It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.
IS THIS REALLY A FURORE ABOUT EPHESIANS?
To say that the Tasmanian Archbishop, Julian Porteous DD, has been in the cross-hairs of those who object to the moral teaching of Christianity might be the biggest understatement you will hear today. He has faced opposition at every turn – from the media, the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, from unwitting Catholic school-girls (who drew the rainbow flag in chalk on the pavement outside their school as a demonstration against the Archbishop), and from those who salute the rainbow flag. He has faithfully defended what the Bible teaches about: the value of human life; human sexuality and gender; the sacredness of marriage between a husband and wife; and the liberty that everyone has to live out their religious convictions in the public square.
It is my suspicion that the particular text from Ephesians has been used many times previously in many other Catholic School assemblies and even graduations. So why now did it become so objectionable? It might also be my suspicion that this is yet another possible attempt to oppose Archbishop Porteous. To his credit, the Archbishop was quick to diffuse this furore by replacing this particular Scripture reading.
SOME INTERESTING AND LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT EPHESIANS
It is apparently a little known fact, at least here in Tasmania, that Ephesians was not a Roman philosopher. It is a similarly little known fact (again in Tasmania) that Ephesians was actually an epistle (a letter) written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians living in the Turkish city of Ephesus.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
¶ To the saints [Christians] who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus
Ephesians Chapter 1, Verse 1.
Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is one of the twenty-seven divinely inspired documents of what is called, The New Testament. When scholars begin to examine a New Testament Epistle they begin by asking, What was the occasion, the reason, for the epistle to have been written. In asking this question of Ephesians scholars point out that a believer’s relationship with Jesus the Christ effected every relationship they had with others.
In Ephesians chapter 1, The Christ has made a relationship with God the Father possible (eg. Eph. 1:3-4).
In Ephesians chapter 2, The Christ has made a relationship with people who are ethnically and culturally different possible (eg. Eph. 2:12-13).
In Ephesians chapter 3, The Christ has made relationships within a church comprised of other previously unfamiliar Christians possible (eg. Eph. 3:6).
In Ephesians chapter 4, The Christ has made a relationship with those God has placed as leaders within the church possible (eg. Eph. 4:2-4, 12).
In Ephesians chapter 5, The Christ has made a loving and lasting relationship between a husband wife possible (Eph. 5:28).
In Ephesians chapter 6, The Christ enriches the relationship of a parent with child/ren (eg. Eph. 6:1-4).
Hopefully you can see from this quick survey of The Epistle to the Ephesians that it is built around our various relationship and how people can get along and serve others. And just to quell the furore over the one verse in Chapter 5, I would like to conclude by taking a look at its context and then explain why it would have been not just appropriate for the St. Mary’s Girls College for it to have been read during their October 25th graduation celebration, but actually quite profoundly helpful for every young girl to know.
HOW EPHESIANS CHAPTER 5 REVEALS THE SECRET TO A HAPPY AND FULFILLED MARRIAGE
To the credit of the ABC Tasmania journalist, Loretta Lohberger, she actually cited not just the contentious verse at the centre of the furore, but quite a bit of its context. Having already drawn attention to the overall context of this Epistle as dealing with how we relate with others, it important to note that before the Apostle Paul (under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit) tells wives to respect and submit to the husbands, he states this in the verse before it–
¶ And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Paul then explains how his overall point (that a relationship with Jesus the Christ enhances all of our other relationships) applies to a marriage relationship. He states that marriage is actually given by God as a picture of the closeness that God the Son (Jesus) wants with all His followers (the Church, comprised of all believers). A Christian’s relationship with Jesus is likened to the relationship between a husband and a wife. This is a relationship of mutual surrender (submission).
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Jesus demonstrated the ultimate surrender by willingly dying the death that we all deserve. At the heart of what it means to love is the word surrender and serve the other. There is simply no greater example of this in all of human history than what Christ did on the cross of His crucifixion nearly 2,000 years ago! Thus, when the next verse instructs wives –
¶ Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
In its context it is saying, wives love your own husbands just as Christ has taught you what love really is. It goes on to speak to husbands with the even greater challenge –
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:25, 28
Husbands are instructed to love their wives by their complete surrender to them! This is the kind of love that protects, treasures, listens to, seeks to understand, selflessly serves, and prioritises his wife’s highest good and best interests. What woman would not want a husband like that? The injunction to wives to submit to their husbands presupposes that their husband has already demonstrated his submission and love for her. And when it comes to a young lady preparing to embark on what she should rightfully expect to be a lifelong journey of marital happiness, she should never commit her life to any man who has not already demonstrated his preparedness to love her like Christ has, and continues to, love His bride: the Church.
So let’s sum what we’ve learned. Ephesians was not an ancient Roman philosopher. Ephesians is the name of an Epistle in the New Testament of the Bible. Most wars were not the fault of the Bible passages such as Ephesians 5:22. The verse at the centre of the St. Mary’s College furore is far from demeaning to women — it is in fact the basis for a happy, fulfilling, lifelong marriage with a husband who commits to love his wife as Christ loves all those who are part of His Church, His bride.
And, if you are someone who would like to become familiar with and understand the Bible, I invite you to join me in a short daily YouTube video where I read through a portion of the Bible and give some background to it [VIEW].
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
5 Things We Need To Do To Break Our Church’s 200 Barrier, Premium Audio$0.95
Apologetics Part 1 – Introduction To Apologetics, Premium Audio$0.95
Apologetics Part 2 – The Apologetic Arguments For God, Premium Audio$0.95
Apologetics Part 3 – The Apologetic Arguments For The Bible, Premium Audio$0.95