Let’s delve deeper into the matter of mutual submission, and the issue of the man being the head of the woman, and wives needing to submit to their husbands. Allow me to take you back to the crux of the issue and the verse in Ephesians 5:22 which reads “wives subject to their own husbands” in some Bibles or whatever it says in your favourite version. That is the verse which causes the ladies to lower their heads and the men to sit up straight while nudging their wives. We have been doing that for years. I have had some men write to me and question the things I said in the Nugget where I dealt with this issue. They queried whether I had it right and offered me alternative ways of expressing it. I don't like leaving things cloudy so allow me to bring some further clarification by simply dealing with the text that Paul has written for us or had his amanuensis (secretary scribe) write for us.
Let me just outline by way of recap where we have come from. In the Nugget I wrote on April 11th I outlined God’s goal. That we all submit to Christ but in doing so we are on a journey from dependence through independence to interdependence. We are all on that journey. The sad thing is that we don't all realise that. Many of us think independence is the end point. If we think that, we come sadly so far short. I then talked about the way in which submission fits into the journey. Submission is a part of becoming Interdependent but of course we have to go through the step of independence and it’s struggles or we don't finally reach interdependence. I know it sounds bizarre but it appears to be one of God’s mysteries for us to finally get. We have to get the idea that the way down is the way up, the way through independence to interdependence is understanding submission. If we aren’t willing to submit ourselves to the God of the Universe then we will continue to struggle with the idea of submission and think that we are kings in our own world. Guys and Girls, it’s just not true. True interdependence comes by the willingness to submit. When her man is submitted to Christ a woman has no problem submitting to her husband – willingly. Remember I suggested there is a word we use to describe forced submission – it’s rape. You cannot make your wife submit by physical force, neither can you make her submit by hitting her over the head with a Bible verse – Ephesians 5:22! The easiest way to help her submit is by being submitted yourself to Christ.
There, I hope I have summed up clearly for you the essence of what I was saying in the second to last Nugget. Then I took you back to basics and showed you from the first book of the Bible that the plan was always mutual interdependence. Adam and Eve were designed to fit together in a symbiotic relationship – viz the intertwining of our hands. I told you that the word for Eve becoming Adam’s helper [negeth] actually depicts the complementation between the two of them. That is how it should work for all married couples. Why then is marriage so stormy? Why do so many couples struggle and their dream marriage ultimately ends in divorce? Simply because marriage is the ultimate test of our own individual struggles with the notion of independence and submission. Maybe as I said last week, God designed marriage not to make us happy but to perfect us. Oh dear, I wish someone had told us that before we got into marriage. I would often tell young Indonesian pre-weds not to get married if they were not yet independent. If you are still dependent on someone other than your wife-to-be then you haven’t grown up enough to get married. You are still working on the dependence to independence leg. If you haven’t left your father and mother or at least are on the verge of being willing to, then you will struggle in marriage. Because when you ought to be at the stage of moving from independence and growing into interdependence with your spouse, rather you still dealing with issues of dependence. You are not ready for marriage if that is the case. If you are looking for individual fulfilment or completion from your new spouse and have not dealt with your issues of submission and dependence and have grown to maturity and adulthood then don't get married. You are not ready for marriage. If your spouse is like that too, then you have bigger problems because you are two dependent people who now have to develop interdependence but you can’t if you have reached independence and are now willingly on the road to interdependence. If you are not at that place, don’t get married.
Remember I laid out the process of what Paul writes about in Ephesians. He is talking about us growing up to maturity, adulthood. Not being like little children. We all know little children ought not to get married. Well I have news for you – neither should two dependent people. At that point we need to deal with what Paul wrote in those two verses that we all find so controversial but don't know how to sort out the pieces in a way that helps. That is ultimately what I want to do today and then in the next Nugget I will deal with Paul’s next surprise which I have already alluded to. Over the years I have realised that preachers don’t fully understand this passage and so cloud the issue by “siding with the men” or “siding with the women”. My Greek professor taught us to deal with a passage thoroughly before daring to make pronouncements on God’s behalf. So that is what I plan to do – deal with the structure of this passage so that Paul’s comments become clear. I feel like saying, pray for me as I seek to do this so that I communicate clearly. But by the time you read this and even think to pray, I will have already written the Nugget. So here I go, being willing to be thought foolish and go where angels fear to tread. Well I am no angel and so I am willing to be thought a fool in the interests of making this clear. I must admit I am more confident having already worked this through with Basil Brown (my Greek Prof) in the process of writing the Gems on Ephesians years ago while he was still alive and having him read them along with everyone else.
Here we go. Make yourself a strong coffee or a stronger drink if you wish but don’t allow your choice of drink to make you lose your ability to reason.
The verses at the centre of our dilemma are Ephesians 5:21 and 22:-
The Greek of which literally reads as follows:
῾Υποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ.
Submitting to one another in fear of Christ (5:21)
Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ Κυρίῳ
The wives to the(ir) own husbands as to the Lord (5:22)
In order to understand what is going on here I have to use some grammatical terms, with apologies to the non-linguists among you. Bear with me a moment. The two verses are very interesting. Verse :22, the one we all like to put emphasis on to make sure our wives are submitted doesn't have a verb. There is no verb “to submit” in that subordinate sentence. It is actually a dependent clause which is hung on the statement before it. The only relationship or sense that verse 22 has is that it is dependent on verse 21 for the verb. Hence the emphasis is not on verse 22, it is on verse 21. The only action or meaning the verse related to women has is in connection the sense coming from verse 21. In layman’s terms, the sense between these two verses is submitting to one another, the wives submitting to their husbands as their husbands are submitting to them. Or perhaps better put, as you submit to one another, so too the women to their husbands.
But there is more. Notice in verse 21 that the verb is a participle and not a finite main verb. Suffice to say it can’t stand on its own. It is dependent on another verb somewhere else. In English terms submitting is a participle not the main verb. It’s an -ing verb.
Here is an example: Seeing the neighbours standing and talking too close. There are three verbs, all participles. All three are English verbs ending in -ing. But none of them can be the main verb because they are not main finite verbs. Using participles shows that the action verbs seeing, standing and talking are not the main action. That kind of sentence can never be the main thing we are taking about. Those participles make up a subordinate sentence or more correctly a subordinate clause. It needs more added to it in order to make a full sentence. That sentence as it stands is left hanging; it is unfinished. We have to say something else in order to finish the sentence. I might say: Seeing the neighbours standing and talking too close, I felt it my duty to report them to the council for breaking the Covid physical distancing rules and compromising us all. But I definitely cannot say, “Seeing the neighbours standing and talking too close.” and leave it there and expect that I have communicated well.
That dear friends is what we have with the verses in Eph 5:21 and 22. It is only because Robert Estienne has influenced us to think in terms of using Bible verses to communicate that we think Eph 5:21 and 5:22 are full sentences. They are not! The first is a dependent clause and the second is technically a phrase without a verb. Our problem is that we have to find the finite verb. See if you can find the finite verb in this passage that gives Eph 5:21-22 it’s anchor.
Did you find it? Now you can begin to understand what Paul is saying. That’s right, you have to go all the way back to Ephesians 5:18 to find it. The whole passage reads like this: And "do not be drunk with wine," in which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praising in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks at all times for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, even to God the Father, being subject to one another in the fear of God, wives [subject] to your own husbands. (Eph 5:18-21). Now you have a better understanding of these verses. Ah what conclusion do you come to? Think about that.
Yes you guessed it. All of those participles are proof or indication that you are filled with the Spirit. Oh my goodness Pentecostal pastor, that means that you demonstrate the fact that you are filled with the Spirit by being able to submit to your wife. The fact that you are humble enough to submit to her makes it so much easier for her to be able to submit to you because from time to time you will submit to her when you know what she has said is right. Now that puts a different spin on it, doesn't it? In short there is mutuality in your submitting. Being able to submit to one another means that now you are approaching the conditions in your marriage whereby you can enter into Interdependence. Now you are getting what marriage is all about. The fact that you are living in the closest relationship you can have on earth in harmony shows that God’s plan for marriage is being shown perfect in its simplicity. You both are being perfected by your marriage relationship. Yes it seems that God did indeed plan marriage not for your happiness by for your perfection. To opt out of your marriage and separate or divorce just shows that you are not ready for Interdependence. Marriage hasn't failed; you have.
I think I had better leave it there for now. I have another bombshell to deliver from what Paul wrote but I sense that needs to be saved for the next Nugget to allow you time to recover after this one. I plan for the next Nugget to be my last in this series.
See you back here next week. I don't know whether I still have guys tracking with me over this series. Only the women are responding and telling me how much these Nuggets on Strongholds are helping. Are there any guys out there who find them helpful or are you only interested in trying to refute what I am saying? It makes me wonder if I will find I still have friends among the fellas when I emerge from Covid shutdown.
I am not making it up; I am just simply delivering the Bible to you in the way that it was meant.