Be controlled by the Spirit. This is the heart of Ephesians 5.
Years ago, as a recent college graduate, I attended a small church that was filled with families. In fact, I was the only single person in the church (other than a few widows). The pastor had a passion for building up families and encouraging marriages. The years I spent under this wise pastor’s teaching has greatly benefitted my marriage!
I still remember him preaching on this passage in Ephesians 5. Surprisingly, he didn’t focus as heavily on the verses that deal directly with marriage (5:22-33), but rather emphasized Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” And then he gave the line that I have written down in my old bible, “I’ll tell you where it’s hard to walk in the Spirit…in Marriage!”
There is much controversy about the command for wives to “submit” to their husbands (5:22). Listen. God designed marriage to model the trinity. There is mutual submission within the trinity as each member has equal value but diverse function. Seriously…do we expect marriages to thrive if both halves are given the same function? That’s just silly. Marriage is a team effort, and typically that means each member has a unique role to fill.
For husbands, they are to love their wives (5:25). Now wives are supposed to love their husbands too, but what husbands cherish more than love is respect. So how fitting that wives are commanded to respect their husbands (5:33)! If both parties fulfill their roles well, as God designed, then submission becomes a non-issue – ESPECIALLY since the command for wives to submit to their husbands is given in the context of mutual submission…
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:19-21).
The concept of submission extends beyond marriage and is expected in other relationships as well. Paul addresses parent/child relationships (6:1-4) and “master/bondservant” (or more modernly speaking), employee/employer relationships (6:5-9).
Why is submission such a big deal? We submit out of reverence for Christ (5:21)! Afterall, he is the model of submission! There is no shame in submission – especially when it is emulating the life of our Savior!