Some days ago, the video of Pastor Ibeyeomie abusing and threatening Daddy Freeze went viral. Before I viewed this video, I didn’t know the Pastor by name (I think I have seen one of his videos on someone’s status a long time ago).
While I know the name Daddy Freeze (who doesn’t right), I am not familiar with his views or ideas. I only know he is someone that speaks about Christianity and its practice in Nigeria. I got to know he is an OAP (on-air personality) recently.
The genesis of the controversy between Freeze and Ibeyeomie was a comment the former made on Pastor Oyedepo’s Instagram post about women submitting to men. Below is Oyedepo’s statement:
“’The only way to a fruitful marriage is total submission on the part of the wife. Until it is in place, every other thing she tries to do will be out of place. A woman who refuses to submit to her husband is disobeying God. As a woman, you might even be a minister of the gospel, and your husband is not, the Word of God still says to submit yourself to him. A submissive woman is precious in the sight of her husband – Ephesians 5:22.”
Freeze responded to this post: “Submission is a two-way journey. Men must submit to their wives too.” He then quoted Ephesians 5:21 as a proof text for his statement.
Freeze made some good statements about the husband’s duty to love the wife as Christ loved the church.
However, this quotation of Ephesians 5:21 is a misuse of scriptures.
Many people have talked about the attitudes and speech of everyone involved in this little controversy. But very few people are reacting to Freeze’s misuse of scriptures to make his point. So instead of adding to the discussion about attitude and character, I want to focus on Ephesians 5:21 and Freeze’s claim that “submission is a two-way journey.” (maybe one day I will concentrate on Oyedepo’s statement about a woman being a minister of the gospel)
What does Ephesians 5:21 teach, and how does it affect Paul’s teaching on the Christian household?
Setting the stage
Paul wrote Ephesians during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul had visited Ephesus during his second missionary journey and returned to the City during his third missionary journey (Acts 18:18-19). He spoke in the synagogue for three months and the lecture hall of Tyrannus for over two years (Acts 19). He left Ephesus for Macedonia after a successful ministry that also led to some social unrest.
Paul began this letter with a lengthy treatment of the spiritual blessings that believers have in Christ. He laid down the Trinitarian foundation of our salvation – the father predestined, the son died, and the spirit calls and seals. He ended chapter 1 by restating the prayer he always made on their behalf.
In chapter 2, he spoke of their total depravity (dead in transgressions and sins) and how God raised them from that deadness (a deadness manifested by the dominion of the flesh, the world, and the devil).
Since Christ has saved Gentiles by grace, there is no need for the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. Christ has made the two one and destroyed the wall of hostility. Gentiles are now fellow citizens and members of God’s household.
The death of Christ has achieved the racial reconciliation that nothing else could.
In chapter 3, Paul emphasized his call by the resurrected Christ to minister the mystery of God’s kingdom to the gentiles. He gloried in his commission as the apostle to the gentiles and prayed that God would strengthen the believers in the inner being so Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.
In chapter 4, he once again explored the unity that the sacrifice of Christ purchased for the people of Christ. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
The church should maintain this unity despite the diversity of spiritual gifts since God gave these gifts to build us up until we all reach unity in the faith. Rather than nurture division, the gifts of the Spirit are to produce a unity of faith.
However, this grace that Christ has shown us will produce massive changes in our lives. We can no longer live as the gentiles. Those of us who have been taught by Christ must live in the light with the newness of mind and a new self created in God’s likeness. As such, there are ways of lives and attitudes we must forsake and new ones we must nurture.
Ephesians 5:1 continues this theme (that began in 4:17) of how the gospel changes the believer’s life. We are now God’s children, and we must imitate him and live a life of love with Christ’s love and sacrifice for us as our example.
In verses 3-7, Paul again highlights some of the ways of darkness we must forsake – sexual immorality and greed. In verses 8-14, he reminds them why they cannot follow these dark ways – they are now children of light. As children of light, they must now live as lights.
However, forsaking greed and sexual immorality is not all that living in the light entails. Therefore, Paul goes in verses 15-21 to examine other implications of our new reality – children of light.
Here are some of the points he makes:
- As children of lights, we are to live as wise people by redeeming the time (verses 15-16)
- This wisdom begins by us understanding the will of God
- Instead of getting drunk with wine, we are to be filled with the Spirit.
Paul now focuses on how living as children of lights affect how we relate to one another in the church.
The three points above concern how the individual member of the Ephesian church was to live. Paul will now focus on the interactions of the individual believer with the other believers in the church.
- Give thanks to God and make music to him by speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
The command is that the members of this church will speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Through these psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, they will be making music to the Lord and giving thanks to God.
Which section does Ephesians 5:21 belong?
My first argument is that Ephesians 5:21 belong to the section that started in verse 3.
Remember that Paul began in verse 3 by telling them the kind of life they should avoid – sexual immorality and greed. He then gave the rationale- you are children of lights (verses 8-14) before providing further implications of that rationale (verses 15-21).
Verses 15-18 gives commands to the individual members of the Ephesian church on how they should live as believers. Verses 19-21 then focus on how they should live with “one another.”
“One another” is the connection that shows that verse 21 belongs to this section.
Here is verse 19: “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”
Here is verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Verses 19 and 21 are both addressing how the members of the church are to relate and interact with one another. In verse 19, we are to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; in verse 21, we are to submit to one another.
Verse 21 is not an injunction to husbands or wives but a command to every member of the church. As we sing to one another, we are to submit to one another.
Said differently, Ephesians 5:21 is the end of a section that began in verse 3, not the beginning of a new section in verse 22. Instead, Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is a specific application of the command for Christians to submit to one another to the Christian household.
The Submission of Ephesians 5:21
Paul made similar statements in his letters. In Philippians 2:3-4, Christians are to, in humility, consider others better than themselves while each person looks to the interests of others.
In Romans 12:10, he admonished Christians to “honor one another above yourselves.” In Colossians 3:13, we are to bear with one another. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us that such ‘bearing with one another’ requires love.
Peter also encourages believers to be humble towards one another (1 Peter 5:5) because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Paul’s command to the Ephesians to submit to one another is part of his overall injunctions on how Christians live with one another in the church. We are to honor one another, bear with one another, be humble towards one another, and submit to one another.
This mutual submission is a deference to one another in the church. Believers must have a humble posture towards one another, a posture that communicates readiness to submit to whoever God places over us.
If someone five years younger than you is the elder of the church or the head of a committee where you serve, you submit. If for one reason, you become the elder or the chair of the committee, the other person you submitted to previously now submits to you.
This mutual submission is rooted in humility and a readiness to consider others in the church as better than ourselves.
It is the kind of submission that will prevent believers from taking one another to court outside the church. Instead of taking cases to court, believers should submit to the judgment of fellow believers. (1 Corinthians 6). When those appointed as judges (in the church) decide, the believer should submit. He should be rather wronged and cheated than wash the church’s linen in public.
We submit to older believers who work in the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:16). Younger believers submit to older ones (1 Peter 5:5-6), and the laity submit to the Pastors (elders).
Notice that Peter’s statement about believers clothing themselves with humility toward one another follows his command for the young men to be submissive to the elder. Submission of the younger to the elder is an example of the mutual submission or the “humility towards one another” that the church must practice.
As we sing to one another in the church, we submit to one another in the church.
Mutual submission and the place of authorities
This posture of readiness to submit plays out in different scenarios, even outside the church. The Christian’s humility transcends the boundary of the church.
In Romans 13:1-5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13, we are to submit to secular authorities. Slaves are to submit to their masters (Titus 2:9). Christian children are to submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1)
I bring up these examples to make the point that Paul’s admonition for mutual submission among believers does not negate the place of authority and the submission such authority entails.
Elders (Pastors) have authority in the church, and the laity should obey them and submit to their authority. The elders make decisions, and we submit to it as to Christ (except their commands are unbiblical).
Also, the young men in the church are to submit to the elders. Christian slaves should submit to Christian masters when they go back home from church.
All these are different manifestations of the Christian’s readiness to submit. All the examples of submission that Paul and Peter give us involve one party submitting to the authority of the other party.
Therefore, the mutual submission of Ephesians 5:21 enforces rather than removes the place of authorities.
Instead, Paul’s mutual submission in Ephesians 5:21 is a readiness to defer to one another and to submit to any authority that God may place on us.
In Ephesians 5:22ff, Paul begins to apply the Christian spirit of submission in Ephesians 5:21 to different relationships among believers in Christian households (outside the church). So the call to submit to other Christians is not exhausted in the church.
His first application is that wives should submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Once again, mutual submission does not negate authority and the submission of one party to another. The laity should submit to the Pastors, young men to the elders, slaves to their masters, and wives to their husbands.
This submission is to be “as unto the Lord.” Christian wives are to submit to their wives as if they are rendering the submission to Christ. Instead of seeing it as ‘I am submitting to this man,’ they should perceive it as ‘I am submitting to Christ through this man.’
Paul also uses this idea in his instruction to the slaves (Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:7). The slaves are to work not unto men but as unto the Lord. They should do their work with regards to Christ (as though they are serving Christ directly).
This command for the wife to submit to her husband is not limited to Ephesians.
Here is Colossians 3:18:
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
Here is Titus 2:3-5:
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
For those who accuse Paul of being misogynistic, here is Peter:
“For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 3:5-7
Peter instructs the women of his days to submit to their husbands just like the women of old. He used Sarah as an example of such submission. Sarah did not only obey Abraham; she called him lord.
Paul goes on to affirm the headship of the husband in verse 23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11:3, where he grounded this statement in creation (1 Corinthians 11:8).
For Paul, the headship of the man is not post-fall but pre-fall.
In all of these passages, Paul (or Peter) never asked the husband to submit to the wife. There are no “husbands, submit to your wives”; neither are men told to follow John’s example, who called Jane lord.
Ephesians 5:24 is even stronger than 22. Here, Paul says the domain of the wife’s submission is ‘everything.’
Do you know what everything means?
Yeah, it means everything.
The Christian wife is to submit to the Christian husband in everything.
However, I should point out that this injunction also applies to women who become Christians after marrying an unbelieving husband. In 1 Peter 3:1, Peter instructs Christian wives to be “submissive to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
Of course, Christ is the LORD of the Christian wife, and she cannot submit to anything that is disobedient to her LORD. However, in every other thing that is not a matter of conscience, the Christian wife submits to her husband.
Submitting to love
Daddy Freeze was right on the bible’s call for Christian husbands to love their wives.
Christian husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Many people think that the woman’s duty- submission- is hard while the husband is the sleepy Joe who sleeps on the couch and commands.
However, if we know anything about the gospel, we should know that the love that Christ commands for Christian husbands is a very high standard. Christian husbands are to love their wives with the same self-sacrificial love with which Christ loved the church – the kind that led him to the cross.
The husband must be ready to lay down his life for his wife. He must do everything out of love for his wife and with her best interest in mind.
However, the husband is also to seek the holiness of the wife. He leads her in love to pursue her holiness. Here is the full text:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The man is the head of the woman, and that headship includes the spiritual dimensions. The man is to lead the woman spiritually to make her more holy.
The Christian husband has a two-fold duty: love the wife as Christ loved the church and make her holy.
Christian women should be marrying husbands that recognize and embrace this two-fold duty.
Do we also need an emphasis on the man’s duty? Definitely! But we should not treat both commands as mutually exclusive or be defensive when a Pastor is teaching on Ephesians 5:22.
Oyedepo’s statement on Ephesians 5:22 is correct. The fact that he did not mention the man’s duty in this particular post does not mean he denies it or ignores it. You don’t know the experience that led him to that specific post. (He might have just finished counseling a couple where the problem in the marriage is lack of submission from the wife’s part, for example)
A Pastor can make a post or preach a sermon on justification. I don’t have to call him out because he didn’t post on sanctification immediately. He might be making that post in response to a tendency to legalism that he observed somewhere. Instead, I can delight in justification and delight in sanctification whenever he posts or preaches on it.
Similarly, I can delight in Ephesians 5:22 when a Pastor makes a post about it and delight in Ephesians 5:25 when he does the same.
We can only show concern if Oyedepo or our hypothetical pastor says something in the singular post (submission of wives, justification) that denies the other reality (love of husbands, sanctification). If not, why attack them?
Such a defensive attitude is the wrong approach.
This is not the place to examine how this submission and love work out in the household (here is an excellent place to start). Instead, the purpose was to establish the fact of submission and love.
Ephesians 5:21 is not saying that wives and husbands should mutually submit to one another in the household. Instead, the verse is part of the section that started in verse 3. The verse calls believers in the church to submit to one another, an expression of the humility that must characterize us.
However, this spirit of submission extends to the Christian household in the submission of wives to their husbands, slaves to their masters, and children to their parents.
We should care less whether our culture is comfortable with this command or not. We must obey God and do his bidding, let the world and its systems be damned.
So while everyone focuses on the threats and all, please let’s remember that God indeed commands Christian wives to submit to their husbands in all things and Christian husbands to love their wives (and lead them to holiness) as Christ loved the church.