The whole theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians is illustrated in this final area of instruction. The eternal purpose of God included having a loving, intelligent, willing relationship with beings with whom He could share His very being. So the church is composed of those He elected to be His children. It has been predestinated to be a companion in the closest possible relationship known to men, the bride of Christ. This was accomplished by redemption and affirmed by the sealing of the Holy Spirit. The life of the Head is seen in the body and this relationship with Christ is illustrated and demonstrated by the church.
In order for a society of any kind to function properly, there needs to be both authority and subjection. There needs to be a functioning government in a nation that has authority to keep order among the people. There also needs to be subjection to that authority in the part of citizens to keep a society from chaos and danger. If the citizens do not accept that authority the nation will disintegrate. This same principle and practice is in every area where God has delegated authority. It is in each local assembly where delegated authority is given to elders to maintain order and contentment while fulfilling the purpose of an assembly. This same practice is to be in our homes where glad submission by the wife is given to the benevolent authority of a husband who loves her dearly.
Submission has to do with the operation of authority, not the order of it. It involves subordinating our rights to that of others. It does not mean the inferiority of one compared to another, but to the establishing and maintaining order by which life is best lived. Submission by choice of one to the other indicates even though there is equality in both persons, there are defined roles that preserve harmony and order. When each of these roles is fulfilled within the guidelines of God’s revealed will, love and respect will be promoted. In the actual practice of submission, the wife gets to submit and the husband gets to die. When a man dies to himself as is necessary in covenant relationships, his new life with his wife includes him taking effective leadership that will help to avoid disunity and friction. When a woman submits to the authority of her husband, she demonstrates the Lordship of Christ, “as unto the Lord,” and the headship of her husband. By the yielding of both to Christ, most conflicts in a marriage are avoided.
The teaching of submission has reasons that need to be addressed. There are accepted practices now, that may have been at the time Paul wrote, that do not work to preserve harmony and moral integrity. Those behavioral practices had to change in order for human relationships to work the way God intended. There is also a spiritual reason. God wanted a visible representation of Christ and His church to be seen in order that the joys of the future could be demonstrated. Eve had stepped into a leadership position when she took what was forbidden, and Adam out of love for his wife, submitted to her. That reversal of God-designated roles lead to the fall of humanity from fellowship with God. This is going to be restored again, and already the basis of this has been legally done by the death of Christ for our redemption.
The submission of a wife to her husband’s leadership exalts her role by comparing her to the church of God. The portrait of a woman in Proverbs 31 does not depict a slave whose intellect and abilities are being overlooked. Rather it shows a dignified, ambitious, gracious woman who knows who she is and what is her role in life. Her husband’s appreciation is obvious and he does not interfere by bossing her around.
Husbands are not told to keep their wives in subjection, but to demonstrate the love of Christ for the church by loving their wives in the same way. A man’s love looks at his loved one as beautiful and perfect. This is not just the external beauty of youth, but the inner beauty of the soul and spirit that he knows better as the years pass. A man loves his wife because she meets his emotional need for affection. There is also a social need for significance that comes when we experience the joys of parenthood. Physical needs as well as spiritual needs are met when a man loves his wife sacrificially. Her well-being is of primary importance to a husband who cares for his wife as he cares for his own body. The greatest price a husband can give for his wife is to sacrifice his life and all that means for her. When he does that she will have no difficulty submitting to his leadership.
There is a sanctifying love in this relationship they typifies the holy union of Christ and the church. The cleansing by the Word of God and the resulting effects of that is a living symbol in a man’s wife. The preciousness of the relationship and the value he puts on her person reveals how Christ thinks of His body. The new believers in Ephesus as well as those who God saves today need to understand this love is satisfying to both. The Lord finds delight and satisfaction in the standing of the church before Him and the church honors, obeys and worships Him. A husband finds great satisfaction in his wife because she is his wife, and he loves her. The husband’s first loyalty is to his wife, not his family. He left them when he married her. They two became one. As a man instinctively cares for his body, so he cares for his wife.
The Lord Jesus Christ instinctively cares for the church for which He died to claim for Himself. He is the Head that instinctively cares for and controls all the parts of the body. The two are merged into one effective entity. In the same way two personalities and persons are blended together in Christian marriage and become one. The motivation behind Christ’s love for the church has to do with uniting together in mutual love for the benefit of both in fellowship forever. The same is true in the husband and wife relationship for life. The husband loves his wife at all costs and the wife holds her husband in high regard and respect.