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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Christ as a model for submission

We are all familiar with the admonition in Ephesians 5:22-33 for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and for wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.  A marriage that functions biblically is a beautiful picture of the gospel relationship between Christ and the church.

Some wives, perhaps under the influence of an increasingly liberal culture, may feel as if they are getting the raw end of that metaphor.  “Husbands get to emulate Christ, while wives only emulate the church.”  We may read into that metaphor a natural superior/inferior kind of relationship.  Christ certainly is superior to the church…He is the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Heb 1:2) and He is before all things (Col 1:17).  But we should not deduce from the fact that Christ is superior to the church that the husband is superior to the wife.

The Bible teaches that men and women are both created in the image of God (Gen 1:27).  If men and women are equal in bearing the image of God, men and women must also be equal in value and personhood, for the value of man, as opposed to the rest of creation, is tied to his being created in God’s image (Gen 9:1-7).  Where men and women are different is in their God-given roles.  In the home, God has given the husband the role of loving headship and the wife the role of submissive helper.  We should never allow these different roles to lead us to regard one as more important or valuable than the other.

Did you know that there is authority and submission within the Godhead? The Son submits to the Father (John 8:28-29) and the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son (John 14:26, 16:7).  Yet, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one essence in three persons, that each member of the Trinity is co-equal, each is fully God.  Equality within the Godhead is perfectly compatible with authority/submission within the Godhead.  It is only our fallen minds that would infer form an authority/submission relationship that one party must be superior in value to the others.

Paul uses the relationship between the Father and Son to help us understand the relationship between husband and wife. 1 Corinthians 11:3 reads, But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  The word “head” is a reference to authority. If Christ is the head of every man, He has authority over every man and every man is to submit to Him. Paul shows this to be parallel with the husband and wife and with the Father and Christ.  The head of the wife is her husband as the head of Christ is God. Therefore, the wife is to submit to her husband as Christ submits to God. 

That puts a magnificent face on the concept of submission, doesn’t it? Jesus Christ, Creator and Lord of all things, submits to authority.  He is equal with the Father and He submits to Him.  In the gospel of John, Jesus says explicitly that He came to the earth because the Father sent Him, which obviously implies submission to authority (John 5:37; 6:44, 57; 8:16, 18, 42;12:49; 17:21, 25; 20:21).  He also indicated that it was His joy to submit to the Father; He did not regard it as demeaning or loathesome (John 17:1-26; Heb 12:1-2).  He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me…” (John 4:34).

So, the wife has two biblical examples of godly submission.  She may emulate the church in her submission to Christ, and she may emulate Christ in His submission to the Father.  And contrary to what our world would say to the Christian wife who aspires to godly submission, she is not demeaned in doing so.  In fact, we could say that she is never more like Christ than when she lovingly and joyfully submits to her husband. 

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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