Publication: Pastoral Letter, June 2007
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray your summer is off to a good start. Let me thank my father, Charles Simpson, for asking me to write you this month about a word the Lord gave to me recently. While there are many spectacular and urgent news headlines that we read and hear daily, I still believe one of the most fundamental and desperate needs in the United States and in the world is to see our families strengthened, healed, and restored by the power and grace of God.
You will probably agree with me that the Bible is the greatest handbook for living that has ever been written. It expresses the heart and the plans of the One Who made all of life. As I was re-reading Ephesians and meditating on the blessing of the Holy Spirit, I was struck by the directness and specificity of Paul’s instructions, and the sense of love and wisdom in every well-chosen word.
Paul opens his letter to the Ephesian believers with the greeting “Grace and peace to you.” The intent of all of Paul’s instructions which follow that greeting is to impart grace and peace to all who would read his letter. And, we must keep in mind that all of these instructions are to be carried out in a spirit of grace and peace as well.
Then, by the time we get to Ephesians chapter 5, we read: “Be imitators of God in Christ.” Paul says in order to fulfill our calling and destiny in God, we must follow the example of Jesus. Specifically, we need to walk in love_not in the way that the world defines love, but in the way that Jesus defines love: He gave Himself for us as an offering to God. As Paul does so often in his letters, he talks first about our “vertical” relationship with God and then applies that to our “horizontal” relationships_that is, how we relate to other people.
In Ephesians 5 and 6, Paul talks about family. There are many among us who, for various reasons, may not be living in a home where there is a husband, a wife, and children present. Still, it’s important for all of us, wherever we are in life’s journey or whatever our experiences, to understand the principles that Paul shares.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Some translations of the original language indicate that this means “Stay filled with the Spirit,” a continual process that we must walk out. We are not only called to walk in the Spirit individually, but corporately. We have responsibility to love, exhort, and encourage each other in our walk in the Spirit. And, as imitators of Christ, filled with His Spirit, we are called to humbly submit to one another to practice the grace of yielding.
After Paul encourages us to submit to one another, he brings it down to a very practical level_right into the home. He says we are to submit to one another, but gives some clear instructions as to how that submission works.
First of all, submission is not something that a person is coerced into doing, but it is something that they offer as a gift. As believers, we are submitted first to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, as citizens of His Kingdom. We then offer our lives to one another out of love for Him and His family. It is His love for us and His Spirit in us that provokes love in us, one for another. Submission to one another is rooted in our submission to Jesus Christ, His Word, and His ways. It affects how we relate to other believers, and also how we relate in our marriages and homes.
It may not be “politically-correct” or socially safe to say today, but Scripture provides clear wisdom and order for our homes. The better we are able to line up with God’s will and God’s plan, the more we open the door for His blessing to come in. Frankly, given the results of the pontification of modern secularist pundits, I don’t mind if they judge what I write or, more to the point, what the Bible says, as being too “old-fashioned.”
What follows in Ephesians 5 is one of the more controversial passages in all of Scripture: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-23).
Notice that it doesn’t say, “Husbands, make your wife submit to you.” One man was talking to his friend and he said, “Last week, I told my wife that I was the boss of her.” The friend said, “What happened?” The man said, “I didn’t see her for three days, and then after that, I could see her just a little out of my left eye.”
Let me reiterate: true submission is something one person offers to another, it is not coerced. Now, notice that Ephesians also doesn’t say, “Wives, submit to your husband if you think he’s worthy of it,” or “When you feel like it,” or “When you think he’s right.”
Let me hasten to add that this verse in no way implies that a wife should submit to her husband’s wishes when the husband is clearly violating God’s Word or her conscience. And it doesn’t mean that a wife should in any way submit to being a victim of violent and abusive behavior by a husband.
What this Scripture does mean is that God has ordained that husbands should be the head of the home as a leader, a shepherd, a provider, a priest, a nurturer, and a protector. The very word “husband,” according to Webster’s Original 1828 Dictionary not only means a man joined to a woman in marriage, but it also refers to a man who is a good steward and manager. It also refers to a farmer who tills, sows, nurtures, and reaps.
When a wife is able to recognize her husband in that way, it not only expresses faith in him as a leader, but faith in God, Who is the head of the husband. When she serves or blesses her husband, she not only shows respect for him but for the Lord Who ordered the home (see also 1 Peter 3:5-6; Genesis 18:12; 1 Timothy 2).
Paul ups the ante when he writes to husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Ephesians 5:24-29).
Some men may say, “Sure, I love my wife. She’s beautiful, she’s a great cook, she makes me feel good.” Er…that’s not what Paul is talking about. He uses the word agape here, meaning a selfless, godly kind of love. He says Christ’s love is the standard, the kind of love that’s causes you to lay down your life for your wife. Some men may say, “Yes, I would be willing to die for my wife!” But are you willing to wash the dishes or take out the trash?
The late Pastor Adrian Rogers once said: “The question a husband should ask about his wife is, ‘Am I willing to die for her?’ and the question a wife should ask about her husband is, ‘Am I willing to live for him?’”
The husband is delighted in serving his wife because of his love for her. He recognizes that God has given him a precious gift to be well-stewarded, and that he will give an account to the Lord for his stewardship. He values her above all others, sets her apart as special, and washes her often in the healing, cleansing Word of God. All the time is not too often for a husband to sincerely express his love to his wife!
Paul clarifies the roles here by saying that husbands are called to love their wives, and wives are called to respect their husbands.(I recommend the excellent book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs for its revelatory insight and encouragement.) The Bible doesn’t tell us that we first need to try to change our spouse; the first order of business is for us to ask God to change our own hearts and behaviors.
If husbands would try to selflessly love their wives more, maybe their wives would respect them more. And perhaps if some ladies would give more respect, instead of demeaning or belittling, they might see their husbands loving them more perfectly.
Let me say this: the primary onus is on the husbands as the leaders to make the first step, though that doesn’t excuse the wife for inaction. One reason so many wives have a difficult time submitting to their husbands is because their husbands are not submitted to the Lord or to godly authority in the Church. Husbands, if you want to see your wife respect and be accountable to you, then you need to make sure that you’re being properly accountable to God.
Space does not permit me to go in-depth with Ephesians 6, but Paul exhorts children to listen to and obey their parents, which is one way that we honor God. In 1 Samuel 15, we see that obedience is better than sacrifice and rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft. (Again, we are not talking about submitting to abuse here.)
We need to recognize that God gave parents to us. Dishonoring them, no matter who they are or what they’ve done good or bad, is dishonoring to the Lord. Be careful in the way that you handle them. (See also Deuteronomy 5.)
If you would like to receive much, much more sharing on this subject, I want to invite you to check out my new 2-CD series on “The Spirit-Led Life,” which is available through the enclosed response card, or via our website at csmpublishing.org. In fact, there are many new ministry materials available through CSM.
The first quarter of 2007 has been both challenging and rewarding for us. Our annual Leadership Conference in Gatlinburg, TN, was a great joy. Bob Mumford, Ken Sumrall, Charles Green, Norm Willis, and my father were anointed and relevant. The focus was “Mission…or Position?” To put it another way, do you just want a title and a badge, or do you want to get the job done?
CSM is dedicated to providing you with valuable and useful equipping and encouraging resources. A new feature of our website is the “Time Out With Coach” series, which offers fresh bi-weekly 15- 20 minute life lessons from Charles Simpson. Another is the New Wine Magazine archive_17 years of pivotal teaching now online!
Please continue to keep us in your prayers and in your budget. So many projects right now_including the “Hidden Treasures” orphanage project in Costa Rica and continued development of youth resources_are hanging in the balance financially. We absolutely cannot afford a “summer slump” in giving. Often, we are functioning with just a few days of cash reserve in the bank. Thanks for standing with us in a special way this month!
May God’s grace and peace be upon you and your home, wherever you live!
Scripture Reference: Ephesians, Deuteronomy,
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.