Equal Yet Different (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Men and women are spiritual equals. Both genders are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 tells us this plainly: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” As Christians, both men and women are saved by the blood of Christ and neither is better than the other in any way. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we are given examples of godly women whose faith the Lord recognized and honored (Ruth, Deborah, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Priscilla, to name some of the most famous). Jesus always valued women during His earthly ministry and broke many cultural expectations when he approached them as spiritually significant individuals, such as His bold conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Clearly, the Bible shows that every man, woman, and child matters to God, who shows no partiality (favoritism) based on gender, ethnicity, or money.

So what is Paul talking about in today’s passage? He tells wives to “submit to” and “respect” their husbands. He tells the husbands that they are the “head” of their wives and that they must “love” their wives sacrificially. He likens the relationship to Christ (the husband) and the church (the wife). Paul writes that husbands ought to “nourish and cherish” their wives in the way that Jesus does His church, while wives are to be “subject…to their own husbands in everything.” Does this teaching contradict the teachings of the other verses above?

No, they work together in harmony. What Paul is describing is different functions or roles for husbands and wives in family relationships. God made Adam first as the leader of the family and Eve next as Adam’s helper. Neither is better than the other in essence or spirit, but the husband was given the job of head of the family. He should lead his wife lovingly and graciously, while she should respectfully follow his lead. This is similar to (though not exactly the same as) the different roles of children and parents that will be discussed in Ephesians 6:1-4 and the different roles of servants and masters in Ephesians 6:5-8. No one is spiritually or essentially better than anyone else in God’s family, but people are given different roles and responsibilities so that businesses and families will run smoothly in ways that honor the Lord.

The Text (Ephesians 5:21-33)

21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Questions to Think About

As middle and high school students, you are not yet married. However, now is the time for you study God’s teachings on marriage and the family. It is also time to allow God to train and prepare you for your future biblical roles in your own families.

  1. Do you have any questions or concerns about today’s teaching from Ephesians? Have you talked to your parents, teachers, or youth pastors about the issues of marriage and gender roles?
  2. What are you doing right now to begin preparing to be a godly husband or wife as described in today’s passage?
  3. What kinds of conflicts might occur in a marriage when husbands do not show love to their wives and when wives do not show respect to their husbands?
  4. Are there any Christian couples in your life who model biblical manhood and womanhood as taught in this passage? Are you taking the opportunity to learn from their examples?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

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