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II.             God's Church: its Practical Responsibilities (the Imperative) 4:1-6:20

A.             Walking Worthy 4:1-5:21

1.              in unity 4:1-16

a.              unity of being 4:1-6

b.              diversity of function 4:7-16

2.              in holiness 4:17-32

a.              the foundations of holiness 4:17-24

b.              the features of holiness 4:25-32

3.              in love 5:1-2

4.              in light 5:3-14

5.              in wisdom 5:15-21

B.             Family and Social Responsibilities 5:22-6:9

1.              family responsibilities 5:22-6:4

a.              husbands and wives 5:22-33

b.              parents and children 6:1-4

2.              social responsibilities 6:5-9

C.             Spiritual Warfare 6:10-20

1.              the alert 6:10-13

2.              the armor 6:14-17

3.              the 'all's of intercession 6:18-20

III.           Conclusion 6:21-24

In this lesson we will not examine each verse in chapter five of Ephesians but instead focus on two issues of great importance.

First, the Filling of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of Ephesians 5:18

1.              Being filled with the HS is contrasted with being drunk with wine. Thus, it is a question of influence, control, or power. If you insist on getting drunk, be inebriated with the HS! Please note, however, that the force of this exhortation is not that Christians should stagger and slur their speech as those drunk with wine do. The influence of the infilling Spirit is moral in nature, the results and tangible evidence of which is the spiritual and relational fruit that Paul describes in Galatians 5. Paul envisions a community of people (the church) whose lives are so totally given over to the Spirit "that the life and deeds of the Spirit are as obvious in their case as the effects of too much wine are obvious in the other" (Fee, 721).

2.              Paul does not say, "be full of the Spirit," as though one were full of Spirit in the same way one is full of wine. He says, "be filled by/with the Spirit." The emphasis is on being filled to the full by the Spirit's presence. Cf. Eph. 3:19 where Paul speaks of being "filled unto the fullness of God," i.e., of being filled up with God himself.

There is considerable disagreement among commentators on the proper translation of the Greek preposition en. Does Paul mean we are to be filled 'with the Spirit, as if the Spirit is himself the content with which we are filled? Or does he mean we are to filled 'by the Spirit, the content of which is not clearly specified? O'Brien takes the latter and proceeds to argue that 'the earlier uses of the 'fullness' language in Ephesians are determinative for understanding what that fullness is here at 5:18 (392). He points to 'fullness language in 1:23; 3:19; 4:10 and concludes 'that the content with which believers have been (or are being) filled is the fullness of (the triune) God or of Christ. No other text in Ephesians (or elsewhere in Paul) focuses specifically on the Holy Spirit as the content of this fullness. It is better, then, to understand 5:18 in terms of the Spirit's mediating the fullness of God and Christ to the believers (392). O'Brien's view, however, is by no means certain.

3.              The verb is imperative; i.e., it is a command. This is not a suggestion or a mild recommendation or a polite piece of advice. Being filled with the HS is not optional. It is obligatory.

4.              The verb is plural. 'The fullness of the Holy Spirit is emphatically not a privilege reserved for some, but a duty resting on all (Stott/60).

PT: the exhortation has primarily to do with community life, i.e., the need for God's people to be so collectively full of God's presence that their worship is transformed, their relationships are transformed, their lives as a totality are transformed.

5.              The verb is present tense, indicating that Paul envisions a continuous, on-going experience. This is not so much a dramatic or decisive experience that settles things for good, but a daily appropriation. Says Gaffin:

'This command . . . is relevant to all believers throughout the whole of their lives. No believer may presume to have experienced a definitive filling of the Spirit so that the command of verse 18 no longer applies. Short of death or the Lord's return, it continues in effect for every believer.

6.              The mere fact that we are commanded to be filled implies that a Christian faces the danger of being 'low (but never empty!). We are always in need of refreshing and renewal.

7.              In view of this command, we should cease speaking of the 'second blessing and begin to seek God for a 'third and a 'fourth and a 'fifth and . . .

8.              What is the consequential evidence of being filled with/by the HS? See Eph. 5:18ff.

a) Speaking to one another in ministry ('The first sign of fullness is fellowship [Stott]). Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs can have a didactic purpose.


b) Singing to God (wholehearted worship in corporate fellowship).

c) Gratitude (for all things at all times).

d) Mutual submission (as over against being self-assertive and demanding).

It is helpful to see the structure of the passage in order to observe that the filling of the Spirit produces or results in these specified activities:

Do not get drunk on wine

But be filled by/with the Spirit,


                  speaking to each other

                                    with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

                  singing and making music to the Lord,

                                    with your hearts

                  giving thanks to God

                                    for all things

                                    in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

                  submitting yourselves to one another

                                    in the fear of Christ.

Second, the meaning of Headship and Submission

The fundamental meaning of 'head is 'one who is in authority over or 'one who leads or 'one who has primary responsibility. For a more detailed analysis of its meaning, as well as the meaning of 'submission, see Lesson #15. Here I simply want to address both the misconceptions of headship and submission as well as the practical implications of how husbands and wives should fulfill their God-given responsibilities to each other.

Misconceptions about the nature of Headship

(1)           Husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them.

Husbands are never told: 'Put your wife in subjection or 'enforce obedience. Some men have a perverted and destructive idea that it is their responsibility to 'put their wives in their place. No. Men, you are not directly responsible for the submission of your wife.

(2)           Headship is never portrayed in Scripture as a means for self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Headship is always other-oriented. One exercises true headship only insofar as one imitates Christ.

(3)           Headship is not the power of a superior person over an inferior one. Human nature is sinfully inclined to distort the submission of the wife into the superiority of the husband.

Our tendency is to deduce a moral principle from a functional difference. But cf. 1 Cor. 11:1-3 and the relationship between Son and the Father. See also children to parents (Eph. 6:1), believers to elders (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12), citizens to state (Rom. 13), employees to employers (1 Pt. 2:18), every believer to every other believer (Eph. 5:21).

(4)           Headship is never to be identified with the issuing of commands.

Often husbands work long, hard hours for an angry, demanding, insensitive boss and it naturally carries over into how they relate to their wives (often unconsciously).

(5)           Headship does not mean that the husband must make every decision in the home.

Consider these extremes: the wife who must ask permission to leave the room, or the wife who can't buy a new dress without her husband approving the color, etc.

A key element in effective leadership is a man's openness and willingness, better still, his desire/hunger to hear his wife's opinions, perspective, input. When her view is better than yours, when her opinion is wiser, acknowledge it, but never in a condescending or patronizing way.

Husbands must be willing to delegate with confidence. Some men feel threatened by any degree of initiative by their wife. They feel their headship is being questioned or even undermined if they can't make every single decision. Examples: where to spend vacation, what kind/color of car to purchase, how to decorate the house, etc.

Defining the Essence of Headship

(1)           Headship is more a responsibility than a right.

A 'right is something we feel entitled to demand, something we have earned or deserve. A 'responsibility is something we have received, for which we are thankful. A 'right leads to pride. A responsibility leads to humility. It is a difference of tone and attitude.

(2)           The boundary of headship is the Bible. Husbands have never been given the authority to lead their families in ways that are contrary to Scripture.

Husbands, don't ever put your wife in a position of having to choose between you and Jesus. You'll lose every time, or at least you should!

(3)           Headship is the authority to serve.

'Authority to serve sounds contradictory. We have the idea that having 'authority means that others are compelled to serve us. And 'serving sounds subservient, menial. Read Mt. 20:20-28 and John 13:1ff.

'Jesus was no less a leader of the disciples when He was on his knees washing their feet than when he was giving them the Great Commission (Piper).

What do you think the disciples were thinking while Jesus was washing their feet? 'Hey, this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of him. He obviously doesn't want to lead us. He's obviously abdicated his authority. He obviously doesn't think much of himself. He's obviously comes to his senses about our relationship. Now's the best time to exploit him and get what I've always wanted. After seeing him do this, I've lost all respect for him as a person, as a man. No! The only thing going through their mind was: 'Wow! I'd do anything, anything for him!

If headship entails 'power, it is the power to serve, not to dominate; the power to facilitate her fulfillment, not to frustrate or destroy it; the power to care, not to crush; the power to mobilize all that God has put within her so that she may become all God intends her to be.

(4)           Headship is the opportunity to lead.

If Jesus is our example of biblical leadership and headship, it will help to take note of how he led his disciples.

*          Jesus led by teaching his disciples (cf. 1 Cor. 14:35). Teaching, not lecturing! Jesus did this informally, in the course of the daily routines of life. Requirement: husbands must be sufficiently educated in the Scriptures. If they are not, the can't teach. If for whatever reason you can't teach (learning disability, not a skilled communicator, etc.), then buy her tapes, books, pay for her take courses, drive her to class, babysit while she studies, gather family together: 'Kids, we're going to have family devotions and mom is going to read the Bible to us.

*          Jesus led by setting an example for his disciples (John 13:15)

*          By praying, worshiping, obeying Bible. You can even teach your wife in the way you respond to your failure to teach your wife! You can demonstrate humility, repentance, confession!

*          Jesus led by spending time with his disciples (Acts 4:13). He didn't lead by long-distance phone calls or memos or infrequent visits but by daily involvement.

*          Jesus led by delegating authority to his disciples (Luke 10:1-20). You may only need to establish moral framework and long-range goals for wife and family and let her develop the specifics.

(5)           Headship entails gentleness and sensitivity.

See Col. 3:18-19 where Paul exhorts husbands not to be 'embittered against their wives. Impatience leads to friction leads to nagging, leads to bitterness.

(6)           Headship does not give men the right to be wrong.

Men often use their headship/authority to justify doing what they want, when they want, even when it is unwise or sinful: 'We'll do it this way, my way, because God made me the head of this home, not you.

(7)           Headship means honoring one's wife.

Respect, dignity, value, praise in public, praise in front of kids, etc.

(8)           Headship means loving and caring for one's wife as much as we love and care for ourselves.

Consider the time, energy, concentration, money we put in to protecting and providing for ourselves. See Eph. 5:28-29.

(9)           Headship means loving and caring for one's wife as much as Christ loves and cares for us.

We use our love in general as an excuse for neglecting service in particular: 'I'm willing to be crucified for my wife (knowing full well we'll never be asked or forced to), but we are unwilling to take out trash, wash dishes, pick up after ourselves, etc.

See Eph. 5:25-27. Christ's love for us has several characteristics:

*          It is unconditional (Rom. 5:8)

*          It is eternal (Rom. 8:39)

*          It is unselfish (Phil. 2:6-7)

*          It is purposeful (Eph. 5:26-27)

"Christ 'loved' the church and 'gave himself' for her, in order to 'cleanse' her, 'sanctify' her, and ultimately 'present' her to himself in full splendour and without any defect. In other words, his love and self-sacrifice were not an idle display, but purposive. And his purpose was not to impose an alien identity upon the church, but to free her from the spots and wrinkles which mar her beauty and to display her in her true glory. The Christian husband is to have a similar concern. His headship will never be used to suppress his wife. He longs to see her liberated from everything which spoils her true feminine identity and growing towards that 'glory', that perfection of fulfilled personhood which will be the final destiny of all those whom Christ redeems. To this end Christ gave himself. To this end too the husband gives himself in love" (Stott).

*          It is sacrificial (Eph. 5:25)

*          It is demonstrative (Rom. 5:6-8)

The way Jesus related to women in general is a model for all men:

quot;They [women] had never known a man like this Man -- there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about women's nature" (Dorothy Sayers).

(10)        Headship entails the responsibility to make a final decision when agreement cannot be reached. This final decision, however, may be to let one's wife decide.

Misconceptions about the Nature of Submission

(1)           Submission is not grounded in any supposed superiority of the husband or inferiority of the wife (Gal. 3:28; 1 Pt. 3:7).

The concept of the wife being the "helper" (Gen. 2:18-22) of the husband in no way implies her inferiority. In fact, the Hebrew word translated "helper" is often used in the OT to refer to God as the "helper" of mankind. Surely HE is not inferior to us! Rather, this passage means that (1) the husband, even before the fall into sin, was incomplete without his wife; (2) the husband will never reach his full potential apart from the input of his wife.

Incompatibility is usually just a fancy way of saying sin. Incompatibility is selfishness, a refusal to change, a demanding spirit. Cf. me and Ann she's mechanical, like's the outdoors, can't sit still to watch a movie, can say No to salesman, etc.

(2)           Submission does not mean a wife is obligated to follow should her husband lead her into sin (Acts 5:29).

The biblical principle that we owe obedience to God first and foremost applies to Christian wives as well. If there must be a choice between obedience to God and obedience to the state, God is to be obeyed (Acts 5:29). The same would apply in a marriage. However, as Susan Foh has pointed out,

"This qualification of the 'traditional' concept of wifely submission does not mean that the wife has an excuse to follow her 'better judgment' when she disagrees with her husband. The wife's submission to her husband is qualified by God's commands, not her own preferences, opinions, or even expertise."

E.g., excessive drinking, illicit sex, cheating on taxes, etc.

(3)           Submission does not mean the wife must sacrifice her freedom. That is to say, submission does not mean that everything a wife does must be directly dependent upon or connected to her husband. It does mean that she should not do anything that would be harmful to her husband or cause her to neglect her family.

(4)           Submission does not entail passivity (Prov. 31).

Note esp. the emphasis on her initiative, creativity, tireless industry, etc.

(5)           Submission does not entail silence (Prov. 31:26; Acts 18:26).

Many mistakenly think a wife is unsubmissive if she ever

*          criticizes (constructive criticism that is lovingly motivated and corrective in nature is not inconsistent with godly submission)

*          makes requests (in particular, that her husband and family act responsibly in private and public; submission of the wife is not an excuse for sin or sloth or sloppiness in the husband)

*          teaches (cf. Prov. 31:26; Acts 18:26; it is not inconsistent with godly submission that a wife be more intelligent or more articulate than her husband)

(6)           Submission does not mean a wife must agree with everything her husband says.

Defining the Essence of Submission


"Submission" (hupotasso) carries the implication of voluntary yieldedness to a recognized authority. Biblical submission is appropriate in several relational spheres: (1) the wife to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24); (2) children to their parents (Eph. 6:1); (3) believers to the elders of the church (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12); (4) citizens to the state (Rom. 13); (5) servants (employees) to their masters (employers) (1 Pt. 2:18); (6) some believers to other believers (Eph. 5:21).


(1)           Submission is the disposition to honor and affirm a husband's authority.


"[Submission] is an attitude that says, 'I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don't flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.' But the attitude of Christian submission also says, 'It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can't do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can't follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King.'" (Piper)


(2)           Submission is the inclination to yield to a husband's leadership.

(3)           Submission is fundamentally an attitude and act of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18).

As far as I can tell, there are no particular tasks or activities or duties the NT assigns as a 'woman's work simply because she is to submit to her husband. Ideally, husbands and wives should work together, assisting one another as they jointly develop a strategy for making the home a place where Christ is honored (in other words, ultimately it makes little theological difference who does the washing and ironing of clothes, taking out trash, paying bills, mowing yard, etc.)

Col. 3:18 'As is fitting in the Lord = (1) submission is a spiritual act; (2) submission is a divine calling; (3) submission, when done as Christ would have it done, reveals a 'beauty or 'propriety that honors God. Cf. Titus 2:5.

(4)           Submission is a commitment to support one's husband in such a way that he may reach his full potential as a man of God.

This may involve several things:

*          making the home a safe place, free from the sinful influence of the world

*          striving to be dependable and trustworthy (Prov. 31:11-12)

*          providing affirmation and encouragement

*          building loyalty to him in the children (differences of opinion about discipline should be settled in private, away from the children, lest she be seen as taking sides against her husband)

*          showing confidence in his decisions

Submission when the Husband is an Unbeliever (1 Pt. 3:1-7)

1.              Submission does not mean she must agree with everything her husband says.

1 Pt. 3:1 indicates that she is a believer and he is not. Thus she disagrees with him on the most important principle of all: God! Her interpretation of ultimate reality may well be utterly different from his.

This indicates that submission is perfectly compatible with independent thinking. The woman in this passage has heard the gospel, assessed the claims of Christ, and embraced his atoning work as her only hope. Her husband has likewise heard the gospel and "disobeyed" it. "She thought for herself and she acted. And Peter does not tell her to retreat from that commitment" (Piper).

2.              Submission does not mean giving up all efforts to change her husband.

The point of the passage is to tell a wife how she might "win" her husband to the Lord. Strangely enough, Peter envisions submission as the most effective strategy in changing the husband.

3.              Submission does not mean putting the will of one's husband above the will of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter in no way suggests she should abandon her commitment to Christ simply because her husband is an unbeliever. This wife is a follower of Jesus before and above being a follower of her husband.

4.              Submission to an unbelieving husband does not mean a wife gets her personal, spiritual strength from him.

When a husband's spiritual nurturing and leadership is lacking, a Christian wife is not left helpless. She is to be nurtured and strengthened by her hope in God (v. 5).

5.              Submission to an unbelieving husband is not to be done in fear but in freedom (see 1 Pt. 3:6b).