Ephesians 5 21-33
21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Our online bible study continues this week with the seventh sermon from the Series on marriage by Tim Keller. Below is a summary of the audio teaching which I recommend you listen to at your own pace. It’s the all-time bestselling sermon series from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, preached in 1991, and the basis for the bestselling book “The Meaning of Marriage” in 2011.You can purchase them HERE for only $2.50 per session. I am in no way affiliated with the Redeemers Presbytarian Church.
Tim Keller this week expands on gender roles. He says in the past the vows wife and husband were different but today they are identical but what does the bible mean when it defines what husband and wife should do? He explains that in conservative countries, christianity is liberal subversive because they argue that the state should not be the final moral authority and in liberal countries, christianity is faschist reactionary because they argue that the individual should not be the final authority. Christianity looks right winged to the left and left winged to the right and thats how it should be if its the truth because christianity comes from above. It doesn’t fit any particular ideology. In 1 Cor 11, culturally, a married woman was completely veiled but the equality that christianity brings is so radical that Paul advised the women who were participating in worship in that super conservative society to wear their veil as a culturally appropriate signal to the world that they had not thrown their obligation to their husbands.
Being a male and female are overlapping but distinguishable modes of being human so there are distinct obligations and gifts and callings that being to male and female. The scripture teaches teaches the that the why and what of gender roles. There are distinct roles for women and men in marriage. Wives are asked to submit and husbands are to work for perfection of their wives. So should wives only respect and not love and husbands not submit? No, these are said in many other parts of the bible but here there’s different emphasis on the roles. In the bible there are general differences rather than specific.
He asks this question: Is there a difference in maleness and femaleness that goes beyond your biology to your soul? Is there a uniquely feminine way a wife needs to receive her husband emotionally as she receives him physically and is there something uniquely masculine so that a man needs to move out and towards his wife emotionally the way he moves towards his wife physically? Everyone knows there is but people think its immediately stereotypical. The bible defines roles but they are not stereotypical. Men and women have different callings. There are intrinsic differences but not conclusive e.g Tim Keller learned in a child psychological course that boy babies want to push over an obstacle and girls go around it. Girl babies prefer a lower complexity vs higher complexity of stimuli. Jazz makes baby girls hearts go faster, and boys don’t care. In on of the second stage of feminism books. ‘In a different voice’, the author did extensive research to see men and women go about jobs in a different way. Her conclusion was that men see themselves as maturing as they separate and become independent and women attach and become interdependent and network.
When the scripture talks about these differences, its not a specific stereoptypical list. Eg some conservative christians say, the husband should work and women stay home. It doesn’t say that in the bible! In the pre-industrial age, the husband and the wife worked together. They were farmers, tailors, etc and they both raised the children. In the industrial age the men most likely had to go out to work and so the women kept the home. Tim Keller states that the bible is truth and would never nail itself down to that kind of specific stereotype to define masculinity and femininity. The woman of worth in proverbs 31 did a lot of different things including real estate investments, sowing, child rearing and the husband was in it with her for all we can tell.
The bible does not define the traditional family…the preindustrial age family or industrial age family? The bible in truth in every time and space. Therefore the gender differences are more subtle and more profound.
Why are the differences? Tim Keller explains that its because of the order of creation. Adam was the head. The greek word head is just like authority and comes from the word author. He said, ‘If I wrote a poem, I am the authority of the poem, the source.’ He goes on to explain that the husband is the source of the wife. Adam is the head waters of Eve. That’s the way things were set up at creation. The man and the woman were created, one to be a namer the other to be a helper. The original nature was cursed and has been corrupted.
Why did God ask Adam to name? To name someone meant that you were shaping their character and purpose. Victorious king renamed the defeated king. When God changes someones nature, he changes their name. So he gave Adam charge of everything. He also created Eve to be a helper. The English word HELP is a bad way to translate what a help really is because one thinks of weakness but biblically the word help is an extremely sophistocated term. It is used in several passages to describe God. A helper is someone who has resources that the helpee does not have. That immediately implied that there were deficiencies in Adam. You can’t help someone except you have something they don’t but the secret to what femininity is that instead of replacing, she empowers. Its running your power through someone. It enables and empowers.
A man looks to be completed by powerfully subduing the world through work, a woman looks to be completed by receiving and being part of an interdependent network. Most of the second stage feminism books say these are the differences between men and women and women are better! But, Tim Keller says, both are complimentary. It doesn’t mean that men can’t do what women do and vice versa, the why is just different. Men nurture in order to have impact and women achieve in order to nurture. Every spiritual gift is a duty and if some people are good at teaching it doesn’t mean everyone is not supposed to communicate the word. Theres also dark side to your gift. If you are an envagelist and you keep bringing people to salvation but not to train and disciple the people there will be a problem. You also need the support of someone with the gift of discipleship who can support or even teach you how to disciple. In the same way, the masculine gift of independence has the tendency to become autonomy and tyranny and the female gift of interdependence has the tendency to become dependence.
When God cursed humanity he cursed different aspects. He cursed Adams work and he cursed Eves relationships. The wife’s interdependent gift under the influence of sin will make her become a dependent person. She will want to be taken care of and the husbands independent gift will cause him to become a tyrant. The traditionalists forget the curse, that men will want to oppress women and women will tend to make it easy when they start to push stereotypical roles. Women who are in male dominated fields are in a place where all the rules are masculine and because it’s not a christian context,with a covenant of love, they night find that they are continually being pulled away from their femininity but not in a loving way. In marriage men are meant to submit to one another and the man is supposed to have a loving authority and the wife exercise her helpership because the husband independence becomes tyranny unless the helpership of the wife pulls her husband back, continually being pressed to see he shouldn’t be a tyrant and the husband pulls her back from being dependent. There’s a completion. The bible does not support women being owned by her husband but also the egalitarians do not remember that there are subtle differences in gender roles. Marriage is a lot more than friendship. Here is someone who is unlike you but on a deeper level you are finding your other half. There’s a mystery to the otherness of gender.
Submission is tie breaking authority. If husband and wife are friends and we say iron sharpens iron and friend sharpens friend, it is a complete distortion to say the husband makes the decisions and gets his way all the time. It’s ridiculous says Tim Keller. If marriage is the ultimate friendship and in friendships you have got this clash and consensus building and debating going on, in marriage there also has to be this equality, this sharpening, this contention. How else will you grab each other away from the dark side of your gifts? The husband cannot use his authority to please himself. But what if you absolutely cannot agree? The egalitarian will say don’t make a decision if you cannot agree. How about a school for your child or where you should move to? How do you break the tie?…Tim Keller says, let the husband do it. He says, when you let the husband initiate, and when the wife defers, you are getting in touch with something deep inside you, your masculinity and your femininity. It glorifies God and is in core with your modality of humanity. It will not necessarilyy fit what you have been taught to believe or your feelings but it fits the reality of you are. Note that this kind of formal tie breaker is not used very often, and Tim Keller says it’s happened about twice in his marriage but at this point and in this place you are becoming more complete and more restored under the image of God. The husband cannot demand headship he can only earn it and the wife can give it.
Don’t forget to join our bible study this evening at 8.30 PM GMT +1 / 7.30 PM in London. It’s an interactive online bible study HERE ON FACEBOOK. I look forward to fellowshipping and praying with you for our marriages.
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