Sunday, October 21, 2012

Husbands and Wives, Part II

As we begin to go deeper into this passage -- and I say "we" because I am on this journey of discovery, and since you are reading this, you have joined me -- in addition to the Scriptures cited as the basis of understanding from Part I, we must be mindful that Paul is speaking to the relationship of husbands and wives in the verses which follow, and not making a blanket statement of society.  This is about the home, and more specifically, the home of believers in Christ -- those who have been born-again.

Ephesians 5:21-23
21 submitting yourselves to each other in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. 23 Because a husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and himself the savior of the body. ACV

21 υποτασσομενοι αλληλοις εν φοβω χριστου 22 αι γυναικες τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν ως τω κυριω 23 οτι ανηρ εστιν κεφαλη της γυναικος ως και ο χριστος κεφαλη της εκκλησιας αυτος σωτηρ του σωματος WHNU

The word that gets to any of us is the word "submit", in this passage a translation of the Greek word υποτασσω.  This word is a compound word using a preposition to add emphasis (remember early in the study I talked about the rise of expressiveness in the Greek language with the increased use of prepositions in sentences and compounding words).  The word υποτασσω comes from υπο, the preposition meaning "under, below", and τασσω, meaning "to put in place, to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint".  Combined into υποτασσω, the word means, "to arrange under, to subordinate, to subject; to submit (in the middle voice, as used in the passage being examined), to yield oneself to".

This word, υποτασσω, in the middle voice, first describes our relationship to Christ -- the relationship all believers equally share, and to one another, as equal members of the body of Christ.  There is a sense of humility conveyed for all.

The focus now shifts to the home, "Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord."  It can rightfully be said, though out of context, that αι γυναικες is translated in its most common use as "women".  That is indeed the primary use of the noun, but its immediate secondary use, as will be seen in a moment, is "wives". It is "wives" specifically here because the indirect object to which it is immediately linked: τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν, literally, "to your own men", which is a reference to wives and husbands, of course.  Now, I have heard this second use of the word "submit" (in verse 22) addressed in many ways, including that it means something different than the first use (in verse 21). Nothing could be further from the truth.  The verb is "present" in the sense that it is borrowed from verse 21.  Literally, it the context of its composition (remember, there are no verse numbers in the original texts), verse 22 reads "the wives to their own men in the same manner as to the Lord", the idea of submission being carried forward from verse 21, validated by the phrase "in the same manner as to the Lord".

Now, this is not to say that women are "second class" -- such thinking is a violation of Galatians 3:28.  Paul is writing about the home -- the Christian home.  The idea that God's order for the home as conveyed here is 1) the man is the head, 2) the woman is his second-in-command, is perfectly consistent with Genesis 2:18.  Verse 23 reinforces this idea, "Because a husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and himself the savior of the body" Just as we, as believers work together with Christ to carry out His work, and sometimes we pray for something or try to work on our own plans (good plans though they may be, but perhaps not His plans).  The things for which we pray or perhaps the plans on which we work do not work out as we expect.  We do not complain to Christ that He was wrong; rather, we accept what has happened and seek to deepen our understanding and try to move forward in bettering our knowledge of His will.  

The husband and wife work together, but the responsibility of the home ultimately falls to the man, and the woman was created to help him in his responsibilities, as his confidant, trusted adviser, key supporter -- he needs her wisdom and insights (Genesis 2:18).  I am fond of the expression "Decisions are judgments made among dissenting opinions".  This implies that decisions involve disagreements, different viewpoints.  The husband and wife will disagree many times, but a decision is required, and must be made.  Sometimes the man goes with his opinion, sometimes he is persuaded to the wife's viewpoint.  No matter which decision is taken, the wife supports the husband's decision, because God holds the man accountable for all decisions concerning the home. Even if the husband goes along with his wife's idea against his better judgment, God does not let him shift the blame (remember Adam tried, "...the woman YOU gave me...").  God holds the woman responsible to support her husband -- both during the decision-making process and after the decision is made -- this is the role He intends for her in the home, and the role Paul is reiterating.

So yes, the wife is to submit to her husband in the full meaning of the word, because God holds her husband ultimately responsible, and the husband needs the wife to fulfill that role of confidant and trusted adviser, so that he can make the best decisions possible, and live out the outcomes, together, regardless.

Next, in Part III, the man's role is more clearly articulated...

Grace and peace,