Francis Schaeffer said, "Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now."
Have you wondered about the close relationship between the church and the world? That relationship has apparently always been a problem.
Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 NJB
Take the divorce rates as an example. In the "world" the divorce rate stands around the 50% level. That means that half of the marriages in the world today are ending in divorce. When we compare that rate with the rate determined to represent the Christian church we are told that it too comes near to 50%.
Let me ask a question. If the rates are so similar is it because the world has adopted the church's model of the marriage relationship? Or has the church adopt the world's model of that relationship?
I think you will agree that the church has more likely adopted the world's model of marriage. They both would do well to return to God's model of the marriage relationship - for the good of everyone.
What is God's model and where did we go wrong?
The book of Ephesians is an excellent place to start. Paul begins in chapters 1 through 3 with greetings and prayers for the church in Ephesus. He ends this section with the words:
You are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. Every structure knit together in him grows into a holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built up into a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22 NJB)
Notice, "every structure knit together in him grows in a holy temple in the Lord". It is these structures that Paul presents to the Ephesians, namely the church structure and the family structure made up of the marriage relationship, the relationship of children to parents, and slaves to owners. The pattern is one of a spiral from larger structures to smaller structures, from the church, which is made up of families, to families which are made from husband and wife, then to children and, finally to slaves. This is a model of relationships one to another. These structures are in relationship to each other and are described in the chapters and verses that follow.
Here Paul gives us a model of a body of believers, a church. He opens this section with a call to holy living and to unity:
He continues by drawing attention the structures within the body:
And to some, his 'gift' was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; to knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-12
These are the organization of leaders Jesus has set in place to build the body into His holy temple.
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, Ephesians 2:20
The structure starts with the cornerstone and to it are added Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and finally Teachers - in that order. Their function is to "knit God's holy people together" into the structure He has designed. Could we do a better job of knitting if we held more closely to that order of leadership?
He ends this section with some quick words about the activities of the church as they gather together:
Sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs among yourselves, singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, always and everywhere giving thanks to God who is our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21
Please notice this last verse. Many of today's leaders wrongfully add this verse to the next section. This is usually an attempt to "modernize" our understanding of the marriage relationship. In fact, doing so basically cancels the intent of the verses that follow. To be fair there is something to the mutual submission in the loving and honoring husbands are commanded to do:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love 'does not seek its own' way. These verses do suggest a degree of mutual submission and especially as we go in to the husbands role in next level of the structure - marriage.
In this section Paul gives us a model of the marriage relationship, not in detail, just the basics - wives submit to and respect your husband and husbands love your wife as you love yourself. He goes on in this section to clarify that this is not an issue of equality but one of authority - headship. It is compared to the headship of Christ to the church.
It is interesting that in the world all of society recognizes the need for structure. Every world organization, including communist and feminist, are structured with one person in a position of authority over others. Those others agree to place themselves under the leadership of that person for a specific role or job. Any other arrangement results in anarchy as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees:
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? Matthew 12:26
How can any organization function if they are locked in opposing objectives, each believing their approach to be the best? To prevent this God has defined the structure:
You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” Genesis 3:16 (NET)
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, Ephesians 5:23
Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3
Under that structure wives are commanded to submit to and respect their husband and husbands are commanded to love their wife as they love themselves and to show her honor (1 Peter 3:7).
Here the objections start to come in. Sorry, no apologies from me. God's word is abundantly clear on this issue (also see Colossians 3:18-19 and 1 Peter 3:1-7). But, let me ask a question. Given a choice in your marriage relationship would you want EQUALITY or FULLNESS OF JOY? The world appears to be pushing for equality; actually it is an issue of authority and not equality at all. What do you really want in you relationship equality or fullness of joy? Do you want the world's model or God's?
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11
Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Deuteronomy 28:1
So, what will it be, His model, or the world's. Equality or Fullness of Joy - it is one or the other. There is no question which I would choose. His way and His plans are always for our best.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
I believe the correct approach to the verses in Ephesians 5:22-33 is to consider them as private instructions individually to the wife and to the husband. In other words, God is commanding wives to submit to and respect their husband. That command is between the God and the wife. It is not given for the husband enforce - he has his hands full with his own command from God - love you wife as you love yourself. Wives, his command is not given to him for you to enforce, you have your hands full obeying what you have been given to do. Those commands have been given by the Father and He will see to them. This is where the fear of the Lord becomes a significant factor.
The term submission does not mean to be enslaved. The Greek term carries the meaning that you are to give yourself, in submission, to him - because God has commanded you to do this. He has appointed your husband to be head of your family structure. Wives, you are responsible to God for your conduct. Husbands, you are required to love your wife as you would love yourself - always remembering who her Father is - you would be wise to put your whole heart into that. The same goes for wives. Again - the fear of the Lord. The Father does discipline those he loves.
Husbands the world has presented an image of you a incompetent fools and idiots through television. Shows like 'All in the Family', 'The Simpsons', 'Home Improvement', and others have push that image onto the world and through the same shows depicted the wives as the hero. We and our children have taken that in and it has affected society. The Church needs to start to reverse that trend. Fatherhood is not just an honorable position, it is a role that is fundamental to the development of our children and society in total and more so than the role of mothers. I believe the enemy knows this and has therefore attacked the role of the father so viciously.
As the church, let us swing back into the model of marriage and the roles of husband and wife as depicted in God's word.
Now Paul adds the children to the equation.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Ephesians 6:1
This verse contains incentive - 'that it may go well with you and you live long'. Conversely things will not go well with you if you not honor your parents. There is no allowance mentioned here for 'Good' or 'Bad' parents. All parents are to be honored. Look over your life, if you find things are not going well in your life, there are patterns of bad 'luck', look first at this issue to see if you need to repent, confess, forgive your parents or ask forgiveness of them. There is a lot at stake in the words of that verse.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
This is an interesting verse - often misused by children. It is nearly impossible to discipline any child without them getting angry about it. The word 'provoke' means to do things in such a way and for the express purpose of making them angry. 'Do not drive them to anger' may be another way of expressing this verse. Parents who love their children will discipline them; children who are not disciplined when necessary do not have parents who love them.
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Proverbs 13:24
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Hebrews 12:8
Lastly Paul gives instruction to the slaves of a believer's household. Although this scenario does not exist in the western world it may be wise to look at it in the light of the employer/employee relationship. Not necessarily inside of the church body structure.
And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Ephesians 6:9
We would all do well to remember the words of the last verse in this section. Where ever we are in the body of Christ and who ever we are required to work with we do well having a fear or reverence for the Father who watches over them.
Paul brings closure to this topic with instructions for standing on God's principles and truth along with instructions on prayer for one another.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:11-12
Be aware of the schemes of the devil, he want us to conform to his ways not those of Christ. He wants to destroy families and fatherhood. His teaching has taken too much place in the church today. The first piece of armor we are instructed to put around our waist is truth- God's truth. Following the remainder of the armor we are admonished to 'be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints' (v 18). Stop adapting to the world by adopting the world's ideals.
We need to live in obedience to God commands and if we do we will find ourselves 'over run' by His blessings in every way. This sounds great to me!
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