Thursday, November 16, 2023
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St. Ann's, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies

s I go into this article, I must first establish that my premise is not to create division but clarity in the body of Christ.

We must all remember that we all know in part and therefore none of us has a monopoly on divine revelation from the Lord or of the Word - 1 Cor. 13:9 "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part."

I chose this medium to bring clarity because the issue I'm dealing with is in the public domain and affects the body of Christ.

It is not an issue that determines our salvation or eternity and should not under any circumstance cause brethren to disrespect one another in anyway. Here goes;

I recently saw an article on Facebook which addressed the subject of mutual submission in marriage, where the author indicated that mutual submission was primarily for the church in general but not for the marriage union.

Before I delve into what I want to share, I want to sincerely appreciate the author of the article for what he stated generally regarding submission in Christian marriage.

The author really brought out pertinent issues with accurate doctrinal positions on how married people should relate to one another and I applaud him for that.

I was also blessed by how he did a short and concise exposé on the book of Ephesians. If asked I would sincerely recommend that married couples read the article and connect with the divine wisdom shared by the author whom I believe is a servant of God.

I therefore, want to start by stating in agreement with the article that mutual submission is an instruction given by God to the body of Christ; the church.

However, I also want to point out some things that I believe would further enlighten the believer to embrace the place of mutual submission in the marital relationship.

According to that write up Eph. 5:21 "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" is for the general church and not an instruction for the husband and the wife.

Let us explore this and see if this position negates the idea or concept of mutual submission in marriage.

The question should really be - "Are the husband and wife members of the church (the body of Christ)?" or we can also ask "are the husband and wife believers?"

If the answer is yes, then it means that since mutual submission is an instruction that covers or affects ALL believers, husbands and wives as believers are therefore not exempt from it.

One can also ask, the following questions; "which is a higher relationship? Is it the relationship as believers or the one as husband and wife? Which identity is the superior identify; that of a spouse or that of a believer?"

To answer these questions, let us look at some verses staring with 2 Cor. 5:16-17; "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

The scriptures clearly tell us in these verses that we are not to view people after the flesh but after the spirit as "New Creatures" in Christ.

Be mindful that the husband and wife relationship is one that takes into consideration their gender as male and female and consequently makes them "one flesh" - Gen. 2:24.

Hence, this relationship is strongly more "dependent" on the "flesh" or physical body; because we know that scripturally, marriage is the relationship between a male and a female

"And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" - Gen. 2:24.

These two genders (male and female) deal with the flesh or physical body as there are no male and female spirits.

Now let us also look at Gal. 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." and Gal. 6:15 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature".

Our inheritance and position in the body of Christ is not gender-specific and therefore not dependent on our male or female genders.

We can therefore surmise that our position as believers trumps our position as spouses (males or females).

This is also because marriage is not limited to Christianity, seeing that Muslims, Hindus, Atheists etc all marry.

Hence, we cannot use an instruction that primarily affects an "a-religiously" or non-religiously specific institution above one that is solely for "ALL" believers or "religiously" specific.

This is also endorsed by 1 Cor. 7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

Here we can see that the believing husband/wife is able to sanctify the unbelieving one and not Vice-versa.

Hence, it is plain to see that our status as believers trumps our status as spouses because simply being a believer has the inherent capacity or power to sanctify your spouse, while simply being a spouse has no capacity or power to sanctify anyone.

Meaning the general instruction to the church is higher and more relevant or superior to the instruction to any specific group within the church.

Hence, mutual submission, which is an instruction for all believers must be a bonafide Christian doctrinal position for marriages - if it is for the church then it must be for ALL believers including those who are married.

Mutual submission is basically about "Church culture or tradition" and not about African or European culture.

The article indicated that if we acknowledge mutual submission in marriage then it means that we have to acknowledge it in the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. Meaning that we are implying that Jesus Christ must submit to the church as much as the church submits to Him.

While this assertion might sound mathematically or logically sound, I cannot ascertain that it is scripturally sound because of the following.

We must remember that the marriage relationship is "a type" of and not necessarily the same as the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. "Roaring like a Lion or barking like a dog" does not make one a lion or a dog. It is simply a comparative simile to use one thing as an analogy to explain another

The church is "a type" of the bride of Christ and not the literal bride which is actually the New Jerusalem "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." - Rev. 21:2.

The New Jerusalem includes the church but is not made up of only the church. It also includes Jews and Gentiles that are not from the church age. It speaks about both people and a place.

Hence, we cannot interpret the submission of the wife to the husband as being "exactly the same" as that of the church and Christ.

The relevant associations with respect to these two were already made in Eph. 5:22-33 and we must not read or add anything else into that.

For example, husbands and wives have sexual intercourse and produce literal human children. We cannot say the same for the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.

We must therefore not try to use the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church to invalidate mutual submission in the church and by extension christian marital relationships.

This is further endorsed by Apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 5:5 "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

This spirit of this scripture is similar to that of Eph. 5:21-33. We all know that the major instruction is for the younger ones to submit to the elders. However, in the same breath mutual submission is emphasized to these two groups. This further endorses mutual submission in the church and by extension christian marriages.

Apostle Peter admonished elders to be examples to the the younger one in 1 Pet. 5:1-3. "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

However, Apostle Paul admonished Timothy, who was clearly a younger person, to be an example to believers (which would obviously include both older and younger people) after he instructed him not to let anyone despise his youth - 1 Tim. 4:12 "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

For the sake of clarity some might say the KJV did not say "be an example TO but OF the believers…" considering the old English language of the KJV, one can agree that the context and spirit of the verse points to "being and example, both TO and OF…" as expressed in most of the other translations.

Beloved, we must remind ourselves that an example is to be followed, hence, young Timothy is being asked to behave in a way that ensures that others can follow him.

Hence, these two Apostles (Peter and Paul) were not contradicting each other. We must agree that their positions show us the value of mutual submission for ALL believers and at EVERY level of church interaction (which I believe must include marriage).

One must therefore, realize that in Christianity and by extension Christian marriage, the mutual submission we are addressing is in the "fear of the Lord", who established the marriage institution, and not in the "fear of your spouse".

Heb. 13:4 says "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

This means that neither husbands nor wives are honourable in ALL but the institution of marriage which was established by God is. Neither husbands nor wives are always right but marriage as a union between a man and a woman, will always be right and the union is honoured by God.

A friend of mine directed me back to 1 Cor. 7 as a major case for mutual submission in marriage "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" - 1 Cor. 7:3-5.

These verses clearly show the "mutual control" that the spouses have over each other's body. I know some would say this is just dealing with sexual intimacy, but as we realize the "one flesh" scenario of the marriage relationship also points to sexual intimacy. One can conclude that if mutual submission controls the sexual interactions of the couple then it must play a pivotal role in the overall relationship.

Hence, mutual submission is actually a submission to God and His will in the marriage relationship.

It will not hurt the marriage union, but would rather bless it and advance the cause of the Kingdom of God.

This however, does not nullify or reduce the instructions given to the husbands and wives in Eph. 5:22-33, but rather creates a platform under which they can successfully adhere to those instructions.

As they approach their marriage with a consciousness of the "fear of God" both parties; the husband and the wife, would definitely be in a better place to fulfill their roles, for the strengthening of their union and the advancement of God's Kingdom.

Respectfully Submitted,
For Kingdom Advancement,
By Bishop David Ibeleme.