This weeks sermon application post was written by Victoria Wilson. You can view the sermon here.
If you’re like me, you probably think important questions are worth a Google.
Some of the Google searches I’ve conducted recently fell along these lines:
- Fun activities to do with my kids.
- How to succeed at work.
- Ways to improve your marriage.
- Easy date night ideas.
- Overwhelmed mom self care.
- Home organization tips.
You might see the similarities between these phrases; I want to be the best and happiest wife, mom and employee. But do you know what the Bible says is the biggest hindrance to my relationships? Not being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Relationships demonstrate our Spirit-filledness.
“The lack of being Spirit-filled shows up in your relationships,” our pastor said.
In Sunday’s sermon, this weight hit me like a ton of bricks. While I listened, I felt like I was in a desert, thirsty for water, and trying desperately to soak up every ounce of lifegiving words that flowed from the Word of God. I was laid bare, I knew I’d been trying to juggle my way into a better home and work life, but the balls have continued to fall flat on my face. My real problem is that I’m not filled by Spirit.
And maybe this is true of you, too.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21
These verses precede the text of our week’s message:
“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24
So what we must understand is that the directives in Ephesians 5 must and can only flow from the reality of Chapter 4 Verses 18-21. Only when our minds are meditating on the Word of God, being in Christian community with one another, singing songs, and giving thanks – this is being filled with the Spirit – can wives submit to their husbands. (And, as we will learn soon, can husbands be servant leaders to their wives.)
Submit? Isn’t that, like, so 1950s?
Culture often influences our understanding of marriage. Just take a quick look at the news headlines in 2019 and you will see that marriage is defined as whatever two people want it to be. But what does the Bible say?
To be sure, the Bible’s boundary lines of marriage are radical in our own day and age, as well as to its original hearers.
The word ‘submit’ used in these verses is a military term. It means to relinquish one’s rights to another. Soldiers give up their slow mornings, favorite meals, and civilian life to win the war. And much like the soldier, when a wife submits (relinquishes) her rights it is for the greater good. She submits to her husband to gain victory. And what is the victory, exactly?
Christian wives who submit to their husbands aren’t modeling a Stepford Wife, 1950s, dinner-on-the-table-by-5 form of submission. Wives take up their mantel from the Lord Jesus. As the Church – men and women – submit to Christ, so wives submit to their husbands. And Jesus himself, the only person who can demand complete and total submission, submitted His will to the will of His Father…for the greatest good of all time. As Jesus laid aside his preferences, to not be subject to an excruciating, humiliating death on the cross (Luke 22:41-44) but to submit to the will of God, a wife can cheerfully submit to her husband as a picture of the same.
Submission, not coercion.
An important note about submission is that submission does not equate to coercion. To choose to submit is a voluntary decision. Submission, or a bending of one’s will, cannot be demanded by the other party. Christian submission is always freely granted, eyes wide open, trusting and honoring the Lord.
I fear and grieve that husbands might have gotten away with abuse under the guise of Ephesians 5. This is a contorting of the text and not at all what God intended. Ephesians 5 is not a proof text for a husband to weigh his wife down with demands. It is an opportunity for love, as we will see as we explore this text further.
Is a Husband’s authority absolute?
Husbands do not have absolute authority over their wives because only GOD commands and deserves absolute authority. God is always kind, loving, and gentle. A husband’s authority is not and cannot be absolute because the husband is not perfect as God is perfect.
Contribute to Human Flourishing
The family is the first institution God put together. And families contribute to human flourishing by living as a Spirit-filled unit, carrying out The Great Commission on Earth.
Culture will always be at odds with Christianity. (If you look through time, a favorable cultural opinion of Christianity is more the exception than the norm.) Just as Stephen did not stop preaching the truth before the Sanhedrin when he was on trial (Acts 4), so Christians cannot stop speaking the truth about the design of marriage. Nor should married Christians stop displaying the Gospel through mutual love and submission in Spirit-filled pictures of Christ and His Church.
So, what next? What should the person who wants his or her marriage to point to Christ crucified do? Buy a book? Take a class? Go on a retreat?
Those may not be bad resources for marriage. But the main meal, the substance, the nutrition, the health comes from being full of the Spirit. Christian, it’s time to feast on the Word! Be filled with the Spirit!