Setting

Christians are not of the world (Jn 17:16) but must continue to live in the world (Jn 17:15). Thus, walking in the way of God often brings a Christian into confrontation with the norms of the world. Relationships do not disappear when we become Christians. Paul here writes about how Christians should behave in relationships with one another and with those who are not believers. In particular, in an immoral society where adultery and divorce was common, the Christian relationship between a man and his wife held much hope for love, peace and growth. These teachings are so needed for today’s society as well.

Key Verse

(5:21)

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Outline

  • Submitting to One Another
    (5:21)
  • The Relationship between A Husband and His Wife
    (5:22-33)
  • The Relationship between A Child and His Parent
    (6:1-4)
  • The Relationship between A Slave and His Master
    (6:5-9)

Segment Analysis

  • 5:21

    1.

    Verse 21 is a transition between the previous passage and this passage. What is the basis of submission, according to this verse?

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    All forms of submission originate from the fear of the Lord. In other words, we submit to one another as to the Lord (see 5:22, 6:5; Col 3:2-23).

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  • 5:22-23

    2.

    How should a wife treat her husband?

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    Submit to her husband as to the Lord (5:22). Be subject in everything to her husband (5:24). Respect her husband (5:33).

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  • 3a.

    How should a husband treat his wife?

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    Be the head of his wife (5:23). Love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (5:25). Love his wife as his own body (5:28). Leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (5:31; Gen 2:24). Love his wife as himself (5:33).

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  • 3b.

    What are some concrete ways for a husband to love his wife?

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    The passage teaches us that the husband needs to give himself for the wife just as Christ did for the church. This suggests that the husband needs to make more sacrifices and shoulder more responsibilities for the wife. Besides showing his affections for his wife, he needs to protect and care for his wife as he does his own body, bear the pains and hardships of the family, be sensitive to and considerate of his wife’s needs, carry heavy loads, be willing to suffer for his wife, do the extra work even when he is tired, make plans as well as difficult decisions for the family, take the lead to find solutions to problems, etc.

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  • 4a.

    The teaching about a husband and wife propounded here may seem strange to modern minds accustomed to the ‘equality of the sexes’. How does Paul justify his view?

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    By comparing the relationship of a husband and his wife to that of Christ and His body (the church). Thus note that:
    Christ is the head of the church (5:23).
    The church is subject to Christ (5:24).
    Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (5:25).
    Christ sanctified the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (water baptism) … that she might be holy and without blemish. Thus Christ nourishes and cherishes the church, His body (5:26,27,29,30).

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  • 4b.

    Should gender equality be emphasized in a husband-wife relationship? Explain your answer.

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    Equality is unfitting in the discussion on a husband-wife relationship just as it is unfitting when we speak of the relationship between the head and the body. Equality applies to the relationship between two distinct individuals, but the husband and wife are one body. Equality stresses rights and privileges, but love stresses giving ourselves and fulfilling our responsibilities.
    Using the analogy of the head and the body, Paul teaches us that husbands and wives are one (5:31). Just as the body submits to the head, the wife should also submit to the husband. This does not mean that the wife is inferior to the husband, just as the body is not inferior to the head. It simply shows that both the head and the body have their respective roles to play. The role of the head is not to dominate, but to think on behalf of the body and be considerate for the needs of the body. In the same way, the husband should be considerate of his wife’s needs whenever he makes decisions. His leadership role is built on his love for his wife, not dominance over her.
    Many women today cannot accept the teaching on submission for two reasons: They do not experience their husband’s love and misunderstand the meaning of husbands as being the head in a husbandwife relationship. But such obstacle does not exist in a loving relationship in which the husband truly cares for his wife and gives himself for her in everything. In such a trusting relationship, the wife gladly submits to the husband’s decisions, knowing that he always does what is best. In fact, submission becomes a blessing in the same way submission to the Lord is a blessing. She feels secure because she is trusting someone who always makes sacrifices for her.

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  • 5.

    Discuss how modern Christian families, especially where both partners work, should adopt this teaching on the relationship between a husband and his wife.

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  • 6.

    What does it mean that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church “with the washing of water by the word” (26)?

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    The washing of water by the word refers to baptism into Christ. Both water and word are involved, meaning that spiritual cleansing takes effect during baptism according to God’s word (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16). Baptism is effective because Christ has given Himself for the church (Eph 5:25). His precious blood washes our sins away during baptism.

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  • 6:1-4

    7a.

    How should a child treat his parents?

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    Obey his parents in the Lord (6:1). Honor his father and mother (6:2).

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  • 7b.

    What does the phrase “in the Lord” suggest (6:1)?

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    Obedience to parents is built on obedience to the Lord. Therefore, the verse continues with “for this is right”—Obedience to parents is right because it is right in the eyes of God.

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  • 8.

    How should a father (parent) treat his children?

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    Do not provoke them to anger (6:4). Bring them up in the training (discipline) and admonition (instruction) of the Lord (6:4).

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  • 9.

    Some modern parenting techniques advocate reasoning with the child in all matters and never to expect a child to obey just because one is his parent. How does Paul justify his unambiguous stand on the submission of children to their parents?

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    By referring to the 10 Commandments (6:2,3; Ex 20:12).

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  • 10a.

    What does it mean to not provoke our children to wrath?

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    Fathers should not make unreasonable demands or let out their own anger and frustrations on their children.

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  • 10b.

    What role should the father play in the house?

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    As the spiritual leader in the family, the father is responsible for teaching his children the fear of the Lord (Deut 6:4-9).

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  • 11.

    As a result of reading Eph 5:22-6:4, discuss the structure of a sound and healthy Christian family.

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    The nuclear family is created when a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife (Eph 5:31). In this nuclear family, the husband is the head of his wife and the children must obey the parents. Note that children need to obey their parents only as long as they are children, which by definition is when they have not left their parents to form their own nuclear families. Based on this, there should be no confusion in the Christian family as to who is the head of the family—it is the man (who is husband and father) and not the couple’s parents/parents-in-law. To one’s parents and parents-in-law, a married person does not owe obedience but rather love, respect and a responsibility to take care of them (1Tim 5:4,7,8). It is very good if a good Christian couple can extend their respect of their parents to include obedience but this should not be placed as a burden on the couple.

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  • 6:5-9

    12.

    How should a slave treat his master?

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    Be obedient with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ (6:5). Not with eyeservice but as servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart (6).

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  • 13.

    How should a master treat his slave?

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    Do good to him with the knowledge that he will receive reward from the Lord (6:8,9). Do not threaten (6:9).

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  • 14.

    What is the basis for this kind of relationship between a slave and his master?

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    That Christ is the Master of both and that there is no partiality with Him (6:9).

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