God’s plan for marriage: This passage in Ephesians demands a good understanding of Genesis 1-3. The creation of Mankind as male and female was to show God's image in harmonious interpersonal relationships; in equality in personhood and importance; and difference in role and authority. Each member of the trinity has distinct roles or functions (Father sent the Son & Holy Spirit; We’re filled with Holy Spirit not the Father or the Son). These differences in roles or functions are consistent with equal importance, personhood and their deity. Just as male and female are made in the image of God, so too are we equal in importance and personhood but with differing roles. Simply put the male role was headship / leadership within the married unit as seen in Genesis 1-2.
The curse of the Fall: God's plan for the marriage relationship was distorted by the Fall. As a direct result of this rebellion, God introduced conflict and pain into the once harmonious relationship of marriage. The curse brought a distortion to Adams humble considerate leadership and to Eve's intelligent, willing submission to that leadership which existed before the fall.
Restoration of God's Plan for marriage: Just as Jesus dying on the cross undoes the curse of Sin, so too would we expect the curse on marriage to be undone by Jesus' death. We would expect that in Christ, wives would be encouraged not to rebel against their husband's authority, and husbands would be encouraged not to use their authority harshly. In fact that is indeed what we do find (Col 3:18-19, Eph 5:22-33, Titus 2:5, 1Peter 3:1-7).
Back to our passage in Ephesians 5! These verses teach that marriage is the human echo of the relationship between Jesus and his church. So a discussion on relationships between husband and wife should reflect aspects of the relationship between Jesus and the church.
Christ and the Church - Jesus (God's own son) and the church (God's chosen people) are joined in a union that is difficult to comprehend or explain. By God's grace, we have become members of Jesus body (v30), two have become one. The church rightly submits to her head, Jesus. In the same way, in marriage, the wife’s submission to her husband echoes the church’s submission to Jesus.
Husbands and Wives - Just as within the intimate relationship of the Trinity there are differing roles, so to within the most intimate human of relationships, marriage, there are differing roles. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord (Eph 5v22). (‘Submit’ does not mean obey, rather to ‘yield ones rights’). Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself (Eph 5v24).
Therefore Wives (Not women! This is for marriage only) - just as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (v24). A wife can be resentful or rebellious to her husband's leadership (to compete with him for the leadership of the family). This is a result of sin, a result of the fall and is contrary to God's best for them. Wives should be willing to speak a word of correction to their husband if what he is doing is clearly wrong. Submission to authority does not mean being entirely passive and agreeing with everything that the person says or suggests.
Therefore Husbands - love your wives. Not just in the romantic stuff, although that is important. Our wife deserves a Godly, loving, sacrificial and faithful husband. The pinnacle example of which is Jesus relating to the church. A husband is to release his wife from her everyday responsibilities so that she can grow & achieve her potential in Christ. Husbands are not to be lazy in their leadership.
If we are to build strong marriages at RFC we need to both understand God’s Plan for marriage and apply it to our married lives.