this teaching, because if we don't understand the context, we may get Paul all wrong.
If you look at Paul in his immediate context, what you will discover to your amazement is that he was a radical, and that he was doing more for the emancipation of women and other oppressed groups at that time than anybody else on earth.
But you will never understand it until you see it in context.
It's important that we see this, because many people are simply dismissing this aspect of biblical truth concerning marriage.
First note the *historical context*.
First Century Greco-Roman culture was the culture in which Paul was living, to which he was writing.
They were particularly interested in maintaining law and order!
They said, "The way you do that, is by breaking society down into its most manageable pieces, and maintaining law and order there."
The most manageable piece of their society was the household.
That’s very different from the nuclear, suburban household which many of us are used to at the present time.
This could be a rather large group of people, certainly husband and wife, children and very often slaves and many servants.
They maintained order in that household by giving absolute authority to the husband, the father, and the owner of the slaves.
He could rule that household with a rod of iron.
For instance, if his wife gave birth, in his opinion, to too many daughters, he could order the infant baby girl to be exposed and die.
That wasn't a problem in that culture.
If his son became unruly and disobedient, he could be thoroughly beaten and – if necessary in the father's eyes – he could be imprisoned.
If a slave escaped from the household and was captured, he could be executed at the command of the head of the household.
The wife was regarded not as a person, but as a piece of property.
She was not allowed to make decisions of her own, particularly in the area of religion.
The father and husband decided what everybody's religion was going to be.
She had no rights whatsoever.
So as far as the women, the children, and the slaves were concerned, they didn't rate at all.
So when Paul came and preached the Gospel, this was a dramatic intervention in their culture because he told these people: You're all created in the image of God.
God loves all of you.
You slaves, God loves you.
You women, God created you in the image of God, as much as He created your husbands in the image of God.
Christ died for all of you.
All of you are sinners, you have that in common – men, women, children, slaves, wives, husbands, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
He said: Christ died for all of you that you might be reconciled to God.
If you're reconciled to God the Holy Spirit will come into your life, and He will baptize you into the Body of Christ, and He will give you gifts.
In the Body of Christ, men, women, children, slaves, slave owners, husbands, wives, you will be all one in Christ Jesus.
“For in Christ there's neither Jew, nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor slave owner.”
We’re all one in Christ Jesus!
That's old hat to us; we've known that ever since we've known anything about Christianity.
But this was a radical message to the people to whom Paul was preaching.
The women couldn't believe their ears, "What is he saying about us?"
The slaves couldn't believe what they were hearing.
"What is he saying about us?"
The men, they were having fits! "Wow, these women might start believing this crazy character.
They might start to thing they're as important as we are.
These slaves might get all kinds of big ideas about themselves.
We will lose control, and if we lose control in the household, it's only a matter of time until law and order breaks down in the household, and then the whole of our society will collapse.”
That's why Christianity was regarded as dangerous and subversive at that time.
How many of you think that the man in the street in America today regards Christianity as dangerous and subversive?
Now the man in the street in America generally regards Christianity as fundamentally weak-kneed and irrelevant.
That will give you some idea of the change in culture.
So the Apostle Paul is bringing a message to those women who are hearing something so exciting, so radical, and so emancipating that it's very important that he teaches them very, very carefully how to enjoy their freedom in Christ while living within their culture.
Come to think of it, that's what we have to do today!
How can we live uniquely free in Christ, within our culture, so that we don't become a scandal to the name of Christ in the culture of which we are a part?
Next notice the *grammatical context* in which Paul is writing.
Verse 22 says, "Wives, submit to your husband as to the Lord."
Some women absolutely hate that verse!
Well, I've got some good news for you!
That verse was originally written in Greek, not in English.
When it was written in Greek, the word 'submit' was not there!
You say, "Why didn't you tell me this 35 years ago?”
Well, the reason, I didn't tell you that 35 years ago, is I didn't know.
The word submit is not there in the Greek.
You say, "How in the world did it get in there then in the English?
Well, the translators know that you cannot have a sentence without a verb.
So they said, "We need a verb!"
If you look in the previous verse, verse 21, it says, "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, wives, to your husbands as to the Lord."