Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Submission in Marriage: Part 2 - "A Purpose in Life"

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 28 July 2006

Wives, be subject to your own husbands,
as to the Lord. For the husband is
the head of the wife, as Christ
is the head of the Church...
Ephesians 5:22

If you read novels or watch movies you know what is meant by “flashbacks.” They’re used by novelists and screenwriters who start us somewhere in the middle of a story, then pick up earlier parts of it by “flashing back” to things that occurred before the events of the opening page or scene. What happens in those first few pages or movie scenes is terribly important to the rest of the story, but might easily be missed or underrated if the story sequence was left in its usual order. Telling or portraying these significant events right away catches our attention.

Well, I feel much like a screenwriter having taken on the issue of Submission in Marriage. If any passage of Scripture raises the ire of women today, it is the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22. But it’s terribly important to the rest of the story! That’s why we’ve started there. And it really is the whole biblical drama leading up to this passage that makes it such an obviously logical command.

In June we looked at Ephesians 5 in light of the First Century culture in which Paul lived. And to further appreciate the passage, we stepped back in time to the Garden of Eden where sin entered the stage. But let’s “flash back” even further now to Creation: “So God created man in his own image… male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) We’re told throughout Scripture that we are created in God’s own image (see also Genesis 5:1, 9:6, and James 3:9), but it seems a puzzling phrase, since nowhere does the Bible give us an exact list of the characteristics that make us like God. People differ as to what it is that makes us an “image of God,” but a big part of our “imaging” God lies in our social nature, and how we interact with others and find purpose in life. But as far as imaging God, male female are identical! As for equality between the sexes? There ya’ have it!!

But the story does not end there. Midway through Chapter 2, …the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18) Here’s the eye-opening part:

The Hebrew word for “helper” as used in Genesis 2 is ‘âzar and it means to surround, i.e. protect or aid. This exact same word is used overwhelmingly in the Old Testament when referring to the person of God! It is the word we use when we speak of God as “our help and deliverer” (Psalm 70:5), or affirm that our “help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121:2). Yet we would never dream of suggesting that in referring to God as “our help” we are making him secondary and inferior to ourselves. Quite the contrary! Women were not created as secondary, less-important beings. As helpers, woman truly were created in the image of God !!

So what did God have in mind when He moved the Apostle Paul to pen the words of Ephesians 5? Was it a
mistake? Was Paul merely writing out of a background of patriarchal culture? Many people today (including many evangelical Christians) believe submission is a terrible doctrine practiced only by men on power trips to feed their egos and uneducated woman who simply don’t know any better. How wrong they are!

To begin with there is much biblical drama between Creation and Paul’s time in prison when the words of Ephesians were written. (Look for a “flash back” next month.) But for now, we need to understand that God is Sovereign and Paul’s words really are a part of the bigger picture that God had in mind from the beginning when He “created them male and female” and “saw that it was very good" (Genesis 1:27, 31).

“Being subject to” is the Greek word hupotasso. This word is comprised of two words – hupo (“to be under”) and tasso (“to draw up in order, to arrange, to designate”). Hupotasso is a military term and it means to be “ranked under.” For example, in the Army the General is ranked over the Captain, the Captain over the Lieutenant, the Lieutenant over the Sergeant, etc. Thus the wife is ranked under her husband regarding authority in the home and in their marriage. God has sovereignly ordained authority in the home so there would not be chaos but harmony.

Men and women are equally valuable to and equally loved by God (Galatians 3:28) but we each have a different purpose in life. God created the woman as a helper, but He also expects her to obey her husband because marriage is meant to mirror the holy, sweet relationship of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Just as Jesus Christ has a separate role apart and different from the Church, men and women have differing roles within the church and the home -- roles that "complement" and "complete" each other into a unified whole. What God created in the beginning and then reaffirmed through the ages as Scripture was being written has not changed today even though our culture would have us think such.

Let me leave you with an analogy. My twenty-two month old does not understand the purpose of his diaper – nor does he appreciate my interrupting his play to change it. He’d prefer to parade around naked. But one of the rules in our house is that you must wear a diaper unless and until you’re potty-trained. If we were to leave Shepard run around without a diaper – we’d have a smelly mess to say the least. Shepard just doesn’t get it! But Mark and I do. We are sovereign on the diaper issue. In precisely the same way, God is sovereign on the submission issue. He has set rules for us that we don’t like or fully understand….And what a world of mess when the rules are broken or bent or misinterpreted. Next month: Genesis 3:16 – Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?
- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
(This article originally appeared in Windows -The montly church-news & ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)

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