By Mark D. Proctor
Pastor, Highland Park Baptist Church, Columbia
My house has a design flaw. When a visitor is in the living room, he or she can see right into the master bedroom if the door is open (we can cover how I learned this in another article). A poorly designed home affects the behavior of the residents. In our passage, Paul writes to the Ephesian church with specifications for a home designed by God. And that design produces the behaviors that glorify God and His church.
Notice immediately that the specifications are for wives (Ephesians 5:22-24), husbands (vv. 25-28), and children (ch. 6:1-3). These are building blocks of the home. Let’s be clear up front, a God-honoring home does not require all three. That’s not Paul’s message. Paul is specifying how husbands, wives, and children relate to one another in the home because it is our relationships that honor God. Husbands, wives, and children who understand relationships at home carry that over to the church. This is why Paul addresses home life in the context of strengthening the local church and makes the comparison at least four times.
He begins with the wives. What are God’s specifications for the relationship between a godly husband and a godly wife? Submission (ch. 5:22). Teachers today try to contextualize the meaning of this to modern cultural norms but we must remember that whatever interpretation we apply to “wives submitting” must also be applied to Christ and the church because Paul linked the two together, “… as the church submits to Christ.” The relationship between the wife and her husband is to look like the relationship between the church and Christ. Get it right at home, says Paul, and you’ll get it right at church. The design is the same.
Then he applies the same parallel to husbands. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church …” (v. 25). Being a man, Paul knew husbands wouldn’t have the first idea why or what this meant, so he illustrated: “… and gave himself for her to make her holy … .” The husband’s relationship to the wife, fortunately, has a purpose and a pattern, a grand design with the focus on the glory of God through the church. And it begins at home with the sacrifice a man makes. The wife submits to a serving husband.
Finally, not to let the kids simply be spectators to the “Mom and Dad” show, Paul brings their relationships in the home into focus. Children are to obey and honor parents (ch. 6:1-2). Satan loves to contextualize this one also. Obey and honor “if” Mom and Dad do their part correctly and “if” the children understand and approve. Otherwise, there is no requirement to obey and no requirement to honor. Satan makes the relationship conditional. But God doesn’t. Honor and obey stand as unconditional commands with an unconditional promise. Honor and obey, it says, “that it may go well with you …” (v. 3). Parents have relationship specifications illustrated; children have relationship specifications covenanted — all good design, all for the glory of God.