Impact Every Relationship With Your New Unity To Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
"...Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21)
Popular notion says one must find themselves before they enter into marriage. Our society has increasingly viewed marriage as a sign of arrival, rather than a right of passage. People see marriage as something you do once you have gotten your life together. However, the Christian church views sanctification as the sign of arrival, but marriage as one of many potential paths to get there. The Apostle Paul did not think a believer must completely find themselves before marriage. He would not have minded at all if early believers used their singleness for God's glory, but he also saw the relationships and networks of our lives as a way to continue to discover who we are in Christ. In the best marriages, homes, and workplaces, men and women in Christ continue to find their most authentic selves.
So Paul continues to press out into the deep waters of the vision Christ has given him. He has told us to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1). He proclaimed our unity in Christ, unified in every way (Ephesians 4:2-6). He has shown us that Christ is the head of a body, the church and that as our head He wants to communicate to us, which He does through the word-based offices of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4:7-12). We should build up the body, which is made possible when the individual members of the church make a personal decision to put off the old and put on the new (Ephesians 4:17-32). We must adopt Christ’s ethic for our community, living out the nature of our Father in heaven (Ephesians 5:1-21). However, Paul saw more. He saw every marriage, every family, and every workplace Christians are in impacted by their new submission to their new Head, Jesus Christ.
In all three places — marriage, family, and the workplace — Paul envisioned submission and obedience. In this next section of Ephesians, Paul told the wife to submit to her husband as to the Lord, the child to obey their parents as to the Lord, and the slave to obey his master as he would Christ. So a major thrust of this section is the idea of submission, a concept that is not fashionable at any time, let alone our modern times.
Glance at the current and historical world, and you'll discover the oppression of women, children, and the working class. Paul does not ignore them but celebrates when all parts of humanity are elevated. Jesus, after all, was a champion of women, children, and the so-called lower class. He was born into the working class, taking his earthly father’s profession as a carpenter. He welcomed children, telling people to permit them to come to Him (Mark 10:14). And though he was no modern feminist — he did select twelve men for his apostolic group — his ministry team contained women and he respectfully taught them the word of God. Time and time again, Jesus worked hard for the poor, children, and women. In fact, in every place Christianity has taken root, all three are better off than in places where it has not.
So does Paul contradict Jesus when he comes along telling wives and children and slaves to submit, to obey? Not at all. He does not contradict his Lord at all, but he does not respond, as many do, by starting a new class war, generation war, or gender war. He saw each person in the new humanity of the church covered by the blood and love of Christ, running towards the redeemed and fullest version of themselves. He did not think of men running from their standing in society, fleeing from the roles God gave to them. Nor was he oblivious to the fact that men have caused great pain to women and children and the working class. Instead, Paul saw Christian men running toward a redeemed version of their masculinity. He knew women, children, men, slaves, and masters in Christ were one in Christ. He knows they are unified, but to be united in worth does not mean we become uniform in roles. The best versions of male and female, every generation, and every class should be found in the new humanity of the church.
The gospel enables each group to find themselves. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke these words: “In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."[^https://mlk.wsu.edu/about-dr-king/famous-quotes/] Apply this word to Christ’s church. He does not see submission as tyranny, but beauty, when each man and woman and child and slave and master in Christ runs towards the redeemed version of themselves.
During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.