(Ephesians 5:21) Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Paul wrote about the importance of Christians serving Jesus Christ and one another, because they loved and wanted to honor Jesus Christ by the way they lived. Loving Christ and wanting to glorify Christ can be the best motive for humbling ourselves in service to others, instead of trying to decide if others are worthy of our serving them. Paul carefully insisted that the example of Jesus Christ should serve as the standard for how we love and treat one another, especially in the Church and family. When Jesus Christ becomes the standard for how we treat others, and when we treat others as we would if Jesus Christ were with us and we were serving Him, we will not abuse or tempt others to do wrong.
(Ephesians 5:22) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Paul told men, women, and children to live as obedient subjects of Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ ruled over them as their loving Lord and Savior. When wives live subject to the Lord Jesus, they will obey the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus will only tell them to do what is best for others and themselves. Paul did not command or expect wives to be subject to or obey their husbands when their husbands wanted them to do something contrary to the will of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. Once again, Jesus Christ serves as our example. Though Jesus Christ was God, as the Son of God, Jesus remained subject to His heavenly Father. Wives (and all men and women) should live subject to the will of Jesus Christ (especially if they are Christians!). When husbands and wives are both subject to doing the will of God and, therefore, living in obedience to Jesus Christ, it should be easier for wives to be subject to their Christian husbands. When husbands and wives are subject to one another out of reverence for Christ, both should find happiness in serving and meeting the needs of each other.
(Ephesians 5:23) 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.
Jesus Christ saved the Church; therefore, all who trust in Jesus Christ bow before Him as their Lord and Savior. The Church is the body of Christ on Earth. Christ is the head or the director of His body, the Church. He requires what is best for everyone in His Church, and His teachings in the Bible serve as the standard for every Christian’s life. In a similar way, the husband should treat his wife as Christ treats His Church by trying to do what is best for her (the Bible calls the Church the Bride of Christ see Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9, 22:17). The wife should be subject to her husband in the Lord, which means the wife is not required to obey her husband in disobedience to Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of both husband and wife; indeed, the Lord of the universe. The wife does not need to do what she knows is against the will of God, Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures. In a Christian family, disagreements can become points for discussion and prayer, not rebelliousness. Under the lordship of Jesus Christ, decisions can be reached that will meet the true needs of everyone in a family.
(Ephesians 5:24) Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Paul gave guidance on how to have a loving, harmonious, peaceful, and successful Christian marriage. A wise Christian husband will not ask his wife to do anything contrary to the will of Christ. When a Church subjects herself to the will of Christ according to the Bible, she will behave as she should. When the Christian husband subjects himself to Jesus Christ according to the Bible, he will behave as he should, as Jesus Christ would have him act. To maintain order in a family and avoid continuous disagreeable arguments, a Christian wife needs to be subject to the final decisions (when all discussion is over) of her Christian husband, unless his decisions are contrary to the Bible’s teachings. If they disagree, they need to go to the Lord in prayer for Him to reveal His will to them; if they still disagree, the wife should subject herself to the will of her husband, who should be trying to do what is best for his wife and family. The Christian husband should not be a tyrant or a dictator but give his wife and family good and sufficient reasons for his final decisions.
(Ephesians 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Paul set a high standard for husbands by telling them to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Wives will be happier and find it easier to live subject to the decisions of their husbands when their husbands love them in ways that are apparent to them and consistent with the way Christ loves His Church. Husbands need to give themselves to their wives to serve them, just as Christ gave himself to save and serve us, His Church.
(Ephesians 5:26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Christ gave himself to us, His Church, in order to improve our lives, in order to give us eternal life, prepare us for heaven, and train us to reign in His coming kingdom. Likewise, husbands should give themselves to their wives in order to improve their lives and their family. When a Christian wife understands that the decisions of her Christian husband are his best efforts to do what is best for them, it is easier for them to be subject to their husbands. Obeying the word of Christ will cleanse a Church and make a Church holy. Obeying the word of Christ will renew and bring happiness to a family.
(Ephesians 5:27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Jesus loved and served the Church to make the Church beautiful and perfect in His presence, morally and spiritually beautiful and perfect. Someday, those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation will receive perfectly glorified human bodies and minds that will honor Him. Likewise, Christian husbands need to do all they can in their decision-making regarding their families so everyone may be motivated to come to faith in Christ and live as Jesus Christ intends—holy and without blemish. A Christian husband should never ask his wife or children to do anything that would be unholy or bring a moral or spiritual blemish upon their lives.
(Ephesians 5:28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
Christian husbands will love their own bodies and not do anything to their bodies and minds that may bring them physical, mental, moral, or spiritual harm. Likewise, Christian husbands will love their wives and not do or say anything to them that will bring them into or lead them into physical, mental, moral, or spiritual harm.
(Ephesians 5:29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
Those who walk in darkness hate their bodies and themselves. Because they walk in darkness, they do what they think will give them pleasure or meet their self-centered needs, though these actions will destroy them and hurt others. Those who walk in the light will nourish and care for themselves and others (their husbands, wives, children, families) as Christ cares for the Church, His Body on Earth.
(Ephesians 5:30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Jesus Christ treats us the way He does because as Christians we are members of His Body, the Church. What He does for and to each Christian individually is for their best interests and the best interests of others inside and outside the Church. What Christ does for and to the whole Church is what is best for each part of His body as well as the whole Body. What Christ requires of Christians is best for each part of the Christian’s body, as well as what is best for all those a Christian loves and serves.
(Ephesians 5:31) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
When a man and woman unite in a Christian marriage, they become one body; they are joined together at every level of their being so whatever helps or hurts the other influences the other. Whatever helps or hurts the wife, helps or hurts the husband and whatever helps or hurts the husband helps or hurts the wife. The two become one body, and as Christians they become members of the Body of Christ, with Christ serving as the head of them both.
(Ephesians 5:32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Paul used a true Christian marriage to illustrate the relationship Jesus Christ has with His Church. We do not understand all the facts related to a Christian marriage and Christ and His Church—Paul called this relationship a great mystery. Whatever anyone does or says in the Church influences each person in the Church, including Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. Whatever a husband and wife does influences a Christian marriage and their family, whether they know this truth or not.
(Ephesians 5:33) Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
In summary, Paul continued to use our Christian relationship with Jesus Christ to illustrate the Christian relationship between a husband and the wife. Jesus Christ loves His Father and His Church, His Body. Likewise, a husband should love God and their wives as they love themselves by considering her needs as equal to or more important than his needs. One way a Christian wife can love her husband is by showing him respect, especially when they have discussions and make decisions. Husbands who love their wives as themselves should receive the respect of their wives.
(Ephesians 6:1) Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
As Paul continued his discussion of Christian marriage and the family, Paul told children to obey their parents “in the Lord;” that is, when their parents commanded them to do what is physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually right according to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Bible, the Word of God. Paul did not command immoral or unlawful obedience of parents or anyone else. The Bible is the objective moral and spiritual standard for obeying anyone “in the Lord,” whether father, mother, employer, teacher, other official, or any person “in authority.” Understanding this, we need to remember that there can be consequences in this world when we obey God rather than a parent, some other person, a group, or a government in authority. Paul and the apostles were thrown in prison. Some Christians were eaten by lions. In today’s world, we might lose a job or our own lives.
(Ephesians 6:2) Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
Children are to honor their Christian parents. If nonbelieving parents are acting dishonorably, children are not to follow their example, for this would not be honoring to God in Christ. When children love their parents and try to serve them as Christian children following Jesus’ teachings and example, then they will receive the promise of a long life—certainly eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. They may honor their parents by treating them as Christ would treat them, which might lead them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. They might serve them as they might serve Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:3) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Paul referred to the Bible, the Old Testament Scriptures (Exodus 20:12), as the inerrant and objective authority for this teaching about marriage and the family. Many Christians can testify to the truth of this Bible promise. The Spirit of Jesus Christ can enable all those who trust in Him to obey the moral law of God, to love God and their neighbor, to love and honor their parents “in the Lord.”
(Ephesians 6:4) And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Because a parent or child may mistakenly think that a child is to obey a parent no matter what the parent commands, Paul referred again to the fact that a father’s primary obligation is to bring up his children in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” A parent should never ask a child to do anything contrary to or inconsistent with the discipline and instruction of the Lord as revealed in the Bible as led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never contradict what the Bible teaches, but the Holy Spirit will help us interpret and do what the Bible teaches. All fathers need to study the Bible and pray for the Holy Spirit to help them interpret and apply the Bible’s teachings in ways that will help them bring the discipline and the instruction of the Bible to their children that Jesus Christ would want them to bring to their children.
1. What does it mean to be subject to someone? What does it mean to be “subject to one another”? What reason does Paul give why Christians ought to be “subject to one another”?
2. Why do you think some people reject the Biblical role of wives that Paul described in Ephesians?
3. What does “be subject . . . as you are to the Lord” mean to you?
4. How do you think Jesus Christ being the Savior of the church effects how He relates to the church as “head of the church”?
5. How should husbands love their wives?
See Study Hints for Discussion and Thinking Further to Help Answer The Above Five Questions.
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
When Paul wrote about the Church and described how Church members ought to live, he insisted that Jesus Christ is, or at least ought to be, the Head of the Church. As the Savior and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ directs and gives life to the Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth. Without a head, a human body soon becomes lifeless and begins to decay. When a congregation or leaders and members of a church begin to disregard or disobey Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church, their church soon becomes lifeless and begins to decay, and too often that church does not recognize what others see and smell. For this reason, some church historians have distinguished between the “visible church,” the buildings and the people that bear the label “Christian,” from the “invisible Church” (that they often spell with a capital “C”), where Jesus Christ remains the Savior and the Head of gathered Christians. Jesus Christ “nourishes and tenderly cares” for the Church just as Christians nourish and care for their bodies (Ephesians 5:29). Out of reverence for Christ, members of the Church love and obey Jesus Christ and His commands. Each member in the Church loves the other members as they love themselves; moreover, they love one another as Jesus Christ loves them and loves His Church. As Christians worship God and turn to Jesus Christ as their Lord, they obey the Bible, the Word of God written, which cleanses them from sin and makes them holy: in this way the Church “may be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Therefore, in the Church, Christians love, respect, and seek to serve one another.— LG Parkhurst Jr.
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