Manhood (Part 11) – Man and His Family (Authority)

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Today, we continue on the theme of authority and what that means for a man in relation to his family. Most of us don’t like the concept of authority anymore. We don’t like to follow it, nor, interestingly enough, do most men want to exercise it. It’s just too much work. And in that cultural landscape, we have seen a myth grow into a near “fact-like” status. It is the myth of mutual submission, which really sounds pleasing to the ear and totally reasonable. But it’s really a crock. Here’s how Stu Weber describes it:

“Mutual submission” is not only an oxymoron, it is an impossibility. It exists neither in theory, nor in practice, nor in Scripture.

It is a term used by “biblical feminists” to suggest that Ephesians 5:21(“Be subject to one another”) is intended to interpret 5:22(“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”). In actuality, it is quite the opposite of that suggestion. Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is an illustrative amplification of 5:21. The apostle is simply stating that there is to be clear order and authority and submission in the community of believers. He then illus­trates the principle in actual practice. “For example,” wives be subject to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters, and so on.

The root of the verb “be subject” carries the idea of serving. If we are under the control of the Holy Spirit (5:18), one of the things that will begin to change in our lives is the way we relate to those around us, “being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). Paul then gives us three relational illustrations (5:22-6:9)—husband and wife, parents and children, masters and slaves—that should reflect this change in relationships. The bottom line: We must serve one another’s needs in such a way as to enable us to become all God designed us to be.

He begins, not by telling the husband to be the head over his wife (he already is), but by calling her to recognize that God designed him for it, and that she needs to serve his mandate to function as the head of his marriage and family. Paul tells the husband to recognize his wife’s sovereign appointment to be the most important person in all his life, and to serve that need by loving and cherishing her.

But to argue, as some Christian feminists do, that “being subject to one another” means that husbands are to be subject to wives is as non-sensical as parents being subject to children or masters being subject to slaves. It is not only conceptually wrong, it is exegetically wrong. The words “be subject to” and “one another” have specific usage patterns and context which absolutely prohibit this possibility.

The universe is subject to Christ (Ephesians 1:22), Christ is subject God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28), the Church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24), Christians are subject to God (James 4:7), and wives are subject to husbands(Colossians 3:18).

None of these relationships can be reversed. Submission is always submission. It is always singular in direction when it refers to authority. It is never “mutual.” The words of Scripture simply cannot be turned sideways and twisted to force the reverse. Nowhere are husbands told to subject to wives. Everywhere husbands are told to take the lead.

Questions to ponder? How does this hit you? Does this challenge your thinking or reinforce your current point of view? How do you express this teaching in your home? How do you live this out?

Authority exists at every level of existence. It lives at every level of life. That’s because authority is part of the very nature of God. And authority exists even within the Godhead. The Triune One Himself experiences clear lines of authority within the Trinity. So let’s face it. Authority is an essential. It is part and parcel of life itself.

  • There is authority in the Godhead.
  • There is authority in the spirit world of angels and demons.
  • There is authority among nations. There is authority in churches.
  • There is authority in homes and families.
  • And there is authority in marriage.

We are forced to conclude, “Authority is life. We must get used to it.”

And it isn’t simply “getting under authority” on the “outside.” It’s an internal thing, an attitudinal reality that we’re after here. It is becoming comfortable with the principle of authority, even if the person of authority isn’t all we might wish them to be. And it is the role of the one in authority to unselfishly help those under authority learn to live at peace with it. Those who comply with authority without understanding the principles tend to become bitter and angry even when they are “coming under” authority. And that anger makes it hard for everyone.

So let’s get a grip on authority where we live. Starting at home. Few would argue with the statement that parents have authority over chil­dren. Although in our wild, crazy, “question authority” world, even something so obvious as parental authority is up for grabs. It should not surprise us then that authority in the marriage and family has become a matter of debate in our culture. We have become anti-authority across the board. And that, my friend, is at the very heart of ungodliness. But no matter what winds are blowing in our contemporary culture, a man must make some decisions. Who is he going to listen to? Who is going to follow? Once a man decides he will follow God and His Word, then all issues, most particularly authority issues, become noticeably more clear. Who will you follow? God, or the whims and fads of a changing society?


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