Ephesians Study, Part 42: God's Design for the Family
Instructions to Husbands


Last week we studied God's instruction to wives in a marriage.  God did not mince his words, as Paul brought them to us.  He said that his plan for a godly marriage is for the wife to be subject to her husband.

You asked last week what is included in the word subject.

The Greek word is hupotasso, which means "to subordinate, to obey".  This is the word that we use when we say a person is subject to their government; they have to follow its rules.  The Greek word is made up of two root words: hupo, which means "under" or "beneath", and tasso which means "to arrange in an orderly manner", or "to assign a certain position".  So the word means "to be assigned an orderly position under the direction of the husband".

This Greek word is translated in the New Testament as: "Submissive", "Submit", "Obedient", "Under" and "Subject to".

Realizing that this word is the same word that would be used in talking about a citizen being a subject to a government or being subject to the rules of a government, I think, if you were willing to go to deep analysis, the Bible teaches us that we are to obey a hierarchy of rules or laws.  Jesus taught us that we are to obey the laws of the government.  Remember "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's".

Jesus is clear that God's law supercedes the law of government.  You can see it in that verse as well.  Render to God what is God's.  Most Biblical scholars come to the conclusion that the Bible teaches that we are to obey the law of government, unless it contradicts the law of God, in which case we must obey the law of God and suffer the consequences from the government.  That is the biblical basis for civil disobedience, when the law of God supercedes the law of the land. [Acts 4:19]

I would argue that the same concept must be understood in a marriage.  The wife is to be subject to the rule of the husband, except when the rule of the husband conflicts with the law of God.  If the rule of the husband prevents the following of God's will for the wife, I go with God's will.  The danger here is that we all find a way to convince ourselves that what we want to do, or do not want to do, is God's will.  I am afraid that that is not what God had in mind.

So, as I stated last week, I am convinced that the Bible says that the husband is the head of the house and the wife is to be subject to that assigned position, unless the husband requires the wife to disobey God; then go with God, but be sure that it is God not self that you are listening to.

So now let's jump on the husbands.  Paul commands:

So how much does Paul say that the husbands must love their wives?  You see Paul has a tougher assignment for husbands here than for the wives.  The husband is going to be instructed to love his wife in three ways.  Sacrificially, and sanctification-ally and satisfaction-ally.  The significant point to understand here is that no wife would object to being subject to a husband who loves her like Jesus loves the church.  That is the critical footnote, the fine print.  That is the fine print for the husbands.  How does Christ love the church?  He gave his life for it.  So to meet this assignment, the husband must be willing to give up everything else for his wife.  He is to be willing to die for her if necessary.  That is sacrifice.

He is instructed to also sanctify her, like Jesus sanctified the Church.

Sanctify means to set apart, to be made specially pure, clean. So why does Jesus do all of this? That is Christ's responsibility for the church.  That's why he is willing to do that, to give his life for the church.  He was willing to care for it, to provide for it, nurture it.  A wife is to be set apart.  That is a part of the husband's assignment.

Paul continues:

It is interesting that God allowed and permitted polygamy in the Old Testament but he never did specifically approve it. Love, of course, is the nourishment of the home. It is interesting that in verse 31 Paul quotes Genesis 2:24.  Jesus also quotes this verse.  This verse is mentioned three times in the New Testament as well, of course, as being from the Old Testament.

Please note something here that many people miss.  The concept includes leaving as well as cleaving.  Cleaving to his wife as we have all heard from the King James translation, or joined to his wife, as translated in the NAS, is something that we all understand.  But it is amazing how many homes and marriages have problems or tensions because there has never been the leaving from the father and the mother.  Man's relationship to his mother and father is superseded by a higher relationship and obligation to his wife.  That doesn't mean that the loyalty to the parents, or the respect goes away.  It just means that it is superseded by a deeper loyalty.  If everyone recognized this significant fact, it would minimize a lot of problems and marital strife.  We could spend a lot of time going through all of these things but in reality they are very straightforward.  However difficult to execute and complex to live out, the concepts are really very straightforward.  But here's what is striking about it.  By this time you think you know what Paul is talking about.  But in verse 32 he throws us a curve ball.  He is going to flip the whole thing over.  He proceeds to say:

Up until verse 32 it sounded like he was using Christ and the church to explain the relationships that we should have in marriage.  But then in verse 32 he turns it around.  Now he is wanting you to understand the relationship between Christ and the church as modeled by the ideal marriage.   He is sort of reversing the parallelism now.  He is now going to ask us to use the model of marriage as the highest and most intimate relationship.

Marriage is the most intimate relationship humans enjoy on this earth, and God has ordained it for a number of reasons.  Three of the reasons are well-known but the fourth might catch you by surprise.

Let's go through the first three reasons for marriage.

  1. The first one is what we might call the biological reason for marriage.   That's pretty well-known and understood.  Two people get together to procreate life.  To continue the human race.  That's straightforward enough.
  2. The second reason could be called the psychological reason for marriage.   The second reason for marriage is to create a union to be able to meet life's opportunities and challenges.  Two people to face life's challenges together, to help each other.   That makes a lot of sense.  There are books written about that very thing.
  3. There is a third basis or reason for marriage which you could call the sociological reason for marriage.  The family is the basic unit of society, the basic unit of the tribe if, you will.   The family is the basic building block of a community, a nation, or society.
Let's step back and look at a question specifically.  It is a question we can look at without stepping on anybody's toes, at least in this room.  In Matthew 24 Jesus predicts, as one of the signs of the end times, one of the prophetic milestones, that Christian love will grow cold.   Remember?  This is when they are looking at the Temple and Jesus says that not one stone of the Temple will remain on another.   Then he describes some things that will exist at the end times.  One if those things he says is in verse 10-12: He is talking about Christians.  He says that the love of many Christians will grow cold.  Now what is the basic form and foundation all the love?  The family.  The family serves as the seedbed of our values.

And today the family unit is in shambles.  Someone has said that heterosexuals reproduce, homosexuals recruit.  We look around ourselves today and see what's going on, and it is shocking.  As you know there were a couple of new laws passed by the New Mexico legislature in effect creating homosexuals as a class with special rights, rights that are not specifically protected for others.

In April of 1993 there was a cover article in Atlantic monthly that highlighted the results of sociological research.  Most of that research has highlighted things that might surprise you.  That research totally turns upside down the commonly held myths of the liberal establishment.  It is amazing that a summary of the research like this would occur in Atlantic monthly, which is a very liberal publication.  In the postwar era, eighty percent of people grew up in a nuclear family of two married parents.  In the last couple of decades less than fifty percent of children expect to grow up in an intact family.  According to this article, an increasing number of children will grow up in a family and encounter parental breakup and often two or three times prior to leaving home.

Scientific research shows that children who grow up in broken families have more problems than children who grow up in intact families.  They are six times more likely to be poor, 22% of broken families will experience poverty for seven years or more versus 2% all intact families.  One study indicates that children in broken families are three times more likely to have emotional problems.  They are more likely to drop out of high school, have a teenage pregnancy, problems with drugs and have problems with the law.  They are substantially more likely to be victims of various kinds of abuse.  Studies show that they are less likely to be successful in their adult life both in relationships and at work.  They have a harder time achieving intimacy in relationships, forming a stable marriage and even holding a steady job.

In recent years, the teen suicide rate has tripled, juvenile crime has increased drastically, and school performance has continued to decline.  Our national policies contribute to family decline and breakup.  Divorce is a public acknowledgment of failure.  If you were to chart the significant declines and the point at which the rate of decline increases substantially you will find that it is coincident with the decision by the Supreme Court outlawed mentioning God in our schools.  The divorce rate has substantially increased since that time.  Since 1974 divorce exceeds death as the trigger to family breakup.  As you know, more than half of marriages will result in divorce and second and later marriages are even more likely to fail.  One in four children in the 1990s ended up in a "step" family.  But of course Hollywood and our entertainment media almost celebrate this change.  Our political and social policy facilitates the change.


Next week, Pat & I will be out of town for the long weekend. Terry will be teaching a lesson on the proof for Christianity. Remember, we talked a little about that when I told you about the decision by Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project, to accept Jesus. Don't miss what Terry has to say about the evidence and conclusions that have led people like Francis Collins and C. S. Lewis to realize that Jesus is our one and only Savior.

In two weeks, I want to continue this discussion to the end of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, including the fourth reason God instituted marriage, and the roles of the husband and wife in it.