Complementarianism: is is Biblical? A study of Ephesians 5 – Part 3
This is Part 3 of the article series concerning the idea of Complementarianism and whether or not it is Biblical. Those that adhere to this concept claim they do not believe or practice patriarchy, yet in essence they do, because they claim that the man is in charge of the woman and that they have the right to order her life, if they are married to her. Where then is the difference between the Complementarian and the Patriarchal adherent? Is Complementarianism truly Biblical? This writer emphatically states that it does not meet the requirements of being a Biblical mandate from God.
In order to answer the first paragraph, those that claim to be Complementarian, too often select passages of Scripture, but they lift it out of its near context and its remote context. It is all too easy to subscribe to a particular doctrine by sequestering your favorite passages, lifting them out of their context and holding them up as a mandate from God. While this is over-simplified, with this quaint anecdote being used, nevertheless: An atheist desperate to prove that there really isn’t any God and he so wanted to use the Holy Bible as his ammunition. He selected a verse of Scripture to confound his Christian opponent. He selected a portion of Scripture from Psalm 53, and triumphantly declared, “SEE, your own Bible says that ‘there is no God!’ But the Christian asked where the supposed Scripture was located and the atheist pointed to it in the Bible. Then the Christian correctly read the ENTIRE passage from the Holy Bible:
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
While this is truly over-simplified, the result is the same. We cannot claim to be true exegetes of Holy Writ if we pull Bible verses out of their context and then claim that this is a mandate from God. So as this writer was choosing the title for this particular part, at first a title was chosen just to include Ephesians 5:21-23 which are the actual verses in question. However, one needs to read the entire chapter, and perhaps even going as far back as 4:14ff, thus leading into the verses in question as well as going beyond to the end of Chapter 5; hence the title of this article. This writer is also cognizant that this article is going to be published on Valentines Day as well as the unfortunate debut of the ungodly movie of ’50 Shades of Grey.’ I do not necessarily wish to derail this article, but if Christians truly think that they will be able to view this movie without any spiritual harm, they are sadly mistaken and need to repent if they have viewed this movie or they have even read the novel. If you lay your money down to read or see spiritual trash, you are in essence condoning and approving the material, and you will have to answer the Lord Almighty on the day of your judgment. Now that this short monotribe is finished on that ungodly movie and novel, this writer will continue with this article. Phew!
Let us now look at:
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
The first verse of 5:21 should tell the whole story, but for those who cannot yet see, this writer will elaborate upon the topic in question. This article will simply be too long if all of the verses that one needs to look at are included, so the verses will be listed, but readers needs to read them on their own (see above).
So let us look at 5:21 and the very first word in this verse: the Greek word is ὑποτασσόμενοι which is a Present Passive Participle, Nominative Plural Masculine word. Or in other words, if you are not a Greek-head, this connotes that it is always a Present action; we allow ourselves to be brought into subjection; and it is a participle that connotes verbal action. Now it seems like the Complementarian has it all, however, let us next look at the Greek word ἀλλήλοις, which is a Dative Plural Masculine and therefore translated as ‘one to another’ or ‘to each other.’ It should also be noted that just because the gender is masculine does not necessarily mean it is only for males or vice versa if the Greek gender is feminine. Sometimes it is in regard to gender but the context will clearly inform the reader that it applies to a specific gender when it does. So submission to one another is to be done in the “fear of Christ.” The KJV translated it as ‘God,” but the Greek text lists it as Χριστοῦ, which is translated as Christ. Furthermore, verse 21 is seen by this writer as a pivotal verse: it concludes that which comes before to the church and then opens that which comes after; to husbands and wives.
Now let us look at verse 22. We needed to look at verse 21 first because Complementarians steadfastly ignore verse 21 and sequester or lift out verses 22-23 because quite frankly, they do not like what verse 21 has to say about the situation. However, grammatically, verse 22 cannot stand on its own; which the Holy Spirit deliberately did and thus gave to the Apostle Paul to write down. Verse 22 has the word ‘submitting’ there in the verse, but it is not there in the Greek: it is written as, “The wives to your own husbands just as to the Lord.” There isn’t any verb in this verse, thus it forces the reader to go back to verse 21 to get the verbal aspect, which absolutely ties verse 22 to verse 21 without any doubt and it cannot be undone because the Holy Spirit dictated it thus. What we have here is a figure of speech called ‘ellipsis,’ where a word is omitted and one must use the context to get that word and how it is being used. Remember, it was used in verse 21 with the admonition to “Submitting yourselves one to another…” This is why they take verses 22-23 out of its immediate context because Christ has mandated that both must submit to each other in the fear of Christ. The Ryrie Study Bible actually goes to the extreme and physically separates verse 21 from verse 22 and inserts a paragraph heading to make it look like it is a separate entity. However, verse 22 cannot stand alone grammatically, no matter how many paragraph headings one inserts into the text. Readers please be informed that chapters, verses, chapter headings and such like is all man-made and was not inserted into the Holy Writ until the 13th century by ArchBishop Stephen Langton, which is what the modern divisions are based upon. However, there were other attempts at divisions as early as the 3rd century. Robert Estienne in 1551 is the one that is credited with dividing the Scriptures into verses that we still use today. You can read more about it HERE.
Now for verse 23: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” The useage of ‘head’ can also mean ;’origin,’ which many scholars acknowledge, and if we read this verse as such:
“For the husband is the origin of the wife, even as Christ is the origin of the church: and He, [Christ] is the Savior of the body [Church].”
Men should be taking a sigh of relief….why? Because, at long last husbands do not have the onerous responsibility of saving your wife. This has and always has been the responsibility of Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can save us. This writer has heard such things like the husband is responsible to cleanse the wife with the washing of the Word as well as sanctify her. Really? This is where the Mormons get their idea that a wife will earn salvation if her husband accepts her into heaven. Really? How scary! So, if a woman’s husband begins to hate her, she is bound to burn in hell. This would be a very good reason for all women to only marry unbelievers and then lead them to salvation. In this way, the husband would be beholden to the wife. This is what happens when the Bible is used to defend your own personal beliefs without relying upon the actual Biblical text and keeping everything in its proper context.
When looking at verses 24-33, it further gives to the husband the character traits that he is to adopt to himself. Specifically, in verse 25:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.
The word for love in this verse is ἀγαπᾶτε, which is the ‘love of God’ and not ερος or φιλεῶ, with the first being the ‘love of God,’ the second one being ‘sexual love,’ and the third being ‘brotherly love,’ from which we get the name for the city of Philadelphia. So it is interesting that husbands are commanded to love their wives with the same love that God has for us; they are also commanded to give themselves as a sacrifice and to serve their wives as Christ loved and died for His Church and submitted to His Bride. Yes, Christ submitted all the way to death. He is the perfect example that men are to follow.
In order to get the full context, the reader can go as far back as:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
The reader can continue from the above verses through the end of Chapter 5. But one can quickly read that the analogy of the Body of Christ is used, and one part is not above another. This is why the English word ‘head’ should be translated as ‘Origin’ and not with the connotation of ‘corporate head’ or ‘boss.’ The Lord Jesus Christ is the True Head of the Church, His Body and therefore the Head of every marriage. Both husband and wife are to submit to Christ Jesus first.
In concluding this article, this writer would like to focus on:
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
If the husband desires to be respected, the KJV uses ‘reverence,’ he first must love as Christ loved the Church and even as he loves his own body…and then….so that the wife might φοβῆται the husband. The Greek word is a Present Passive Subjunctive, third singular; which comes from an even older Greek form, φοβέομαι, which means to reverence or respect. However, the word is in the subjunctive form and is always used with either the words, ‘may’ or ‘might,’ plus it is passive. What this means to this writer is this: if the husband wishes to obtain reverence or respect from his wife, then he has to follow Christ and give himself sacrificially to his wife, and then “so that the wife might respect her husband.” It is conditionally based upon the husband’s actions. It is not a command from God to the wife.
When one looks at the Complementarian viewpoint that Owen Strachen promotes, it really looks nothing at all like the Holy Scriptures that I read, which is based upon the Greek Scriptures. Be Blessed this Valentines Day, and husbands LOVE [ἀγαπᾶτε] your wives.