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Description: Love is Submitting to One Another
Love is Submitting to One Another
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’re studying Ephesians 5:22 and it reads, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.”
It’s part of the outline that Paul is beginning to give us on our relationships to each other in
Jesus. In verse 21,” Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
You remember how we outlined that the eye needs the arm and the arm needs the hand and every part of
the body needs the other parts and they are to work together in mutual submission one to another
out of reverence for Christ. Not because they themselves are worthy of respect, but because
together they are part of Jesus.
Just as the Saviour said “If you give a cup of water to someone in my name you give it as unto me,”
so when we respect each other inside Jesus we’re respecting him. That’s why we’re each worthy of
respect. Then he applies this to different relationships and the first one is this one in verse 22.
“Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord.”
I’d like to deal with the obvious question that comes into our minds; its the idea of the stern,
strong husband who is always right and has absolute right to tell his miserable, silly wife what to
do. And of course that’s so often the “truth” that is elicited from this verse by many in the
evangelical church; that the job of wives, as we said of children years ago that the task of a child
is to be seen and not heard, so the task of a wife is to be seen and not heard, but to do what her
husband tells her.
We know in non-Christian nations how that has wrought havoc in the whole position of wives and we
see it in all kinds of backgrounds these days when we get to know more about what goes on in other
countries. We see how wives have often no legal rights at all and how they are utterly dominated by
their husbands and if not by their husbands, then by the males in their families and in their
extended families. So the poor ladies suffer all kinds of abuse physically and sexually and all
kinds of deprivation emotionally undoubtedly, as well as professionally.
We see how people like Hillary Clinton are doing their little bit to try to get women the rights to
even drive a car in certain countries. So we can see how the abuse of this clear declaration here
by God has brought about all kinds of injustice and we see what is a wrong interpretation of “Wives,
be subject to your husbands” in effect saying “Be subject to your husbands whether they are right or
wrong you be subject to them. Your job is to do what they tell you and to serve them.” It’s often
been the attitude of the world that the only job of a woman is to help her husband and she has no
rights beyond that.
That is utterly contradictory to the respect that Jesus obviously showed for his mother Mary, and
for the sisters Martha and Mary and for Bethany and for Dorcas and all the other ladies that headed
up home churches after he was raised from the dead. He obviously showed great respect for the
ladies that were the ones that lifted him down from the cross initially and that anointed his body.
His whole attitude to women was one of respect and love even when it came to Mary Magdalene or
someone who had been immoral. His attitude was one of concern and respect and love.
The Father himself, by giving ladies the talents and abilities they have, and by giving them the
position they often had in the Jewish Nation and in the activities in the Old Testament, when you
think of people like Ruth and others who served him as prophetesses obviously the attitude the
Father had to women was not one of contempt or one of disrespect, but one of great respect and he
looked upon them as equal partners in the person he had made in the garden in the beginning.
So it is important to see, first of all, that that does not mean “Wives be subject to your husbands
– just be quite and do what you’re told.” It obviously means something different from that. It
seems to me it means exactly what Paul has just said in the previous verse; be subject to one
another out of reverence for Christ. Be submissive to each other in the particular talent or
ability or position that God has given you. So if the Father has given you some gift for song or
some gift for speaking, than the others are to benefit from that and be submissive to you in that.
If God has given a certain insight or understanding to a person, then be sensible, be submissive to
that. For those of us who have worked together as men and women for years now, we’re very aware
that you ladies often have intuition that we men lack at times and often you see through people that
we don’t see though. Often you have a sense of certain atmospheres and attitudes that we don’t have
so it’s obvious that there are gifts that ladies have more of than the men have, and in that case
it’s just sensible to be submissive to each other in that regard.
So it seems that’s the first thing we’re to see: that we’re not talking about this hard
interpretation “Obey, you’re job is to obey.” Why would I say that? Because it’s written plainly
in scripture in Acts 5:27, “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And
the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet
here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’
But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers
raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader
and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these
things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’”
Peter replies strongly saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” It seems very plain that what
(Watchman) Nee said is true; “Obedience is relative, submission is absolute.” If your husband tells
you to do something that plainly is not God’s will and that you sense is not what God wants you to
do then it’s right that you obey God. Always you obey God rather than man. That applies even to us
in our own relationships.
It’s important that we see that none of us can finally tell the other what is God’s will for them.
You can say what you think is God’s will but finally you have to obey God rather than men. That’s
where I think that Nee’s statement is good; that obedience is something that is relative, that is,
relative to the person that is speaking to you and in the case of God, he is preeminent and his
command is more important and overrules all other commands. So if there is ever any question there,
then no, you obey God rather than man. That takes care of a great deal of the misunderstanding that
has gone on down through the years where men have claimed they have the right to tell you what to
do. No. According to scripture it’s right to say “Not if it forces me to disobey God.” So obedience
in that sense is relative.
Submission is absolute; I thought that was good because it seemed that the problem with Miriam and
Aaron was lack of a submissive spirit, not only to God but towards Moses. Why I read the other part
of that scripture that speaks of Moses is because it says that “Moses was a man that was meek above
everyone that was in the earth. This Moses who was so strong and so able to stand up against
Pharoah when he had no army at his back at all compared with what Pharoah had, this Moses apparently
was supposedly meek beyond any man on the face of the earth. He was a man who had a submissive
quiet spirit who said “God’s will comes first, not my will.” So that even when Aaron and Miriam
spoke against him, he did not himself tackle them, he waited for God to act with leprosy on Miriam
and then he explained the situation. But he did not go after them himself; he left it in the
That expresses the heart of this verse, “Be subject to one another as unto Christ.” Have a spirit
of submission to each other in Christ. Have a spirit of submission to Christ himself. An attitude
that says, “Lord I’m in your hands. Whatever is your will for me that I accept” so that when
another person treats you in an unfair way you do not go out immediately against that person to keep
them off you, but you submit to Jesus and thank him for this situation and you trust him to express
himself through you to the other person who is taking advantage of you. The heart of being subject
to one another inside Jesus is our heart’s attitude; our attitude of submission.
I came across Matthew 5:5 again and it came home to me anew as I read it again; “Blessed are the
meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Indeed the Mennonites specialized in this doctrine from
the earliest days. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” You can’t get around
it! It is a promise that Christ himself makes so plainly there, so you may have your troubles in
interpreting it, but it’s certainly very strong.
I remember learning it years ago in Greek and I looked at it again today and the word for meek has
actually two spellings, so it looks as if there are two Greek words for the word meek. One of them
bends over into gentle — that is meek: gentle. I remember one person who said, “What does gentle
mean?” The answer was “Gentle means a spirit easily turned in God’s hand.” It’s the picture that
is given in that piece in the Old Testament that says the heart of the King is like water that is
turned. You have the hand, and water is flowing into it and you turn the hand and where the hand
goes the water flows out. That’s a spirit easily turned in God’s hand so that it moves as God
directs it to.
It seems to me to be the spirit of submission that Jesus has in himself and wants us to experience
with each other so that we’re easily turned. There is no standing up of the will saying, “No. I
won’t do it that way. No. You’re doing it the wrong way.” There is no stubborn, stiff-necked
attitude. There’s a gentle spirit, a quiet trusting spirit that’s easily turned in God’s hand so
that when one person says, “Well I wonder if we should do it that way?” The other person says,
“That’s a good idea.” Do you ask, “You mean I agree when I agree with the thing 99.95%?” No, often
when you’ve agreed only 33%! Most often when you think it’s not the most wonderful idea!
Now there is no harm in expressing where you disagree, but there is great harm in a willful
resistance to it. There is no harm in saying, “I don’t know if that’s the way to go, but let’s do
it” where the heart rises in a gentle spirit of cooperation and you go to it. Maybe it’s the right
way, and maybe it’s the wrong way, in which case it will become obvious. But a gentle spirit is one
that is easily turned in God’s hands. That is, one that wants his will above everything else, and
above all one that does not want it’s own will or is not determined to insist on its own way.
Very much like two people in love, as my wife and I were, and actually we still often end up in the
same situation. My wife will often ask me “Where would you like to go?” And I say, “Wherever you
would like to go.” When we first fell in love it was chaotic because we ended up going to the
places that neither of us wanted to go! But it was nice in that you loved the other person and
wanted their will more than you wanted your own and it seems that is what Jesus has for us.
That’s why I thought the “wives” thing applied to all of us because if you ask if we live like
husbands and wives – we live like husbands and wives — because we’re so close to each other and
we’re so involved with each other day by day and we’re affected so much by each other’s and so by
each other’s choices, that of course we’re like husbands and wives in our practical experience of
life together day by day.
The same applies to the body of Jesus where it occurs in a real sense, and as in a real group of
Nun’s or Monk’s – I mean true and real when there is a constant effect of one upon the other. If
they didn’t live as one person it would be unbearable, just unbearable. When you get that stubborn,
personal will standing up and insisting on its own way it breaks everything.
So it seems to me something that is much more concerned with spirit and submissiveness and in your
faith in God running your life, and your trust that he is the one in charge. Your trust in his
omnipotent ability to overrule what anybody would insist you do. Indeed a deep, invincible,
unchangeable confidence that God will work all things according to the council of his will regarding
your life whatever or however other people or the whole world may try to destroy that plan. God
will ensure that it occurs, that it is done.
I think that’s what gave the Quakers and the Mennonites the ability to take such physical punishment
as well as such financial and commercial punishment in the old days. And I think actually it is
what enabled the little Jewish girl in the gas chamber to say “Leave him alone, my precious brother
will die with me.” I think it was a deep, deep confidence build into that Jewish race that whatever
men did to them, God would have his way, and I think that’s the basis of our attitude to each other.
It’s not what Christian Corps is going to do, it’s not what I’m going to do, it’s not what anybody
else is going to do that’s going to govern the direction of your life. It’s what God is going to
do that’s going to govern and that’s why it’s possible of us to have such a gentle and submissive
and loving attitude to each other.
Let us pray.