These words are the key phrase in the Apostle Paul’s instruction to wives in Ephesians 5:22-24. It is a remarkable thing that in a subject like marriage, of which so much has been written and about which even Solomon expressed a sense of wonder (Proverbs 30:18,19), the Apostle has been able to give very helpful advice in such an economy of words. In the previous article on the responsibility of husbands, we found that there was in his words a phrase of emphasis, “Husbands, love your wives”. So in the three verses to wives there is a statement of emphasis, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22,24). It is the same when he writes to the Colossians, where he adds the extra little note, “as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).

There would be few magazines in the world today where you would find a heading quite like the above. In fact it is diametrically opposed to the present wisdom of the western world. We need to very carefully evaluate that this advice is not of man; it comes to us from our God, through the apostle to the Gentiles and is relevant to the saints of all ages irrespective of the thoughts or philosophy that may prevail in different eras or localities during the long night of Gentile times. In fact, it is said that Ephesus was a matriarchal society, inspired by the worship of their female principal deity, Diana. History records, interestingly, that it was first in Ephesus that the status of Mary was elevated beyond the teaching of Scripture. Yet it was to the Ephesians and Colossians that Paul wrote his instruction, totally unrelated to the background ideas of their time or their area.

A New Wind Of Doctrine

 We are wise to note this independence of Apostolic advice from current thought, as it helps us to make an effective stand at the present time. Philosophies rarely come overnight; they come with a series of waves, gradually overflowing the present status until they sweep it away. Modern media with its unique presentation and penetration is affecting the world population more quickly than ever before in history. We need to see very clearly the stark evil of modern-day “feminism”. We all know that this arrogant push of carnally-minded women is being put to our daughters and sons at school and at work, and every day of their lives the implications of this wicked philosophy are impacting upon them. If we do not teach God’s ways to our young ones in absolute terms and without compromise, then it is certain that we too shall gradually change with our times and our family life will be irretrievably distorted. The truth is that modern feminism is a godless theory inspired by humanism that seeks to uproot the instruction of the Bible, recreate the family and lead the world off on a completely new and uncharted path. It is already clear that the fruits of feminism are disastrous.

Our Early Basis

 Whenever the Master or his apostles were asked concerning marriage or the roles of man and woman, it is to Genesis they turn e.g. Matt 19:4-8; 1 Cor 11:7-10; Eph 5:29-31; 1 Peter 3:5-6; 1 Tim 2:11-15. These matters are foundation issues for it is in Genesis that the principles of God are given. In all the above passages the explicit teaching of Genesis is the basis of Apostolic instruction. Four thousand years of history had passed from Adam to Christ, but there was no change in the principles of family life; neither is there any change in the subsequent two thousand years to our time. It really helps us with our children and with our young marrieds if we see this clearly. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27). When the Spirit comments on this it states, “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God”, and as a second thought, “but the woman is the glory of the man” (1 Cor 11:7). This two-part comment takes into account that Genesis 2 give a subsequent and fuller account of the creation of woman. Yahweh Elohim declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (2:18). So the Apostle goes on to say, “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Cor 11:8-9). Similarly to Timothy he writes, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim 2:13).

Why does the Apostle make repeated comment on the separate creation of Eve? Because there are spiritual lessons to be taken from it. In Corinthians he draws out the principle of the head-covering of the woman (v 10) and in Timothy he deduces from Genesis that the woman’s role is not to be teaching in the assembly of the saints. It made no difference whether he wrote to the Corinthians or to Timothy in Ephesus; the basis of his very clear teaching was found in Genesis.

Should we live by different principles today? By no means! It is critically important to see how the Apostle argues his case. The laws of God have been long cast.

An Help Meet

 This quaint little phrase is full of instruction. “Help” is from Hebrew “ezer”, a common word for “aid” or “succour” from a root word signifying “to surround”. It suggests anything but independence and a separate career! It is the very opposite thought to the wisdom of the world. This wonderful gift of help from Yahweh is “meet” or suitable for the man; she is before him as his counterpart, made from him, in sympathy with him, providing succour in the achievement of his goals. “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” is the exact sentiment of the words of Genesis.

It is a wonderful cause for thanksgiving when we see the wisdom with which our Father has arranged all things. Indeed, “whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of Yahweh” (Prov 18:22). This intriguing and beautiful sense of harmony between the man and his wife is again emphasised in the manner in which Yahweh created the woman. He could easily have taken more dust of the ground and formed Adam’s partner in the same way that He created the man. He chose not to. He formed Adam’s helper out of Adam, not out of his foot or his fist but out of his own side. She was built up to know and understand all his feelings, to be touched by all his sympathies, “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”. What a grand thought, what a wonderful arrangement! What vast good has flowed to mankind from this original design recorded in Genesis!

The first name given to the new partner was not “Eve”; Adam gave her this second name because she was a facility of new life to their offspring (Gen 3:20). Her original name was “Woman” because “she was taken out of man”. So there in the primordial beauty of Eden, in the company of the angelic guests, the first bridegroom exclaimed his wonder and gracious thanksgiving, for all that Yahweh Elohim had so provided. How many bridegrooms ever since have stood in just that same position and lifted their thoughts unto their God and praised Him that has done so marvellously, yea, from the very beginning. It is a remarkable fact that in every language under heaven those same Divinely-given names, “man” and “woman” are reflected in the names of male and female partners. This is because common origins take them all back to Genesis. It is a cause of interest to the wise that, as they behold the madness of modern philosophy that has changed chairmen into chairpersons and manhole into person-holes and sought to deny the distinctive roles that God gave to each gender, yet they still refer to “man” and “woman”, “male” and “female”, the very terms that came from the beginning and confirm with every use the old story of Genesis and the way that God made us!

Abraham And Sarah

 It is an interesting discovery that there is very little narrative concerning the details of Biblical marriages. There is far more said about Abraham and Sarah than about any other marriage and it must surely be that this is so because their relationship is seen by the Father as one from which we can learn so much. Certainly the Apostle Peter saw it this way. When writing of the importance of conduct upon the conversion of unbelieving husbands, he teaches that the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” will be far more fruitful than a reliance upon the outward adorning of hair and jewellery and lavish clothes (1 Pet 3:1-6). “A meek and quiet spirit”! What a beautiful expression, what an anomaly in our age! The advice our daughters receive from school, even in well-disciplined schools, is mostly in the opposite direction to Apostolic teaching. They are taught to speak up, to assert their rights, to train for permanent careers, to compete with men, to earn their own money and are congratulated by society when they break into new strata of male dominance. Thus all that is unlovely and contrary to the ordinances of God is now pushed upon our young girls as though worldly achievement outside the house and family is the desirable path for woman. The foolish churches have largely gone along with it all and have been a cause of pathetic amusement as they whittle away the clear statements of Apostolic instruction and embrace the degeneration of the society in which they live. Let Christadelphia be warned for there are, sadly, distinct signs of change in some quarters of our own Brotherhood. It is as well to record the wise words of our first publication.

“We hear much in some parts of the world of the political rights and equality of women with men; and of their preaching and teaching in public assemblies. We need wonder at nothing which emanates from the unenlightened thinking of sinful flesh.” Elpis Israel page 121

“It is the old ambition of the sex to be equal to the gods; but in taking steps to attain it, they involved themselves in subjection to men. Preaching, and lecturing, women are but species of actresses, who exhibit upon the boards for the amusement of sinful and foolish men. They aim at an equality for which they are not physically constituted; they degrade themselves by the exhibition and in proportion as they rise in assurance, they sink in all that really adorns a woman.” Elpis Israel page 122.

It is quite remarkable that even in the 1840’s brother Thomas felt the woman’s thrust for public equality of roles. What would he say today? Will we be found to have so taught our young daughters that they are not only busy with their indispensable and inimitable roles but happily so, in the knowledge that it is of God that they should so labour.

Sarah is the example Peter brings forward. He says she called her husband “Lord” and urges our sisters to emulate her example (1 Peter 3:6). The incident referred to is in Genesis 18 when Sarah was 89 years old and sadly without child after many years of marriage and despite the promises to Abraham concerning their seed. She may well have been resentful of life and disappointed with her marriage. She followed Abraham into an unknown land, leaving all her family and friends and replaced an orderly and privileged citizenship in the leading city of the times with a nomadic life among strangers – childless and dwelling in tents. But there was no resentment in Sarah, only thankfulness. She said within herself, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” This was no public demonstration of matrimonial harmony. No-one else heard a word. Were it not Divinely recorded we should never have known. It was just how she thought – always. She reverenced her husband. Not that Abraham always did the right thing and there may be times when a wife believes she must follow her own conscience and go her own way. Sarah did not do this; she “obeyed Abraham calling him Lord”. The Apostle Paul says, “Let the wives be subject to their own husbands in all things”.

 As The Ecclesia Is Subject Unto Christ

 This thought helps so much. Many husbands are poor imitations of Christ but this is the height of the Apostle’s analogy in Ephesians 5:23-24. We all respect Christ and we all happily accept our subjection to him. Here is the example then for the wives with their earthly husbands. Sometimes he is deficient, sometimes he is wrong, but the sister of faith, the daughter of Abraham lives out her subjection to Christ and seeks to fulfil that to her husband. It is this grand analogy that has been such an inspiration to millions of wives in their role through the centuries and they have been well rewarded for their faithfulness and will be more so in the future. Husbands love your wives; wives be in subjection to your own husbands. This is the balance, with each striving to fulfil their responsibilities: “Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph 5:33).