Wives, Husbands, Strong Families
1 Peter 3:1–2; Philippians 2:8–10
1 Peter Lesson #075
December 15, 2016
“Father, we are thankful that we have this time to come together to be refreshed by Your Word, to be encouraged and strengthened. For each day we face a multitude of tests and a lot of different situations, circumstances, and adversity. We need to be reminded of Your faithfulness, Your goodness. We need to be reminded of the eternal realities of Your Word and that God the Holy Spirit strengthens us, encourages us, and sanctifies us by means of Your Word.
Now, Father, we pray that as we study tonight and we reflect upon the Lord Jesus Christ and we reflect upon His example of humility and obedience, that you will help us to understand how we are to implement that and apply those principles in our own lives. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Philippians 2. We are continuing where I left off last time with a little bit of review, dealing with the issue of humility as exemplified in the Person of Christ. As we see in 1 Peter 2, which is our study, that the example that Peter gives … This is really important to understand—the thrust of what Peter is talking about is not just submission to authority, or authority orientation in a normal circumstance, but he’s talking about authority orientation when it’s in adverse circumstance—when the person in authority isn’t quite doing things the way they ought to.
Slaves are to submit to their masters, even if they are harsh. He will go on from that to talk about wives and to talk about the role of husbands as well. But the ultimate example that he gives is of Jesus Christ, who is obedient to the Father, submits Himself to the Father’s will, enters into human history, and is obedient even to the point of death. He humbles Himself, as we see in Philippians 2:8, by being obedient. This is so critical.
I got into the main part of this last week, in Philippians 2, and I just want to wrap it up this evening. We are going to conclude the section with the Lord Jesus Christ and His humility, and then will go back and begin to talk about the role of wives and husbands, the significance of submission, and strong families.
The basic passage that we are looking at is Philippians 2:5–11. It’s laid down the groundwork in Philippians 2:1–4 that there are certain realities that we have in Christ as believers. These are all true, expressed by those “if” clauses in verse one.
“Therefore if [or since] there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded” [being of the same mind]. That same mind is not something that is determined by us; it’s determined by the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, in Philippians 2:5, we have this command repeated, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ is the paradigm for humility. That’s who we look to.
The example has to do with the process of the Incarnation—something good to talk about at Christmas time—Jesus entering into human history. We saw this last time, “who, although He existed.” The word there, “existed,” doesn’t mean “coming into existence,” the verb GINOMAI, but it’s a word that would indicate continual existence. “Who, although He continually existed in past time in the form of God.” Ultimately, that word has to do with the essence of God. The Word in and of itself doesn’t fit that, but that’s the sense of it. That’s the meaning of it, and we will see that in the paraphrase.
“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” which is an awkward understanding. So I paraphrased it, or expanded the translation, this way.
“WHO [speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ] although He eternally existed with identical essence to God.” “Identical essence” refers to mode. Really, MORPHE would have the idea of a form of existence or mode of existence. Only someone who’s fully God can have the mode of existence of God. Therefore, the implication of that is that this refers to His essence. Even though that may not be the exact definition of the term MORPHE, that’s how it’s used here.
I talked about the meaning of that; it goes back into fifth century BC where it did refer to the essence of a thing. But that’s not how it’s used in the Bible most of the time, and that’s not how it was used in the first century.
“Although He existed with the identical essence (or the same mode of existence) as God, yet He did not think ...” I asked this question, “Is this thinking, this mental attitude, part of His deity or His humanity?” Those are the kinds of questions you should ask.
I pointed out that since the Incarnation doesn’t occur until verse eight, this is talking about His thinking prior to the Incarnation. We will see what His thinking is after the Incarnation is in a minute.
But, before the Incarnation, He demonstrates authority orientation, as the Son, to the Father. That doesn’t mean He’s less than God. I keep emphasizing that, because the message that has been pounded into women in this country, due to the human viewpoint message of radical feminism, is that for a person to submit means, inherently, that they are less equal. That’s just hogwash.
So there is this eternal existence, and in that mode of existence He did not think that equality with God was a claim to be asserted. That’s the meaning of “something to be grasped.” He was God, but He didn’t think that He had to assert that. When You’re God, You’re God. You don’t need to convince anybody. You are God, it’s self-evident that You’re God, so He’s not asserting that claim.
Then we get into the essence of the rest of the verse, that He emptied Himself by means of taking the form, or the nature, of the servant. This means that in entering into human history, He takes on, or adds on, humanity. He doesn’t give up His deity; He doesn’t ever become less than God.
He willingly restricts the use of His attributes. I pointed out last time that often the way you hear that definition, from any number of theologians, is that He willingly restricts the independent use of His attributes. One day, as I was reflecting on that, I thought, “Did the Second Person of the Trinity ever use His attributes independent of the will of the Father?” Never. So that word “independent” is unnecessary.
So He empties Himself, adds—and that’s defined as adding the form of the servant. Emptying Himself really has to do with limiting that use of His divine attributes. And by means of coming into existence … There is the Greek word GINOMAI, which means “to take on,” or “to begin a new mode of existence”—by means of coming into existence in the physical form of man.
This is where we stopped last time: verse eight. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Here we have the verb TAPEINOO, which focuses on that attribute of humility. This is the verb form, not the noun form, which has been used previously. But it has the same idea, which is to see oneself in proper relationship to reality, or to place oneself under the right authority.
Go back some time and read through the Book of Numbers, and read about all of the ways in which the Israelites rebelled against Moses. Read how strong Moses was as a tough, strong leader. The Bible says that he was the most humble man that existed. The reason isn’t because he was meek and mild and let people run over him—because it’s obvious that they didn’t—but because he submitted to God’s authority.
He was completely oriented to God’s authority. Humility for Moses wasn’t that he was a certain kind of gentle, sweet person, but that he was always properly oriented to God’s authority. That’s why he was humble. This is the same thing we saw with Jesus. The same word, or the noun form, is applied to Jesus as well as to Moses.
“He humbled [TAPEINOO] Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Now “being found” is this word HEURISKO, and it means to discover something. He was discovered to be—and that’s sort of a man-centered way of describing it—an anthropocentric term.
“Being found in appearance as a man,” and that word indicates that He is discovered in appearance as a man. He is truly a man—He is truly human. In His humanity He humbles Himself by being obedient. So this is following the Incarnation.
Before the Incarnation, in His deity, He submits to the authority of God. After the Incarnation, in His humanity, He submits to the authority of God and is obedient.
He becomes obedient. That’s the word down at the bottom that’s translated “by becoming,” and it indicates something is coming into existence—that is in terms of His humanity. “By becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”—because Jesus in His humanity has to grow spiritually. It’s not that He sinned, but that He had to, as Hebrews 5:8 says, learn “obedience by the things which He suffered.”
So He is found in appearance as a man, and that’s a word that indicates the “outer appearance, form, or shape,” focusing on who Jesus is as a man.
I quoted this verse a minute ago. In Hebrews 2:10, we read, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things.” When you see that phraseology, “for whom are all things,” I would not go there to support the deity of Christ, but that certainly indicates the deity of Christ.
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things.” The “Him” there is God the Father. When I read that verse independently, I always tend to start off thinking it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. But the context is that it is God the Father, because He’s the One who brings many sons to glory, and it is God the Father who perfects the Author of their salvation.
So the “Him” is God the Father. “For it was fitting for Him [for God the Father], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory [that’s all believers—Church Age believers, in context—who are adopted into the royal family of God], to perfect [that means to bring to completion] the Author of their salvation [that’s the Lord Jesus Christ] through sufferings.” So Jesus had to grow and mature in His spirituality and His spiritual life. He is without sin, we are told, but He matures through going through adversity.
That’s a key word there that we find many places such as Galatians 3:3–4 as well as Galatians 5:16. So all of this, Philippians 2:5–8, talks about the Servant’s humility.
Then the last three verses talk about the Servant’s exaltation. The path to glory is through submission to authority. Whereas, the sin nature, which is self-oriented, says the path to glory is through self-assertion. So we have people taking assertiveness training, which is the opposite of the biblical standard here.
The Servant’s exaltation is through submission to the authority of God. So we read in Philippians 2:9, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him.” That’s the Lord Jesus Christ. First, He humbles Himself by being obedient to the point of death, then God highly exalts Him and gives Him a name which is above every name.
It’s a new title. He is now the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is referred to in 2 Samuel 22:47, Psalm 18:46, Psalm 46:10, and Psalm 57:5, a name that is above every name. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Now, the thrust of that last verse is often misconstrued by those who hold to Lordship theology. What they’re saying is that we have to submit to the authority of Christ. And, you see, even those who are unbelievers are forced to submit to the authority of Christ, because they think of Lordship as referring to the authority of God. That’s not what the text is saying here.
The problem when Jesus came among the Jews wasn’t His authority—although that was—the problem was that they didn’t recognize Him to be Yahweh, to be the Lord.
What will happen in the future is that every tongue will admit that Jesus Christ is God. All the Moslems are going to enforce that. Islam, at its very core, has a message that Jesus is not God; Jesus is only a prophet. It is a militant, Satanic message that is totally against the deity of Christ.
If you were able to go into the Dome of the Rock today and you were to read the Arabic inscriptions that are written all over the inside of the Dome of the Rock, all of those inscriptions are verses out of the Quran that refute the deity of Jesus and emphasize the humanity only of Jesus—that He is only a prophet, that He is not born of a virgin, that He is not the God-man.
The whole emphasis in Islam is ultimately to refute the deity of Christ, the claims of Christ to be the Son of God. They disbelieve that. That’s what they are trying to bring every one into submission for. When they say “Allah Akbar,” that doesn’t mean “God is great” as it is often mistranslated; it means “Allah is the greatest. “Allah is greater.” Greater than whom? “Allah is greater than Jesus.” “Allah is greater than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” It is a theological statement.
The Dome of the Rock exists as a statement of Islam’s conquest over Jerusalem and is a visible statement that it is superior to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and superior to Jesus. When you’re standing on the Mount of Olives, level with the top of the Dome of the Rock, and you’re looking straight across, horizontally, you can see that the domes on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are below the top of the Dome of the Rock. That is a visual statement of the superiority of Islam over Jesus. The main reason for its existence is to assert its superiority over Jesus.
So their message is that Jesus is not God, but the Scripture says that at one point every tongue will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
This is predicted in Isaiah 45:23 where God said, “I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” So that we learn from this whole illustration in Philippians 2, that Jesus is exalted because of His humility and He is humble by being obedient to the point of death.
So if He grew and matured, so shall we.
Now let’s go back to 1 Peter 2. The argument in 1 Peter is that his audience—primarily Jewish background believers—is going to face a certain amount of adversity in life, and it is through that that they are going to realize their inheritance. That inheritance that has been reserved for them in Heaven, as we read back in 1 Peter 1:4. We’ve been saved “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation [that is ultimate glorification] ready to be revealed in the last time.” Then it goes on to talk about the testing of their faith through various trials in 1 Peter 1:7, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s the Judgment Seat of Christ.
As we went through the rest of 1 Peter 1 and down into chapter 2, we saw that in 1 Peter 2:17 there is a command statement that basically summarizes the verses previous to that, but it also sets up a transition for the next section. 1 Peter 2:13–17 talks about submission to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.
Then there is a conclusion, with four imperatives. This is important to understand the significance of the grammar. A lot of people, myself included, have stumbled over some of these uses, but it’s important to break it down because it helps us understand what Peter is saying when it comes into the next section where he talks about wives and then husbands.
You have four commands here: Honor, love, fear, and honor. All of these are active-voice commands. That means the person addressed is supposed to perform the actions. We are to honor everyone. Everyone—it doesn’t matter what their political belief is, it doesn’t matter what their race is, what their creed is. We honor everyone because they’re created in the image and likeness of God.
We are to love the brotherhood. That emphasizes believers. We are to love one another because Christ loved the church. This is what Jesus said in John 13:34–35. We are to fear God; that is submission to divine authority. We are to honor the king—submission to the temporal authorities that God has placed over us. That is our volitional decision.
These are all imperatives. Now the first one is an aorist imperative; the others are present. There are different nuances there, but the main thing here is that these are all imperatives addressed to us. Now what’s the significance of that?
When we get into the next couple of sections related to servants in 1 Peter 2:18, related to wives in 1 Peter 3:1, and then related to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, the grammar tells us something—something interesting. These are not imperative commands. They read that way in the English—the way they are translated. “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.” But it is not imperative in the Greek.
Husbands are to dwell with their wives with understanding. But that’s not an imperative in the Greek. “Servants, be submissive to your masters.” It’s not an imperative. These are all participles, as I have over here in the box; they are present middle participles.
I did identify them as an imperatival participle—not quite. I wasn’t looking far enough back in the context here. These participles, in 1 Peter 2:18, translated, “be submissive” to servants; 1 Peter 3:1, “wives … be submissive”; and then in 1 Peter 3:7, “dwell,” explain how the imperatives are to be fulfilled, how they are to be implemented.
You have a command to do something, and then, typically, what happens is that command is followed up by a series of participles that should be translated as participles of means. They still have an imperatival force because they are adverbial. Remember—this is basic grammar; don’t let your eyes glaze over. An adverb modifies a verb. So, if the verb has an imperatival sense, the adverb that’s modifying it is also going to have an imperatival sense, but explaining how to fulfill that.
Let me show you what we have here. What we have is a command initially that we are to honor, love, fear, and honor. How do you do that? The way that is played out is by slaves being submissive to masters, by wives being submissive to husbands, and husband living with their wives in understanding.
You see the same kind of thing in Ephesians from Paul in Ephesians 5:21, which comes three verses after Ephesians 5:18. In Ephesians 5:18, you have a command: “Be filled by means of the Spirit.” And then, in Ephesians 5:21, we are told that one of the ways that we demonstrate that filling (I think it’s a participle of result) by the Spirit is submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Notice: we are all to submit to one another. That’s grace orientation. We are all going to treat each other with the benefit of the doubt. Even somebody who’s not an authority over us that comes along and says, “I think it ought to be done this way,” we are not going to say, “I’m your boss; you’re an idiot; go do something else.” We are to listen and consider well-meaning options presented by those under us. That’s part of leadership.
So we are to submit to one another in the fear of God. But, ultimately, there are roles that come into effect within the family. Wives are to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord—not to some other husband. I think it’s interesting that both Peter and Paul have the word “own” there to make sure you understand that you submit to your own husband, not to some other male.
It’s not making a statement that men are categorically superior to women. It’s talking about structure and order within the home. As we will see, one of the reasons Peter and Paul both emphasize this is because in their particular context, in the Roman Empire, there was a strong emphasis on a certain structure of authority within the family. In Greco-Roman culture, they understood that the family—we’ve forgotten this in our country—is the core to stability and survival of a nation or an empire. If there is not a strong family, then the nation will collapse within a generation. We are in danger of that in our culture.
In the body of Christ, we are all to submit to one another. That’s related to the fact that we are all in the image and likeness of God. Wives are to submit to their own husbands, but husbands are to love their wives. Notice. Wives submit to their husbands, as to the Lord. There’s that correlation: How you submit to your husband relates to how you submit to the authority of God. There’s a correlation there.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church.” Well, for a husband to fill that out, he better spend a lot of time studying the Scripture to learn how Christ loves the church. That’s going to be the pattern: To be a good husband, you have to be a student of how Jesus is the Husband of His bride, the church.
So we have the same thing here. We have these universal statements of how we are to orient to one another. Here it is “submit to one another.” In Peter it’s, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
When we come to our passage in 1 Peter 3:1, we read what is going on here. It says, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.” One thing I want to bring out in terms of understanding submission here. In Matthew 28:19–20, I was going to bring this out as an example.
Matthew 28:19–20 is what is usually referred to as the Great Commission. The way it’s typically translated in most English translations is, “Go therefore.” And “go” is translated like it’s a command, but it’s not an imperatival verb, it’s a participle. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples.” That is your imperative right there: make disciples. And then you have two participles: baptizing and teaching.
That’s the same kind of thing we have here in terms of grammatical structure. If you’re a first-year student or second-year student of Greek, that’s what you’ll hear. You’ll hear many sermons saying, “Jesus is not telling them to go; He’s telling them to baptize and teach.” The way that participle ought to be translated is, “as you are going” or “when you are going” as a temporal participle.
But again, you have the same situation that you have in 1 Peter. The mood of the participle is often influenced by the finite verb. Since the finite verb is imperatival, the participle also picks up that same nuance. So translating it as an imperative “to go” is not wrong. In fact, the more I study Matthew 28:19–20, the more I think that’s what Jesus is telling them, “Go and make disciples.” Grammatically, that makes very good sense.
How do you make disciples? That’s the imperative. You make disciples by baptizing. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s an adverbial participle of means. By baptizing and by teaching—those are the ways that you make disciples.
The same thing in 1 Peter. “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Well, how do you do that? You do that by being submissive to authority. So that fits the same pattern as we have over in Ephesians; this is a grammatical concept.
We read, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they [that is, the husbands] observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” Now, should you think that maybe the old King James Version or the New King James Version made it a little harsh? Here’s the new English translation, known as the NET Bible.
It reads, “In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Then, even if some are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without a word by the way you live, when they see your pure and reverent conduct.”
As we look at this, there are a few things that we have to understand in light of the background to 1 Peter, as well as to what Paul is saying in Ephesians. It starts off in the same way. It’s making a comparison to what he said about slaves in verse 18. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear [that is, with respect and reverence].”
Then, in 1 Peter 3:1, when he says, “women, likewise,” he is saying, “Just like the slaves, you are to be submissive to the one who is in authority over you.” Now this is a difficult concept, I have found, for a lot of women in our culture, to understand. I think that if you’re under 30, it’s even worse. If you are under 40, it’s not as bad. But each generation since the 60s has found this to be more and more unpalatable.
So we have to really take it apart. Part of it is because the passage has been abused. Part of it is because we have been abused by a lot of the ideas related to role distinctions in marriage in our human viewpoint culture.
Here’s the first principle for interpretation. We must interpret the Scripture in light of the time in which it was written. You’ve heard that many, many times. We have to interpret the Scripture in light of the time in which it was written, but we have to understand what that means. We have to understand what it doesn’t mean. Because that statement, “interpreting the Bible in light of the time in which it was written,” is often abused—badly.
What that doesn’t mean is: That was then, and this is now. That, in that culture, this was a problem of one type or another. Therefore, when we understand that situation, it was necessary to say it that way then, but we’re living in a different time, a different era, different dispensation, and so we have to interpret it differently. That’s not what “interpreting the Scripture in light of the times” means, “in light of that culture” means.
Neither does it mean that we say that these standards that the Scripture sets forth for marriage, for family, or roles within the marriage or family, were culturally determined. This is what typically happens. In 1 Timothy 2:8–12, Paul says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” and so the common approach to that, based on the human viewpoint thinking of today, is that:
- Paul’s just expressing his opinion.
That’s not what’s going on there because at the bottom line he goes to creation for his pattern—not anything in the culture.
- Second, there’s an attempt to say, “Well, this was a particular problem with rebellious women in the congregation of Ephesus.”
Again, if you look at the passage, it is not culturally determined. Paul goes back to the role of Eve and Adam in order to establish the pattern. It’s the order of creation, not the order of the culture.
But why do Peter and Paul have to emphasize these things? Aha—now that’s the issue. What was going on, culturally, in the Greco-Roman culture that made them emphasize the creation role distinctions between men and women? They are nuanced, but that doesn’t mean that the application changes any today. But the reason they have to emphasize it does.
We have to look at that. That’s what it means to interpret in the light of the culture. Because, in the Greco-Roman culture at that time they had a strong emphasis on family and marriage. But like all human viewpoint cultures, they distort the creation mandate; so that women always seem to get shortchanged by the men in the culture. It’s true that there were role distinctions in the Greco-Roman family and that they understood that that was necessary to have stability in the home, but they distorted it to the detriment of women.
The first principle here is that we have to interpret this in light of the culture, in light of the times. The second principle is that in most human viewpoint-based cultures, whether it’s an Asian culture in Japan, an Asian culture in China, an Asian culture in India, whether it is a Slavic culture in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, whether it is a Western European culture, whether it’s a Greco-Roman culture, whether it’s a pagan American culture of contemporary times, women tend to be treated as less than equal to men, except in certain matriarchal cultures.
The problem is, there’s never been a successful matriarchal culture. They have all imploded, because that violates God’s standard of man being the leader in the home and man being the leader in the culture. Matriarchal cultures never reach above the primitive. You’ve never heard of any advanced civilization that came from a culture that rejected male leadership in the home.
Now, to understand this, we have to go back to what I taught two or three lessons back in terms of the makeup of God.
Again, this goes to the very heart of the issue, which is that an authority relationship, a submission relationship, does not imply inequality. But what happens in human viewpoint is that they always twist it to make it mean inequality. For example, in Islam women are just barely above servile domesticated animals—maybe they’re below the camel—they’re not worth as much as the camel. They are terribly devalued. So this does not reflect divine viewpoint.
When they say that women need to submit to the man, they don’t mean what the Bible means. Because when the Bible says that women submit to the husband, it’s two equals. But one is in charge and responsible, and the other is not. And that does not demean the person who is in the position of obedience.
This is seen in the Person of God. When we look at the triune God, there are three distinct Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and They are equal to each other. The Father is not smarter than the Son. The Son is not smarter than the Holy Spirit. Neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are less powerful than the Father. They are equal totally in essence, so that the Son is God, the Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. They are equally God. There is no superiority in any one of Them.
But they are not the same person. The Son is not the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father. There are three distinct Persons, but They are totally equal. Each one is totally God.
They are equal in essence to one another. Yet the Son is obedient to the Father. The Son sends the Holy Spirit, and the Father sends the Holy Spirit. That puts the Holy Spirit in a position of subordination to the Son and the Father, yet They are totally equal. So being submissive does not mean inequality.
But when you have human viewpoint that doesn’t understand the plurality of God, that the ultimate reality in the universe is a unity and a plurality… That’s one of the big problems that has existed through the history of philosophy: how do you explain being and becoming, or the one and the many? Only Christianity answers that, because in God we have One who exists equally as the many. And that works out in terms of marriage and the home, and it works itself out in government.
So that if you believe in an autocratic deity like Islam, or you have a problem with other aspects of God where you really don’t work out the equality aspect, then you end up with an autocracy or tyranny. This happens in Eastern orthodoxy. One of the reasons that the eastern Orthodox countries have never developed anything related to democracy or the equality of the citizens—those are the parts—is because they rejected what was called the Filioque Clause at the Synod of Toledo in the fifth century.
The Synod of Toledo added a clause to the Nicene Creed that said that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. But they corrected it at a regional Synod, the Synod of Toledo. I believe it was 490, and they added the phrase filioque. In Latin it means, “and the Son”: that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son—because there’s an equality there.
Ultimately, in Eastern orthodoxy, the Father sends the Spirit, but not the Son. So there is more of a subordination role—the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit—as opposed to what I’ve depicted up here. So the parts don’t have equality. The parts aren’t as great as the One who’s ultimately in authority, the Father.
That always leads to a view of the nation where the government has more significance than the parts—the citizens. After the Protestant Reformation, these ideas that are inherent in the triune concept of God work themselves out in the political theory of the Puritans, and the British especially, that ultimately came into fruition with the American Republic because they understood that the individuals were just as important as the whole. And the whole was not more important than the parts. So you could give real value and significance to each individual citizen.
But see, the push, because of the sin nature, is always towards tyranny and elevating one over the many instead of having an equal balance between the one and the many. This is what happens in marriage. Submit to one another is an emphasis on the unity in the marriage. The wife submitting to the husband is an emphasis on the diversity in the marriage. But they are not opposed to one another; they work together.
Then we go back to Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Men and women are equal in being, the essence, in personhood, and humanity. Just as the Son is totally equal to the Father in His essence; and the Holy Spirit is completely equal to Father in His essence.
But they had role distinctions. Genesis 2:18, the woman was created to be a helper, or assistant, to the man.
This term, as I have pointed out many times, is only used of God in terms of being an assistant or helper. So it’s not a demeaning term.
Wives are to be submissive to their husbands. God designates the quarterback. You have a team in football; they are all equally good athletes, but they have different strengths and weaknesses, different skills, and different roles and responsibilities on the team. The center has one set of responsibilities. The tight end has another set, the running backs. All of this is different. But they all submit to the guy who’s calling the plays, which is usually the quarterback.
So all of that led me to develop something that we will get started on tonight. It’s something that a lot of people forget. I taught this, I think, three other times over the last 18 years, and that’s the Doctrine of the Dance.
Now, this metaphor didn’t just generate itself in my head; the idea of “dance” was used as a metaphor in the Old Testament for lifestyle. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, when Jeremiah is lamenting the destruction of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem and all of the Israelites—or most of them—being taken off into exile, he wrote Lamentations 5:15.
“The joy of our heart has ceased; our dance [our lives, our lifestyles] has turned into mourning.” That’s what happens when we forget what God says about marriage and family and the role of men and the role of women in family; when this gets subverted, the nation will collapse. It happened then; it happened later in Israel, along with many other factors, because there was a rejection of God’s plan for the family and for marriage.
So, first point.
- Dancing involves teamwork.
Years ago, I took dance lessons. I took mostly country-western dance lessons, being a good Texan, but it applies to any kind of dancing, except for what usually comes across today as in contemporary dance. I’m not talking about modern forms of dancing where two people just get out on the dance floor and sort of gyrate—each doing their own thing to the music—but when you have a couple coming together and creating something that is attractive and something that is beautiful.
But modern dance is a great metaphor for a lot of modern marriages: two people who are together, but separate, each doing their own thing, but not coming together as a unified team. One of the metaphors I’ve often used to describe marriage is that in the biblical sense of marriage you would have two people in one car going down the highway toward a destination. But in a lot of modern marriages, what you have is two people who manage to think they’re going in the same direction, but they’re really driving two cars and going down that highway at the same speed at the same time, but they’re not together. There’s no development of unity within the marriage.
In classic dancing, you have two people who were dancing in something like ballroom dancing, salsa dancing, country-western dancing, and a number of other dances, where the people have to learn certain steps. The one has to learn how to lead; the other has to learn how to how to follow. There are clearly defined rules and steps and movements, and both people have to work together to achieve the desired effect.
- Dancing involves teamwork with clearly defined roles and rules for each member of the team, much like marriage. Christian marriage involves teamwork with clearly defined rules and roles as seen in Ephesians 5:22–33; Colossians 3:18–4:1; and 1 Peter 3:1–7.
When the rules are followed, and when each person fulfills his role, the result, in dancing, is a fluid movement of grace and beauty where you see the two working totally and moving as one. But when one or the other messes up, or tries to fill the role of the other, the result is catastrophe.
When I was taking country-western dancing, they would teach us a movement, and then we would all be paired up. We would practice that two or three times with one partner, and then you switch and you do it with another partner; and you do with another partner. Pretty soon you learn the strengths and weaknesses of different people that you dance with in the group. Within about 15 minutes with any new group, I could always determine who the feminists were; they always tried to back lead. They couldn’t follow worth a hoot, because they wanted to run the show. And it was always a problem. So the man always had to adjust how he would lead when he had a woman who was that way.
I guess I was fairly good; I usually had women tell me that. They would say, “You don’t lead too hard.” See, that’s a problem; a lot of men don’t know how to lead—in life, as in dancing. They lead too hard—they are pushing the woman through everything. Or they’re afraid to lead—they are so tenuous in their leads that the woman really isn’t sure what they’re supposed to do.
I find that that is really true of a lot of relationships. The man either over leads and he is borderline abusive, or he doesn’t lead and the woman is left without any direction. So this is a great metaphor for marriage.
- Two people cannot dance together without a common goal.
The Bible says that two people can’t do anything together unless they are united. Amos 3:3, “How can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” In many marriages, there is no clear defined goal for the marriage. They just get married because their hormones are active, or because they don’t want to be alone; there may be a lot of different reasons. One of them views the other one as a meal ticket.
There are a lot of different reasons people opt for marriage. But the purpose for marriage is defined in the Bible: for two people to work together to glorify God and to fulfill God’s mandate for Christian growth and spiritual service. This is what happens in the garden. God first gave Adam a mandate and then He said, “But you can’t do it alone. I will make a helper for you.” So that together they could fulfill the mission that God gave the man. But what happens many times—you see it sometimes in dancing—is that they cannot define what they’re doing and so they fall apart.
In marriage it’s the same kind of thing; you have two people who have their individual goals, but they can’t subordinate their individual goals to the goal of the marriage. If the goal of having a happy, healthy marriage that glorifies God is true for both of them, then they can achieve that no matter what.
But, unfortunately, all it takes to destroy a marriage is for one person to adopt another goal that’s in conflict with God’s goal for the marriage. If it’s the man, then he’s going to go through divine discipline, and the wife and children—if there are children—are going to suffer by association. They’re going to go through that discipline by association. That doesn’t mean you bail out, but there has to be communication and discussion and that brings in a lot of other things.
The common goal in a successful Christian marriage is bringing glory to God through the marriage team. So that when and if conflicts erupt, then the final determiner is what is best for the marriage, what best promotes spiritual growth and spiritual advance for both the husband and the wife, and what provides a better testimony for marriage.
- Like any team, dancing has specifically defined roles for the two participants. In dancing, the male is the leader and the woman is the follower.
I think it’s more difficult for the woman, because the man, if he is thinking, knows two or three moves out where he’s going, but unless he communicates to her what they’re going to do next, she doesn’t have a clue. She’s got to respond instantly, and she has to do it backwards.
- So the male is the leader and the woman’s the follower. This means the man is initiating, planning, and directing the movements of the woman.
In a good team, they’re going to coordinate. In a good dance team, the man is going to say, “This is what we’re getting ready to do.” So she’s got a little warning, and she can plan for what’s going to take place and what’s going to happen. There’s good communication both ways. She can say, “No. My ankle’s weak; I’m not going to do that.” And he’d better listen! There has to be good communication between the two partners.
So the man is the leader; the woman is the follower. She responds to his leadership. And the same is true in Christian marriage. The husband is the leader; he’s the one who has final responsibility before God for the spiritual welfare of the family. He’s the one God will hold accountable for it. The most superficial form of that for men, is getting your family to church on Sunday—hopefully also to midweek Bible class
But the role involves a lot more. It involves encouraging your wife spiritually, providing an example of spiritual growth, living out your priorities in terms of your spiritual life. Then, when it comes to having children, it is setting that standard.
The man is the one who should be spending most of the time establishing the spiritual priorities to the children. He should be the one reading the Bible stories to the children; he should be the one taking the lead. We live in a culture where men are too busy and they leave that to women, but that communicates a bad message to women.
In my first church were a lot of blue-collar workers. Blue-collar workers are very important. But we have a problem with blue-collar men in this country—they don’t think spiritual life is all that important. At least in that church they didn’t. There were a lot of women in that church whose husbands would never come to church. Then, one day, one of the four-year-old boys told his mother when she got up and said, “We’re going to go to church today,” he said, “Daddy never goes to church. There are a lot of men who don’t go to church. I’m a man. I’m not going to go to church.” At four years old, he understood that the failure of the men was to be his model. And he was going to be a failure in his spiritual life as well and not go to church. It is the role of men to provide that. That is the core of biblical masculinity.
That is the first three points. We’ll come back and look at the rest of them next time.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to reflect upon what Your Word says, to recognize that we each have certain roles and that they are to be subordinate to the mission, which is spiritual growth and spiritual maturity and glorifying You.
Father, we pray that You would help us to understand where we have problems as men and women in these areas, due to our own sin nature, and that God the Holy Spirit would strengthen us so that as time goes by, we can grow and mature in each of these areas. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”