here’s my take on a small and seemingly insignificant part of the ephesians 5:22-33 passage we’ve been studying on sunday mornings. see what you think. here’s the passage:
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
i’ve highlighted the parts i want you to notice. i don’t want to get all technical, but there is something here in word definitions and meaning that’s important to me. it all revolves around the little word “as”. it’s the greek word hos. like i said, seemingly insignificant.
from all of my study, what i can tell is that the word hos is simply a general word of comparison. generic. unspecific. similar to the way we would use the word like in our vocabulary. baseball is like softball…or muchacos are like tacos (for all you bueno-heads…)
paul had another word in his vocabulary. it was the word houto. when it is used, it is translated “in the same manner” or “in the same way”. it carries comparison to another level. it links the comparison more directly…and gives a more specific direction or description. for me, here’s how it works out in this text:
in verse 22, when paul calls women to submit to their husbands as to the lord, he’s not telling women to bow to their husband’s lordship…to worship at his feet…to surrender their wills and align all of their thinking and feeling and volition to their husband-master…to depend on him for their salvation…to pray to him for strength and forgiveness…and to willingly hand over everything else to them, as they would to jesus when we die to ourselves and pick up our crosses and follow him. that would be ludicrous!! (even though there are some conservative christian groups that think that is what is supposed to happen).
no. i think it’s more reasonable to see the word “as” as just a general comparison. followers of christ are people who submit their own bests interests for the best interests of others. we do that when we bow to jesus. we are to do that with each other. wives are specifically told in this passage to do that with their husbands. it’s simply a hallmark characteristic of someone who has surrendered to the lord.
in verse 25, paul tells husbands to love their wives as christ loved the church. am i really supposed to die for wanda to make her holy? am i supposed to lay down my life for her redemption…for the forgiveness of her sins? do i really have that kind of power and authority over her? how am i expected to cleanse her? am i to be her personal bible teacher and shower her with my personal interpretations of the word? is that every husband’s responsibility? do i possess the ability to present wanda as radiant…without stain or blemish…blameless? is it within the scope of my responsibility and giftedness to cover her sins, wipe her personal slate clean and separate her for a life of sanctified surrender? i think not.
paul could have used the words “in the same way” (houto) in these places. he had it available. no, i think he is simply telling wives to live lives of submission and telling husbands to live lives of love in their marriage. not in the same exact way it is with jesus…that could never happen anyway…but as a matter of principle and personal lifestyle.