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Ephesians XIX: The Splendor of Submission I - Ephesians 5:22-33

Times have changed: back when Paul wrote Eph. 5:22-33, everyone would have nodded their heads as he exhorted wives to submit to their own husbands, and everyone would have cocked their heads to the side when he called husbands to love their wives. Their struggle was to submit to Christ’s command to love their wives, giving themselves for them, nourishing and cherishing them as their own bodies.

Today, it’s just the opposite: everyone expects husbands to love their wives, but the call to submission is seen as strange, or odd, or even repressive and cruel. Times have changed, but people haven’t changed, and the Word of God stands forever, and so whichever aspects of God’s Word a culture finds challenging, the call to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ remains constant as we all submit to the word of the Lord Jesus.

God’s example of loving headship and willing submission here in Ephesians is found in Christ and the Church: Christ the head loved the Church, and so He gives Himself for her, and as the Church submits to Christ, v.27 says that her splendor is revealed. But unless Christ leads her into sanctification, and unless she submits to His headship, she remains covered in spots, wrinkles, and blemishes.

Marriage differs from the relationship of Christ and the Church in that both parties in a marriage need to be sanctified, but the big idea that Paul points to is that God has designed marriage to reflect the gospel by calling the husband to imitate Christ’s self-giving headship, and the wife to live out the Church’s respectful submission. The love of self-giving headship and the response of respectful submission bring out the full splendor of a marriage relationship, and a splendid marriage is a powerful picture of the gospel that’s worth leaving your father and mother for!

But we all know that marriage is not always easy. Sometimes, for a husband to give himself for his wife means going down a path that involves tremendous personal pain and sacrifice, pain and sacrifice that could be avoided if you as a husband choose to love yourself more than your wife. Sometimes, wives, submitting means honoring and supporting your husband even when you are confident that his plan will not turn out well for you. If you do what you think is best, you can avoid shame and suffering, but if you submit it will be very hard for you.

So as we think about the challenges of self-sacrificial love and submission, it’s helpful to remember that this is no different than the story of Christ and the Church! Remember that Jesus had to lay down His will and even His life to redeem and cleanse His bride, and as soon as Jesus told His disciples that He needed to go to Jerusalem and be killed that they opposed His plan. This is the story of every marriage, because before you get to the splendor, you have to deal with the spots and wrinkles and blemishes. The splendor is a promise that we see by faith; marriage only works by grace through faith.

Husband, you need to believe God that giving yourself for your wife will lead to glory. Wife, you need to trust Jesus that submission will result in splendor. Remember, the great wedding supper of Christ and His bride only comes after death and resurrection, and at times, self-giving love and respectful submission will lead you to a kind of death.

But the promise of the gospel is that going to death with Jesus, for Jesus’ sake, always leads to resurrection life and eternal glory. Wives, when you submit to your own husbands out of reverence for Christ, and husbands, when you give yourself for your wife in love out of reverence for Christ, then Jesus crowns your efforts with glory. If you do not have reverence for Christ as your Lord, then submission and sacrificial love will make no sense to you. But if Christ is your Lord, you will trust Him when He says that this is how He prepares the Church for splendor. And as you trust Him, you will start to see that splendor by faith in your own marriage as you wait for the full splendor of marriage to be displayed at the great wedding supper of the Lamb.

Posted on Thursday, October 24, 2019 by CJ Bowen