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[kind] 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 (employees today) and masters (bosses) 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 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect 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.
- 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?
- What are you doing right now to begin preparing to be a godly husband or wife as described in today’s passage?
- 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?
- 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?