“The High Calling of Submission” by John Macarthur

We are continuing through Grace To You’s excellent series: “God’s Design For The Family.” In this article Pastor Macarthur teaches the biblical truth that the humbling work of submission is, in Christ, a high calling! Our Spirit-empowered imitation of Christ’s submission to the Father, the humility of a servant (Philippians 2:1–11), is the common principle and motivation for the varied contexts of submission: wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers, citizens to rulers, students to teachers, etc.

But how can we submit to one another in the context of a family while still recognizing the God-ordained roles of headship and authority? That is the subject Paul addressed in Ephesians 5:22–6:4. Since submission epitomizes the character of the person who is truly Spirit-filled, Paul outlined how mutual submission should work in a family.

He wrote under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, of course, so this was not merely the apostle’s private opinion (2 Peter 1:20–21). God Himself inspired the very words of the text (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul spoke here to wives, husbands, children, and parents, in that order. And the admonition to wives is simple, covering just three verses:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22–24)

It is important to remember that Paul did not begin by singling out and consigning wives to a second-rate status. There’s a sense in which everyone in the church must submit to everyone else as Paul clearly stated in the preceding verse. Ephesians 5:22 simply explains how wives ought to show their submission.

Also notice that Paul started and ended this short section by specifying whom wives should submit to: “their husbands” (Ephesians 5:24). “Their husband” suggests that the wife should willingly make herself subject to the husband who is her possession. Husbands and wives belong to each other, and thus have unique responsibilities to each other which they do not have to anyone else (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3­–4).

Women as a group are not made serfs to men in general, and men aren’t automatically elevated to a ruling class over all women. But Scripture calls each woman to submit in particular to her own husband’s headship. In other words, the family itself is the primary arena in which a godly woman is to cultivate and demonstrate the attitude of humility, service, and sacrifice called for inEphesians 5:21.

Macarthur then demonstrates from Scripture several important points about the Bible’s command that wives submit to their husbands:

  1. The command applies to all wives.
  2. It means wives must “line up under” the leadership of their husbands.
  3. This order is ordained by God an consonant with nature.
  4. It is an unpopular command, one that is frequently attacked and undermined even in the church.
  5. Scripture is clear and consistent regarding this command.
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“What Does It Mean To Be The Head Of The Home” by John Macarthur

Here on The Lydia Center Blog we’ve been walking through a teaching series from Grace to You called: “God’s Design For The Family.” In this post, Pastor John Macarthur builds on the foundational idea of marriage as a union in which there is mutuality to describe the nature of the husbands headship over his wife.

Scripture makes it perfectly clear that men and women are spiritual equals in the sight of God. They have an equal standing in Christ and equal spiritual privileges, because we are all united with Him in the same way. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no second-class spiritual citizenship. In Christ and before God, there’s only oneness. We are equal. Men are not spiritually superior to women.

It’s nonetheless true (and perfectly obvious) that both Scripture and nature assign different roles and different functions to men and women. The Bible is quite clear in assigning headship in every family to the husband, not the wife (Ephesians 5:23). The responsibilities of teaching and leading the church are given to men, not women (1 Timothy 2:12). But women are uniquely and exclusively equipped to bear and nurture young children, and the fulfillment of that role assures that they can never be relegated to any second-class status.

Men are, as a rule, physically stronger (1 Peter 3:7 NKJV refers to the wife as “the weaker vessel”). Men are therefore responsible to carry the weight and the brunt of labor in order to provide for and protect the family. Scripture teaches that God designed the physical differences and the functional differences between men and women for a purpose—and that is why God clearly distinguishes the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives.

Remember, however, that while their roles are clearly different, the spiritual standing of men and women in Christ is perfectly equal. Even the biblical language of two becoming one flesh underscores the essential oneness of husband and wife in a way that rules out the very notion of inequality.

As the article goes on, Macarthur demonstrates from Scripture that the relationship of headship is modeled after the Father’s headship of Christ and Christ’s headship of the church:

First, God has given every husband a clear responsibility for spiritual leadership, and men dare not abdicate that duty. The husband, not the wife, is to be head of the family. That is God’s design. Within every home, someone must ultimately have the responsibility of leadership, and Scripture unambiguously assigns that duty to men, not women.

Second, the model for the husband’s headship is Christ. Christlike headship involves not only authority for spiritual leadership, but also the duties of care, nurture, protection, and self-sacrifice. In the words of Ephesians 5:28–29,

Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.

Read the full article here: What does it mean to be the head of the home?

“Mutual Submission” by John MacArthur

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Order and unity. Submission and equality. Difference and similarity. These are what theologians call antinomies: two things that appear to contradict, but actually do not, yet are difficult to hold together.

In Christian marriage this theological problem is painfully practical: men and women are not the same, but they are. Marriage is a relationship of authority and even obedience (1 Peter 3:6), yet it is also a relationship of mutual submission and mutual service. For the Christian, all of these things come together in seeking Christ-likeness. The more you and I are like Jesus the more these antinomies will not become contradictions!

John MacArther writes:

…when it comes to one-on-one interpersonal relationships within all those institutions, the principle of mutual submission must govern how each of us treats one another. Even the person in a position of authority must be Christlike in his or her dealings with all others—which, of course, still means esteeming others better than self. Again, Christ Himself is the model for what that kind of leadership looks like. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Mutual submission is the principle, then, that Ephesians 5:21 spells out: “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” To illustrate and further explain how the principle of submission is supposed to work in the framework of institutions where God has ordained authorities for leadership, Paul turned to the most fundamental of all human institutions, the family.

The full article from GTY here: Mutual Submission

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