Holy Living In An Unholy World,

Order In The House

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

One night, a wife said to her husband of 50 years as they prepared to drift off to sleep, “You know when we were young, you used to hold my hand each night.” Slowly and a little irritably, his hand reaches out for hers. She continued, “And when we were young, you used to snuggle up against me.” A little more slowly, her husband’s body creaks and turns until he rests beside hers. “And when we were young, you used to nibble on my ear.”

Abruptly, he threw the covers and leaped out of bed. “Where are you going? she asked, a little hurt.” He grumbles, “To get my teeth.”

John Ortberg says that it is one thing to be snuggling and nibbling when you’re young and the hormones are still raging. But “to still be nibbling when the ear holds a hearing device and the room is scented with Ben Gay and you have to retrieve your teeth” is a different matter.

In Ephesians 5, Paul gives us the blueprint for building the kind of marriage and home that will endure a lifetime. In this section of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul is telling us how to walk or conduct ourselves in all of our relationships in the home. And the general command is found in verse 21: “Submit to one another in the fear of the Lord.” The word “submit” hupostasso means to line up under one another. The command here is for us to humble ourselves, to place other people’s interests in the home above our own.

And submission is not just limited to wives, children, or employees, husbands, parents and employers are also to place others in the home above themselves.

The Bible teaches mutual submission, but the way we submit is different, according to the role God assigns us in the family.

Beginning in verse 22, Paul applies this general command to the different people in a typical Greco-Roman household.

First, he addressed the responsibility of the wives. Wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands in the home, not because they are inferior in any way, but because there is a God-designed pattern for authority that exists in every institution whether it be the church, the government, or the home. Without such an order, there would be chaos. 

We saw that submission is biblical, but it is also conditional. The wife is never to disobey God from the clear teachings of Scripture in order to submit to her husband. If her husband asks her to do something the Bible forbids or forbids her from doing something the Bible commands she has a duty to graciously but firmly submit. 

And finally, the submission of the wife is mutual. The wife puts the interest of her husband above her own by following the leadership of her husband, but the husband places the interests of his wife above his own by sacrificially loving his wife.

1. The Sacrificial Husband (Ephesians 5:25-33)

The fact that Paul would give any instructions at all to the husband was revolutionary. In the Greek and Roman cultures, the husband had no obligations in the household. He was free to come and go as he pleased. 

But not in the Christian home. In the Christian home, where Christ is the model of what it means to love, Paul lays out the description of a husband’s love for his wife.  The best word to describe that kind of Christ-like love is “Sacrificial.”

I have a question for you. Do your actions, affections, and attitudes, reflect those of Jesus Christ? If so, your love for your wife will be sacrificial, sanctifying, and satisfying. 

To drive this home, let me give you some down-to-earth ways you can apply this truth.

  • Do Something Nice and Unexpected for Your Wife
  • Be Concerned with Your Wife’s Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Needs
  • Learn to Forgive Your Spouse Instantly

2. Parents and Children (Ephesians 6:1-4)

But this principle of mutual submission is not limited to marriage; it also applies to the parent/child relationship.

3. Employers and Employees (Ephesians 6:5-9)

The third relationship in which Paul discusses the need for mutual submission is the slave/master relationship. Remember slaves lived in the home in Paul’s day so this is naturally a part of home life.

I had someone ask me not long ago, “Wasn’t the idea of wives submitting to husbands a cultural issue in Paul’s day not meant to be applied today.” I answered no, it is a universal principle. Then, they asked, “Why do we say that this part of the passage dealing with slaves and masters is not relevant today? Doesn’t the same Bible that condones submission in marriage also condone slavery?”

Very good question. I think New Testament scholar Harold Hoehner has something important to say in answering that question.

“Certainly, Paul and the early Christian church did not advocate the abolition of slavery as an institution. Christianity’s emphasis has always been on the transformation of individuals who will in turn influence society, not the transformation of society which will then transform individuals” (1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16).

However, it is interesting that hundreds of years later, it was Christians who were the leaders of the abolition of slavery in our country and around the world.

Now today the most logical application would be to the employee/employer relationship. Time does not permit me to give a detailed treatment of this passage, so let me summarize with one principle that is to guide the employee and one that is the guide the employer.

  • Employees: “We Work for God, Not for People” (Ephesians 6:5-8)
  • Employers:  “You Are to Treat Your Employees Like You Want God to Treat You” (Ephesians 6:9)

Men, being the head, the leader of the family, is not a privilege to be exploited, it is a duty, it is a responsibility to place the welfare of our wives, our children, and if we have them, our employees before our own. 

If we are not willing to do that, we shouldn’t get married, have children, or lead an organization.  An effective leader models the Lord Jesus Christ who put our needs above His own.  

“But the Son of God did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.”


Full Passage: Ephesians 5:256:9