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 4: "New Testament, New Covenant, New Rules"

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 04 October 2006

Have you looked through any old magazines lately? (Like any of us even have time to flip through an October 2006 magazine!!) I’m talking about the kind of magazines you see in antique stores and rummage sales and old bookstores, or the kind for whatever reason you have hanging around in a closet or the attic? Have you noticed how women used to be portrayed? …A mother rocking a baby, a woman in an apron preparing dinner, a woman reading a storybook to her children. You might even see a woman doing laundry or working in the dirt of her vegetable garden or sewing clothes. Sound a little like a Proverbs 31 Woman? Or does is just sound foreign? If you do find time to look at that 2006 magazine, this is not the kind of woman you’ll see. That’s because the Proverbs 31 Woman is not the kind of woman that is applauded by our 2006 culture. That’s sad.

By the way, the Book of Proverbs describes other women too. There’s a description of an adulteress who “flatters with her lips.” There’s described a woman who walks out on her husband and destroys the marriage. There’s the adulteress whose “lips drip honey” and there’s the smooth-tongued woman who hunts for a man only to destroy him. We’ve also got the noisy woman, the foolish woman, the rebellious woman, the quarrelsome woman and a few other assorted kinds. Incidentally, this whole section on women in Proverbs is an instruction manual from a Jewish mother to her son on how to find a wife! It’s only when we reach Chapter 31, do we come across the excellent woman.

With that in mind, let’s go back to Ephesians 5:22. We’ve been stuck on this matter of submission (“Wives, be subject to you own husband…”) for some time now. Somehow, all these examples of women in the Book of Proverbs must have a part in the whole submission thing. If you’ve been keeping up, you know that this whole doctrine of submission started with an Apple! It has been said that the longest war ever raged in the history of civilization is the war that goes on between husbands and wives. And it sounds like some of those women in Proverbs had the war down to a science. It started in the Garden of Eden with that Apple and it continues today. We will never eliminate male oppression of women and we will never eliminate female rebellion towards men. Therefore, we’ll never eliminate conflict in marriage. Now, the question comes: Is the answer really as simple as Biblical Submission? Let’s find out. In Ephesians 5:18 there is a really important principle: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” If you’re a “child of the 60’s,” you’ll remember the whole notion that if you wanted a transcendental religious experience, you needed to become drunk or high, and that catapulted you into some euphoria that connected you with deities. I admit, I’m not into current “spiritual” fads, but I’m certain there is something equivalent out there today. But the Apostle Paul is saying something quite different here. He says get filled with the Spirit of God. The Greek language here paints a picture of being “controlled.” It’s not a mystical experience. It simply means to “be controlled by.” If someone is filled with anger, they are controlled by anger. If someone is filled with depression and sadness, they are controlled by depression and sadness. If we’re filled with God’s Spirit, we are controlled by Him!

Any Oprah fans out there? (Confession: I used to listen to her on the radio while driving home from work.) A few years back she went on this “Attitude of Gratitude” campaign – encouraging people to keep journals of thankfulness and “spiritual” insight. It was an incredible idea, but not based on true gratitude towards God our Creator. If we are controlled by God’s Spirit and filled with gratitude for Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us, we absolutely have the possibility of reversing that ancient Old Testament curse that stems from that Apple!

No big theology lesson here… but once again, Christ has diminished the power of sin! The New Testament is all about the New Covenant and God’s Grace and the power available to us through His Holy Spirit. As women, we are no longer bound by the crazy and bizarre laws of the Old Testament. Want to read about some of those bizarre rules imposed by oppressive men? See Exodus 21:7-11,22; Leviticus 12; Leviticus 15:19-33; Leviticus 20: 10-21, and Deuteronomy 22:5, 13-30. I think you’ll agree that being controlled by God’s Spirit is a lot less bizarre.

As wives, submission should come easy if we are filled with the Spirit. (I’m not saying it is easy or that I am living up to my own words by walking in the Spirit every moment of my marriage with Mark. Ask him!!) But when we are filled with God’s Spirit, filled with worship, filled with thanks, filled with reverence for Christ, it naturally follows that we are going to be subject to our husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). It’s our duty. And the Proverbs 31 ideal is something we will aspire toward. I’ve heard some women say they yearn to be that excellent woman of Proverbs 31. Remember: Ephesians 5 does not tell us that we are to obey our husbands. That’s reserved for children and servants in Chapter 6. The husband-wife relationship is different. It’s not a commanding and obeying motif. It’s an intimate, inward kind of thing. And that’s why it says, “…be subject to your own husbands.” There’s intimacy there and a desire for excellence. -
-- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
(This article originally appeared in Windows - The monthly church-news & ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)

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