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The Source of the Solution: the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 5 is known as the chapter on the Christian family. It is in Ephesians 5:18–21 that we learn about the role of husbands, wives, parents and children. It is worth noting, however, that before anything is said about submission or leadership, we are told of a power that will enable us in those areas: God’s Holy Spirit.

“Be Filled with the Spirit.”

This is a command.

In the original Greek, this is not simply an exhortation; it is a command (Ephesians 5:18). Before specific family roles are defined, we have this prerequisite. In other words, for a Christian marriage to succeed, both parties must realize that they cannot follow their God-given roles in their own strength. They can only accomplish this in and through Jesus by the power of His Holy Spirit.

This needs to be a continuous action.

When we think of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we often think of Pentecost, the gift of tongues, miracles, or bold preaching. When Paul tells us that we must be filled with the Spirit, he is not speaking of a constant state of euphoria or some emotional experience. He speaks of a moment to moment submission to the Spirit’s control. The verb “be filled” in the original Greek speaks of a continuous action.

We cannot rely upon a past filling, nor can we live in expectation of a future filling. We need a present filling. Likewise, the mark of a good marriage is not the love and devotion the husband and wife had in the past (as wonderful as that may have been). Nor is it the love and devotion they hope to have in the future (though that is a great goal). The strength of their marriage is in the love and devotion they have for each other in the present.

“Submit to One Another in the Fear of God”

As I am continually being filled with the Spirit, I am then able to move on to the next step: submission to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). Before a word is said about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives submitting to their husbands, we are told that both husband and wife are to submit to one another in the fear of God.

The idea of submission is not popular in today’s self-centered culture. It is perceived as giving up our rights and being a doormat for someone to walk on. The word used for submit here means “to get in order under something.” In a military sense, it means to rank beneath or to rank under.

A husband’s submission to his wife does not mean that he abdicates his responsibility of leadership in the home, but that he helps her to bear her burdens. He gets underneath to help carry her cares. He is always ready to meet her needs and to sacrifice his own desires for what helps fulfill those needs. And the wife is ready to do the same for her husband.

In a marriage, we all must submit at some point.

God is in charge, first and foremost. Then the wives are called to submit to the loving leadership of their husbands. And husbands are to bow to the needs of their wives. God’s order of priority for your life is God first, family second, and your career and/or ministry third—not the other way around.

The issue is not superiority or inferiority. Submission is about sacrifice. It is about your mate. Most importantly, it is about obedience to God. Remember, we submit to one another in the fear of God.

Something to think about

  • Are you willing to place your spouse’s needs and wants above your own?
  • Are you willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to make your marriage what God wants it to be?
  • Are you willing—without reservation—to do what the Bible tells you to do?

If you are, you can begin by praying that God would fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you can be the husband or wife He wants you to be. Then submit to one another in the fear of God. Your life and marriage will never be the same.

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