God’s Will for the Familyby Alex Deasley
Deasley, Alex (June-August 1979). God’s will for the family: Marital and family relationships in Ephesians. Preacher’s Magazine, 21–25, 58.
It is impossible to interpret individual ethical precepts in the Epistle to the Ephesians without considering the overall framework of the ethical teaching of Paul, and indeed, of the New Testament as a whole. Much harm has been done, and is still being done, by the assumption that, to discuss Paul’s ethical teaching for today all that is required is the recitation of his directions and injunctions. But recitation is not interpretation, and for present day application, interpretation is what is needed.The point may be illustrated by an example from Ephesians. In 6:5-9 instructions are given to slaves regarding their behavior. In essence, Paul says that a Christian slave ought to be a good slave, serving not out of fear but out of goodwill, even as he serves Christ, concerned about giving good service, not about receiving a reward. Slave owners are enjoined to behave in the same way, remembering that they too have a master.
Now, if this passage is to be taken at its face value, two conclusions are irresistible for the contemporary reader. The first is that it is irrelevant today since, in the Western world at least, the institution of slavery no longer exists. The second is that slavery as an institution is compatible with the gospel. This inference was drawn with great readiness by slave owners from the 1st to the 18th centuries, and many eloquent and fervent sermons were preached from this passage on the biblical basis of slavery. At the same time many of our Wesleyan forefathers, including John Wesley himself, were loud in their denunciation of slavery.
Who were right: the slave owners or the emancipationists? If the letter of Scripture is the guide, the slave owners were right. Scripture says: “Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity” (1 Cor. 7:20-21, RSV).1 But to our Wesleyan forebears such an attitude quoted the words of Scripture at the expense of misquoting its thought; it recited Scripture without interpreting it. For they saw that an institution which robbed men of their freedom, dignity, and responsibility could in no way be squared with the liberty Christ had died to secure; and in that conviction they subordinated the letter of ethics to the spirit of the gospel.
None of us would dissent from their conclusion. But the troublesome question remains as to whether they were right in the means by which they reached it. If prevailing moods and mores are the guidelines, then what becomes of New Testament ethics? If the biblical teaching on slavery is to be discarded, then what is to prevent much more from going the same way? In short, are there any hermeneutical principles in terms of which the specific ethical teaching of the New Testament is to be understood?
The answer to that question can be found by examining the principles which, implicitly or explicitly, lie behind Paul’s social and ethical teaching. These may be summed up as follows.
Stated Principles and Practical AdvicePaul was giving guidance for Christians living in society as he knew it, which was not necessarily society as it ought to be nor even as he thought it ought to be. Discussion of Paul’s social ethics sooner or later comes round to the tension between Paul’s stated principles and his practical advice. The principle is stated in Gal. 3:28 (RSV): “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The meaning is clear: in Christ there are no distinctions based on race, social status, or sex.2
The problem arises when this is placed alongside such practical advice as 1 Cor. 11:5 (RSV): “Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head-it is the same as if her head were shaved”; or 1 Tim. 2:11-14: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” How are these to be reconciled?
The answer is that while, in the kingdom of God, Paul believed they were “all one,” yet Paul and his converts were not living exclusively in the kingdom of God; they were also living in “the kingdom of this world” which had not yet become “the kingdom of our God and of his Christ,” (Revelation 11:15), and it was not only foolish, but dangerous to pretend otherwise.
Slaves may have constituted as much as one fifth of the population of the Roman Empire in Paul’s day. T. E. Jessop writes: “Why did he not campaign for the equality of women with men, and for the abolition of slavery? Part of the answer is that both reforms would have turned the Roman Empire upside down, that the attempt would have been vain and suicidal, that as a Christian Paul was a member of the tiniest minority in the Empire, and that a private citizen had no power to agitate for social reform.”3
C. F. D. Moule adds: “In a secular state, like the early Roman Empire, no change in the actual constitution could have been made by the Christians without the use of physical violence; and against this they were continually admonished. . . . It was not simply the best policy, then-it was the only policy to apply the far more subtle solvent of the transformation of character.”4 What Paul thought was the appropriate Christian way to treat slaves is evident from Philem. 13-16. The rest of the Epistle shows however that he respects existing law on the matter (vv. 12, 18), and meanwhile expects the new masterslave relationship “in Christ” to do its own work in eroding the foundations of the institution as a whole (vv. 15-17).
An illustration of Paul’s view of the man-woman relationship is found in 1 Cor. 11:2-16. The precise situation in the Corinthian church is not clear, but evidently women had been participating in Christian worship without wearing veils-an apparent defiance of current custom. Paul enjoins them to wear the veil for two reasons: first, because woman, as originating from man (Gen. 2:18-23) and so reflecting his “glory,” ought not to allow man’s glory to appear to rival the glory of God, i.e., the unveiled face of man (v. 7). This argument is one with the argument from prevailing practice (vv. 13-15).
Nevertheless, the creation data are not the only data to be taken into account in the argument: there are also the data of the new creation; and these show that in the Lord man and woman are mutually dependent and neither has a higher dignity than the other before God (v. 11). Accordingly, Paul the Christian apostle reinterprets the significance of the veil, giving it a Christian meaning. If to the non-Christian onlooker it is a sign of inferiority, to the Christian it is a sign of authority (v. 10). Without the veil, the woman would not be able to participate in worship at all; adorned with it she is able to play a full part (v. 5); and this is the second reason Paul gives for wearing it. In short, what we are
seeing here is the old order being superseded by the new: not by violent overthrow but by quiet revolution.5
The scale of the revolution should not be underestimated. The pious Pharisee gave daily thanks that God had spared him from being born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Paul the converted Pharisee declares that in Christ there is no room for such distinctions. In doing so he was merely following the example of his Master who scandalized Jewish society by counting women among his closest followers and giving them instruction (John 4:27; Luke 10:39), something no rabbi would waste his time doing. How well Paul learned from Jesus is evident from Rom. 16:1-4; Phil. 4:2-3.
The point is therefore that in areas where Paul’s advice conflicts with the absolutes declared in Gal. 3:28, Paul is in no way diluting the absolute but recognizing the barriers which the prevailing sinful situation has raised against their realization. As the situation changes under the impact of the gospel, so will the ideal be more capable of implementation. One of the major challenges to the Christian conscience is monitoring the increasing degree of change in the situation so as to permit further approximation to the ideal.
Social Structures and the Return of the LordA second factor which conditioned Paul’s social ethical teaching (as well as his
individual ethical teaching) was his eschatology. George Eldon Ladd writes:
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Paul’sHow lively was the expectation of the return of the Lord in the Early Church is evident from the Epistles to the Thessalonians: indeed these were written to administer a corrective. Paul himself, and the Early Church as a whole, were capable of accommodating competing aspects of the subject in their minds. On the one hand, they could speak as Paul does in 1 Cor. 7:20-31; on the other hand, Paul could contemplate without disturbance the possibility of his death before the Lord’s return, as in 2 Cor. 4:7- 5:5.7
eschatological perspective affected his attitude toward
social structures. He seems to have no genuinely
historical perspective nor to be concerned about the
impact of the gospel on contemporary social structures.
In fact, he expressly says: “In view of the impending
distress, it is well for a person to remain as he is” (1
Corinthians 7:26). Married people should not seek to
break the marriage bond, Jews should not try to appear
like Gentiles and vice versa, slaves should not seek to be
free even if the opportunity presents itself. However, the
context of the passage is one of indifference to one’s
situation in the social structures of the old age. “Every
one should remain in the state in which he was called”
(1 Corinthians 7:26) because “the form of this world is
passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). . . . Paul clearly is
dominated by a sense of the parousia and the end of the
world that rendered questions of social ethics
What is certain is that Paul did not envisage the possibility of 20 or more centuries of Christian history before the Lord’s return; and it is this factor which makes a decisive difference to the application of Paul’s ethical teaching. If 1 Cor. 7:20-31 had been applied literally, the Christian Church throughout history would have consisted of a community of celibates and slaves. It is the perspective of history, largely absent from Paul’s mind, which makes interpretation of his ethical teaching indispensable.
To quote Ladd again: “The cultural situation and the structure of the church are very different from that of first-century Christianity, and the modern Christian cannot apply the teachings of Scripture in a one-to-one relationship but must seek the basic truth underlying the particular formulations in the New Testament.”8
The task of the interpreter of Paul’s social ethics, therefore, is to seek to define the principles of Paul’s ethical teaching and then to formulate their contemporary application in the light of the applications that Paul himself makes in his epistles. The ethical principles are unchanging; the form in which they are applied may vary as historical circumstances change, not least under the impact of the gospel which makes fuller application of the principles possible. On this basis we may now turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians to hear its message for today on marriage and the family.
The Background and Setting of Eph. 5:22-6:4The controlling theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians is the extension of the reconciliation accomplished by Christ throughout the universe (1:10; 2:13-18; etc.). In a mind like Paul’s this carried practical implication, hence beginning at c. 4 he applies this in the various spheres of life: the Church (4:116); the individual viewed as a member of the community (4:17-5:20); and finally, the Christian household (5:22-6:9). Lists of rules for households were by no means uncommon, both in Judaism and pagan (especially Stoic) philosophy; and they are found in various places in the New Testament, notably 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7; and Col. 3:18-4:1.
However, the list in Ephesians 5 is unique, because there the bond between Christ and the Church is seen as a pattern for Christian marriage. Not that the couple is to strive to impose upon their relationship something which is essentially alien to it; rather conformity to the pattern is the realization of what being a couple truly means, so that “all that the apostle says, in Ephesians 5, of the Christ-Church relationship, can be transposed to apply in the same way to the couple itself.”9
The section divides itself into three parts.
I. The Relationship Between Wives and Husbands (5:22-33)A. The Duties of Wives to Husbands (5:22-24).
The most striking thing about v. 22 in the Greek text is that it has no verb. Most translations correctly supply the verb from v. 21, reading, “Wives be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord” (RSV). This immediately points us to the preceding verses as the context of the present section, and particularly to v. 21: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” The word “submitting” (a participle in Greek as well as in English) can be taken in two ways. It can be taken (as would be the normal procedure) as dependent on the preceding main verb “be filled” (v. 18), and in parallel to the other participles in the sentence.
The meaning would then be: Show that you are full of the Spirit by the following three activities: (1) praise: “speaking to yourselves in psalms,” etc. (v. 19); (2) thanksgiving: “giving thanks always for all things,” etc. (v. 20); (3) mutual service: “submitting yourselves” can be taken as an independent verb10 in which case v. 21 would be the beginning of the present paragraph, rather than v. 22. This is what is done in the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version.
Whichever solution of the grammatical problem be preferred, the important point is that the foundation of the whole of the ensuing teaching regarding the attitudes of wives and husbands is the command to all Christians to be submissive to one another. The verb translated “be subject” (hupotasso) is very strong, being used, for instance, of subjection to absolute rulers (Rom. 13:1, 5) or (in this epistle) of the subjection of all things to Christ. However, certain contexts require a different shade of meaning. First Cor. 15:28 is one; this is another. The very idea of mutual subjection requires a verb whose meaning is less one-sided; “deferring to one another” is a better suggestion.11 The significance of this is that from the very start Paul places his view of the husband-wife relationship squarely in the context of the selfless service which each Christian owes the other, in conformity with the example of Christ.
Wives, then, are to defer to their own husbands: that is, the deference they should show their fellow Christians should be shown especially to their husbands. This is to be done “as to the Lord,” that is, as part of their obedience to Christ. The reason given is that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church: as he is the savior of the body” (v. 23). The Greek word for “head” (kephale) can mean “ruler;” it can also mean “source” or “origin.” That is its necessary meaning in 1 Cor. 11:3 and its natural meaning here.12 The wife is to defer to her husband not because he is her “boss” but because he is the source of her existence (Gen. 2:21-23);13 just as Christ is the source of the Church’s existence.
In a way analogous to (though not identical with) that in which Christ is the Church’s Savior, so the husband is the wife’s savior, even to the point of laying down his life for her if necessary (v. 25). Such provision is not to be dismissed with contempt but received with due deference. Hence in v. 24 Paul repeats his point, but with an illuminating and elevating addition: the relationship of wife to husband is akin to that of the Church to Christ, and her deference should be of an appropriate order.
What we are really seeing in a passage like this is the Christianizing of the marital relationship. In the Jewish as well as the pagan world of Paul’s day, women were regarded as inferior, and their subordination to their husbands was regarded as part of the natural order. The rights were all on one side and the duties were all on the other. Paul rejects all of this. He does not regard women as inferior. He does not enjoin subjection to their husbands as part of the natural order but as part of their Christian service. And he regards husbands as having duties to their wives-an admission little short of revolutionary in the ancient world.
Does there underlie this teaching the idea of a pattern of order in which the subjection of wife to husband is necessary for preserving the orderliness of society? Yes, and Paul does with it the same thing that he does with slavery. By affirming the equal worth of women and enjoining the mutual deference of husbands and wives in the Lord he sows the seeds of its destruction.14 The orderliness of the Christian home is not preserved by the imposition of a hierarchical pattern, but by the submission of husbands and wives in the fear of God.15
B. The Duties of Husbands to Wives (5:25-33).
If the Christian faith requires that the wife defer to her husband, it lays a corresponding obligation on the husband. The duty the husband owes his wife is “love.” However, it is a very special kind of love Paul has in mind: not the love based on sexual attraction (eros), but the specifically Christian form of love (agape) denoting active concern for the wellbeing of others even at the expense of one’s own, and which was supremely displayed in the self-giving of Christ (v. 25). A hint of this has already been given in v. 23 where Christ’s Headship of the Church has been defined in terms of Saviorhood. The point is elaborated here.
It is notable that Paul says not that Christ “loves” the Church (though that is true), but that he “loved” it. The reference is to Calvary, where His love was shown in a way that could never be exceeded. The impression made by this on Paul’s mind is shown in that he frequently refers to Christ’s love in the past tense (e.g., Gal. 2:20). The parallel term “gave himself” is in the past tense for the same reason (cf. Rom. 8:32). Such is the kind of love a Christian husband should bear towards his wife.
At this point we expect a reinforcing word directed to husbands such as comes in verse 28. Paul, however, in very typical fashion is carried away by his illustration of the love of Christ for the Church, and proceeds to describe what this accomplishes in the sanctification and purification of the Church as Christ’s Bride (though he does not use that term). Verses 26-27 are devoted to this theme. There is no parallel to this in the relation of husbands and wives, except in the very widest sense; and while the verses are important in describing Christ’s work for the Church, they say nothing specific regarding the marital relationship.
The argument is resumed at verse 28 where a new idea, implicit in the relationship of Christ and the Church, is drawn out and controls the remainder of the discussion regarding husbands and wives. This is the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ. This image is used by Paul in different ways, depending on the point he is trying to make. In 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Paul is emphasizing the importance of all of the gifts of the Spirit for the Church’s ministry; consequently, he pictures Christ as the whole body and Christians as the members of which the body is composed. In Eph. 4:15-16 he is stressing Christ’s full and perfect manhood as the goal toward which the Church is to grow; hence he depicts Christ as the head, with the remaining parts of the body striving to grow up to the measure of the development of the head.16 In Eph. 5:28-31 the metaphor takes yet another form. In a mysterious way, through the relationship of marriage a man and a woman become “one flesh.” This gives Paul an additional reason for enjoining the husband’s love of his wife: namely, in loving her he is loving himself since she is “one flesh” with him. “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh” (vv. 28b-29a, RSV). At first sight this may seem to represent rather a sad decline from the lofty, selfless love in verse 25, but this is to misunderstand. There is a proper self-love, as the second great commandment implies (Matt. 22:29), and the man who has no proper regard for himself will have no proper regard for anyone else. The converse of this applies to marriage: that since a wife becomes a part of a man’s self, to maltreat her is to maltreat himself. How true this is borne out amply in experience. The pattern of the husband’s treatment of his wife is, once again, Christ’s treatment of the Church (vv. 29- 30). The oneness achieved in marriage, whether of man to woman or Christ to the Church, is profoundly mysterious, yet profoundly real. Verse 33 summarizes both sides of Paul’s argument: the husband is to love his wife as himself; the wife is to respect her husband.17
II. The Relationship Between Children and Parents (6:1-4)Paul turns next to the relationship between children and parents. In keeping with the pattern of the instruction given to wives and husbands, this falls into two parts: the duties of children to parents, and parents to children. As noted above, this in itself was a radical innovation in a society which held that men had all the rights and everyone else the duties.
A. The Duties of Children to Parents (6:1-3)
The duty of children to parents is obedience: the term which Paul avoids using of the wife-husband relationship is appropriate in the child-parent relationship. However, an important qualification is included: the obedience demanded is “in the Lord.” Comparison with the parallel passage in Col. 3:20 is instructive. There the obedience demanded is absolute: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” The assumption underlying the command is that the family in mind is a Christian family, and the conduct required of the children will be Christian conduct and so well-pleasing to the Lord. The situation envisaged in Ephesians is significantly different.18 The assumption is that some of the children addressed may have pagan parents and find themselves under orders to do things inconsistent with Christianity. In this case their primary responsibility is to the will of Christ; hence the qualifying phrase “in the Lord.”19 Such obedience Paul declares to be “right,” and he proceeds to back this up by quoting the fifth commandment. The form of the commandment which Paul quotes is interesting. First, he draws attention to the fact that this is the first of the Ten Commandments to have a promise appended to it, indicating its great importance. Second, Paul quotes the Deuteronomic form of the commandment in the Septuagint version (Deut. 5:16) rather than the earlier form in Exod. 20:12. Not only so, but he adapts it to the contemporary situation by omitting the words “which the Lord your God will give you.” Originally, these words referred to the Promised Land. Paul the Christian, writing to Gentile (as well as Jewish) Christians who had never seen Palestine and had no aspirations to live there, reapplies the commandment to the new situation of universal Christianity by reading: “That you may live long on the earth”
God’s Will for the Family(RSV). This is an interesting illustration of how the Ten Commandments still apply in the Christian era, but have to be adapted and are adapted to fit the new situation. There is nothing hidebound or legalistic about their application though this principle is unchanged.
B. The Duties of Parents to Children (6:4)
If children have a duty to their parents, parents have a duty to their children. As Bruce expresses it: “If children must obey their parents, parents should deserve their children’s obedience.”20 This parental obligation has two sides. On the negative side it consists of avoiding conduct likely to provoke the child and lead to exasperation. The precise conduct likely to have this effect Paul does not define. “Perhaps it was an unbending demand for obedience in matters, in which the child could see no purpose at all; or treating an older child as if still an infant; or it may be inconsistency, so that the same action by a child may one day be greeted with amusement and another day by angry condemnation.”21 The parallel command in Col. 3:21 reads: “Do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged” (RSV). Moule observes that this indicates that “the new life in Christ transforms relationships on the ‘ordinary’ levels, as well as conquering the spectacular vices.... The sensitive understanding of children, with the realization that they might become discouraged and lose heart is a striking feature of this new chapter in social history.”22
Parents also have a positive duty to their children, namely, to train them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4b, RSV). How sharp a distinction is to be made between these is uncertain. It is possible that “discipline” may refer to the Christian rule of life and “instruction” to Christian teaching. The general meaning is plain.
1. From the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946, 1952. s 1971. 1973. Used by permission.
2. Bishop Lightfoot paraphrases the verse as follows: “In Christ ye are all sons, all tree. Every barrier is swept away. No special claims, no special disabilities exist in Him, none can exist. The conventional distinctions of religious caste or of social rank, even the natural distinction of sex, are banished hence. One heart beats in all: one mind guides all: one life is lived by all. Ye are all ‘one man.’ for ye are members of Christ.” J. B. Lightfoot: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (London: Macmillan. 1869), ad loc.
3. T. E. Jessop: The Christian Morality (London: The Epworth Press. 1960), p. 59.
4. C. F. D. Moule: The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. the Cambridge Greek Testament (Cambridge: The University Press. 1968). p. 12.
5. F. F. Bruce comments on verse 10: “The veil is not a sign of the woman’s submission to her husband’s authority nor even of her social dignity and immunity from molestation: it is a sign of her authority. In the synagogue service a woman could play no significant part: her presence would not even suffice to make up the requisite quorum of ten (all ten must be males). In Christ she received equality of status with man: she might pray or prophesy at meetings of the church, and her veil was a sign of this new authority. Its ordinary social significance was thus transcended. As man in public worship manifests his authority by leaving his head unveiled so woman manifests hers by wearing a veil. (1 and 2 Corinthians. New Century Bible (London: Oliphants. 1971(, p. 106. Dr. Bruce’s exegesis of the entire passage should be consulted.)
6. George Eldon Ladd: A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1974). pp. 527-28.
7. On this question. see F F. Bruce: Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1977), pp. 309-10.
8. Ladd. Theology of the New Testament. pp. 527-28.
9. J. J. von Allmen: Pauline Teaching on Marriage (London: The Faith Press. 1963). p. 36.
10. See C. L. Milton: Ephesians (New Century Bible) (London: Oliphants. 1976). p. 195.
11. C. A. Anderson Scott: New Testament Ethics (Cambridge: The University Press. 1948). pp. 127-28. Von All men points out that Paul never uses the verb “obey” (hupakouo) to denote the duty of a wife to her husband: that verb is reserved for the relation of children and parents. and slaves and masters (Eph. 6:1. 5. See von Allmen, Pauline Teaching, p. 45).
12. Bruce: I and 2 Corinthians (New Century Bible), p. 103.
13. Paul evidently has Gen. 2:21-23 in mind, as a comparison with I Cor. 11:3 suggests. His use of the Old Testament in both Eph. 5:23 and 1 Cor. 11:3 is illustrative rather than probative. in’ keeping with contemporary Rabbinic fashion; i.e., there is nothing in the fact that woman was made from man to prove that she should be subject to him; and Paul might equally have quoted Gen. 1:27 to show that they are equal. But given the submission of wife to husband as a fact of life, Gen. 2:21-23 can be used as an illustration of it: and this is what Paul does. For a discussion of Paul’s use of the Old Testament,, see R. N. Longenecker: Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), c. 4.
14. Some of Mitton’s words in my judgment, describe Paul’s situation well. “He recognizes that the marriage relationship has been transformed for real Christians.... But Paul seems to have been aware of another responsibility besides that of explaining to Christians the radical change which Christ brings into all human relationships. including marriage. As a wise pastor he had to try to see to it that the new freedom and status to the Christian woman within her own home and marriage relationship was not so practised as to create dangerous misunderstandings and resentments among pagan neighbors.... In the ancient world a man’s right to expect obedience from his wife was so universally conceded that a movement which seemed to countenance and approve a wife’s insubordination towards her husband would rouse many prejudices. Such behavior on the part of Christian women would have prevented their neighbors from hearing sympathetically the message of the gospel. Paul said of himself that he was ready to endure any deprivation rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12), and for this reason, if no other, he asked wives not to provoke antagonism to the gospel by insubordination to their husbands. In a similar way Paul asked Christian women to continue to wear the veil in Corinth, lest their abandonment of it should lead to their being mistaken for women of loose moral character and to the Christian faith which they represented being understood as a society which permitted sexual license” (C. L. Milton, Ephesians (New Century Bible), 197-98).
It is this situation which dictates the form in which Paul’s teaching is cast. Walther Gunther’s words express the matter well. “Though the New Testament essentially looks on marriage from the man’s standpoint the Greek and the Old Testament traditions are so transcended that the man’s special rights fall away, and throughout the New Testament the shared life of husband and wife stands in the foreground (1 Corinthians 7:3, Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18f)” (Art. “Marriage, NT,” in Colin Brown, ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 2:579).
15. Arguments for the subordination of wives to husbands as a permanent feature of marriage or creation ordinance overlook the fact that Paul evaluates marriage not only in terms of creation but also in terms of eschatology. From this perspective, marriage is one of those institutions which, as belonging to the present scheme of things, is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31) and in the world to come will have no place (Matt. 22:30). Those “in Christ” already share in the world to come, and some of the features of temporal existence which are inconsistent with It have no reality for them. This appears to be the implication of Gal. 3:28.
16. F. F. Bruce comments: “On the remarkable injunction to ‘grow up into the head,’ Mgr. R. A. Knox pointed out that a baby’s head is very large in relation to his body, and that his body, as it develops, is really growing up more and more into a due proportion with the head. Whether this sort of analogy was in Paul’s mind or not, it serves as a pleasing illustration of his teaching here” The Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Pickering and Inglis. 1961), p. 89.
17. The Greek work translated “respect” is “fear,” but the context shows that “respect” is its sense here. Cf. Von Allmen, Pauline Teaching, p. 38, note 11.
18. Milton. Ephesians (New Century Bible), 210. The point holds good even apart from Milton’s theory that Ephesians is much later than Colossians, hence the difference in situation. The more general character of Ephesians is all that is needed to explain the difference.
19. F. F. Bruce takes -in the Lord” as exegetical of “parents” (i.e., “your parents who are in the Lord”) rather than “obey” (“obey as in the Lord your parents”). But this does not affect the conclusion. Bruce writes: “He has a Christian family in view (‘in the Lord’), and does not contemplate the situation where parental orders might be contrary to the law of Christ. In the last resort, the law of Christ must take precedence” (121).
20. Ephesians, p. 122.
22. Moule. Colossians and Ephesians. 129.