Saturday, February 17, 2007

Submission in the Church

One thread I've repeatedly run into in Scripture is that of submission, and one of the most familiar examples of submission in Christendom is that of wives submitting to their husbands. (Col 3:18, Eph 5:22f).

What one doesn't hear too often is that wives aren't the only ones who are instructed to be submissive. 1 Corinthians 11:3 puts it well:

But I want you to understand that
the head of every man is Christ,
the head of a wife is her husband, and
the head of Christ is God.

If one changes this around a bit and assume that "headship" on one person's part is reason for submission on another person's part, then what you have is:

Wives submit to their husbands ,
Husbands submit to Christ,
Christ submits Himself to God (presumably the Father part of the Godhead).

So both husbands and Christ Himself are to be submissive to the one who has headship over them. Ephesians 5:22f expands on this a bit further:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Now, headship over another person isn't a matter of the submitting person being a slave or give the person in the position authority cause to abuse the one they have authority over. Quite to the contrary, if one looks at the relationship between a husband and wife, you see direct parallels to the relationship of Christ to His Church.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.Eph 5:25

In short, rightly done, the submission of a wife to her husband is the wife helping him love her, take care of her, and - if need be - lay down his life for her protection and defense. This is the same as the Church submitting to Christ, who cleans the people of the church by the washing of water with the word, so that she - the church - may be holy and blameless.

In this way, both the husband and Christ - by caring for their brides - are loving themselves.

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