Although doubtless the instruction that immediately captures our attention (and gets all the press) is the command for wives to be subject to their husbands, this is not actually the main thrust of Paul’s message here. Reiterating his primary focus, in verse 32, Paul says, “I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
The primary point that Paul would have us take to heart — which will, it is true, have inevitable implications for marital relations — is that marriage is a picture of Christ’s communion with his church. The husband’s selfless, sacrificial love for his wife is only a shadow of Christ’s love for his church. No husband will ever love, or sanctify, or edify his wife as perfectly as Christ loves and sanctifies and edifies his church. What a beautiful reminder!
And, yet, that is not the only implication that flows out of Paul’s instruction. What is to be our attitude toward our beloved Savior? Not just reciprocal love, not only warm appreciation — but also submission. As members in the body of Christ, we are to recognize that Christ is our head, that he has authority over us.
This means that whatever he requires of us, whatever he speaks to us from his Word, we must be willing to do. Loving one another (John 13:35), forgiving and forbearing one another (Ephesians 4:32), visiting and caring for one another (James 1:27) — these must flow, ultimately, out of our joyful submission to our perfect head Jesus Christ. Is there someone you have refused to forgive? Are there needy in your church that have not been cared for? Are there some personalities in your congregation that rub you the wrong way?
Paul’s simple reply is “the church is subject to Christ.” That is all we need know. For Christ’s sake — in submission to Christ’s authority — we must forgive, and love, and minister to our brothers and sisters in the church.
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