Thoughts on Ephesians 5:22-6:9 – Substance and Shadows

The message of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is particularly challenging in the increasingly egalitarian American church and entirely egalitarian American culture. How are we to teach within the church the truth that God has created men and women, husbands and wives, with distinctive, God-given roles, when the sexual confusion of our culture does all it can to destroy all boundaries and eliminate all distinctions? We need to begin by pointing to the truth that human relationships were never meant to be the substance of the matter, but from the beginning, they were always to be shadows pointing to the truth. When we think that human relationships are social structures or norms that we have created, then they will always be up for revision. But when we realize the truth that human relationships are not the end in and of themselves, but point to a greater truth, then we will be careful to order them accordingly.

So where do we begin teaching this truth in the church in the midst of so much confusion? We begin by pointing to the substance. Take Ephesians 5:22-6:9 as an example. Before we begin teaching about the roles God has established within these relationships, we must first teach the truths to which these relationships point. If you are a Christian, you are first and foremost, and always, a slave, a child and a wife. If you are a Christian, regardless of your occupational position, you are first and foremost, and always, a servant of Christ. If you are a Christian, regardless of your familial status, you are first and foremost, and always, a child of God. And if you are Christian, regardless of your marital status, you are first and foremost. and always, the bride of Christ. These are the most important roles in our lives that we must understand first. We must first come to understand the glad submission and humble joy that comes from being a servant of God, a child of God, and the bride of Christ. Now, it is also true that God will use these earthly relationships to teach us about our heavenly relationship. But ultimately, as Christians, we must be allow our relationship with God, revealed most clearly in the Word, to inform and instruct us in how we are to conduct our relationships here on earth. As Christians, we must be realize that our relationships on earth, especially these three, are a visual representation to the world of our relationship with God and, therefore, it is our duty and our privilege, whether you are a husband or a wife, a father or a son, a master or a servant, to humbly and truthfully live out the roles that God has given us. Knowing these truths, Paul writes,

5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

6:9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

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