I gave a teaching to students on the biblical teaching on sex and marriage:
This is a sermon I taught last Wednesday at my youth group. It was on sex and marriage:
So far in this series, I have considered what biblical evidence there is for the position of complementarianism. This position posits that the Bible supports a view of marriage in which male and female have differing roles. The husband is the loving leader, while the wife is willingly submissive. You can view my first post here, and the second here.
While we briefly looked at Ephesians 5 in the first post, I want to go back to the passage. Because this passage is so central to the concept of complementarity among male and females. And I want to consider that Paul here is telling men and women to operate in marriage the way that Christ and the church relate to one another. Christ is the head of the church, and the church is his body (Eph 5:23).
What many egalitarians say is that in Ephesians 5, Paul was giving commands within a certain hierarchical historical context. He wasn’t necessarily advocating male headship, but simply trying his best to exhort the church while in that historical setting. Beside the obvious (to me at least) exegetical troubles with that stance, I want to consider here that Paul was actually challenging the common norm of his day.
During this time period, women were seen as belonging to their husbands. And while the wife had responsibility to do her husband’s bidding, the husband had no real responsibility other than to order his wife around. This is of course abusive. And if this is what Paul were advocating, that would be a legitimate concern. But this is in no way what Paul is saying.
In fact, most of the verses in chapter 5 (vv. 25-31) concern the responsibility of the husband! The wife is considered in only 3 verses! What I want us to consider here is that while the male is the leader in the relationship, Paul is giving both of them responsibilities before Christ. In fact, arguably, the husband has more responsibility and weight on his shoulders, and is therefore more accountable for his actions.
I think we have all heard that the wife is to submit as she would to Christ. Perhaps we’ve bee reminded of this all too often! Nevertheless, this is the wife’s calling. And it certainly is a tall order. The woman is called to willingly (not by way of coercion) submit to and respect her husband as if Christ himself were her husband. That is intimidating.
But what about the husband? Yes, the wife is to submit to her head as she would Christ; but the husband is called to lovingly lead and provide as Christ has provided for the church. The responsibility goes two ways, you see. While the church submits and finds saving nourishment in Christ, Christ as the head, provides for, leads, and causes his body to flourish. The husband’s role is much more than simply “giving orders”. He is to nourish his wife as Christ has savingly nourished us. This means that as the leader of the marriage, the initiative he takes in their relationship can never be taken without his consideration of her needs. Everything that the husband does in the marriage necessarily must be for her betterment (Eph 5:26).
And this means that he is to care for her more than he cares for himself. In fact, Paul says that every husband must care for his wife as he cares for his own body (Eph 5:28). No reasonable person mistreats or abuses their own body — rather, they nourish it and care for it! Likewise, because husband and wife become “one flesh” in marriage, the husband is responsible for his wife’s welfare. Just as Christ died to take responsibility for his body, the church, and is now in the process of sanctifying her (Eph 5:25-26), so the husband does everything in the interest of caring for and maturing his wife.
This is not a dictatorship. This is a reflection of Christ’s loving and renewing care for his own bride. And I would argue that as hard as it may be for a wife to support, submit, and respect her husband’s leadership, it is equally hard for the husband to take responsibility for the betterment of his wife. And if any husband is harsh in his leadership toward his wife, or if he doesn’t recognize her needs, then he simply isn’t fulfilling his responsibility before Christ.
Indeed, Christ took our sins on himself, washed us clean, and even still nourishes us by his Spirit, enabling us to be what he so desires us to be. In every step, he is enabling, loving, and having grace toward us. He knows our every need, our every fear, and he leads us with care and tenderness, desiring only our betterment. This is what a husband is called to!
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32). This was how Paul ended his section on marriage from Ephesians 5. And after telling wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to lovingly lead their wives, he says that marriage is a mystery — and that the mystery of marriage revolves around the gospel.
What does he mean by this?
Tim Keller, prolific author and theologian says in his book Meaning of Marriage:
“What is the secret of marriage? Paul [says], ‘I am talking about Christ and the church’, referring to what he said earlier in verse 25, ‘Husbands love you wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…’. In short, the secret is not simply the fact of marriage per se. It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. And what was that?
Jesus gave himself up for us. Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Philippians 2:5ff). But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be in unity with him and take on his nature…Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into deep union with him and he with us. And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it. That is why he is able tie the original statement about marriage in Genesis 2 to Jesus and the church. As one commentator put it, ‘Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage, He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever!’…
This is the secret — that the gospel of Jesus and marriage explain one another. That when God invented marriage, he already had the saving work of Jesus in mind.” (pp 45-47, emphasis his)
I’m doing a series of posts on why I’m a complementarian. If you don’t know what that is, please read my first post, and I give you a definition of that and also the opposing egalitarian view. In my first post, I considered the biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption, and concluded that the narrative itself presents a complementarian view of marriage.
In this post, I want to consider the Trinity. Now this may seem strange to apply the theology of the Trinity to a subject about manhood and womanhood within marriage. But because egalitarians consider it oppressive to define roles within marriage in terms of headship and submission, I think it is completely pertinent to consider how the Trinity functions and operates.
First, I want to affirm that each person within the Trinity — Father, Son and Spirit — is fully and equally God. There are several texts to consider. John 1 for instance says that in the beginning (eternity past) Jesus was with God (the Father), and he is God (John 1:1). Acts 5:3-4 tells an episode in which Peter equates the Holy Spirit with God himself. And also, there are plenty of texts referring to the Father as God (Eph 4:6, 1 Cor 8:6). Besides this, there are numerous texts in which each person of the Trinity is referred: Jesus tells the disciples to baptize disciples in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:18-20). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. They are all there: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
All this is mentioned to say that each member of the Trinity is equally God. And, the one God of the Bible would not exist apart from each person of the Trinity.
But what this does not mean is that each equal member of the Trinity has the same function. Equality does not preclude uniformity. In fact, each person in the Trinity has a separate function and responsibility. Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us that the Father’s role in salvation is that of choosing. He chooses us in Christ and predestines that in Christ we will be presented holy and blameless before him (vv. 3-6). However, Christ’s role in this salvation is different. His role is to spill his blood that we might have that redemption and forgiveness chosen by the Father (vv. 7-10). But then, the Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s death, and seals us for the day of redemption. From this text, we find that each member of the Trinity has a differing role in our salvation!
And quite remarkably, Christ’s role is subservient to the Father’s, and the Spirit’s role is submissive to the Son’s. Though each member of the Trinity is equal, they have roles which submit to one another. Christ said that he came not to do his own will, but the will of his Father (Jn 6:38). And the Spirit was given to magnify the work of Christ (Jn 16:14)!
If complementarianism is oppressive to women, then we must also agree that Christ’s willing submission to the Father is oppressive. Since we cannot say that, than we also cannot say that headship and submission within marriage is wrong. In fact, as you delve deeper into the Trinitarian mission and mind, you find that the unity and diversity found in marriage models the unity and diversity found in the Godhead!
In marriage, two people become one flesh (Gen 2:24), and yet each person has a different role in that oneness. The male is the head, and the female is the helper. The male leads, the female supports. And, just as it is impossible to have redemption without each member of the Trinity, it is impossible to have a marriage without one man, and one woman.
Equality in worth, diversity in function.