One Of The Bible’s Most Beautiful Metaphors

One Of The Bible’s Most Beautiful Metaphors

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The second half of the Ephesian letter is addressed to showing how the redeemed walk in Christ. That cannot be divorced from the Christian’s function within the body of Christ, the church. It has often rightly been observed that Paul, in this epistle, is exalting the church of the Christ. It is valuable to God and to us because (1) It is the body of Christ, His Son (1:22-23; 4:4), (2) It is His means of reconciling all people together (2:16), (3) It makes us members of His household (2:19-22), (4) It is the means through which He shows His manifold wisdom and eternal purpose (3:9-11), (5) It is the means through which He receives glory (3:20-21), and (6) It is where and how God intends for us to use our talents and abilities to grow individually and collectively (4:11-16). Added to that list is what Paul says in what we call Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul makes it clear that the material he covers in this text illustrates a profound mystery; what he is saying “refers to Christ and the church” (32). Therefore, whatever else we take away from this text as inspired guidelines for marriage–which it is–we must understand that the church is the bride and Christ is the groom. When we see God’s binding legislation on the husband and wife in this text, we must remind ourselves that it illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church. Paul repeatedly gives this reminder (23, 25,27,29, 30,32). But, it’s not exclusively about that, as Paul concludes, “However, let each of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (33). In other words, Paul is saying, “Even though my underlying point is about Christ’s love for the church and the church’s need to submit to His authority, apply this to the marriage relationship!” 

This illustration is about submission (22-24). The command here builds on the command previous to it, in Ephesians 5:21, that being filled with the Spirit is fulfilled by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is more generally about each member of the church. But, in a marriage between Christians, there would also be this mutual submission. Yet, in a specific way, God commands the wife to submit to the headship of her husband. Paul speaks “of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure… of the entity to whom/which appropriate respect is shown” (BDAG 1042). Louw and Nida add that it means “to bring something under the firm control of someone” (475). Kittel tells us that in the middle voice (i.e., the one commanded acting upon himself/herself) this is voluntary submission, but it is according to a divinely willed order (1159). The wife places herself under the leadership of her husband in a way that shows that she respect him (33). God commands this because, as previous commands in this letter, it does not come naturally or easily. It requires self-discipline and effort. The close the loop on the metaphor, Paul says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (24). This is neither vague nor unclear, though it is difficult. 

This illustration is about sacrificial love (25-30). The command here complements the one Paul gives to the wife. The husband is commanded to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”  (25). The specific “love” mentioned here is not erotic, familial, or companionship centered. It is the highest form of love, “to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard—‘to love, to regard with affection, loving concern, love” (Louw-Nida 292-293). This is the love used to describe why God gave His Son (John 3:16). Likewise, Paul here is saying that what husbands are called to show their wives is what prompted Jesus to lay down His life on the cross. Picture the intensity, the fierce devotion, the selfless care involved in that (as you read 5:26-27)! But that active interest also leads the husband, in love, to nourish and cherish her (29) as carefully as one acts to preserve self (28). Paul sharpens the focus of husbands on the sacrificial love Christ heaps on the church, and that is the bar God sets for the husband in the marriage. A husband is to be driven by concern, care, and genuine interest for the needs of his wife! Her greatest need is spiritual, so he will never abdicate the role of spiritual leadership. He will lovingly exercise it. 

This illustration is about severing (31). When the old saying goes, “Marriage takes three,” it does not mean the husband, his wife, and a parent. In fact, a prerequisite of forming a marriage presupposes what Paul explicitly states here: “Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh” (31). Did you know that this is one of the first commands in the whole Bible? Paul quotes Genesis 2:24)? Jesus reiterates it in His teaching to restore marriage to its original state (Mat. 19:5; Mk. 10:7). Suffice it to say, this is a foundational principle. Just as God does not want any outside influences to interfere in the church’s relationship to Christ, He does not want any undue influences upon the marriage relationship. That includes the parents of the bride and/or groom! The legislation is spoken to the husband, but it is applicable to the wife. It is also a warning to the parents whose children leave their home and form their new home. While this does not mean total isolation and desertion of responsibilities to parents, whom we must always honor (6:3), it does mean that the relationship changes. The married couple are not under the rule of parents. They leave that relationship and form a new one, beautifully described as a “one flesh” relationship. 

This metaphor is to help the church at Ephesus understand their relationship to Christ. But, let’s not miss the bottom line application, either. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (32-33). 

1 Peter–Part VII

1 Peter–Part VII

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter – Part VII

While we’re on this topic, wives must listen to their own husbands. If your husband doesn’t believe, maybe you’ll win him over with just your good example! You wouldn’t even have to say anything. Pure and respectful behavior speaks volumes. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance or fashion. Show off who you are inside! A gentle, easy-going demeanor is timeless; it’s also extremely valuable to God. Remember the women lived a long time ago? They were considered special because God was their hope, just like he’s your hope. They also expressed their beauty by deferring to their husbands. Sarah did that for Abraham – she considered him to be her leader. You are just like her when you do the right thing without being afraid of anything. 

Husbands, you’re not off the hook. You share a living space with your wife, so you have to be a student of her needs and wants. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. Remember the differences between men and women. Don’t be rough with her. Make sure you show her how valuable she is! She has just as much a claim to God’s promise as you do. If you aren’t good to her, God will block your prayers. 

Finally, you all need to work together. Show sympathy to each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. Don’t insult people who insult you. Don’t get even with people who hurt you. Do something good for them instead! That’s actually why God called us, and he wants to do good for us, too. You’ve read, “Anyone who wants to live a good life should watch their mouth. They should avoid evil and do good things. They should look for peace and chase it. God watches out for good people and listens to their prayers, but he’s against people who practice evil.” 

Who’s going to hurt you if you’re obsessed with being good to people? Even if someone hurts you because of your faith, you’re ok! Don’t be afraid of their threats, don’t let it shake you up. Put Jesus in the center of your heart at all times. Have a logical answer ready whenever you’re interrogated for your faith. Tell them about your hope, but make sure you’re gentle and respectful. Make sure your moral lives are good so they can’t legitimately attack your character. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll answer for how they treat you. It’s better to be attacked for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. 

By 3rd century monk – Link