Let’s get to the text itself. First of all let’s look at how this text is organized. Let’s get our Bibles and just look at the text:
5:18-21: Actually – go back to verse 15: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise bur as wise. Notice also, verse 17: not foolish but understanding. And verse 18 – not drunk but filled with the Spirit.
I would submit these are parallels, carefully placed by Paul. Further, I see verse 15 as the introduction to the entire section. Paul is challenging his readers to be careful how they lived.
Now – in 5:18-21 – the new NIV uses 4 sentences to translate what is one sentence in Greek. The New Testament was written in Greek. Sometimes is contains some long sentences. This is one example. The Greek text has 2 commands and five participles in this sentence:
–Do not get drunk – a command.
–Be filled with the Spirit – a command.
–Speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, submitting to each other – participles.
These participles actually describe how a person who is Spirit-filled behaves. How do you know a Spirit-filled person when you see one? Paul describes that person. It is a joyful, gracious, grateful and submissive person.
5:22-33: Here Paul addresses the key relationship in the family: the husband and wife. He does so in the context of what a Spirit-filled person does. He is offering an example where submissive behavior takes place.
Notice verse 21 – Submit to each other – this introduces what comes next. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul touches upon the roles of husbands and wives as well as the relationship between Christ and His Church. In his commentary on Ephesians, Klyne Snodgrass points out the structure of these verses:
Address to wives: 5:22-23a, 24b and 33b
Address to husbands: 5:25a, 28-29a, (31) and 33a
Relation of Christ and the church: 5:23b-24a, 25b-27, 29b-32
-see Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, Zondervan, 1996, p. 288.
In this section, Paul has strong language for both wives and husbands. Both of them are to be submissive to each other and the Lord. The husband is portrayed as the leader in the home. This was a patriarchal society. Men were more powerful than women. However, the leadership role was to be tempered by a tender love for the wife.
Paul elevates women in this text. Women were not just to be possessions of men (common in ancient world). The husband was to love the wife just like Christ loves the church! This implies a deep, loyal and tender affection that leads to sacrificial living. Husbands are to sacrifice for their wives. Husbands are to be protective and caring in their marital relationship.
Wives are to be submissive to the Lord. They are to respect their husbands. They are to recognize his spiritual leadership and respond to his love. This is not obedience. It is love and respect. There is a certain oneness (verse 28) and unity that undergirds the response of the wife to the husband. She is loved and cared for. She responds to that love with respectful behavior.
In the ancient world, women were often “seen” but not “heard.” This text explodes that model. The wife was to be a partner in the home with the husband. He was to love her and sacrifice for her.
6:1-4: Children are to be obedient to their parents. Again – this is rooted in a relationship with the Lord. Parents are to be instructional and are to offer guidance to their children. Children need to be trained and instructed in order to become responsible members of society. This is the parent’s responsibility.