Colossians 3:18 & Ephesians 5:22 by Robert Dean
The foundation of a good marriage is orientation to authority, humility, submission and imitation of Christ and relationships within the Godhead. These are applications that extend to all relationships at every age and marital status. Preservation of this divine institution is essential for our culture to survive and for sanctification to live itself out in our lives. Marriage is defined in scripture, not by starry-eyed lovers or embittered divorcees. Marriage is to fulfill the purpose of God. The only way to know that purpose is to seek advice from scripture. Biblical roles for men and women create clarity. Our culture has attacked these roles creating gender confusion and cultural degeneration. Be encouraged about what the Bible teaches about marriage. Live out His truth in our confused culture and know abundance in a God-defined counter culture.

This lesson also includes Genesis 1:26-28

The Purpose for Marriage. Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22, Genesis 1:26-28


As we get into this study we are going to begin a new sub-series, and this one deals with what the Bible teaches about marriage and the family. This is a crucial and vital study, one that every one of us needs to pay attention to no matter what our current marital status might be. No matter what stage of life that we are in there are things we will cover that are pertinent to every one of us. There is one area that is significant for all of us simply because we are living in the 21st century in the decline of western civilisation and a time in the history of this nation when the very concept of marriage is under attack from numerous forces. Marriage is in a state of crisis and has been for at least forty or fifty years as an institution viewed and understood by society. Yet we have learned and studied over the years that marriage is not something that was developed or invented by mankind but that God instituted and established marriage. God defines it; God ordained it; and God has given us principles and direction in Scripture on how to have a successful marriage.

But therein we raise the question: What does it means to have a successful marriage? To have a successful marriage does not mean that you have a happy marriage. It does not mean that you have a marriage that is filled with passion or romance—often portrayed in various romantic media. The success of a marriage defined biblically is that it fulfils the purpose of God for marriage. So we will trey to understand the divine purpose for marriage.

We talk about marriage because it is something that enters into everybody's experience. People have all kinds of different opinions about marriage. Looking around the world there are many different expressions, ideas and views on marriage. Some think that marriage is the key to happiness in life. Others think that marriage is the key to misery in life. Some think that marriage is some outdated primordial concept that really has no more relevance today. This is usually from the feminist camp that thinks that marriage is just an outdated form of patriarchal enslavement of women. Many think that marriage is something that was culturally determined, it evolved over time.

And yet, in contrast to that as Christians we believe that marriage was not something that just evolved pragmatically. We don't even think that marriage was something God initiated as a response to sin. But that marriage was created and established with a purpose, with goals and objectives, with defined roles before sin ever entered into the human race. Therefore it is important for us to understand the divine intent of marriage before we can ever get into talking about many of the difficulties, problems and challenges that we face at an experiential level. We first must understand what the issues are in God's original intent for marriage.

Since the collapse of biblical authority in western civilisation—which occurred during the period of the Enlightenment—biblically based ideas and institutions have been under a consistent assault from the educated and humanist elite. It started back in the 17th century attacking the very idea of biblical authority as an authority. That is important. We may ask why in the world we are going back to the Enlightenment when we are talking about marriage. It is because one thing that came out of the Enlightenment was this challenge to the idea of authority. And as we look at the passage before us in Colossians chapter three one idea that is deeply embedded in this whole passage is the concept of authority. There has been a rebellion against authority in western civilisation for the last fifty or sixty years and that is the major issue that is at the core of the collapse of marriage and the family. It goes back to basic, fundamental concepts.

We have been looking at Colossian s 3:16, 17. That is really the background for understanding the context of what Paul says from v.18 down through 4:1. He begins with the command to let the Word of Christ "dwell in you richly." As we have studied, that means that the Word of Christ is to take up its dwelling inside of us. It is to become so much a part of us, so much at home in us that it is going to completely renovate, overhaul or transform our thinking (Romans 12:2). As a result of that transformed thinking it is going to change how we think about everything in life and how we interact with all of the different issues in life. It is going to have certain results in our life. The first result that we focused on was in singing in worship. It produces a result in teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. The Paul gave the universal principle that whatever we do in every area of life—there is no area of life that is outside the authority of God. The Word of Christ as the authority in our life is going to tell us where our ideas are right and where our ideas are wrong; and it is going to teach us how we are to change and conform to the truth. That is the purpose of God's Word: to rebuke us, to correct us, and to put us on the path of righteousness so that we can become all that God intended for us to be as human beings—we are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Then he is going to go into some other results.

In Ephesians 5:19ff we have a much more details passage that is parallel to this. In this passage the commands related to the family are abbreviated. 

Colossians 3:18-21 NASB "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."

Then the passage shifts, but it is also talking about what happens within the home because the context here is talking about masters and slaves, and when they owned the slaves these slaves were very much a part of the household. So it is still talking about household relationships. In verse 23 Paul again reiterates the underlying principle: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." In that context he is applying that to the slave working for the master, but it reiterates the statement in verse 17 that whatever we do we are to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.

In the parallel Ephesians passage, starting at verse 21, it is translated by a participle of results. The previous verses talk about the same ideas that we see in Colossians 3:16, 17. The difference is that the primary command in Ephesians 5 is found in verse 18, and rather than saying "Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you," it says, "Be filled by means of the Spirit." It brings in the idea that it is God the Holy Spirit that is foundational to the implementation of these commands; it is not something we just do on our own. The Holy Spirit doesn't make it happen for us but He fills us, and He fills us with something. The something that He fills us with we see in the parallel of Colossians 3:16—His Word. So it is the Spirit of God plus the Word of God that is foundational to renovating, overhauling our thinking; and of we are not willing to submit to the authority of God and His instruction then it doesn't really matter what else we do in life as Christians because it will ultimately be doomed to failure.

In Ephesians Paul introduces a concept that is fundamental at the very beginning of this section. He identifies the result of the filling of the Spirit as submitting to one another in the fear of God. That is an important statement because it precedes what he says about the family. So it is family and home and work place. There is this overall attitude for the believer of submission. What is important in submission is humility. That is the foundation. Actually, most of the time when talking about this we try to deemphasise the submission idea because that has been so overloaded with negative connotations by the feminist movement today, and we've all been influenced by it in too many ways because that is what we hear day in and day out. The idea here has to do with humility and leadership. If we are operating on arrogance then we cannot be what God intends us to be as a believer in relation to anybody. The fundamental idea in submission to authority is always humility. So to characterise every relationship that a believer has is the idea of humility, and not to be forcing our ideas on other people, not to make every situation all about us, but to be willing to not make issues out of non-essential things in order to prevent relational breakdown and collapse.

Paul then applies that to marriage. Ephesians 5:22 NASB "Wives, {be subject} to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Then he explains it. [23] "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church …" So his reasoning for this has to do with an order of relationship that goes back to Christ. It is not sociological, it doesn't have to do with cultural ideas; he builds it upon the foundation of our relationship to Christ within the church. With husbands he uses the same model; he goes back to Christ. [25] "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." So the model for husbands is Christ and the church.

In the post-feminist era the women always vibrate as soon as you say the wives are to submit to their husbands, and they are vibrating so much that they don't really don't hear how hard this is on the men. And the other part of the problem is that the men don't really pay attention to it. The standard here is extremely tough on the men. Women think, well I'm married to this guy, he's not a leader, he's not really that positive to the Word, he's not that successful, I just got stuck with this bum and how in the world can God expect me to submit to him? But the husband is sitting there saying, "I have to love this woman like Christ loved the church? I don't think I could love anyone, even my dog, like Christ loved the church." Jesus Christ gave His life for the church and even on our best days and on our best moments it is not that easy for any of us to think that we will give up our life for someone else. That is an extremely high standard. That is a tougher standard than the standard for the women. And there is a lot more said here to the men than what is said to the women. The reason is that God designed the male to be the head of the home leader of the home and he is the one who is spiritually responsible, the initiator within the home. The woman is the responder within the home and in many ways the woman has her own volition and often can rebel and continue to reject truth against the husband, but in many ways it is the husband who through his successful obedience to the Word or his failure to obey the Word sets the tone, the atmosphere within the home, in terms of its spiritual focus. And failure to do that on the part of the men is often the cause of marital meltdown.        

It is suggested that as we look at Scripture and we look at where we are either as Christians in the early 21st century and a part of American culture that the reason that we have the problems that we do in terms of gender confusion, gender identity, identity politics, the rise of radical feminism from the 60s, is because ultimately American males failed to pursue the objective that God defined from the beginning of creation. And as a result of male failure there is a reaction of the females who go off the cliff in the other direction in reaction to male failure. Then there is set up a consequent ping-pong effect where for every action there is an equal reaction where there is a further distancing of the two sexes. Over the last fifty years it has brought us the fruit of increased marital breakdown, divorce, the rise of gender confusion, increase in homosexuality and acceptance of it, and many other problems associated with the social shift and confusion related to the roles of men and women and marriage. It doesn't get any better and the only solution is going to be a divine solution.

To understand some of these things we not only have to understand the text of Scripture but we have to understand what has happened historically. Historically in western civilisation there was a massive rejection among the intellectual elite of biblical authority that occurred with what came to be known as the Enlightenment. The idea was partially good and partially bad as many things are throwing off the yoke of authority of the Roman Catholic Church. But there was the confusion where the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was identified with Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church really wasn't biblically Christian. It had for over a thousand years wedded itself to first platonic ideas coming out of ancient Greece so that the Roman Catholic Church did not represent a biblical view of God, man and creation; it represented a synthesis between biblical ideas but it was just another form of paganism because of its merger with Greek philosophical thought.

This brought about a collapse in many ways of western civilisation in its own right until Martin Luther led the charge against the Roman Catholic Church in the Protestant Reformation. They threw off the authority of the church but in the Protestant Reformation they returned to the authority of the Bible so that the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura [the Bible alone]. But there were those who didn't want to go to the authority of the Bible, they wanted to throw out both the Bile and the Roman Catholic Church as an authority, and so they looked to mankind as the ultimate source of authority. They were called humanists. This gave rise to the Enlightenment period where the shift of authority went away from a God or creator who revealed Himself to man to focusing on human reason or human experience as the ultimate authority. The reason for saying this is because what we have seen again and again in these passages and in Genesis is the issue ultimately of authority. Who is the ultimate authority in our lives? Is it God, or is it culture, experienced, human reason, whatever?

By the end of the 18th century the underlying concept of the Enlightenment that there was some sort of unifying truth that man could discover on his own was seen to be impossible, and so that idea was thrown out. Starting in the early 1800s there were ideas that had already shifted to the idea of pure relativism—relativism in knowledge, in truth, in every area of life. And it is that relativistic basis of knowledge that led to the ultimate transformation of western civilisation's views on who human beings are, because after that they became products of just time plus chance: that human beings were no longer created in the image and likeness of God and therefore every human being has value and meaning and purpose because they were created by God, but that every human being is just the result of some accidental electronic spark on a piece of protoplasm.

Once that shift began to take root the view of who human beings are changed and that began to change our understanding of social institutions such as government, authority itself, responsibility, marriage, family, work, and the role of national entities. A social revolution took place at an intellectual level in the early 1800s and slowly filtered down into the minds and the thinking of every-day citizens by the end of the 19th century. We now live at the end of about 150 years of this sort of revisionist view of mane and women, husbands and wives, and the result of this is what we see around us—the collapse in the integrity of marriage, the politicisation of gender, the rise and approbation of homosexuality and in many cases the promotion of homosexuality, and all forms of sexual immorality.

We are in crisis. One recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that nearly forty per cent of Americans believe that marriage is obsolete. Marriages in America have dropped from 2.44-million in 1990 to 2.08-million in 2009. That affects statistics on the divorce rate. People don't get divorced as mush as they did in the 1980s. That is because they are not married, not because the divorce rate going down. If they don't get married they don't have to get divorced. This collapse has seen the rise in cohabitation of couples. In 1970 523,000 couples cohabited without benefit of marriage in the United States. By 2010 seven and a half million couples cohabited in the United States. This is a recipe for social collapse.

Because as we see in the Scripture the reason God ordained marriage is to provide not only stability for a culture but it is the framework for education within the culture; for passing on values and knowledge from one generation to the next. At the same time that this shift was talking place there has also been a rise of divorce, especially since the 1975 rulings on no-fault divorce which basically meant that one member of the marriage can divorce the other one without showing any cause whatsoever. It takes two to keep a marriage going to but only takes one to end it. Along with this we've had a challenge to our basic definitions. What is a marriage? What is a civil union? How do you define it? Is it a cultural definition or a definition from an almighty God who created us? Furthermore there are social costs of divorce. If the divorce rate were cut in half then it would radically change the demands on the welfare system in the United States. The social cost is unbelievable in terms of dealing with everything from children to the collapse of family fortunes because of all the money leaving the family and going to the lawyer. All of this wealth gets lost and people end up without the means to take care of themselves as they become older. This is a radical shift in American culture.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in early 19th century as he travelled through the United States and wrote his observations of our culture at that time: "There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America." That certainly is not true today.

The feminist movement had a large role in changing our views of marriage—changing our views of maleness and of femininity. That started with the attack on traditional marriage by Betty Friedan in 1963, urging wives to leave their homes, join the work force and become independent of men. At the root of this was an idea about the nature of sexual identity or gender, that men and women are completely interchangeable. The result of that idea is that in many cases parents (and this is not blaming parents) raise their children, especially their daughters, to be men, to do everything men can do. Then they wonder why when they grow up they have gender confusion. This happened because we have been infected by these ideas that there is not really a distinction between men and women. The bait was that women should get equal pay for equal work. That is true; that should be the case. But that doesn't mean that as individuals, as women and as men, that they are identical. God created them differently. If we don't buy into a biblical view of the creation race then this is the logical consequence: it all just happens by time and chance. 

As we look back over the feminist movement. It sought to redefine the roles of women, and in order to do that and to be successful they sought first of all to destroy the institution and inviolability of marriage. They attacked it by getting the laws for divorce liberalised so that it would be easy to terminate marriage. At the same time, coming out of the 60s there was the war on poverty which established much of the current welfare system which channelled all welfare distribution through the mothers. At the same time, with the rise of the feminist movement, there were legal decisions made in terms of welfare that rendered the husband and the father irrelevant to the families economic wellbeing. So it demasculinised the men; it removed them politically through legislation from a position of influence and significance in the family.

The essential issue that underlies all of this is that there is a failure to understand that there is a divinely established difference between men and women. It is not just physical, it also has to do with the entire makeup of the individual soul and spirit and that God establish distinct spheres of responsibility for men and women. It is often mischaracterised. The other thing we have to fight with this is that there are so many mischaracterisations, and in some cases they are legitimate because men went off the deep end in one direction and abused women. In a culture that is in decline there will be a related breakdown in marriage and the family, men will become feminised and women will become masculinised. As that happens there will be an increase of abuse from men to women. This is the result of a breakdown of role distinctions. And the further we get away from the absolutes laid down by God's Word the more everything goes into meltdown.

In order to address our purpose of marriage we just have to very simply go back to the very beginning. In Genesis chapter one we have a summary of God's creation of the human race. This and a passage in Genesis chapter two help us to understand God's purpose for creating the human race male and female and the value of every member of the human race. In chapter one we have the overview of God's creative activity in terms of the six active days of creation and the one day of rest. On the sixth day of creation as the crowning element of God's creation God created the human race. Genesis 1:26 NASB "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image …" The word translated "man" there is not the word for male but the word for mankind or the human race. "… according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' [27] God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

What the text is saying here is that both men and women are equally created in the image of God. This is what sets human beings apart from all other living creatures: they are in the image and likeness of God. They reflect God as a being; they are a finite representation of God; they have mentality where they can think God's thoughts after Him; they have volition where they can choose to follow God, and they have a conscience so that they have the understanding of right and wrong. As created there is no distinction in terms of their essence or being or makeup between men and women, they are both equally in the image of God. 

But there is a distinction in role. The distinction in role doesn't mean that one is inherently superior to the other. That is not true. They are equally in the image of God but there is a role distinction.

In Genesis chapter two God gives us a more detailed understanding of what took place on that sixth day. There we learn that God created the male before He created the female. Genesis 2:7 NASB "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." We then learn that He had a role for the male. He placed him in the garden and gave him certain responsibilities. The first responsibility was to name and classify all of the animals. As he does that he notices that the animals are all paired off; but he is not, he is alone. So God is teaching him something in the process.

Genesis 2:21, 22 NASB "So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man." This shows that there is a fundamental unity in the human race.

God created the man first, then the woman. That is significant because God is establishing the male as the authority. Authority exists in the Godhead. Authority is not a bad thing. Authority is inherent even within the makeup of God. God the Father is the ultimate authority within the Godhead. Jesus said, "I can do nothing unless the Father gives it to me." Authority isn't something that is bad. Authority can become perverted because of sin but authority existed from eternity within the Godhead, and it existed in the garden of Eden before sin ever caused any kind of disruption between Adam and Eve. So God creates the woman from the man's side, indicating that there is a unity there. Both are equal in terms of their possessing the image of God and reflecting the nature of God but there is a distinct role. The distinction is seen in 2:18.

Genesis 2:18 NASB "Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." The word "helper" means someone who assists him in achieving a goal or objective. The objective is stated back in Genesis 1:26. Man was to have dominion over all of creation. He was to rule over all of creation as God's representative. He can't do it alone, he needs a helper. There are those in the feminist movement who that is a secondary role, a secondary task, and the Bible minimises women from the very beginning. But that is only because people have rejected the authority of Scripture from the get go. Really the only person who is consistently called a helper in the Scripture is God. That word is applied to God in numerous places. We see that word ezer in the Hebrew as part of Aaron's son Eliezer (God is my helper), and in Psalm 121:1, 2, 8 we see the word repeated several times. The Lord is our helper. The concept of being a helper is an extremely high task. That word is applied only to God. So this is not a term that is demeaning of the role of women but exalts the role of women from the very beginning of creation.

We see that the biblical view when we begin to talk about these issues of authority and gender and role distinctives that they were embedded within creation before sin ever came along. And they are there for a purpose: that the human race as those created in the image of God can fulfil that purpose. The purpose is not happiness; that is a by-product. The purpose is to fulfil the mission of God to exercise dominion over all that God has created as the representative of God. When that is done the way God says it should be done a by-product of that would be stability, and it would be joy and happiness. If there is no joy, no happiness and no fulfilment then it is because the individuals involved have lost sight of the objective, they are not trying to achieve God's objective God's way. They are trying to do it their own way and once that happens then everything starts to break down, fragment and collapse.