Wives [being subject] to their own husbands as to the Lord because a man of a woman as head is so in the same way that Christ is head of the church, Himself the Saviour of the body. But as the church is [completely] subject to Christ, so also wives are to be subject to their husbands in all ways.
     And husbands are to love their own wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up on its behalf surrendering Himself in order that He might make it holy, cleansing her by the washing of water and the word in order that He might present her [the church] to Himself in glorious array before Him that she not have any blemish or imperfection of any kind – so that she be perfect and unspoiled.
     So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Actually, he that cherishes his wife is loving himself. For no man ever hates his flesh of his own [kind] but nourishes it and takes care of it, even as the Lord nourishes and takes care of the church. For members we are of His body. And it is in this context that a man leaves his father and his mother to cleave to his wife and the two shall be of one kind.
      A great mystery this is and I have related it to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, it is also the case that each one of you [husbands] should love his wife as he loves himself and that wives should ascribe due reverence to their husbands. - Ephesians 5:21-33/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

Husband and wife

PICTURE: Thomas Curryer/Unsplash

 

"Paul is quite upfront about marriage as the primary example of 'the willing subjection to each other in the holy fear of Christ Himself'. Without this example of willing 'subjection' to each other in the holy fear of Christ Himself, his entire letter and the way of life that he commends falls apart into so many 'verses' or 'aphorisms', fit for little else than abstract pious contemplation."

Paul emphasises that his readers don’t only need an opportunity to bring their faith together in an exclamation of Christ’s greatness! He now brings his discussion of this work of God to its culminating anthem rich in Old Testament allusions, reminding us of the hymn of Zechariah the Priest – John the Baptist’s father – and thus of Zechariah’s son, that voice crying in the wilderness, whose impact was also felt in that part of the Mediterranean world.

Through the tender mercy of our God:
whereby we have been visited from on high by the dawning of a new day; 
To give light to all that sit in darkness, in the shadow of death: 
and to [instead] guide our feet into the way of peace. 

And so Paul has written: "Wake up, O sleeping one and stand on your feet and Christ shall give you light!"

But lest his readers simply take this merely for a chorus to be recited, he immediately expounds its meaning for their lives. They are not to run foolishly, they are to be aware of what is going on around them, they are to take heed of all that is taking place in God’s world. Paul encourages them to develop a comprehensive view of the path on which they, like Abraham before them, have been placed.

"Get going...I am God Almighty. Keep going; walk before me and become complete!" - Genesis 12:1; 17:1

The aim of this life is to be fully clear about what the Lord is wanting from those brought into His family circle. They are to live creatively. If their lives are to be full and overflowing, they are also to do so in artful praise – “getting full” of wine is to miss out on the fulness of the Lord in their lives. They are to strictly avoid any pseudo-fulness that is a waste of time and energy.

So they are called to live creative lives overflowing with the creational goodness of the Lord. They could well begin with simply taking a leaf out of David’s book, composing poetry, works of literary art that can be put to music, songs that are so full of praise to the Lord for what He continues to do for them in their daily life. This life that is chock-a-block with ongoing favour toward us, His family, is reason enough for doing so. And, in participating in such works of creativity, we find ourselves in willing subjection to our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Paul’s letter moves on but not to a wholly new chapter. What follows might be read as a list of “pastoral applications” but actually the letter is not so much “practical consequences” but a further and deepened exposition of the way of life that Christ Jesus has made possible. Here is an understanding of the responsibilities of our everyday experience. Any “applications” are evidence of a creativity that is as wide as creation as Paul has penned in his anthem.

Another way of saying this is that he now moves on to how these restored creative members of God’s family are to structure their daily-life “anthems of praise”. And the song that he chooses to confirm human creativity in Christ is none other than the marriage duet.

Paul is quite upfront about marriage as the primary example of “the willing subjection to each other in the holy fear of Christ Himself”. Without this example of willing “subjection” to each other in the holy fear of Christ Himself, his entire letter and the way of life that he commends falls apart into so many “verses” or “aphorisms”, fit for little else than abstract pious contemplation. Instead we have a rousing anthem of thankfulness that lifts the rafters, if not sending shock waves into outer-space, to the sun and moon and stars.