Paul, the quintessential Jew, whose life was given away in reaching out to the Gentile world, provides perhaps the best example of a life submitted to the empowering and transformational presence of God through the Holy Spirit. As a Pharisee, Paul grew up steeped in the ideology of the separation of Jew and Gentile from one another in all realms of life. And then, he met Messiah!
The book of Ephesians, written by Paul to a community in Asia Minor consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers, is neatly divided into two sections. Chapters one through three are a theological treatise. Chapters four through six provide practical implications of what that theology worked out in real life should look like.
Because we frequently lose sight of the spiritual warfare that is constantly going on, believers must remember what is really at stake. This spiritual war can be seen in the physical world. What is it that Satan wants to attack more than anything else? Paul clearly states that Satan’s objective is to destroy the unity that God wants to create in the Body of Messiah. All of his energies are directed towards shattering that unity. Disruption, dissension, and division are his most powerful weapons.
Argument of Marriage
Where was it that Satan first attacked God’s plan for HIStory? Genesis three explains that the first battle for the souls of mankind occurred at the place of union between Adam and Eve. Because of his awareness of this spiritual war in the background, Paul directs the attention of the Ephesians to the most intimate of all relationships, that of husbands and wives.
Have you ever considered how through the earliest Church a community of Jews and Gentiles united together revolutionized the institution of marriage? Consider the ancient world and
Consider the ancient world and its perception of the value and importance of women. In that male-dominated world, women were considered as “inferior” to men. In this area, there was no distinction between Jewish and Gentile men. Of course, this was not God’s intention. It is the result of a corruption in the Garden of Eden. The fault lies with both men and women. Behind the division there was (and is still) a common enemy.
Whether pagan of Jew, the common misperception was that to be the “head of the house”, was to be a ruler of a man’s spouse and house. Strangely, Adam had failed to provide leadership and protection for Eve, his wife. And yet, ever since that day, men have attempted to demand authority in the home by what they say, rather than what they do. Prior to Messiah Jesus, the wife was not an equal in any way to her husband. In most households, she was little more than another possession. This was true whether a husband was a Jew or a Gentile. A man’s wife existed to serve his needs. If for any reason she failed to do so, it was fully proper to put her away, to divorce her.
Strangely, the contemporary implications of Ephesians 5 throughout much of Christendom today reflect a corruption built on Paul’s efforts in healing the after effects of the first dysfunctional marriage. Is it really true that a woman can only find fulfillment and meaning in life through her fulfillment of duty as a wife and mother? On the flip side, what about women who completely abandon their responsibilities in this arena because they think they are missing out on all that men have enjoyed in another?
Yeshua changed all of this. Through the power of the Holy Spirit given at Shavuot (Pentecost), in the ancient world Jews and Gentiles began to provide a revolutionary example of what marriage was intended to be from the very beginning. Women began to be seen as complete equals in value and worth in every area of life. Men were given the role of “headship”, but only as modeled after Christ’s own servant leadership to His own Bride, the Church. How strange it must have been for unbelieving Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus to start seeing the now unified Body of Messiah men treating their wives in this manner. Can you imagine the conversations that must have occurred in the neighborhoods where believers lived together among the lost?
Ephesians 5:25 – 27: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; or no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
Not only did this form of servant leadership by the man of the house create previously unexperienced personal benefits, it also had evangelistic implications. This kind of “headship” focused attention on a superior way of life. In Ephesians 5:27, Messiah Jesus is portrayed as giving Himself up for the Church to present her to Himself without stain, wrinkle, or any kind of blemish. What a radical concept! What a contrast with what was the age old way in which marriages had been viewed by men and women throughout HIStory. These were truly visible expressions that there is now no distinction between “male and female” in the Body of Messiah. Wives were transformed from being simply another male appendage to being viewed by their community as having inherent worth and value and worth. In the home and in the community, she became a primary focus of her husband’s concern, a concern that came before all other human relationships!
In a male dominated world, Jewish and Gentile husbands, jointly serving as slaves of their Jewish Master, began living to serve their wives as an expression of their common love for Him! This had never happened before at any time throughout human existence.
By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God gave Jewish and Gentile husbands a new unified understanding in Messiah of what marriage could look like to the rest of the world. Together, their united example caused many to ask two questions:
Why are they so different?
Could we have that kind of marriage, too?
Together, Jewish and Gentile husbands and wives explained why they were different and showed other Jews and Gentiles what was possible. Could that happen again?