To Be A HelperThe Purpose of Marriage: Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2

{Ephesians 5:22-24; ESV}

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

Paul’s advice to Christian wives is to submit to the leadership of their husbands.  This advice is difficult because of the negative connotation that people associate with the word submission.  What is vital to remember is that submission is not synonymous with being inferior.  Rather submission is a voluntary act one does for the benefit of others.

The sad reality associated with this passage is that men have used it to justify treating women as second class citizens.  This means that women were treated poorly and were not allowed to use the full extent of their God-given gifts.

Equally sad is the fact that women have used men’s behavior to justify ignoring Paul’s clear teaching.  This has led many women to pursue things, like a career, that are in fact detrimental to their families.  Remember marriage and family are not just add-ons to your life, they are vital parts of what God is doing in this world.  We should never treat our marriages or our families as secondary.

It is essential, if we are going to understand what Paul means by submission, to place this teaching within the greater context of the Bible.  Without that context we are liable to put our flawed spin to the teaching.

  1. God is a helper! In Genesis 2:20 we read that God created Eve as a helper for Adam.  This word doesn’t signify inferiority.  Stuart Briscoe in his commentary on Genesis wrote; “The word ‘helper’ occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament and on fifteen of those occasions it refers to God helping man in one way or another—a fact which casts doubt on the common suggestion that woman as man’s helper was in some way subordinate and inferior.” (The Communicator’s Commentary: Genesis; p. 52)
  2. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father.  The apostle Paul makes this point in Philippians 2:5-11.  In verse 6 we discover that Jesus, in humility, gave up his rights as God and became a human. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus was obedient when he went to the cross for the sins of the world.  Jesus was humble and he was obedient as he carried out the Father’s will, but that doesn’t mean Jesus is any less God.
  3. We see women play key roles through out the Bible.  These roles include leadership as was the case for Deborah, who was a judge (Judges 4), and Esther, who was a queen.  These roles increase in the New Testament.  A great example of this is Romans 16 where we read of a number of women who are in positions of teaching in the early church.

It is also important to note that to submit to leadership is not a negative.  Submission is actually key for societies and organizations to flourish.  If we are not willing to submit to the leadership of our boss then we are going to be a hindrance to the productivity of the organization.

My favorite football team is the Denver Broncos.  The quarterback of the Broncos is future hall of famer Peyton Manning and the head coach John Fox.  Coach Fox prepares the game plan and oversees the working of the entire team, while Peyton Manning runs the offense during the games.  No one would say Peyton Manning is inferior to Coach Fox because he is just the quarterback and Coach Fox is the head coach.  They are both crucial for the team’s success, but it depends on Peyton Manning working within the system installed by Coach Fox.

A good leader will listen to the advice of the people he leads.  Coach Fox would be crazy not to take Peyton Manning’s thoughts into consideration.  A good husband will consider the perspective of his wife, in fact, he will regularly seek out what his wife’s opinion is.

A good leader will empower people to use their talents.  Coach Fox, if he wants the Broncos to win, will tailor the Broncos offense to fit Peyton Manning’s strengths.  A good husband will seek ways for his wife to use her talents,  for the benefit of the family and for the Kingdom of God.

So much of this falls back on the husband’s shoulders.  He is the one responsible for aligning the family’s purpose with God’s will.  This requires the husband to submit to God’s leadership.  The wife’s responsibility is then to submit to the husband’s leadership so the family can be healthy as it moves forward in God’s will.

A husband leads the family to accomplish God’s purpose.  In this leadership role he is to lean on his wife for help, advice, and encouragement.  The wife is to submit to the leadership her husband demonstrates, even when she disagrees with how he leads. Through leadership and submission husband and wife grow into the people God created them to be.  This allows God to use the family to impact the world for His Kingdom.

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