Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

My egal friends may shoot me for this, but I am 100% sure Paul envisioned complementarian marriages in Ephesians 5.

But, please do not quote- or argue with – that statement without the rest of this article.

In the culture where Paul wrote this, only men had legal rights. Only men (some of them) had the opportunity for an education. Men married at about 25-30, after being established in their jobs, women at about 15.

Although husbands and wives have an equal standing before God, they were not, by any stretch of the imagination, equal intellectually (the human intellect withers when not educated in childhood), legally, or financially.

In such a culture, Paul looked at a Jesus who came to lift us up, to impute His righteousness on us, to give us the opportunity to stand before God clean.  Jesus paid everything to do that for us, even though we deserved to be lost. He probably compared that to this world, where the weak (those with fewer rights to legal representation and education) does not deserve to have less.

If the deserving  Jesus could give his all to lift up the undeserving, then certainly the no-more-deserving –but-circumstantially-having-more man could sacrifice to lift up his no-less-deserving –but-circumstantially-having-less wife.

Here, it starts to look like the gospel.

Does this spell gospel 1

The first picture relates to the gospel. (1) God (the star in the picture) made us (the white heart in the picture) good, and to be with him. (2) After we fell into sin, we were far from God. (The black heart is now us.) The red and blue lines show that we moved lower, with God still where He was. (3) God comes down in the form of Jesus and takes all our sin on Him. (4) We are restored to a relationship with God, lifted up to stand beside Jesus (The word “present” in Eph 5:27 is translated elsewhere as “standing beside”.).  We are not His servants but His friends (Joh 15:15). Our submission (identification with, support) is to follow His example in the power He gives. He don’t sit in front of the TV while we do all the work, He does not command us to stay thin while He puts on weight.

Paul seemingly imagined husbands and wives getting an example from this scenario.

Does this spell gospel 2

In the case of man and woman, 1) Eve was made as an equal to Adam, and the first picture is of equality. 2) First century society moved women very far below men. (Notice the blue and red lines again.) Unlike in the gospel picture, this was not deserved. Men did nothing to deserve keeping a high place while women alone deserve lowering. 3) If the deserving  Jesus could give his life to lift up the undeserving, then certainly the no-more-deserving –but-circumstantially-having-more man could sacrifice to lift up his no-less-deserving –but-circumstantially-having-less wife. Paul asked men to get an example from Jesus, to love their wives like their own bodies, to not see anything their bodies want or need as bigger than what she needs or wants. That would mean not making the demands he legally can, and to be equally likely to use his money, education and life experience to help her as himself. In fact, if he really loved her as himself, he’d probably spend more time thinking of her than himself in the beginning, because from her weaker position in society, she is more likely to have unmet needs than he is. That is lowering himself in order to… 4) lift her up to close to him. I do not draw the man and woman on the same height here, as I don’t think Paul envisioned total equality as possible in that situation: No education in your childhood, not having legal recourse, and having a 15-year gap in life experience are not holes that can easily be filled.

If you compare the red and blue lines in these diagrams, you will see that what Paul asked of the man looks quite a bit like the gospel picture. Elsewhere, the Bible asks everyone to follow the example of Jesus. But here Paul repeats it for the man seemingly because he, like Jesus, is the one with power, rights and knowledge.

In the 1st Century, a believing man could take the initiative for a “complementarian” marriage that is inspired by the Gospel. (A wife could not. The gospel does not start with the church acting, but with Jesus acting.)

In Part 2, we will look at the correct female response to Christ-like sacrifice made by the husband, and discuss if this gospel-inspired picture is possible in today’s society.

Comments on: "Paul envisioned complementarian marriages in Ephesians 5 (Part 1)" (3)

  1. I see your point. However, I see other things in Ephesians 5 that tend to point us all back to God’s original plan. Even though Paul wisely uses the framework common to the cultural era he lived in, he manipulates it strongly toward his end purpose of equality.

    There is the fact that in Eph. 5:1-2 ALL believers are told to love sacrificially as Christ did toward us. Add the closing admonition to this section in Eph. 5:21 where ALL believers are admonished to submit to one another in the fear of God and we have mutuality by both men and women. Then stepping into the relationship of marriage wives are admonished to carry that mutuality toward their husband. For wives that was a step up and away from obedience that the culture taught. And that mutuality was to be in everything.

    Husbands are then reminded that the sacrificial love spoken of in Eph. 5:1-2 is to be extended toward their wives. Nothing is said about leading the wives, or disciplining, or any such. Rather the husband is told that like Christ he is to nurture and cherish (provide and protect) his wife.

    Add in that Paul painted an interestingly profound picture of deep attachment to one another by telling the wife (not the husband) to view the husband as her physical head. Then Paul tells the husband (not the wife) to view the wife as his physical body. I say
    “view” because each has their own head and body. The purpose I see is to show them they are to come together as one flesh, as perfectly united in deep harmonious attachment so that they are like one unit. The head needs the body to live and the body needs the head to live. Life, true spiritual life together is what is being promoted. This is found in submissive mutuality, honor, and deep love.

    The popular ideas of gender hierarchy that applaud men as superior, in control, and such cannot promote the end result that Paul paints a picture of.


    • “The popular ideas of gender hierarchy that applaud men as superior, in control, and such cannot promote the end result that Paul paints a picture of.”

      Not only that, but can you imagine a man who wants to control women being able to enter Heaven or whatever you wish to call the afterlife? I don’t imagine that our personalities just “disappear” when we will cross over. If so, then a murderer or a rapist who is vicious and unable to change who he is should also be allowed into the afterlife…


      • I meant to clarify that if a man who is essentially a controlling misogynist in this lifetime is allowed into heaven, then should a murderer and rapist also be allowed? Essentially, are they any different? They all promote some form of violence towards another. Is there any “gradient” or curve that is allowable here? Does God only allow misogynists into heaven, but not murderers or rapists? I wonder if these emphasis on CONTROL and DOMINANCE will have any particular importance in the afterlife, since there will be NONE of that there.


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