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Part Three Session Four


In the last lessons we learned that “head” in Greek has the meaning of either physical head or source. It does not mean authority over. We also learned that neither “subject” nor "submit" is not a proper translation for the Greek word hupotasso when it is in the middle or even passive voice.  It should be tanslated as give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to.

As we look further at the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:23-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, we will be using our new and more accurate understanding of “head” and “subject,” “submit,” “subjection” and “submission.”

In this lesson we will explore:

1. What Paul was expressing when he compared husbands to Christ.
2. Why wives needed to be told to respect their husbands
3. Peter’s instructions to wives of non-believers
4. Peter’s words to Christian husbands


Subject, Submit, Subjection and Submission - continued

We'll begin with Ephesians 5:23-24.


23. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24. Therefore, just as the church is subject to (supportive of) Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

In this passage Paul is using a head and body metaphor. A metaphor is a way of using language where you make a comparison to let people understand something as it relates to something else. It is sometimes called a parable. The play on words is easy to see in the Greek, but it cannot be brought out in English. The body (the church) supports, or holds up, the head (Christ). As mentioned previously, “head” in the Greek cannot mean “authority over” someone as it does in English. Rather, it means “physical head” or “source”. In the same way that the physical body supports the physical head so the wife supports/holds up her own husband, but bear in mind, the image is of a physical head and has nothing to do with authority. Wives are to lend support to their own husbands.

Paul continues,


25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church."

Paul is talking to Christian husbands hoping they can see that Christ has given them an example of the Church as one who is helpless to do for herself without Him. (Remember, we are the church, not a building, but we, the people, both men and women.) The Lord has shown husbands that He provides for the needs of the church so that she (the Church) may be what He desires and what God has called her to be. Husbands in the culture of

First Century Ephesus knew the wife was not able to do much for herself. He must be the one to make it possible for his wife to become the woman that God created her to be.


Paul, therefore, calls men to love their wives like they love themselves. As you would like life to be for you, do it for her also. Nourish and cherish her;

30 "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

We, the Church, are members of His body and one with Christ. Husband and wife are also called to be united and become one with each other. A husband’s commitment is to his wife, not his parents. In the beginning God took the woman out of the side of the man. God has now birthed the Church from the Cross of Christ—from His side came water (washing, cleansing) and blood (the life is in the blood _ Lev. 17:11). Water and blood are both present at birth.

As taking the woman from the side of the man foreshadows Christ and His Church, marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ as His bride. Before sin they were “naked and unashamed” with each other. Because Christ has atoned for the sin which brought forth their separation, marriage can again move toward the oneness that represents the Body of Christ joined to its Head--“one flesh” the great mystery of a corporate bride made one with her Lord and Husband. Paul is calling for husbands to put earthly ties to parents beneath the tie to his wife. The picture that marriage is to present can’t come forth when we are ruled by earthly traditions and culture, but we can come into the Kingdom, and live as God designed us to live—partners who complement each other.

Why would Paul say that a wife should respect her husband? It seems to us today that a wife would love being treated in the manner described. However, because it went against the culture of the day, such actions could be misinterpreted as weakness causing the wife to lose respect for the man to whom she was married.

Peter also addresses marriage in 1 Peter 3:1-7. He starts with advice to wives with unbelieving husbands. I am using the New International Version here because it is easier to understand than the New King James, but it too needs our correction.

1. Wives, in the same way be  supportive of 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, 2  when they see the purity and reverence of your livesI

Do we trust Him for husbands we love and have prayed for, or do we think we need to be sure that it gets done beyond the witness of our lives? I don’t mean He doesn’t tell us to say something occasionally but we need to wait for the door that He opens.

3. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

Peter is saying it’s ok to “look nice” but don’t overdo it. Don’t place undo importance on clothes and jewelry and the fashion of the day. What’s really important is your inner beauty. Some of your translation say a “meek…spirit” but the word "gentle" makes the meaning clearer. Have that gentle and quiet spirit that is at rest, trusting God.

They were supportive of (not submissive to) their own husbands, 6. like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

The two underlined words are misleading and incorrect translation so the last phrase needs clarification. Obeyed is the Greek word hupakouo which even Strong’s Concordance says means “hearken or listen to.” The word kurios” translated "master" is more difficult. When used of deity it means Lord or Master as it does when speaking of the relationship between slave and owner. However, it is also a word of respect between people. When used by a wife to her husband it should be translated “sir.”  We have no master but Jesus.

The word translated “fear” is the Greek word ptoesis. Notice that we are to do what is right and not fear. It would be easier to understand if we said something like, do what is right and don’t be intimidated.

Properly translated the passage reads, “...they were supportive of their own husbands, like Sarah, who listened to Abraham and called him sir. You are her daughters if you do what is right and are not intimidated."

Now Peter turns to husbands saying,


“7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

The three underlined words in this passage need clarification. Likewise is homoiōs which means “equally or in the same way.” Weaker vessel is asthenes skeuos in Greek. Asthenes means weaker and skeuos has to do with making a living. When these two words are used together they mean being in a disadvantaged position when it comes to being able to make a living—support oneself financially. It does not mean weaker spiritually nor in this case, physically. The word translated as “hindered” is ekkoptō which means to “cut off.” A better understanding here would be “blocked,” that your prayers may not be blocked! This is strong admonition as to how husbands are to treat their wives. It is also important to note that when the husband sees and treats his wife as an equal spiritual partner, their united prayers are more effective because they are praying as one.


An amplified or clarified translation of 1 Peter 3:7 would be,

“Husbands, likewise,(just like your wives) dwell with them with understanding giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, (live with your wife giving her honor realizing that she is less able to make a living) and as being heirs together (joint heirs) of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (blocked- cut off)”


This information is freeing good news. Glory! Scripture does not contradict but confirms and clarifies God’s way for His people to relate to each other.

Questions and discusssion points

1. Explain the meaning of “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.

2. What is “the Church?”

3. What is Peter’s advice to wives with unbelieving husbands?

4. Has a clarification of Peter’s words to either wives or husbands made a difference to you? If so, explain.

Click here to discuss 


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