Packed ongoing.001


I am currently preaching a sermon series on Sunday mornings at Wildwood Community Church called “Packed” – based out of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.  During this series, I am using my blog to post study prompts, devotionals, sermon audio/video, and discussion questions to help facilitate personal or group study of this book.  NOTE: At the bottom of this post, I have a set of links to previous resources in this series.


Ephesians 5:22-33 – Study Prompts #1

  1. As you pray for your study today, ask God to use His Word in your life as the writer of Hebrews prayed in Hebrews 13:20-21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.”
  2. Read Ephesians 5:22-33.
  3. STUDY NOTE:  In most English translations, there is a subject header that appears between Ephesians 5:21 and 5:22 that reads “Wives and Husbands” (or similar).  Headers like this were added by English translators to make the Scripture more accessible to the average reader today.  In the case of Ephesians 5:21-22, though, it may be that the added header (which was NOT in the letter’s original Greek language) may actually cause us to not fully understand the meaning of the passage that follows.  While 5:22-33 DOES begin commentary on wives and husbands, it is grammatically, thematically, and even theologically dependent on 5:17-21.  One indicator of the close connection between these sections is that the main verb of 5:22 (“submit”) is not even IN the original writing of the letter . . . 5:22 pulls the word “submit” forward from its use in 5:21.  Literally the verses read like this, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ: wives to husbands as to the Lord.”  Seeing this close tie between these verses is extremely important.  In other words, “submission” is a Christian commandment, not just a commandment to wives.  All Christians are to have an attitude about life that puts others wants, needs, and desires above their own.  Christians are a people who serve others to be all that God created them to be, not make demands of them for our own benefit.  Further, the ability to submit to one another is not a natural tendency for mankind, but a supernatural provision from God.  When believers are “controlled by the Holy Spirit” (5:18) they respond by submitting to and serving one another.  God wants to work within us as Christians under His Spirit’s influence, so that our families are marked by love and respect, not control and domination.
  4. In 5:22, Wives are called to “submit to your own husband.”  Some have erroneously argued that men are better than (or more important than) women, using this passage as a proof text.  However, this passage says no such thing!  As a matter of fact, whatever it means to “submit,” there is tight definition placed around who the wife is to submit to.  Who is the wife to submit to according to 5:22?  All men, or something more specific?
  5. Since all Christians are called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21), why do you think Paul goes out of his way to call wives specifically to submit to their husbands (especially when husbands are not called specifically to submit to your wives)?  What do you think Paul is trying to communicate here?
  6. STUDY NOTE:  In the beginning, God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden.  God also created Eve and together God gave them a life and a mission (see Genesis 1&2).  However, eventually, Adam and Eve sinned, and because of their sin, mankind “fell” into the darkened state that has persisted in this world to this day.  The fall of mankind carried with it a number of consequences, including consequences for husbands and wives.  In Genesis 3:16 God speaks to the consequences of the fall on married people when He says, “[The wife’s] desire will be to control [her] husband, and he shall dominate over you.”  This verse indicates for us the sinful seedbed that has haunted male/female relationships for millennia.  God says that because of sin, husbands and wives will not submit to and love each other naturally, but women’s temptation will be to control her husband, and the husband’s temptation will be to dominate his wife.  Neither of these were His plan for marriage from the beginning and they both carry with them disastrous consequences!  Instead of husbands and wives trying to control or dominate one another, a Christian marriage is a marriage of placing the other’s wants, needs, and desires above their own.  When the Spirit is controlling a marriage, it restores a marriage relationship to the Eden-like environment of wanting to serve, not dominate your spouse.
  7. Wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.”  I think this last phrase is best understood with the following paraphrase, “Wives submit to your husband out of obedience to Jesus Christ.”  In other words, Jesus has commanded us to submit, therefore, we submit out of obedience to Him.  This perspective adds three important nuances to the meaning of this passage.  First of all, it makes wive’s submission to their husbands a matter of spiritual importance not just relational convenience.  In other words, the wife submits to her husband in order to obey God, not just because she “wants to” or because her husband has “earned the right.”  The second perspective this adds, is that it places submission to God at the forefront, not submission to a man.  If a husband is asking his wife to do things that are against what God wants, the wife should not do those things, as her allegiance is ultimately to God.  Third, the tense of the verb “submit” in 5:21 is in such a voice that conveys that it is an ongoing action that is voluntarily brought upon oneself.  In other words, the husband is not called to demand submission from his wife or to force her to do anything.  The wife is called to follow the husbands lead of her own accord as a step of obedience to God.  Reflect a bit on these three perspectives.  What other questions, concerns, issues do these raise with you?
  8. The husband is said (according to 5:23) to be the “head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church.”  What do you think “headship” means in the husband/wife relationship?  How does the parallel between Christ and the church help you understand this?  How does it complicate things for you?
  9. STUDY NOTE:  Understanding the biblical term “headship” is important in this passage.  I have found a quick look at Genesis 2-3 to be helpful in fleshing out this role.  In the Genesis account, God gave Adam and Eve commands about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  However, in the end, they gave into the temptation and ate of the forbidden fruit, causing them to grow ashamed of their appearance and hide from one another and from God.  God eventually comes down to the Garden to talk to the first family in Genesis 3:8-9: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man [Adam] and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”  In this passage, we see that sin had entered the first family.  Further context from Genesis 3:1-7 would even indicate that Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, yet when God showed up in the Garden, who did He call out to first?  Adam!  Adam was the representative leader of the first family, and as such God called Adam front and center to get a report on what had happened in His family.  Later on God certainly talked to Eve as well, but the order of events is not insignificant.  It reveals part of what it means for the husband to have headship in a marriage.  He has a representative leadership role for the family before God.  I serve as one of the lead pastors at Wildwood Community Church.  If something big happened to Wildwood and a local news station were to come to our church to ask questions, they would want to talk to me.  Why?  Because I am in a role that represents the Church body to the world.  In a similar way, husband’s headship in the family is seen as a representative leadership role.  God will call husband’s into His presence and want them to give an account for their families.  Some want to see the role of headship as placing husbands as superior to their wives.  This is NOT what the passage indicates.  The idea, instead, is that husbands are given a unique role to serve their families by acting as their representative head.  The world sees leaders as people who have privilege, the Scripture sees leaders as people who have responsibility . . . responsibility to serve those they lead.  As the head of the church, Jesus is the representative of all who have faith in Him, so that when God looks at us, He looks into the eyes of our Head, Jesus Christ. 
  10. In 5:24, wives are called to “submit in everything” to their husbands.  This is a high call.  What are some circumstances you can think of that might challenge this call to “submit in all things?”  What do you think Paul is implying by making this dramatic call to submission?
  11. Tom Constable in his notes on Ephesians has said that a good way to think about the topic of what it practically looks like to “submit” as a wife is to think of the word “structure.”  A wife is called to structure her life in such a way to support her husband.  If you are a wife, what would it look like to structure your life to support your husband?  What would you continue to do, stop doing, start doing, etc?
  12. NOTE: We will be continuing to add to this discussion of Ephesians 5:22-33 all week in this study.  No doubt you still have some questions, thoughts after working through the first few verses today.  Don’t worry!  Hopefully things will make more sense as we continue to soak in this passage together this week. 

For more resources related to this study of Ephesians click on the following links:


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