After I retired, I was invited to join a group of men who meet every Monday for fellowship and Bible study, and I have made an effort since then to attend every Monday. We are currently studying Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The last two weeks we have been in the 5th chapter, verses 22 -33. Yes, the dreaded portion of scripture that talks about marriage and in our PC society is often ignored or ridiculed by even the church. The dirty word “submit” is used, and thus, in the minds of many, equality is trashed.
Paul is often seen as a hater (or in the nicest way to put it, a dis respecter) of women and their rights. But if you read all of Paul’s letters with an open mind, you will find that this is not true. We just don’t hear this section of Scripture talked or written about very often today. In the feminist and Me Too movements with their all-out efforts to destroy what they call the patriarchy, combined with the fear of a backlash from the cancel culture, the true message that Paul is sharing has been completely lost. That message is found in verses 32 and 33. I quote them below in reverse order:
“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.
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
The imagery of the church being the bride of Christ is prevalent throughout the New Testament. The imagery of Israel as the bride of God is prevalent throughout the Old Testament, with the symbolism of sin by the Jewish nation being called adultery and harlotry. The story of Hosea and Gomer, the Song of Solomon, and many more examples too numerous to list all speak to this relationship. Not many will argue that point. If that be true, then what is the problem? The problem is found in that little word underlined in verse 33: RESPECT!
The husband is commanded to love his wife. The Greek here is agape, the love that is sacrificial, giving of oneself, caring for the other more than oneself. The wife is commanded to respect, the Greek here is phobeo, from which we get the word phobia, which means to fear, to be frightened or alarmed. I can just hear all the women now shouting,”SEE, SEE, we told you this was bad.” But like many words in the Greek, phobeo has a moral and religious usage, and that is the way Paul uses this word. When used in this manner, it means to stand in awe of, to reverence, to honor, to have adoration for. How do we know Paul’s intention is to use it in this way? Because of verse 32, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”
Paul understood that 1) any covenant relationship begins with God, and marriage is a covenant relationship; and 2) there can be no covenant without respect. We live in a world where the word “love” is thrown around very loosely. In the English language, we use only one word. The typical way would be translated either eros or phileo in the Greek, but definitely not agape. Truth is, we don’t see in action or hear the word “respect” much anymore. You see, this whole section of Scripture is NOT JUST about us. It trickles down to us, but it is primarily about the church’s relationship with Christ. We as the bride (or in this case the wife) of Christ are commanded to RESPECT Christ. We are commanded to phobeo Christ, to stand in awe of, to reverence, to honor, to have adoration for Christ.
You will hear people say,”We show this respect by loving Christ and loving people.” Yet again, which word for love are we really using? In the church today there are many Christians who are attempting to love Christ without respecting Him. We light the candles. We make sure the proper liturgical colors are shown or worn. We pray and recite the proper liturgy. We quote the Scriptures that make us appear holy. We preach a social gospel that proclaims guilt for sins we may or may not have committed, and justification by admitting those sins and allowing ourselves to be oppressed by a love for humanity instead of the love, agape, of Christ and from Christ. This form of Christianity is actually powerless and loveless. Can we truly say that we respect Christ when we challenge the authority of His word? Can we truly say that we respect Christ when we love him with the same love that causes 55% of first marriages to end in divorce, with 67% of second marriages and 78% of third marriages ending the same way? Can we truly say we respect Christ when we say to a holy, righteous and just Savior, “Thanks for Your redeeming work on the cross, but it is not about what You did, but it is about us. If You want me to receive You as my Lord and Savior, then You have to recreate Yourself in my image!”
Paul understood something that the world is completely void of and that the church is working very hard to ignore. This is that real love, agape love, comes down from above. We can’t love Christ with the love of the world. We can’t truly love one another with the love of the world. This is why the husband (Christ), is commanded to love, and the wife (the church) is commanded to respect.
The apostle John is called the apostle of love. We see evidence of this in his Gospel, but it really comes to the forefront in his letters. Yet, like the positions of husband and wife, love and whence it comes also has a position. In 1 John 4:10 John says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Love, agape love, comes down from The Father through Christ to us – not the other way around. All we can do is be recipients of that love, and to receive that love, we have to first have respect for the Son. We must first be in awe of Him: in awe of the authority of His Word; in awe of Who He is as the only begotten Son of the Father; in awe of His teachings; in awe of His redeeming, healing, and forgiving power; in awe of His finished work on the cross; in awe of His resurrection, which means our justification; in awe of His position at the right hand of the Father – sitting, which means the work for our salvation and the salvation of the whole world is complete. We are to reverence Him, reverence His holiness, His righteousness, His grace, mercy, and loving kindness. We are to honor Him with a transformed heart and a life filled with and led by the Holy Spirit manifesting His love. That is, not imitating His love but manifesting His love. This means submitting ourselves to allow His love to strengthen, flow, and work through us. We respect Him by adoring Him. Who is more worthy of our adoration?
Think of it this way: the love of this world is not powerful enough for the life of a Christian. The love of this world makes us a respecter of persons. not a respecter of Christ. The love of this world separates us into groups, tribes, or clans of people who think or believe the same way, and those who disagree with us we deem as enemies. But by doing so, it also separates us from the very mind and love of Christ. You see, the love from Christ enables us to love others whether we agree with them or not, whether they hate and despise us or not. The love from Christ enables us to pray for those who persecute us. The love from Christ enables us to forgive, even if others don’t deserve it. That’s because Christ loved us and died for and forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. The love from Christ thus enables us to truly love the other person.
The love from Christ is a lot like a tithe, because whether we want to admit it or not, all we have has been given to us by God. We are not owners, we are stewards of His grace and mercy given to us. God only asks. as an action of faith on our part, that we give back to Him a small portion of what He has already generously given to us.
One of the greatest examples of this is can be found in the lives of the disciples, Peter and John. Peter was adamant about his love for Jesus. Even at the Passover, he insulted his fellow disciples by telling Jesus he didn’t care what these others did – he would never leave Jesus or forsake Him. Peter said he would go to prison with Him and even die with Him. John was called the disciple whom Jesus loved. This did not mean that Jesus saw John as His favorite, or that He loved John more. It meant that John, even at this point in his young life, understood the difference between his love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for him. Instead of going around proclaiming his love for Christ, John placed his hope, trust and faith in Christ’s love for him. Do you remember which one of these two was at the cross? It wasn’t Peter….
There is a contemporary Christian song out now entitled, “Love God , Love People.” I like it – it has a catchy beat. But it is not entirely true, because before we can love Christ, we have to respect who He is (the Son of God) and what He did (He died on the cross for our sin, His blood paying our ransom, His body buying our healing, His death purchasing our forgiveness). We must stand in awe of His resurrection, because it secures our justification. We must have reverence and adoration for His position, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Then and only then are we able to receive His love and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, manifest His love to others. Then we return to Him His love in the manner He deserves.
If you like this teaching go to my website, www.goadap.com for more.