Submission and Headship: The Deep End of the Pool
Part 3: The Flags of the Spirit
by Harold and Bette Gillogly
We promised you in our last blog that with this one we were going to jump into the deep end of the pool!
So here we go! Ephesians 5:22-24 is a continuation of Paul’s teaching about how we can tell if we are filled with God’s Spirit and living wisely. In verse 21, he flies a Green Flag about how being filled with the Spirit means submitting to one another because that honors Jesus Christ. Verses 22-24 are actually a continuation of that thought and definitely a Green Flag. So verse 22 starts with “For wives, this means….” These verses can only be understood in light of verses 25-30, for these verses describe “For husbands, this means….” There is a danger of taking some of these verses out of context and focusing on just the wives’ part, so, even though it’s going to make this blog kind of long, we are going to focus on both, so that we get the whole picture of what submission looks like for both wives and husbands.
Stop right now and read Ephesians 5:22-33. Be honest. Whether you are a wife or a husband, this Scripture asks a whole lot of you, doesn’t it? To understand this Scripture, we need to look at 1 Peter 2:9 through 3:9, so stop right now and read these verses. They will help clarify Ephesians 5, and enable you to understand this important Flag of the Spirit. We’re making you work, aren’t we? But true understanding takes work, so here we go.
In 1 Peter 2:9-3:9, the Apostle Peter is in sync with Paul in describing submission and what it looks like. He describes it for us as every-day citizens, as slaves (or, maybe “employees”?), as wives, as husbands, and finally, as any other believer.
1 Peter 3:1 starts with “In the same way, you wives….” What ‘same way’ is he talking about? He’s talking about Jesus! A few verses before (verse 21), Peter writes, To this – submission – you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Most of my life, I (Bette) was taught that, as a wife, I should be submissive to my husband. I was rather confused about what that meant, but I tried. I must admit, it ruffled my feathers when I heard some preachers describe how wives should be their husbands’ doormats. I felt that couldn’t be what God was actually saying, but I wasn’t quite sure until I studied 1 Peter 2 and 3 and Ephesians 5 for myself. Then it became so clear to me, I couldn’t believe I had missed it all those years. Being submissive is simply being like Jesus, because being like Jesus is being submissive. Yes, my heart sometimes kicks up its rebellious heels, but being submissive is something I want to be, because I want to be like Jesus. Besides now, when I’m rebellious and refuse to have an attitude of submission, I know against whom I rebel…Jesus Himself.
Like Bette, I (Harold) heard Ephesians 5 misused to prove that husbands are kings and wives their subjects. When I was a young husband, I, like too many other husbands, took verse 23 – the husband is the head of the wife – and ran with it. I wasn’t quite sure what a “head” was supposed to be like, but I was IT. One day, I finally explored the rest of the verse …as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. I figured if I am to be the head like Christ, then I’d better find out what kind of head Christ is. The rest of this passage gave me some clues. Verse 25 urged me to love my wife sacrificially like Christ loves the church. Verse 28 commanded me to love her like I love my own body. And verse 33 said I must love her as if she were me.
Searching further, I found that Philippians 2:5-11 presented an even clearer picture of how Christ is head, and, therefore, how I am to be head. I discovered Christ took on the nature of a servant. That He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. That didn’t sound like a king/dictator to me. That sounded like a servant leader whose strength was displayed in humility.
A servant leader leads by example, just like 1 Peter 2:21 told us: To this – submission – you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. So if I want to be the right kind of “head,” then I must learn to be a servant leader like Jesus!
You see, wives and husbands have both been called to live a life of submission to the Lord and to one another, because we have both been called to be like Jesus!
Ephesians 5:31-33 clenches this whole teaching with the biggest Green Flags you ever saw. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined (glued) to his wife, and the two are united (glued) into one. This is a great mystery (You bet it is!), but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband…unconditionally.
These two FLAGS OF THE SPIRIT boil down to one thing: You want to be filled with God’s Spirit? You want to live wisely – not like a fool? Then you will live a life of submission like Jesus, Who lived His life in submission to the Father. Come to think of it, this just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are filled with God’s Spirit, how can you NOT look like God’s Son?
There are four more Flags of the Spirit in Ephesians. We’ll explore two of them in our next blog. In the meantime, we encourage you to read the article entitled “Headship and Submission – What Does it Really Mean?” You should also watch the following Webinars: Why Couple Decisions are Better Decisions, Headship and Submission – Today? Webinar – How to Reach Agreement on Major Decisions, Listening Guide – How to Reach Agreement on Major Decisions, and How to Make the Right Decisions Together Every Time.