Ephesians Study, Part 41: God's Design for the Family - Instructions to Wives


Last lesson we were still dealing with Paul's instructions not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit.  We concluded that both the words and Paul's intent were that we should not be controlled by anything but the Holy Spirit.  His message is really that we should be led by the Spirit to do what God wants us to do in our life, to fulfill God's purpose for us here on earth.

We also found by looking at the tense of the Greek words, that it is a continuing filling, that we should allow ourselves to continue to be filled by the Spirit.  And to allow that, we have to get ourselves out of the way.  We have to get our own agendas and our ego out of the way.

Then we looked at four or five ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives, if we let him.  From our salvation, to our empowerment, to the guarantee of our inheritance in heaven.

Then we saw that Paul told us how we can recognize whether or not we are allowing the Spirit to fills us.  If we are not joyful and thankful in all things (not just the good things), and if we are not willing to be subject to other believers, then we are living in ourselves and not in the Spirit.  For some of us, that was the telling test.  If we are not, then it is clear that we don't have much trust and faith in God.  We obviously don't think that God can and will mange our lives if we would let him.

Today's lesson -- Instructions to Wives:

Remember that Paul is in the middle of a three-chapter set of instructions on how we are to lead our lives as Christians. He said:

The next topic on which Paul instructs us is the structure of the family, specifically the organizational structure of the marriage. George Hudson, several weeks ago, suggested that I teach this section by starting with verse 25, because it loads the husband with obligations that would sink a ship, if one tried to fulfill them without the help of the Holy Spirit.  If everyone understands the obligations of the husband, it makes the assigned position of the wife more palatable.  It might make the women less reactive and defensive to the teachings of verses 22 to 24.  I first thought I might do that, but since I am reasonably sure everyone in this class has read these verses and have heard lessons or sermons taught on them, I will assume that the women this morning understand that the obligations of the wife, while tough, are not as tough as the obligations of the husband.  So I have decided that Paul and the Holy Spirit knew what they were doing when Paul taught them in this order.  So I will too.

God's Design for the Family:

I assume that all of us understand, intellectually, that if we would lead our lives according to God's plan for us and in accordance with the instructions that he has provided for us in the Bible, life would be a lot easier.  The Bible is our life owner's manual, our operating handbook.  But some of us prefer to try it our way instead of God's way, so we end up doing it the hard way.  Does this say that you go to hell if you, as a wife did not let your husband be the head of the house?  Of course not.  This is not a matter of loss of salvation, it is a matter of leading your life as God says it works best, doing it his way, the easy way.

God has ordained government in general and he has ordained the governments of the home and the family.  He has appointed the husband to be the leader of the home.  That does not mean that he is a dictator but it does mean that he is the leader.  This isn't the only place that Paul mentions this.  It is also mentioned in First Corinthians 11:3. He brings it up in Colossians 3:18. And in Titus, where he is instructing older women about how to behave so that the younger women, who are watching them as role models, will learn the right things, he says: Peter mentions it in First Peter 3:1. This is not just Paul's idea.  Peter and Paul carry the same idea.  So this is a concept that cannot be escaped.  But what does it really mean?

What Happens when the Design is not Followed?

Let's look at the alternatives, when wives did not submit to their husbands.  Eve did not submit to Adam.  Remember she took the lead and introduced sin into the human race.  Remember Samson and Delilah?  That did not work out well for either of them.  There are a number of situations in the Bible, where the woman took over.  Most did not turn out well.

If you study all of the false or pseudo Christian cults in relatively recent history you will be amazed at about how many of them were started by women.  Women who leave their appointed place and appointed sphere can wreck a church, break up a marriage and destroy a home.  On the other hand, there is nothing, absolutely nothing more attractive than a woman fulfilling the role that God has for her.  You can see that in Proverbs 31.

This is the profile of the perfect wife.  The highest compliment you could pay a wife would be to call her a Proverbs 31 wife.

That is one of the places you can see the system worked the way God created it to work.  Another place is in First Corinthians 13 where Paul tells us how wonderful life is when Love is let loose.

Verse 23 continues to make this point: The husband is appointed by God to be the head of the family.  The headship of the family is not to the same as the dictatorship of the family.  What does this mean?  It means that the husband is to lead, guide, love, provide, protect and care for her.

You cannot escape the message here.  You cannot mess around with the words or the meaning and get some other meaning out of what God says here to, through Paul.  Paul is drawing a deliberate parallel between the relationship between a husband and the wife and the relationship between Jesus and the church.  He continues in verse 24:

The bride of Christ, which is a title for the church, is not an equal partner with Jesus.  Equal inheritance?  Yes.  Joint heir?  Yes.  But the equal inheritance and the joint heirship do not denote equal roles that God has assigned.  For a lot of reasons, which I think you can appreciate, I will not get into a lengthy discussion concerning women's lib.  I will only go so far as to point out to you that women's lib, as currently being promoted, is not a biblical concept.

Not Unequally Yoked:

By the way, this is one of the compelling reasons that a believer is not to become yoked to an unbeliever.  You hear the admonition that a believer should not become yoked to an unbeliever and we give intellectual acknowledgment to it, but if you have an unbeliever yoked to a believer, then the structure that God has mandated and that Paul spells out, simply does not work.  At the very least it will create problems. What Paul is spelling out here is God's pattern, his ideal.  We need to face that square in the eye.  It is wrong and foolish for a believer to marry an unbeliever.  But it is also wrong and foolish for two believers to marry outside of the will of God.  Just because both people are believers does not solve all of the problems.  God's system works when both are following the will of God.

Hang in there, women!

About now, some of you women in the room are sorry that you decided to show up this morning.  Just hang on, you'll find that you got the easy side of the assignments.  Paul has a more to say to the husbands than to the wives.  We have that out of the way so now fasten your seat belts.  Verse 25 starts the instructions to the husbands.


Next week:

... we are going to look at the question of the relationship between a man and a wife, and about the assignments given to the husband. Look at Ephesians 5:25-33 to prepare for next week..