THE PRACTICE OF THE BELIEVER <3:5-4:6>
(c). Personal Commands for Holiness <3:18—4:6>
(1). Holiness in Family Life <3:18-21>
Holiness, sanctity, or godliness is necessary in the families of all believers in Christ since we are to allow the teachings of Christ to guide us in every aspect of our lives; so here Paul addresses each member of the family.
“Wives, submit” <3:18 (NIV)>. What does he mean by “submit”? A check of the word in the Webster’s Dictionary gives the following meanings: to give over or yield; to subject to; to defer to; and if these are applied directly to the context of what Paul is teaching here it may give an incorrect concept. In his letter to the Ephesian Church he uses the same word in relation to how believers are to conduct themselves: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” <Eph.5:21 (NIV)>, and we should notice here that submission should be due to our respect for Christ in the sense of what He has done for us individually. We respect Him because of His great mercy that He has shown to us in forgiving and accepting us in kind-heartedness considering what we were, and this should be the attitude that we show to each other as we read earlier <see Col.3:14, 16-17>. Paul also indicates that this is a direct result of The Holy Spirit working in and through us <Eph.5:18b>. Paul also teaches the reason for submission: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” <Eph.5:22 (NIV)>; so here we see that submission is more of a peace-making attitude that should be seen in “wives“, as they recognize the spiritual position of their husband in the home – “head of his wife as Christ is head of the Church”, and the truth that Christ was in submission to His Father <see Heb.5:7-8>. It should also be observed and understood that the Scriptures use the word submit and not obey in respect to wives; also that Christ is not to be replaced by the husband but the wife should submit as an act of submission to Christ <Eph.5:24>.
“Husbands, love your wives” <3:19 (NIV)>; again Paul expands on this statement in his letter to the Ephesian Church: “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” <Eph.5:25 (NIV)>; a higher expression of devotion than what the wife is called to do – “give himself up”, the example is what Christ has done for The Church. Husbands are further encouraged to “love their wives as their own bodies” <Eph.5:28 (NIV)> for he says that no one ever hated his own body but feeds and cares for it as Christ has done for the Church.
“Children, obey your parents in everything” <3:30 (NIV)>; he expresses it to the Ephesians “obey your parents in the Lord” <Eph.6:1 (NIV); cf Acts 5:29> which suggests that such obedience should be in accordance with what is taught by Scripture. Respect of parents is taught by Scripture and was the first command with a promise “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” <Eph.6:3; cf Deut.5:16>.
“Fathers, do not embitter your children” <3:21 (NIV); Eph.6:4>; Fathers are not to corrupt or frustrate their children in forcing them to be obedient in sinful actions in consideration that the command is that they should obey their parents; “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” <Eph.6:4 (NIV); cf Deut.6:5-9>; the duty of every believing parent is to offer continual Scriptural instruction and example to their children, for it is in the home that they will see the influence of Scripture; but when there are conflicting or questionable instructions the children become cynical about our Christianity. The responsibility of parental instruction should not be left entirely to the Church leaders.
Unfortunately, hurried devotions, thoughtless disregard for others, and idle and unkind words often characterize our lives. So godliness begins with the family, and when each family abides by Paul’s, and Scriptural teaching, the Church as a whole becomes a godly institution and spreads the gospel by example.