Game-Changer: Context

Have you ever heard the saying, “A text without a context is only a pretext?” It’s a pithy reminder that taking Bible verses out of their context can (usually does) result in teaching that’s weak, unsupported, or downright false.

Context is crucial; the game-changer.

Which got me thinking about a certain Scripture passage  that causes blood pressure to spike whenever it’s mentioned. You know, that part in Ephesians where it talks about wives, husbands, and submission. (Did your muscles just clench slightly as you read that?)

There’s a soundtrack accompanying anyone who dares to unpack this passage: “The Sharpening of the Long Knives.” Tread carefully – there’s a minefield of sacred cow droppings to navigate. Everyone can barely wait to dive in with their opinions on what “submit” really means ... in the original Greek.

Let’s pause for a second. Context, remember?

Ephesians 5:22–6:9 shows up as part of Paul’s explanation of what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.” That’s the context, but wait … there’s more: it's also a bona fide thesis statement.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).”

Read it again. Ponder for a moment. This pithy verse isn’t just a random placeholder between verses 20 and 22. Being “filled with the Spirit” includes mutual submission.

Ephesians 5:21 is the thesis statement for the rest of the passage.

Paul proceeds to illustrate mutual submission in the Ephesian church. “Okay, wives, this is what it looks like for you: show the guy a little respect. And husbands, you need to step it up until you love as intensely and sacrificially as Jesus.” It wasn’t about who gets the power in the relationship. Paul’s words to husbands and wives are subsets to his main thesis

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).”

Paul then turns his attention to the Ephesian Believers: TNG. “Okay, kids, listen to Uncle Paul … Here’s how you submit to your parents out of reverence for Christ.” Before the kids blow a gasket, Paul immediately turns to the fathers: “Okay, guys, here’s how not to do this." Again, Paul’s examples are given in support of the thesis statement. 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).”

Paul concludes his practical extrapolation with timely advice for slaves (indentured servants) and masters. (The nearest modern equivalent could be employers and employees.) How does “out of reverence for Christ” play out in their working relationships? 

This entire passage is a single unit of thought. It’s a mistake to separate the verses about husbands/wives from the verses addressing fathers/children, or workers/employers. They’re all part of the same discussion, stemming from Paul's original thesis statement re: life “filled with the Spirit.”

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).”

Context. What a game-changer.

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