Ephesians 5 | Revisiting the Wife’s Role as Help Meet

Ephesians 5 | Revisiting the Wife’s Role as Help Meet January 30, 2020

From the start, I’d like to point out a couple things that make Paul’s work unique.  The house rules that Paul, and even Peter, implement are different than the house rules in their contemporary culture.  In fact what probably happens is that people start to take notice of this growing community of Christians in Israel and in the Roman Empire, and their commitment to sanctification.

Christians are not noticed for their political agenda, military prowess, or lines of royalty.  Christians are noticed by the public for their unique Christian conduct.  It’s because of the fact that Christian homes have been transformed, that Paul and Peter develop brand new forms of the ancient Household Code.[1]

In the ancient world there would be nothing more noticeable than a male leader of the household who is treating his wive, children, and servants with respect and great care.


Revisiting the Wife’s Role
as Help Meet

Take a moment to review our Passage on marriage in this series if you have time.  The Scriptures in this article are from the English Standard Version (ESV).  To read Ephesians 5.22-33: CLICK HERE

Paul’s world was intensely patriarchal even at the expense of the woman’s rights.  Thus, what Paul introduced here was revolutionary.  Paul elevated woman and he elevated the marriage relationship to heavenly levels.[2]

We may look back and think women have come so far since then.  However, if we consider what Peter and Paul do, it’s nothing short of a revolution.  Would you like to know where women’s rights began?  Consider this one Scripture alone.

There really is nothing else like it in ancient literature up to that time.  Great male leaders of an estate would sometimes elevate their wives to a role like a lead servant, i.e. the manager of the estate.  However, that was not always the case.  There was often a lead servant as the manager.  Even so, Peter and Paul teach new ideals for the wife that simply eclipse any status the world has given them thus far.

i. Revisiting submission

In light of Peter and Paul’s revolution of women’s rights, how do we look at “submission”?  The term is used 2 times in Ephesians 5.22-24 in relation to a wife submitting to her husband.  I’ve taken a lot of time to explore the Biblical definition of the term submission.

To read my related articles:

Submission CLICK HERE

Submission in the House of God CLICK HERE

For our purposes in this article, the words submission or subject are really mistranslations.  The better word is subordination.  My Dad, Rev. Vernell Ingle expounds: “The term ‘submission’ means to subordinate oneself or to come under the authority and protection of.  It is the idea of a soldier who comes under the authority and protection of his officer.”[3]

So if we apply subordination in a military fashion, then we have a different word picture than submit.  After basic training, the role of the commander is to make sure that he utilizes each soldier to the best of that soldier’s abilities.  After basic training, the role of each soldier is to step up.

Each soldier may have unique skills and abilities to bring to the table.  In fact, career counselors have the American military to thank for developing many types of career tests, tools that help us determine what type of skillsets people have for job placement.

The husband has a God-given responsibility to draw out the best in his wife, and the wife has a God given responsibility to step up and into her calling.  By doing so, we fulfill our mission as a household within the greater household of faith.

ii. The help meet

Paul is referring to the Genesis account in Ephesians 5.31, a direct quote of Genesis 2.24.  I don’t believe it’s out of order to refer to another verse from Genesis 2.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2.18

Helper is also translated help meet (occurring in Genesis 2.18 and 20).  In the Hebrew Bible, the majority of the time this word is used, it refers to a military initiative.  It refers to God coming to the aid of His people, assisting them in battle, and delivering them from their enemies.  I don’t think Paul’s use of the military term subordination is too different than the role of the help meet.

Do wives know how powerful their prayers are for their husbands?  If help meet and subordination are military terms, then a wife has power to do battle in the Spirit for her husband and home.

Do wives know the importance of their skills and perspective?  Do they see the need for their voice of counsel for their husband’s vocation?  Some would argue that the wife is the greatest career counselor for her husband.

iii. Revisiting sanctification

Emerson Eggerichs has published and taught extensively on Christian marriage.  There is an issue he addresses in regard to a woman’s role in the Christian home.  He proposes that women sometimes consider themselves more righteous than their husbands.  Emerson writes:

What I see happening in some marriages is that the wife believes – or appears to believe – that she does not sin . . . women do not see themselves as sinning, even though they readily admit bad habits and wrong attitudes.  They write these off to chemical imbalance, hormonal problems, or dysfunction due to family of origin.[4]

Sometimes wives complain that their husbands are not taking their role seriously as the spiritual leader of the home.  Emerson points out that a wife can see all of the flaws that disqualify her husband (in her opinion), but none of her own.  Regardless of the wife’s criteria, the husband is qualified by Christ’s saving grace to serve in his role.

iv. The husband’s mysterious care for his wife

The husband’s role, in some mysterious way, includes his participation in the sanctifying work of our Lord.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word – Ephesians 5.25-26

In the Greek, “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” can be emphasized a little differently.  It could read “washed by water with the word.”  The husband has the spiritual rite to speak the word of God, the rhema word into his home and over his wife.  Rhema is an inspired word or utterance.[5]

For more on sanctification:

The Sanctity of Water & Word CLICK HERE

Although I have explained sanctification a little more in another article, there is a different focus here.

v. The husband and wife have to keep this door open

Maybe we should look at sanctification almost as if it’s a cycle, rather than an event.

If the wife fails to listen to her husband anymore, as Emerson suggests above, then the flow of grace can stop.

Likewise if the husband fails to participate with Christ in this mysterious work of sanctification, then this cycle of grace can be subverted.

Good words can encourage and build up lives.  In the same way the encouraging and loving words of a godly husband can clean the wife from hurt.  Good words from the husband can elevate his wife emotionally.  They can speak peace, strength, and affirmation to her spirit.[6]


featured image:

Daniel & Rhonda Davis | Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas | 02.24.19 | used with permission

Daniel and Rhonda have always exemplified the help meet principle of Scripture in their home, ministry, education, and vocation.  He has recently completed his Ph.D. at Regent University where she is currently pursuing her doctorate.  You can find them both serving together in leadership at The King’s University in the greater Dallas area.

To visit their page CLICK HERE

Rev. Jared V. Ingle
Pastor: Long Lake Friends Church
Supervised Therapist: Personal, Couple, and Family
Traverse City, MI

Meet Jared

Ephesians

These are related articles and sermons from this series on marriage and family from Ephesians 5-6.  Take a moment to read a related article, or tune into a message on your morning commute.

articles:

Submission CLICK HERE

Submission in the House of God CLICK HERE

The Sanctity of Water & the Word CLICK HERE

The Husband as Kephale CLICK HERE

Paul on the Role of Husband & Savior CLICK HERE

sermons:

Submission CLICK HERE

Sanctification CLICK HERE

Sexuality CLICK HERE

Husband, Head & Savior CLICK HERE

notes:

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green, and Marianne Meye Thompson, Introducing the New Testament: It’s Literature and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001), 380.

[2] Vernell Ingle, The Truth About The Family: Biblical Patterns And Principles (Joplin, MO: Messenger Publishing House, 2005), 58. [3] Ibid. [4] Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs (Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family / Thomas Nelson, 2004), 233. [5] Ingle, 72. [6] Ibid.

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