Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 16 of 16)

Summary and Conclusion

We have looked with fresh eyes at this passage in Ephesians 5, conclusions I’m still learning to understand. Yet at this point in my journey, I notice the profound desire of God’s heart for all followers of the Messiah to submit one to another, even in marriage. I know it’s daring and often culturally unacceptable, especially my evangelical tradition. And I know it takes courage.

Yet Paul shows us what this mutual submission looks like. Using the metaphor of the head and body, Paul paints for us a picture that is easily overlooked with a dead metaphor. In that picture we see the Messiah as the Savior of life for the body of the church. The wife is to submit to that kind of life in vulnerability. The husband is also to offer his life, seen through vivid pictures of the Savior’s love to the church in love, washing our feet, laying down his life, submitting to the cross to bear our sin. The husband offers his life in the everyday things, even to the point of death, so that his wife may flourish. In so doing, both husband and wife ultimately receive life and guidance as one flesh from their spiritual authority and mediator, Jesus Christ.

The mystery of submission in marriage is one with continual deferment to one another, in humility and respect and honor and love. Neither the husband is independent of his wife nor the wife of her husband (1 Cor 11:11). The Messiah is their ultimate fountain of life and goodness. And as they draw on him, out of reverence for him, they submit to one another. I’m learning more every day how to press into this mystery and how broad love goes. This mystery is revealed in Jesus, and we are invited to walk into it.

Thanks for your patience in reading this series. All comments welcome!


Philip said...

I'm glad you are still trying to understand this yourself. This can get so hard to get through with any sense of accomplishment at times.

I think one thing about the idea of submission for the wife is just letting and allowing the husband to be loving towards her. In Genesis, God tells Eve that women will desire their husbands, yet they will rule over them. Jonalyn, in her book, talks about how this was the pivotal point in which man and woman's relationship and community was changed to an imbalance. The man would rule now - no more co-dominion in a sense.

Paul then comes and gives a co-submission idea to all christians. And then, he tells women to submit to their husbands. When you look at the bigger narrative it comes out weird. Man rules and you submit, you are to submit to one another, and then submit to your husband. To me, the biggest difference is there is nothing that points to man ruling anymore for Paul. Yet he asks for the woman to still be submissive. This is practical in the sense of not letting it get to the women's heads. It still reminds them to be submissive, but it asks to be submissive to the husband's love, not his rule.

Sumner puts it as two people constantly undergirding one another. That is what I have found to make the most sense of this all. It is two people constantly putting the other first, and supporting the other.

I am still greatly confused on this passage and issue (as you can probably tell), but it helps greatly to talk about it so that we can find the appropriate way to live it out. Isn't that what all of this is about anyways?

Philip said...

I read this today in my study time - it is Abraham Heschel's book on the prophets and he explaining how we should come to these books to understand them:

"The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than to see what we know. Rather than blame things for being obscure, we should blame ourselves for being biased and prisoners of self-induced repetitiveness. One must forget many cliches in order to behold a single image."

This just seemed extremely fitting for this series...

Dale Fincher said...

The quotation is very fitting, Philip. Thanks for posting it!

Gem said...

I finished.
Perhaps you should have a disclaimer, Dale?
That was very painful to read
after 26 years of "christian marriage"
where the "reward" has been "precluded" along the lines of this quote from part 15

We would do well to explore joyfully all the implications of love, of which there is much evidence than to preclude that reward with a culturally-driven need to emphasize “authority” of which there is little evidence.

Perhaps you would like this song from Don Francisco? Who wears the pants? There is an adult son and father. The son reminds me of you. The father "precluded his reward".

Dale Fincher said...

Gem, that's a great song! I've never heard it. Thanks for sharing it.

On the first part of your comment, are you speaking tongue in cheek? Or was it truly painful?

Help me understand.

Sheryl said...

Thank you for such a wonderful series of posts on Ephesians 5. You explored the issue with humility and reverence for the Word of God, and it's much appreciated.

As a woman who has often heard the verses on wives submitting to their repeated, I've often wondered where the other side of those verses went. The part about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church. :-)

Thank you again for your thoughtful insights.


Gem said...

On the first part of your comment, are you speaking tongue in cheek? Or was it truly painful?

Help me understand.

Looonng hard story, Dale. Here's a link to a blog post where I reflect upon your Eph 5 series:

Love and Respect….. so why does God use the word “FEAR” in Eph 5:33?

Corrie said...

Excellent thoughts on Ephesians 5. I hope I get some extra time so I can sit down and read the whole series. I stumbled across your blog via Molly and I am so glad I did. I also enjoyed your wife's interview with Molly and I am looking forward to reading her book.

Philip, love that song!

Corrie said...

My comment about the song should have been addressed to Gem. Sorry about that!

Dale Fincher said...

Corrie, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed my wife's interview.

Dale Fincher said...

Gem, I read your post. Sorry to evoke the sadness.

What I feel prompted to say is I hope you don't beat yourself about it. We're all on journey, learning in our broken ways to sort through our culture, learning, our hurts, and find the love that holds his arms out to us, to rush into the vulnerability that makes life grow.

I'm really glad you stopped by to post and comment on this series on your blog... my prayer is that others will pick up the vision, resonate with the imagination and the possibilities, and expand the reach of love to captive hearts.

For me, this series is just the beginning... who knows where it will lead.

What I do know is a new complementarian and egalitarian leaders are needed who are less reactionary and are motivated with love and setting people free. I've not been overly impressed with the organizations that draw the lines in the sand for the rest of us.

Dale Fincher said...

Sheryl, thanks for your encouragement. I'm glad, too, it gave you some reflection on the husbandly duty.

I used to hear a man's job is to provide and protect and this is where he will find his value. He's 'wired' this way. I don't see how the Bible affirms this. He's wired to love, as are we all. And he's wired to be creative, as are we all. And in these he will be affirmed and find his place in this world.

If men spent more time creatively loving and less time looking for ways to be the boss, the world would be filled with peacemakers.

Because women have practiced submission for so long, I think they have something to teach men along these lines... and probably why the 21st century has been deemed the century for women to assume various roles of leadership so that we have a more human approach to the world community.

Hopefully, that will include men and women working shoulder to shoulder, rather than on top of each other.

Charity said...

Dale, I found you from Molly's blog (adventures in mercy) and have just skimmed your summary here. I am looking forward to reading your entire series on submission. Congrats on the book and speaking and all, looks like the Lord is really blessing your ministry. I was a year or two behind you in college. I think we worked together in the library a few times. That was a long time ago. ;) I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Ephesians, God Bless!

Dale Fincher said...

Hey Charity, thanks for posting. I'd appreciate any comments you have as you go through the series. It's a tough topic. And I am already feel 'persecution' from some strands of evangelicalism because of my view of a woman's voice.

It isn't fun. But what else are we to do? Stand with the Spirit, the Word, and our consciences and go forth.

It's been a long time since the library days! LOL

Anonymous said...


One of the things I appreciate most about this series is your tone - thoughtful, careful, gracious and humble. Mighty refreshing!

Dale Fincher said...

I appreciate that! :)