Relationships – life in Christ is all about our relationships: Husbands and wives, wives and husbands, parents and children, children and parents, masters and slaves, slaves and masters. Relationships – it is all about our relationships.
Every relationship has boundaries and expectations. We are not free to do as we please for ourselves. In our relationships we must think about the good of the other person. In Ephesians 5:22-6:9, “as unto the Lord” circumscribes every relationship. That is to say, regardless of the relationship under consideration the manner in which that relationship is carried out is with respect to God. So, when a wife submits to her husband she submits to him in the same manner she submits to the Lord. She is actually looking past her husband to the Lord (Eph. 5: 24). When a man loves his wife he loves her, in the same manner as, Christ loved the church (Eph. 5: 25) . Also, when children obey their parents they are doing it to the Lord. They obey their parents in the same manner they obey the Lord (Eph. 6:1). When a slave submits to his master he does so in the same manner he submits to the Lord (Eph. 6:6). And, when a master functions over his slave he does it as his Master is head over him (Eph. 6:9). In each relationship we submit to the Lord and demonstrate our obedience to Him. Everybody in every relationship has a role of submission and corresponding responsibility.
Why are wives to submit? Because God has given you your husband to be your head (Eph.5:22-23). You bring honor to him when you submit. But, most importantly, you bring honor to God by your submission to Him. This submission is a by-product of your reverence for your husband. Submission means you serve to fulfill his wants, wishes, dreams, and will even when, and especially when, they are not yours. This kind of submission is not a result of cringing fear but of ultimate respect. The husband may not always be deserving of such respectful submission but God is.
As a counter balance, and as equally demanding, husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Further, husbands are to nourish and cherish their wives as their own flesh (Eph. 5:28-29). It is obvious by looking at a lot of husbands we love ourselves a whole lot. The question is do we submit ourselves to her wants, wishes, dreams and desires? Do we serve for her good as Christ did for us, and as we do for ourselves? There is no room for being self-willed or selfish as a man. Man up! Give yourself sacrificially for her. Be a real man. We must be willing to give our life for her. This love is proven by action and measured by sacrifice. Christ gave Himself for His bride. Why? That He might present her without spot and blemish (Eph. 5:26-27). Husbands it is not our wives responsibility to lead, guide or to make sure the family is pure. It is ours! When we so love her it is as Christ loved the church. We promote her virtue, not our own happiness. That kind of love will have no problem receiving respectful submission from the wife.
As husbands and wives we do not exist apart from Christ. We are each part of the body of which He is head. The original marriage of Adam and Eve was designed to represent the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31). The relationship between Christ and the church was under consideration in a mystery. The relationship between Christ and the church was typified with the human marriage relationship.
Marriage is regulated by divine commands. The husband must love his wife. The wife must be in subjection to her husband. They must cleave together as long as they live. It is easy for a woman to reverence a man who loves her. It is easy for a man to love a woman who respects him. She respects him because of his love. He loves her because of her respect.
Additionally, children obey your parents (Eph. 6:1-4). Why? It is right! “Obey in the Lord,” refers to an action or virtue. What action? Obedience. That is, behavior which pleases the Lord. “Honor.” Honor is a word that means to esteem or to fix value. It means we evaluate our parents accurately and honestly, and treat them with the deference, respect, reverence, kindness and courtesy they deserve simply because they are our parents. Obedience is the duty. Honor is the disposition with which we carry out that duty. It is the fifth commandment but, the first with a specific promise. The promise is twofold. First, “That it may be well with thee.” Any child that obeys his parents will be spared many troubles and mistakes. He will be spared much chastisement. The law permitted the stoning of a rebellious child (Deut. 21:18-21). God considers filial disobedience a terrible thing. Second, “Thy days may be long.” This originally referred to the privilege of dwelling in the land of Cannan. God warned Israel that if they were disobedient they would be driven out of the land (Deut. 28:36). As we apply this, the child who obeys will probably have better health, safer habits, wiser ways, and blessings of God. For the Jew these promises were connected to the promise of living in the promise land. For us, it connects us to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. For the Jew the ultimate was the promise land. For us, the ultimate is life with God. If we disrespect or fail to honor our parents it is the same as is if we disrespect and fail to honor our God.
The greatest honor I can give my parents is obedience. Honor is the ultimate of respect. That respect is shown by how I treat them. Note, this is not written to four year olds. Paul is writing to Ephesian Christians. He is telling them to obey their parents and in so doing honor them. But, the counterbalance is fathers do not provoke your child to wrath or engender bitterness. Respect begets respect. Honor receives honor.
The same thought continues to be applied to the servant/master relationship. Servants, “Be obedient according to the flesh,” that is, as is fit in human relationships. Servants be obedient “with fear and trembling,” not slavish terror but wholesome, serious caution, anxious care not to come short. Be zealous in fulfilling the responsibility of your duties. “In singleness of heart,” not merely through fear of punishment but from a principle of uprightness, serving as you would Christ. By doing service to your master you are also doing service to the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8).
Paul adds, “not with eye service.” That is not just when they are looking. The main object is not to be pleasing to men but God. How would a servant serve Christ? Only when He is watching? The mind of a servant is “how may I please my master?” That is the one thing on his mind. That is the single most important thing. A servant wants to please His Lord with all his heart. Whatever the area or act of service the servant wants to be “doing the will of God.” But for the master, his attitude must be, “I will answer to my Master for how I treat my servant. I honor my Master when I honor my servant. In so doing the master is subject to his servant” (Eph. 6:9).
Be sure, regardless of whatever our relationship, whether good or bad, we will give an account to our Master.
By Rickie Jenkins
An additional resource for marriages is a book by Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning Of Marriage