The Doctrine of the Dance
1 Peter 3:1–2
1 Peter Lesson #076
December 22, 2016
“Father, we are thankful that we can be here tonight, that we can be here to study Your Word and to reflect upon what it teaches and come to a better understanding of what it does teach—especially in this area that is so difficult in our contemporary culture, dealing with the issue of submission, especially in the area of marriage, but also in many, many other areas.
Father, as we think about the Trinity, we see a perfect illustration of this in terms of the submission of our Lord Jesus Christ to Your authority and the submission of the Holy Spirit to the authority of the Son and the Father. And we are to manifest that as believers in our own relationships.
Father, we pray that as we study tonight and think through these issues, that you will help us to have a better understanding of how this dynamic is to work within the marriage and within the family. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last time I started looking at the Doctrine of the Dance in 1 Peter 3:1–2, thinking through the implications and applications of commands related to submission. In all of the 35 years I have been in pastoral ministry, if there has been one particular issue that has been difficult for many people to understand, it is this particular issue.
My first church actually blew up, almost literally, in terms of being divided over this issue of the role of men and the role of women in the local church. It is a problem that runs root deep in our culture. I think part of that is an aspect of rebellion against Christianity. I think another part of it is reaction to abuse that has taken place in many different kinds of situations over the years.
And I also think part of it is the drumbeat that comes from the radical feminist left that has taken over whole departments in universities and teaching numerous classes on feminism that are required courses for all women to take where they get brainwashed. And if they don’t respond to the brainwashing, then they will be flunked.
I had one young lady in my church in Connecticut who started at the University of Connecticut and went to a women’s study course. The first week, within the first 15 minutes, the professor—they are very adept at this—identified who the Christians were and started picking on them, going after them, ridiculing them, intimidating them, and telling them that, “You keep listening to those patriarchal pastors that you have and they’re going to destroy your life,” and other things like that. They get this over and over again. In fact, what she did was drop the class before she would get hit with anything.
But that’s the kind of thing that goes on, and if you don’t have any doctrine in your soul, if you don’t understand the Word of God—and not just understanding what it says but why it says it … What are the reasons that God has established these structures in marriage, in family, in society? What is the reason for that? Then you don’t have any intellectual defense for these assaults and you get them in more subtle ways in sitcoms, in romantic comedies, in films.
In fact, you can trace this in movies back to the post-World War II era where you see the minimization of the male and disrespect for the male. Even in the era of Father Knows Best, there were a lot of other sitcoms that were “Mother Knows Best.” So you have this kind of mentality.
This anti-masculine, anti-male, anti-male-leadership type of thinking, dominated even in that era that many people think was so great—in the 50s. This gradually erodes the respect and authority given to the man. God designed men a certain way, and He designed women a certain way. That doesn’t mean everybody functions that way, because we’ve all been corrupted by the sin nature.
But if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then God has provided a tool, through spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, to put to death the deeds of the flesh and those trends and tendencies that we all have toward abuse, towards tyranny, towards bullying—situations like that—and to correct them with a biblical view of authority and submission. We see that in the Trinity.
There’s perfect authority between the Members of the Trinity. It is a family, as it were, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son is responsive and submitted to the Father. The Father and the Son both sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit responds to that authority. There’s no competition that enters into the perfect society, the perfect makeup of a triune God.
Last time we got into this, we looked at 1 Peter 3:1, which echoes a number of other passages. “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word.” That’s always the rub. We always want to put conditions in there. The Bible really doesn’t give you that kind of leeway.
“If some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” In the previous section we saw the command that slaves are to be submissive to their masters even if they’re harsh. So the behavior of the person in authority is not a condition for obedience or disobedience. Although there are conditions—negative conditions—where disobedience is legitimate, and we’ve covered those.
So I introduced this with a doctrine I developed years ago, called the doctrine of the dance, and it is a beautiful illustration of how two people work together. One is in authority and the initiator, and one is the responder and the follower. But they work together as a team to produce something that is of great beauty, something that has value and is aesthetically pleasing; but it doesn’t happen overnight.
You see this in any kind of team sport. You can think through any number of your favorite football heroes over the years—your favorite quarterback, your favorite running back or tight end—and as you came to first watch them, perhaps in college ball and later in professional ball, they didn’t get there overnight. They started off when they were little boys. They were throwing passes, they were catching passes, they were running, they were developing their skills and their abilities, and they were responding to the instruction of their coaches. Every one of them had particular talents and worked in particular roles within a team, but they don’t try to take over somebody else’s role or position in that team.
So the same is true of marriage. It takes practice. Just as those young boys become very adept, skillful young men in their athletics, so young ladies, young girls, need to be trained and taught about submission—parameters, limits, and what that looks like. I’ve often thought, in doing premarital counseling, that I would assign—if I could do it right—a year of taking dance lessons. Go take country western dance lessons; go take ballroom lessons together. It’s amazing how many couples start having problems communicating. All it does is reflect the fact that they probably don’t communicate very well with each other, and it’s very important to do that.
When you look at a couple that dances well together, they also communicate well together. They talk about what’s going on before or after; they communicate, they talk. It’s not just getting out on the floor and the guy pushes her around the floor. Trust me. That never, ever works.
I opened with this warning from Lamentations 5:15, “Our dance has turned into mourning.” That’s what happens when society fragments and doesn’t understand how these relationships are to work.
I covered about four points last week. I’ll review them rather briefly.
- First of all, dancing involves teamwork with clearly defined rules and roles for each member of the team.
When one person breaks out of that, then you have problems. When I was taking dance lessons, I could always tell the women that were probably an authority at their job. I spotted one woman right off the bat by the way that she responded to leads. I thought, “She must run her own company.” Turns out she did. She wanted to back-lead; she didn’t want to respond. Eventually, we got all those things ironed out, and I spent a lot of time dancing with her in various things. She came to understand that and did a great job, but initially it was quite difficult.
- Two people cannot dance together without a common goal.
They are working together to be able to achieve something that looks good, something that’s enjoyable, something that they both have fun at. The same is true for two sinners who come together in a relationship. They’re going to have conflicts and difficulties, because you’ve got two self-absorbed, corrupt individuals who are coming together to live together, and they each have different desires, different wants, different personalities. Hopefully, through the courtship stage, they figured out when and where they can work together and whom they can’t live with and they’d get rid of them.
I’ve always said that it’s not important to have fun things in common. Most people enjoy doing a lot of the same kinds of things. What’s important is to make sure that your sin natures are compatible. You just have to think about that a little bit. If you’re married to somebody whose sin nature runs in one direction and your sin nature runs in another direction, then when you get out of fellowship and your sin nature is in control, they’re not going to understand you very well. The same is true in the other direction. But if you have compatible sin natures, then you’re going to understand the dynamics that are going on in the other side of the relationship.
If one person is a little bit impatient and short tempered and the other person is too, then many times they will both understand each other when they are giving into their impatience and short temperedness. If they’re both somewhat, shall we say, vocal, or loud in getting rid of their anger and their frustrations, then the other person understands that. But if one person thinks that if you raise the volume of your voice just a little bit over pianissimo, that somehow that’s abuse, then it’s never going to work together.
So you have to have those levels of compatibility. If you are focused together, in a Christian marriage, on glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s not about me getting what I want and she getting what she wants; it’s not about my career or her career. The goal is marriage together, blending together to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in the ministry that God has given to every single couple.
That ministry, primarily, is related to the male as the leader. As Adam was given the directions in the Garden of Eden, God brought him a helper to assist him in achieving the mission that God gave him.
They have to learn to walk together. And that doesn’t mean that you’re going to look like any other couple. This is a trap that a lot of pastors fall into. I used to rebel against it when I was in seminary. I would hear different areas of application coming from professors’ mouths, and I would think, “That doesn’t ring true. There are different kinds of people.”
I remember even as a camp counselor at Camp Peniel sometimes you would hear people quoting from the Psalms where David would say something like, “Early in the morning I arise, and I enjoy you,” and some people are going, “I’m not a morning person. I can’t enjoy anybody, even God, at 8 o’clock in the morning. I’ve got to have coffee and lunch before I can start enjoying people.”
So people are different, and so you have to work through these things together. If your goal is to serve God together, then you recognize what that goal is, and you can work it out.
- Like any team, dancing has specifically defined roles for each of the two participants. The male is the leader and the woman is the follower. But that doesn’t mean the man is the dictator and the woman is just run over on the dance floor. It means the man initiates, he plans, he directs the movements of the woman, but he does so, often, by communicating with her what he is doing, where they’re going.
Remember, she’s probably going backwards, and you have to communicate what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.
In terms of the Christian application, the husband’s the leader. He is the final authority, and he’s the one God’s going to hold accountable for the spiritual welfare of the family. So that involves communication with your spouse—talking about what are the best ways to manage money, financial resources.
What are the best ways to take care of the domestic responsibilities? If you’ve got a husband who is working and the wife is not working, then how you split up your domestic responsibilities is going to be different than if both are working 50 or 60 hours a week. Then you have to figure out other ways to make things work.
I don’t know how it works in some houses, but I’ve seen some husbands who expect their wives to do all the domestic chores, plus work 50 hours a week; and that’s not reasonable in my opinion. So you have to work these things out and talk these things through together.
- In the dance, the leader and follower positions are not related to the skill level of the dancers. The male may not be very skilled at dancing, and the lady may be very skilled at dancing; or it might be the other way around. The male-leader if he is less skilled, then that’s going to call on a lot more grace on the part of the lady in responding to what he is doing and trying to figure out ways to appropriately guide him and instruct him without stomping on his ego too much.
I saw a lot of that. There weren’t any couples in the classes that I was taking, but people would usually find somebody else they could dance well with. I would also hear from some of the ladies that, “So and so, you can’t tell them anything—they won’t listen. They know exactly what they are doing!” What they know is what they think they are doing and what they think they are communicating. But if the partner isn’t hearing what’s being communicated, then they need to work on that. So once again, it comes down to humility, and it comes down to graciousness and figuring out how to communicate to the other person in a way that they will listen and respond.
That happens often in Christian marriage. You have different levels of spiritual maturity. You have different levels of emotional maturity. You have different IQs. You have different levels of education, different leadership and management skills, and different talents. The man and the woman have to work within those skills and not necessarily in terms of preconceived ideas. So, once again, it takes humility and responsiveness in order to reach an optimal performance of the man in the leadership role and the wife responding to him.
- In dancing, each person has specific footwork that must be learned and practiced in order to develop grace and fluidity. It demands thought; it demands concentration; it demands focus and foresight. When emotion takes over, mistakes occur.
When you stop thinking and you’re just going to flow with the music, then everything can start breaking down. The same kind of thing happens in marriage. In Christian marriage, each person has specific tasks and roles that they may learn and develop. You start off in your marriage—you don’t have any kids in the house, and so you have one set of parameters and you work things out there. Then after a few years you have the first child, second child, or maybe a third child. Things are going to change. It calls for different levels of energy, different levels of involvement. And there has to be flexibility. Each person needs to have little time off and the other has to understand when and where that should occur.
So it it’s a matter of communication, once again, and as two people grow together towards maturity, towards Christlikeness, then that enables them to respond and to initiate in the area of grace. Along the way, every one of us is going to make 1,000 or 10,000 mistakes. Ninety percent of the time, the differences between the marriages that don’t work and the ones that do are because there’s a failure to apply grace and humility in every situation. When people start taking offense and becoming offended at certain things, reacting, harboring those hurts and bitterness, building resentment, then that is a sure prescription for ultimate failure.
So both need to have this desire to work together: and it has to be grounded on humility and teachability, not on arrogance.
- In dancing, the male communicates to his partner a number of different ways. The same thing is true in marriage. In dancing, the male will communicate his leads through how he uses his hand on her back, how he moves his shoulders. She will have her hand on his shoulder, and she will get to know his body movements in anticipation of certain moves.
If the male leads are too strong, then she will become overpowered and look stiff and awkward. She may even fear that she may get hurt in the process of the way he turns her, because she doesn’t have that flexibility. I’ve even seen some people fall down in the middle of the dance because of too strong of a lead. As a result of that, the whole process breaks down.
On the other hand, if his leads are too weak, then she does not know what in the world he wants her to do. You can’t respond to a weak lead. So men have to think about two things: how they communicate their leadership and direction to their wife and how she responds to leadership and what kind of leadership she responds to; because no two women are going to respond the same way to the same leadership. Each person is very different.
So husbands need to study their wives, and they need to understand how to best lead them spiritually and emotionally and in every other way in the house. There needs to be that communication. The man who leads too strong becomes a tyrant and a bully and is abusive, has no concept of grace, impersonal love, or humility. Usually, he’s weak. He is self-centered; he lacks confidence; he is often operating on arrogance. In any situation, if a man becomes emotionally or physically abusive, then that is showing that he is a complete failure in life and a failure in marriage. If he doesn’t figure out how to develop humility, then that marriage is in trouble—as every area in his life there will be trouble.
- The male, as the leader in dancing, plans and initiates the various moves. He must always be thinking five or six steps ahead.
That’s an important principle of leadership in every area. One of the things that is important—this is true for deacons, and it’s true for pastors as well—is to think one, two, three years out in terms of what’s going on at a church. Looking at finances and saying, “Well, what happens if all of a sudden there’s an economic collapse? How are we going to handle that?
Now you may not know what you’re going to do now in terms of what circumstances may occur in the future, but a good leader thinks in terms of both positive circumstances as well as negative circumstances. What would happen if the pastor suddenly became ill? What would we do? What would we do if the pastor suddenly had a heart attack? I know of one pastor who almost died in the pulpit. He had a stroke; in fact, he was dead before the day was out.
How do you respond to the shifts in God’s plan? What are the positives? What are the negatives? I worked at a Christian ministry some time ago, and after working there for some years, I talked to the chairman of the board and I said, “What’s your plan when the pastor retires?” He looked at me like I’d hit him in the face with a cold washcloth. It had never occurred to him.
Now, when you’ve got a pastor that’s somewhere north of 75, if you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do if suddenly he’s not able to be in the pulpit, then you’re a poor leader. Leaders think in terms of “what ifs,” good or bad. As parent, you need to think about your kids in terms of the various “what ifs” as they are growing up—positive as well as negative—and working through how you’re going to respond to that.
You see that in dancing. The male, as a leader, is thinking ahead; he’s watching. If you’re on a dance floor somewhere where there are a lot of other people moving around, you have to see where the other people are moving and how you’re going to move as you make your way through the people on the dance floor so that you’re not bumping into other people, stepping on other people’s toes, or getting in other people’s ways as they are trying to get past you.
There are always obstacles. There always situations that might surprise you, and so you have to think those things through. The same thing is true in terms of a husband. What happens if there is a major health problem? What happens if something unexpected happens to a house?
I just learned this yesterday. I was talking to Jim Myers. The young man that works for the ministry whose is a driver for Jim—great young man—is Sergei. Sergei has more on the ball than most people that I know. He purchased some land at some point some years ago, and he built his own house, step-by-step as he made money. He has a lot of initiative. He’s done different things to make money—outside of the normal way of just getting a job and getting a paycheck. He built a very nice house. He’s got horses—all of these various things. He has a nice car that he owned. Then he came to Bible college. He’s got a great grasp of doctrine, a great understanding of the Scriptures, and a great faith in the Lord. Less than two weeks ago, he woke up in the middle of the night—he lives alone, not married. He woke up in the middle of the night, and the house was filled with smoke. He barely got out of the house. He ran to the garage, got his car out of the garage.
The house collapsed, burned to the ground; he lost all of his money. Banks are not a safe place to put your money in Ukraine. He lost all of his money, all of his clothes, everything that he had. House completely destroyed, and now he’s got a great attitude. He said, “The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” He’s moving on—figuring out what to do. The people of the church have come together, given him clothes; he’s gotten some money to buy some new clothes. Fortunately, his parents live very close and they had room, and he’s moved back in with his parents for the time being. But you never know when that kind of thing is going to happen.
As a responsible adult, and as a leader in the home, we need to think about preparation for what may come. So that is part of what is involved in the leadership of the man. Now, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t discuss it with his spouse. That doesn’t mean that he has a secret plan, but that this is something that the family understands, so he works through that.
- In the dance, the leader must learn and study his partner to know how to lead her effectively.
I touched on this all already. The same thing is true in the home. As an expression of aggressive personal love for his wife, the husband has to constantly study her, learn her. You change—as a man, as a husband. You will change over the years. You’re not the same after 20 years of marriage. You’ve been well trained—no?
You’re not the same after 20 years of marriage as you were when you first got married. You’ve grown, you’ve matured; the same thing happens to your wife. Different things happen in life—some good, some not so good. As we grow together, we learn. As a husband you need to learn how to effectively lead your wife; that involves, again, communication skills and observation skills.
- The man must learn to listen to his partner.
I think there are three examples in Abraham’s life where he listens to Sarah. One did not turn out so well. Sarah said, “I can’t have a baby; go into Hagar, my handmaiden, you can have a baby with her, and that’ll take care of the inheritance problem.” That led to problems we still face today in the Arab–Israeli conflict. It’s gone on for centuries.
There are two other times in Abraham’s life when he listened to his wife, Sarah, and it was positive; it was correct. Of course, with every piece of advice you get from anyone, you have to weigh it and evaluate it. But you need to communicate with your spouse, with your wife, so that you both understand where you’re going, why you’re doing things, and what the strengths and weakness may be in any course of action.
Again, to communicate you have to have humility, teachability, and grace orientation. Husbands, you need to listen to your wives, because sometimes they are going to tell you things you don’t want to hear, and you don’t react in anger because they tell you that, “You don’t listen very well,” and “You’re not very patient with me,” and “You hurt my feelings sometimes.”
And you don’t like to hear that. That means, “Keep your mouth shut and listen.”
No one will know you as well as your wife, other than your mother. They will say things to help you. Sometimes they will say things that hurt you, and that’s why you have to respond in impersonal love and grace orientation. We all do that because of our nasty little sin natures.
- The woman must learn to communicate to the man without challenging his tender little male ego.
If the husband thinks he’s doing a good job and you tell him he’s not, that may not go really well. It’s how you do that—how you make suggestions. You can only learn that, wives, as you study your husband and figure out ways to communicate with him so that he is responsive. A lot of times that means working on one thing at a time, not nagging, not reacting in anger, or resentment, or ridicule which comes from men and women as they react to the other person and say things in tones and in looks that are not appropriate for building a solid relationship.
In marriage, as long as you are both pursuing spiritual maturity and working together, and the goal is to have a strong healthy marriage, then that can overcome many other things. That’s the mission: to glorify the Lord through having a solid marriage. When you’re working together, then that’s achievable.
If there’s sin that enters into the relationship, then that too can be a problem. But it works on both sides—that’s where grace is needed.
- The woman has to learn to let the man lead.
That runs counter to a lot of things in this life. I think one of the most difficult things that has happened, culturally, to families in the last half of the 20th century, is wives that go out into the marketplace to work and they are under the authority of another man. They get under the authority of maybe two or three other men, and this can create conflicts at home. Historically, this is a very rare type of situation. That doesn’t mean that biblical principles can’t overcome them, but it creates a different set of parameters.
The wife, who may be very successful, may be in an upper executive position and her husband may not be. All of a sudden she has to come home, and she should be responsive to a husband who is very different from the authorities over her at work. And her responsibilities in the home may be much less domestically than what they are in terms of a career. That career for a woman, I’m not saying it’s wrong. The Proverbs 31 woman has her own level of career going on, but it creates a different scenario that has to be worked through.
- The woman is unaware of where the man is going and unaware of his plans. She must constantly be ready to respond and shift according to his lead.
This is a situation in dancing. If the man is leading, she has no clue where he is going. She has to really be focused and attentive to every nuance of his body movement so that she can respond correctly to his lead. That’s the least positive position. She has to develop incredible amounts of flexibility. I think a woman has to be much more flexible than a man in a marriage, because she doesn’t know where he’s going and what the direction is. She has to be much more flexible, but that is solved by communication if the man is leading appropriately.
- The woman must continue to follow the man as best she can no matter how faulty his leadership.
If you are a couple, you’re dancing, you get out on the dance floor and you’re going through a dance, I’ve seen this many times where the guy is not a great leader and she’s out there having to respond to all kinds of things. He may not be a good dancer at all, and she has to figure out how to do her best to make it work, without just causing a scene out on the dance floor.
The same kind of thing can happen in the home. The man can be a failure in his leadership. If you get uncertain leads from a husband—translate that analogously. If you’re a man married to a woman, a woman married to a man, and that person goes through a time of carnality where they are really struggling—who knows what is going on in their life—that is going to put pressure on the whole relationship. This kind of a situation can last anywhere from six hours to six months to six years. That’s why it calls for patience.
I’ve seen this happen in marriages where you see one person or the other go into some sort of spiritual tailspin. They just don’t care about the Word anymore, or the Lord, or they try to keep it up, or they just go into full-blown open rebellion, and it takes time for that person to recover and it takes time for the Lord to work in that person’s life. If we get impatient and say, “Well, you know, they haven’t recovered in the last six hours. I’m out of here,” that is not the biblical or Christian response. If God treated you like that every time you got into sin or carnality for a lengthy period of time, then we’d be Arminian and we would all be losing our salvation in just a short time.
We have to have that extended patience. I’m not saying this is true in every case. Every case is different, every situation and circumstance is different, and I don’t know all the circumstances, but years ago there was a man in a local church that wasn’t where I was pastoring, but it was very close by and I knew several people over there. I was really surprised because I came to find out that his wife had left him eight years before, and he refused to divorce her. About five years after I left that church, she returned. To this day, they have a tremendous marriage. That can happen. I just think about what great patience he had to sit and wait and to let her work through whatever it was that she needed to work through. Not too many men would have that kind of patience. I’m not sure if that’s right or wrong. I know that in that circumstance there were many people who advised him that he should divorce her, that he should move on with his life, and he said, “No. I’m not. I’m going to wait, and I know that the Lord will bring her back. It may be 15 or 20 years, but the Lord will bring her back.” So grace has to be a vital feature, on both the husband’s and the wife’s part, as they are facing the difficulties in life.
We are looking at this particular chapter talking about the possibility in 1 Peter that the husband is not even a believer. I think that’s the context: that he’s not a believer. In marriage we have to recognize that the woman’s testimony as a believer is not dependent on what her husband does. With each one of us, if our testimonies are dependent upon any other person, then we haven’t understood the concept yet. Because there are always people around us who are going to be challenges to us. The believer’s testimony is to stand firm and walk with the Lord no matter what those external circumstances are.
We can think of the ultimate example that Peter uses which is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is surrounded by obstacles, and hostility, and resentment, and people who want to kill Him—and who eventually did—but He never sinned. His spiritual life was perfect, because He refused to yield to those temptations. So no matter what your spouse does, you can still be faithful in following the Lord and applying biblical principles in that relationship.
- Trouble usually starts in a marriage between two believers when they quit thinking—especially quit applying doctrine—and start just yielding to their emotion.
There is no longer any mental discipline focusing on the task at hand. That’s what happens in dancing. When people just start emoting to the music, and they quit thinking about what they’re doing, or the movement, then they start making mistakes. And that happens in marriage as well.
What happens in marriage is one person may take the other person for granted. One person may start reacting emotionally to little things that the other person is doing, and before long you have problems. Little things that could have been dealt with early on are now big issues and have created a host of resentment. You don’t just recover magically. There has to be a time to put principles of Scripture into practice and apply them in order to get out of those particular situations.
- Success ultimately is based on consistency and practice, practice, practice—not just practice, but perfect practice—over and over again. We have to practice personally on our own ability to apply the spiritual skills to each and every area of life. Along the way we are going to make a lot of mistakes.
Every spouse has to treat the other one in grace, because they’re going to make a lot of mistakes in their spiritual life, and they’re going to fail in a lot of ways. They are going to fail in ways that hurt you, and you’re going to fail in ways that hurt the other person, but God’s grace and forgiveness allow us to recover and to keep working and moving forward. As long as the goal is kept in place of glorifying God through a marriage that is based upon the Word of God, then anything can be overcome, because God’s grace is greater than any sin or problem that man creates. We know that from the Cross. We always have to remember to keep working on the basics in the spiritual life in order to move forward in the marriage.
- As the two people work together and grow together in the early stages of a relationship, then they’ll develop a mutual respect and admiration for each other. Confidence will increase, and they will learn to trust each other more fully in that relationship.
This may take 5, 10, or 15 years before all of this really comes together. Unfortunately, we see so many marriages that fall apart during that time. We also can think of marriages that go for 25 or 30 years, and then there’s a divorce; but usually that’s because they’ve been harboring the same resentments and wanting to get out of the marriage since those first 5 or 6 years.
So what does the Scripture say about this? We are taking that analogy and going back and looking at Scripture.
I want to look at Ephesians 5 as we close out. Turn to Ephesians 5, which I think is great background for understanding what Peter is saying. In Ephesians 5:21, Paul says, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
If we start with the end of that verse, we recognize that “the fear of the Lord”, as we go back to Psalms and Proverbs and wisdom literature, “is the beginning of wisdom”. The fear of the Lord is submission to God’s authority; it is recognizing that God’s in control.
So if we’re starting off understanding that we are under God’s authority, then part of that is to submit to one another. Now how does that look? That doesn’t mean we just go around saying, “I’m going to do what you want me to do,” and “You do what I want.” It’s not that—it’s that we work together as a team. This is what happens: We cooperate together in order to achieve that common goal. We communicate and we listen to each other. But there’s still somebody who’s the leader and somebody who’s the follower—the responder. God designed men to be leaders and women to be responders.
This is why both Paul and Peter start with the wives; they are the responders. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” We see how again and again what’s happening in that relationship in the home is tied back to the authority relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. And it always connects; there’s never a breakdown between the two.
Then we are told, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church.” It is the church—that is, the body of Christ—with Christ at the head, Jesus as our authority, that is the paradigm, that’s the model, for the authority relationship within the home. When Jesus Christ tells us to do something, we don’t say, “I want to talk about that. I think I have a better idea.” That’s not how the church, the body of Christ, works.
Christ is the Head of the church. He is in authority. The feminist camp says that “headship” means “source,” like the head of a river. The head of the Nile is the source of the Nile. My friend H. Wayne House, who is Distinguished Professor of Theology, Law, and Culture (2000) and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Faith Seminary, back before he came to Dallas Seminary to be a professor, had written a book called The Role of Women in Ministry Today. It is still one of the best books on the topic that’s out there. Wayne was really feisty when he was younger; he’s still a little bit feisty, but all of us mellow a little bit with age.
Wayne had also has a degree as a lawyer, so he loves to debate. He was debating one of the foremost evangelical feminists at a Presbyterian school in Washington State. So he’s on the platform with her, and she is making her points. She makes her point that, “This word in the Greek means source. It doesn’t mean authority whatsoever. That’s not the point.”
When Wayne got up, in his rebuttal, He reached into his briefcase—this was in the early days of Bible study and computers—and pulled out a ream of paper. It was dot matrix. Remember the old roller that everything would roll through? That’s what he had. He just started fanning it out and said, “I printed out, in the Greek, every use in Classical and Koine Greek of KEPHALE, the Greek word for headship.” Wayne also had a degree in patristics and Greek. He said, “Would you please point out to me any place where KEPHALE is ever used to refer to source? That was it. He wins the debate. It never refers to source. KEPHALE is never used for source; it refers to authority.
The pattern is in verse 24. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” It is a pattern. Now, that doesn’t mean that when the husband says to do something wrong, that you should do that. Those are the exceptions that are legitimate in Scripture.
Then, we skip down into verse 25. In an extended analogy, Paul addresses the husbands. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church.” Christ isn’t an abuser. Christ isn’t telling His wife, the church, to do things that are wrong. He is not lording His authority over the church as a tyrant.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” This is the role of husbands; they are to have this kind of a loving relationship with their wife.
When we skip down to verse 28, we read, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” So the husband is to nourish and cherish his wife. He is to be the spiritual leader in the home.
Then we get down to verse 32, we read, “This is a great mystery.” That is, all that he has said about the relationship between men and women, this is a mystery. It is a previously unrevealed truth. Paul says, “but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” How husbands and wives relate together is intimately tied to how Christ leads the church.
When I hear people say, “That’s just old school. I hate that term. That’s just old-fashioned. We’re modern now. Wives don’t need to be submissive to their husbands.” Wait a minute! Is the church no longer submissive to Christ? Now, there are churches that aren’t submissive to Christ, but the body of Christ will always be submissive to Christ as her Lord. So that’s the pattern; that’s the ultimate heavenly paradigm.
In verse 33, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Just like in dancing, there are roles; there are ways that are defined for men and women to relate to each other. Not in a way that limits the other one, but in a way that brings them together and moves them into new directions in obeying the Lord so that together they can create a marriage that glorifies God.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study through these things. We pray that those who listen, especially those who are struggling in marriage problems, or relationship problems, that you will help them to understand these principles, how important it is, in terms of how we relate to one another in the marriage, because that is the foundation for the family, and it will impact not only the children, but the next generation that comes from them in terms of the grandchildren and so on.
Father, as Christians, it is incumbent upon us to understand this relationship of Christ and the church so that we can then apply that to our own marriages. We pray that we can be strong in this area of marriage in this church; and in this congregation, may we be an effective witness to Your grace and to Your love.
We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”