[The following article is an edited transcription of our audio teaching, Healthy Submission taught live at our Family Camp by Gary & Karen Theisen.]
What we are going to look at today is Jesus Christ and healthy submission.
We are going to talk about what healthy submission looks like and what healthy submission does not look like. We are going to use marriage as an example of a relationship in which submission is present.
How many of you are not married?
How many of you hope to be married someday?
Even if you just have married friends or if you just have a relationship with Jesus Christ, this is a topic that applies to all of us. We are using marriage as an example to show how relationships work, so we will be referring to marriage often. This can also be extrapolated to any kind of relationship, and we will make mention of that as we go along.
How many of you know that within the Bible another gifting occurs besides marriage? That gifting is to remain single and serve within the church. This is a very highly esteemed gift that has been degraded within the last couple of decades. We want to take a look at this because this weekend is all about living life in balance and we want you to understand that within the Body of Christ there is incredible balance.
For those of you whose gifting is to remain single so that you can serve the Lord in any capacity, I want to start our sharing by saying that we totally esteem you and honor you. For those young people in the audience, who do not have it on their hearts to get married, I want to affirm in you that that is a good and healthy desire for you to have. I do not want you to buy into the worlds lie that you have to have a partner in order to fit into the world. That is not at all the truth. Jesus Christ went through his entire life without a marriage partner.
Jesus Christ chose the marriage relationship as the example of how he works with the Church and how the Body of Christ is supposed to work together. That will be the focus of this teaching.
We will look at Ephesians chapter five. This is “ground zero” for submission in a lot of respects in the Church Epistles. Ephesians 5:21 is really the beginning of any relationship. This comes at a very key point in Ephesians because it is the verse immediately before where Paul launches into verses on marriage, upon which we will touch.
Here is a significant verse that caught my attention this morning:
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
It is important within families that the family is a safe community where we can confess our struggles, our sins. No perfect family exists. I lived for awhile with the myth that if I could just be the perfect parent, then I could produce the perfect children. Who else in here has had that drummed into your head? Look at all the women’s hands go up! That is the perfectionism thing amongst us women. I wonder if our culture has anything to do with it? Think about it. Who was the perfect father, and who is the perfect father? God is! Did He have perfect children? Does that not just take a load off of your shoulders? What we can learn is how God chose to stay in relationship with His children and support them. Again, I wanted to bring your attention to where it says:
Ephesians 5:13 and 14
(13) but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
(14) for it is light that makes everything visible.
In a healthy family it is important to have that environment where we can confess to one another that we are not perfect. We have good days, and we have some not so good days. It is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Wake up oh sleeper. Rise from the dead” (Eph. 5:14). We certainly do not want a community of believers where people walk in and it is kind of like what I have termed in my area the “Christian country club.” Everyone puts on their nice clothes on Sunday and walks in, “How are you?” The person’s heart could be breaking, they might be on the brink of divorce, or their children might be off in never, never, land, but they slap on the happy face and say, “Fine, bless you.” That is not the kind of community that we are trying to establish here in Spirit & Truth Fellowship International because that is not a biblical community. We would much rather have a community where people could say, “I am really struggling, and I could really use your prayers.” What then would be the result? It says, “Wake up oh sleeper. Rise from the dead,” which takes some effort, does it not? It takes effort to move out of the comfort of pretending and into being authentic, but look at the results, “and Christ will shine on you.” As a body, the Lord can shine not only on us but also within us.
Let us back up even more in Ephesians.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received [referring to chapters one, two, and three].
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Verse one says to live a life. Well, where is life lived? Life is lived among others. To be completely humble and gentle, to be patient, bearing with one another in love—this is the start of submission. This is the mindset. This is where the heart needs to be in order to get to the place where you are ready to deal with others.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
The word bond is a very anatomical word. It is a word that is used when they talk about how cells are joined together. In certain junctions between cells, they still use the root of that word bond.
(4) There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—
(5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
(6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Life is not lived in a vacuum. Life is lived in a place where you run into others, so we need to prepare our hearts to be among others.
Ephesians 4:15 and 16
(15) Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
(16) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Does its what? Work! I used to think that Christianity was this easy, smooth ride. How many of you have cell phones? How many of you have digital cameras? How many of you have pagers? It is batteries that make them all work. What happens if you do not recharge the batteries? You are out of the communication. Life is the same way. We need to continually charge our batteries.
Let us look at the word submission (Eph. 5:21). It is made up of two parts. Hupotasso is the word. Hupo means “under” or “by” or “by means of” or “with.” Tasso means “to arrange under.” It connotes a placement of someone else’s desires above your own. To be in subjection is to have someone else’s mind and heart before yours and to want to live to bless someone else instead of blessing ourselves.
Again we want to point out, particularly for you young folks that are not married, that in verse 21 before the Lord gets into anything about marriage that the context is about the Church submitting to one another. Submission is not something that takes place just between a husband and a wife. Submission is also within the Body of Christ, between apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and those who have gift ministries of helps in governments. All kinds of submitting is going on. Submitting takes place between a parent and a child. Please don’t think that submission is just about the husband and wife relationship.
This is Max the mannequin [a plastic full size human body]. For those of you not familiar with Max, he can be a little scary looking to begin with. I assure you that he is just plastic. Max is the textbook illustration of submission because Max is a picture of the human body. It is very compacted. In fact that is a word that God uses in describing the Body of Christ — compact. There is no one that does not provide a vital function. It is just in our minds what we think there are more vital functions, but really it is designed to be totally integrated.
What is the most important organ? You cannot really say because they are all necessary. The liver cannot do what the large intestines do. It cannot do what the lungs do or what the heart does. Also, there is order in the body. Why is order necessary? Is it for hierarchy? No. Order is there to provide service for the rest of the body.
That is submission. Submission is not there to make a hierarchy among the Body of Christ; you are better than them or they are better than you. It is there to provide an order from which to serve.
Think about your human body and how amazing it is. You never have to oil your fingers. It pretty much is maintenance free in a lot of respects and yet this is how it was designed: to have an order but the order is a way to serve each other.
This is such a beautiful example of submission and healthy interdependence. I think that within the American culture an emphasis has been occurring over the last two decades of us asserting independence. I know that is especially true of women. When I was in college, it was pretty much a brainwashing experience from the perspective that the main message that I internalized from my professors was that as a woman I could be independent.
How many of you heard that the goal of raising children is to have healthy independent children. You know what? Biblically, that is incorrect. From a biblical perspective, we are raising healthy interdependent children. We have interdependent relationships in our marriages and within the Church. You need to be very astute and recognize the lies of the Enemy.
When Gary was talking about how sometimes certain functions within the Body of Christ are wrongly esteemed more highly than another, I thought about Philippians 2:8 where it says that Jesus Christ humbled himself. He humbled himself and took on the role of a servant. Who do we know biblically who did not humble himself and who wanted to be on equal par with God in all areas? His name is Lucifer.
Lucifer’s goal is to divide and conquer. One way that he accomplishes that is to get believers to internalize this message that some how we do not need each other, that some of us could be more important than others of us.
In talking about submission in marriage, it was very harmful for me as a teenager and young woman to internalize the message that it was healthy for me to be independent of my husband. I had to unlearn that lie and renew my mind to the truth of the Word. I share that particularly for you young women. I do not think that things have changed out there today. As a matter of fact, I think that in some ways they have gotten worse in terms of the messages that we are sending to young women. I have talked to women who think that it would be beneath them to get married. How sad that is. For some young women, they will be called to be single their whole life. Bless God, I am so thankful to those women who are missionaries and who choose to enter professional careers and who really show up and make a difference, you men too. This does not mean that one is better than the other.
It does not mean that the married people are better than the others, yet we do know that God chose to set us in a family. The first human relationship that God ordained was Adam and Eve in a marriage relationship. Think about it. What was the first miracle that Jesus did and where did it occur? He was at a wedding. I love that his first miracle would be at a wedding. It is so affirming to our need for each other that we are in community. What happens in a marriage ceremony? You have a man and a woman committing themselves and declaring themselves before God Almighty and their faith community (their friends and their family). You have the entire community coming out to support them. For those of us who have been married for awhile, it is just kind of fun because we know that they will get some support.
Our heavenly Father affirms the need for couples to come together. He has chosen the basic family unit of marriage and family as a unit that He wants to esteem. That is how He modeled the whole thing with Adam and Eve. That is why I think it is very significant that the Lord Jesus Christ’s first miracle would occur at a wedding.
It is very significant that the Lord would affirm his love for his people and the value of family and community coming together to celebrate as a family.
That brings up one other point that I wanted to make about the human body. It is not a static system. It is very dynamic; it goes through changes. The heart demands more blood flow than other organs because of the work it provides the entire body. How many of you like to eat? After you eat a big meal, how do you feel? You feel tired. The brain also demands a lot of blood flow, but when you eat a big meal where does the blood flow need to go? It goes to the stomach. The brain has to shift and the heart has to shift a little bit also. That is why you feel tired because the blood flow is redirected more to your abdomen than it is to your brain. This allows for the shift that you need to digest the food that the body needs to keep on going.
The Body of Christ is like that too. You might be in relationship with someone and that relationship is going to be dynamic. Sometimes they are going to have more needs than you will have. You will have to be more giving to them in ways that you have not been before. Believe me, it will come back the other way around. You will have more needs than they will have, and they will have to step up to the plate for you.
The human body is like that. That is why you are not supposed to eat and then go swimming. This is because when you eat, the blood flows to the abdomen, but when you swim, you need it in your arms and legs, and it does not always work out that way if you have just eaten. Those things that your Mom used to tell you really have a basis in fact.
It is true in the Body of Christ as well. That is why we have Jesus Christ directing because he sees what is going on. He has a much bigger scope than the little cell in the body wall over here or the little cell in the pancreas down there. The demands may come, but we can go to the Lord to see what the bigger picture is and have the strength (the recharge) to do what needs to be done. As well as the wisdom and power to be who we need to be for the rest of the Body of Christ.
We saw that hupotasso is the word submission. It is a good word; it is a healthy word. Once again, I think that for many women in particular they hear that word and they think, “Uuuugh,” because the Enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
I say this over and over again in my family, the whole purpose of the written Word is so that we can get to know the living Word – Jesus. It is no coincidence that he is called The Living Word. Those words are significant and important.
It says in verse 22 of Ephesians 5, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” I would like you to stop and to consider that just for a minute. “Submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” What was the submission like for you personally when you submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ for the first time? When you got born again, was that a tough decision? Had you had enough of life or the supposed delights of life? After all, the Enemy is very subtle, and he will try to take sin and dress it up as pleasure and hide a hook (the addictive parts of sin) in it. Often times, particularly if you came to the Lord as an adult, you have been through some pretty rough-demoralizing and hurtful things before you submitted to the Lord. The submission was like, “I get it; I cannot do this by myself. I have a need that I cannot get met. I am submitting myself to the Lord Jesus Christ for what he did for my life.” You do this with the hope that a better life is out there.
Submission is thus a good and healthy thing. How many of you were raised in Christian homes where you always knew that Jesus Christ was Lord? I would like for you to consider this:
“Have you made Jesus lord in all areas of your life?”
“Have you invited him into every single area of your life?”
Again, remember that submission is a good and healthy thing. It is not supposed to be this word that we dread, yet as a young woman, I know that I hated it. I used to not even like to read this section of Scripture as a new Christian. I had so many misconceptions in my head about what that would look like for me that I thought I would just ignore that.
It says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” With my Lord Jesus Christ, I saw a better potentiality. I saw that he met a need that I could not get met on my own. I need to honor my husband in that same way. I need to trust that my husband has my best interest in mind.
for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
You will notice that when we showed you Max (the plastic human body) that you did not see the head over here and the body detached over here. It is one unit. I like to think of it as the feedback circuit because part of my struggle as a young woman was that I had a lot of militaristic terms about “headship.” I thought of head as being the head of the army, and the General barking out orders, and that I would have no feedback, and that my husband would just bark out an order. My job would then be to say, “Okay, honey.”
Can anyone else relate to that? I have also counseled with women who have sadly endured abuse and beatings and various ungodly things all in the name of submission, all in the name of thinking that they were obeying the Word of God. Well, that is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. In Matthew 4, when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, what is one of the temptations that he gives? “Oh throw yourself down off this high pinnacle because Scripture says that God will send angels after you and you will not stub your little toe.” The Enemy knows Scripture, but he likes to twist it and to take it out of context so that God’s people will do foolish things that will cause us harm.
I am going to assert that for many women this section of Scripture has been a stumbling block! I will also assert that same thing for many men who have not really studied the Word. You cannot have a healthy relationship where one person is barking out orders and not considering the needs or feedback of the other person.
When we had Max out in front of you earlier, we saw that the head and the body were attached. If I was to put my toe on a burning coal, who is going to know first, is the head or is it going to be the nerves and neurons in the foot? The foot will know first. It will use that electrical system to relay messages up the spinal cord and into the brain. The brain is going to say, “Oh, danger-danger, move the foot.” It all comes down, and then you move your foot. God has designed the human body to be so beautiful that it all happens in a flash. A feedback circuit is involved. Just like in a good, healthy marriage. Just like in a good and healthy church setting. Feedback is there. You will not find just one person at the top barking out orders.
One of the things that we need to do, as responsible members of this faith community, is to be open not to just positive feedback but to be open to the negative feedback. I think that in this community we have made great leaps and bounds in that area. I know that I was one in the beginning that would give some of that negative feedback! Yet, I was wooed by the Board of Directors willingness to listen and to knowing that things could change. They would not do it themselves. They would say, “Karen, you get involved. Why don’t you do some things with children’s fellowship?” That is how I got involved with this faith community. It was an invitation to use my gifts and talents in our faith community.
Is that not exactly how our body is set up to operate? The brain does not know everything right off the bat. God has given us eyes and ears and the five senses. That feedback is communicated to the brain. It is a one-unit system. It is very beautiful!
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Does Jesus ever ask us to submit to anything that is going to be to our ultimate harm? No, he does not. This then defines for husbands their boundaries in this whole submission thing.
(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
(26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
(27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
(28) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—
(30) for we are members of his body.
The weaving here of these pictures is pretty dramatic. I have often said, “If husbands treated their wives the way that Christ treats us, it would be a different world in which we lived.” A lot more joy would exist among women if a lot more joy were in the hearts of men about what their Savior did for them. The world has taken these verses and turned them into a hierarchy. Remember that I said order does exist in the Body of Christ. Order can also be found here in these verses. Not an order to rule but an order to serve.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
This verse is taken from Genesis. If you have a King James Version, that word is cleave. If you were to look in a concordance, the word cleave can also be translated “to be glued.” I love that translation—to be glued to his wife, but the order of the Word of God would be that you are continually looking at a person’s character. If you look at healthy relationships in the Bible like Boaz and Ruth, they got to know each other’s reputation by observing how members of the community were with them. You look at the character. It is not so much what a person looks like. Again, the world exerts its influence on our children so that they can become very conditioned to thinking that a person has to look a certain way in order for them to consider them. Sexual intimacy is the glue that would hold that marriage together. It is supposed to be exclusive to marriage.
Our Enemy waters things down, so that today people think that it is their right to be sexually intimate to whomever.
Ladies, I want to warn you that your chemistry is a little bit different than a man’s chemistry. God has designed women with a hormone called oxytocin. We only release them at very specific times. They are released during lovemaking and when a woman begins labor for childbirth, which is the fruit of that love, this baby. She goes into labor and the oxytocins begin to kick in, then they are released every time that she nurses that infant. Medically the nickname for oxytocins is the “bonding” hormone. God has designed a woman for success. She is designed internally from a physiological point of view to be “bonded” to her husband in a way that would be very unique and different.
If a woman gives herself to a man and she is not in a marriage relationship with him, can she turn those hormones off? No, she cannot. Her body is designed to bond to the man. As a high school teacher, I used to really wonder why it was that the young men could seem to move on to new relationships so quickly, and these poor young women were devastated after they had been sexually intimate until I realized that it was partly just our physiological design.
Ephesians 5:31 and 32
(31) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
(32) This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Paul by revelation is showing how the marriage relationship is to work when it is healthy and beautiful and biblical. It is an example of how Christ is with his Church. Jesus is absolutely the perfect gentleman. He stands at the door and knocks. He does not barge his way into you. Think about how he woos the Church, how he woos each and every individual believer. He is a pursuer, and he is a wooer, but can he control the outcome of those he pursues? No, because his heavenly Father has designed each and every human being to have the freedom to either choose to be in relationship with Jesus Christ or to reject him. You can see biblically that our heavenly Father gave that right not only to mankind but obviously to the angels because we know that Lucifer rebelled as did a third of all the angels.
God’s love is a pure love. It is a love that is about wooing and an accepting of that love. He does not force anything upon us. If you think about the marital relationship, a husband’s love is not a love where it is a forced love. It is a love that involves some wooing and some pursuing. As that wife is submitting herself to the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be very easy for her then to submit herself to her husband.
Men, if you want a role model about how to woo and to pursue, how to be the man, study carefully the life of Jesus Christ, study carefully his walk. No dating book is out there that has more in it for success than the Word of God.
Philippians 2:5 and 6
(5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
(6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
Of course, we understand that Jesus was representing God and that he knew he was the Son of God, the firstborn.
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
He came as a servant.
(8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
(9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
(10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the Old Testament, they saw two Christ’s. They saw a suffering servant, and they saw the King of Kings. They could not reconcile that in their minds because they did not know if it was two different people. They just had no idea what was going on there. We have seen that in coming as the suffering servant that he conquered death; and therefore, he was given a name above all names and was given the honor and right to be king.
In a marriage relationship, if men came to their wives with a heart of service and really understanding what her needs are and meeting them as only you can do with a connection to God, how much more would that woman be willing to make him the king of her heart?
I find it fascinating that the first public sin that infiltrated the church in the book of Acts occurred within the context of a marriage relationship. As I thought about it, I thought about Adam and Eve. It was within a marriage relationship and breakdowns that sin entered into the world.
Think for a minute about what submission is not before we really enter into this next record.
An example of a type of human being that has no concern for submission whatsoever is dictators like Saddam Hussein. Another type of human being who has no concern for submission is a baby. Why is that? It is because they are self-centered. They have one desire, and what is that? Feed me, change me, burp me, hold me, love me. Why don’t you love me as much as I love me? They only have one way to communicate their needs and that is usually crying. If adults have this kind of attitude where does it lead? They are self-centered.
What is another way to say self-centered? Selfish. Oh, I love that word because it is all about me. If you are selfish, where are you looking? You are looking at yourself. Are you going to be spiritually minded? I don’t think so. You will be looking inside. How much real direction are you going to be having in your life? You are not going to get new direction if you are just continually looking inside yourself; so pretty much you are limited. That is the description in the Old Testament of the cistern. It is not just a cistern, but it is a cracked cistern, where you go to get some water, and it had all run out (Jer. 2:13).
How many of you know the singer David Wilcox? He did that great song called Love Will Show the Way. The song after that is about marriage. It describes the man and the woman, the man is singing about the woman, as both of them having a broken cup. The man is trying to bless the woman by pouring in all of his love. He pours and pours and pours his love, but says, “You know, I think that you have a broken cup because all the love that I give just runs right out.” He is trying to bless her continually, and it does not stick. In the next verse, she is trying to bless him, and guess what? It just runs right out. The conclusion is that you have to go to the waterfall. You have to go to Jesus Christ because that is the only way that you are going to have an unlimited source. The love will be there to allow you to see that it takes more than you to have a cistern that does not leak. On your own, you cannot do it, and a marriage will only be supported by the Savior. It is a great story because you have to go from this to real adulthood, which is living for the other.
Let’s take a look at Ananias and Sapphira.
Now a man named Ananias…
Ananias means “Yahweh is gracious.” Is this not an interesting name? This is not the only Ananias in the book of Acts. There is Ananias and Saul where Saul loses his vision. Ananias (Yahweh is gracious) comes to him after hearing from God and ministers to him, and he can see again.
We thought that this was interesting to point out because this may indicate that this man came from a lineage of Hebrew believers. They knew the one true God. I suppose that it is a possibility that maybe it is some Greek guy, and they live next door to some Jewish folks and decided that they just liked that name Ananias. I suppose that is a possibility, but probably, and in all likelihood, this was a man who was raised in a Hebrew culture and knew about the one true God.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira…
Sapphira means “beautiful.”
Acts 5:1 and 2
(1) Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
(2) With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
I love that word “full knowledge.” A conspiracy is present here. The word “syn” like synthesis (coming together) is showing a conspiracy going on that is pretty amazing.
With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Do you think that this is the first time that he did this? Do you think that this is out of character for the way that he was? Look at the phrase, “brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.” What do you see in that? He’s thinking, “I’m looking good.” He’s showing that fake humility in that it was very public, very showy.
Does the Word have anything in it that says that this married couple has to give any of it away? The tithing laws were there, and they were probably very aware of that. It was considered a good thing to give some money. Was there anything that said that they absolutely had to give it all away? If they were not of a Levitical lineage, they certainly had the right to keep it. It was their property. It is interesting because it was really theirs to do with as they wanted to. What was interesting here is that they conspired together; they were bringing it to the apostles’ feet. As we read on, we will see that they will show a posturing of themselves publicly with this money.
I love this because Peter is not fooled.
Acts: 5:3 and 4
(3) Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
(4) Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Do you think that this was the first time that Ananias had done something like this? I do not think so. I bet it was a pattern. It was a process that Satan filled his heart. I think this was certainly something that was brewing in this guy’s life for awhile. I think this was the thing that he was used to doing.
Acts chapter 2 is another perfect example of submission where the Church is just getting started. Everyone came and had all their goods in common. They went from house to house breaking bread and hanging out with the apostles and their doctrine. It was a wonderful time of praising God and having favor with all the people. It was a great picture of submission. It continues to grow in chapters 3 and 4, so you have this new “thing” on the block. It is taking off like wild fire. I can almost picture Ananias and his wife saying something like, “Hmmm, I bet we could get in on the ground floor of this thing. I bet we could come in there. After all, these guys are fishermen. These apostles are from Galilee. They are not very smart and here we are big city dwellers. We could pull the wool over these guys’ eyes, and we could have them eating out of our hands.”
Peter says, “You have not lied to men but to God.” What do you think the possibilities are for them? One possibility could have been repentance! He could have gotten meek and said, “Wow, you are right. I get it.” He could have repented right there and changed the outcome. The other possibility was hard heartedness. We are going to see the result of the hard heartedness right here.
(5) When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
(6) Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
(7) About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Worldly wisdom does not get you too far. You see here a man and woman who conspired in their hearts in a self-centered way of looking inward of how to pull a fast one.
This is interesting because whether you are single or you are married, ultimately before the Lord we are alone. We do not get to stand before the Lord and say, “Oh gosh, I would have gone to church but my husband did not really like me to leave. He wanted me to stay at home and cook breakfast.” No, when we stand before the Judgment Seat of the Lord, we will be by ourselves. All these excuses that we sometimes feed ourselves are not going to hold up. This is such an example of this here in this verse.
Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
What I think is significant here is that this is not something that commonly would have been a big deal. Who cares what they got for the land. It was their land to begin with, but much posturing had to have been there. “Look how much I got and we are laying it all down at the apostles’ feet.” What does the Word say when we give our gifts to the Lord; how are we supposed to be doing it? We are to do it anonymously without a great show. “Do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” You are not supposed to be positioning your gifting or material wealth or anything else as a means of showing it before the Lord or his people.
Acts 5:8 and 9
(8) “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
(9) Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?
Proverbs has a very powerful verse that is one of my favorites.
Proverbs 27:6 (KJV)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend…
We are in the Body of Christ together. A feedback circuit is there. As a wife, it is my responsibility that if I see my husband going off in a direction that is not going to be biblical and godly that I have to speak up, even if it wounds him and hurts him in the moment. He is obligated to do the same for me. As a woman, I cannot just simply sit there and say, “Well, he is the head and I do not know.” That is not going to stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This outcome might have been different if Sapphira would have said, “Look Ananias, we are off track here. I am not going to go along with this crazy plan. I am not going to have anything to do with it. No, I am not supporting you in this decision.” He might have still been alive —wounds from a friend can be trusted. That tells us that when you are in close relationship with someone there may be times when they tell you things that you may not want to hear about yourself. That is being a true friend.
Proverbs 27:6 (KJV)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
As a faith community, how are we going to grow deep in the Lord if we ignore the junk in one another’s lives? I see this going on sometimes in faith communities where someone will observe something and rather than say, “Gee, I am the one that observed it. Maybe I am supposed to be the one to be involved. A connection could be there between the Lord allowing me to see this and me being involved.” No, the pattern seems to be that the person runs to the pastor. “Oh pastor, did you know that this is going on in so and so’s life.” It is this hook thing where this poor person with the pastoral ministry is exalted and is supposedly responsible for everything that goes on in the church. How sick is that? It is putting him/her on the pedestal in which there is no way that he/she could ever really act out. It really is about giving ourselves permission not to be who the Lord has called us to be in the moment.
Where was the failure in submission in the story of Ananias and Sapphira?
No submission was there to Christ.
No submission was there to each other.
No honesty was in their relationship. It was a relationship that was based in self-centeredness. It broke down in every level.
Let us look at an example of healthy submission.
Acts 18:1, 2, and 4
(1) After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
(2) There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them,
(4) Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Aquila means “eagle.” Priscilla is a little trickier name. It is probably not the kind of name you would want if you were a woman. It means “ancient.” That is not really the flavor of the name. The flavor is more like “prior events” or we might think today as “history.” This is a wonderful husband and wife. Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla are all traveling together.
(18) Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.
(19) They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
(20) When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined.
(21) But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
(22) When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
(23) After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
(24) Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.
(25) He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.
(26) He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
(27) When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.
(28) For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
This is a great record of this couple that traveled with Paul, encouraging him and helping this man named Apollos. It is interesting that twice Priscilla is mentioned before Aquila. That is probably a great testimony to their marriage. In that culture, men usually came before women when they were mentioning things like this. Also, I think that it is a great tribute to their marriage that they would have the humility to approach this wonderful older man who was very strong in the Scriptures and say, “Hey, let’s talk.”
I love the fact that they choose to do that in a very private way. They invited him to their home for dinner and allowed the Lord to open up the doors. Obviously, Apollos was a very influential man who was reaching many people. Healthy submission can be seen here where when Apollos learned that the baptism of the holy spirit was now superceding the baptism of John (which was a water baptism). Apollos was very meek. As you continue to read, you can see that he gets it. Again, this is a beautiful example of healthy submission within the Church setting and a healthy submission within a husband-wife relationship. Some Bible commentators believe that possibly Priscilla had the greater teaching ministry. Maybe that was more of her gifting because her name is mentioned first. I do not know. It is not said in the Bible. I do not know exactly why her name comes first, but it is attention getting because that would have been unusual for that culture. Again, this great orator, Apollos, has this meekness to realize that he can learn something from this husband-wife team.
We have talked a little bit about how to recognize true submission and what true submission looks like. Let’s look at Colossians chapter 1. The way that I always looked at marriage was that I had to be strong when my wife was not. I had to be strong for her when she could not be strong for herself. I always had an interesting mind picture of how that looked. I always looked at it like a bulletproof vest because Jesus Christ took the bullet for us. The Devil gave Jesus Christ his best shot, and Jesus took the bullet in front of us. I think about it like the Secret Service traveling with the President. The Devil was lining up a shot at us, and Jesus dives across in front of us and takes the bullet. The Devil is looking like, “That worked out better than I thought.” He is thinking that he killed the Savior!
I was doing that on a mini scale for Karen (my wife). When the world was after her (or even when the stuff that she got herself into was after her), I had to be there for her to take the bullet. I had to be the one to get into the situation and help to take the heat off her. I had to be for her what she was not being for herself right then.
How many of you have been in a grumpy mood? It is not exactly the state of mind where we are going to the Savior for help. You need someone right there to say, “Honey, let’s talk about this.” You are to get them to a point where they can say, “Oh yeah, I should be thankful. Yes, I have a Savior.” You are reminding them of all the basics of life.
This next verse has helped me understand what I need to do.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Paul is saying that Jesus Christ paid it all. Do not read from this verse that some how Jesus Christ did not accomplish your total salvation. Jesus Christ paid it all, but in the day to day goings on of life, in the day to day walking in the world, and in the day to day interaction with sin, guess what? We still have to be there for others in a way that Christ was there for us. We still have to stand in the gap so to speak, to help our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
That is what Paul is saying here. In this regard, I am filling up in my flesh the work that Christ began and is doing in your life. “I am there to take the heat off you, to keep you redirected to moving continually toward the Savior.”
We just talked about the head and the body. Think about this verse not only in the context of what Paul is talking about to the church in Colossians, but also in regards to the Body of Christ and the head.
Colossians 1:27 and 28
(27) To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(28) We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Have we not heard that one before? We just read about presenting people perfect in Christ in Ephesians chapter five — the husband is to be for the wife as Christ is for the Church, to present her perfect. Paul says, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me.” That word “struggling” is the word that we get “agonize” from. It is like struggling in the athletic games, agonizomai to struggle in a competition. Remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). It is really amazing. To me, it is a lot like silly putty.
I took this silly putty out earlier and made it into a ball. I put it back into the container, and what does it become? It has become the shape of the container. Was not Christ all things for all men? We have to be like this for our brothers and sisters. We have to be shaped into the shape that they need at the moment. Through the power of Christ within us, we can do this. We can be all things to all people as well, at least in a representation. We can point them again to the Savior who continually is all things to all men.
To my wife I can say: Do you need me to be around, honey? I can be around for you. Do you need me to be your bulletproof vest? I can be your bulletproof vest. I can be for her because I have a connection with Christ. How many of you have ever heard someone hum a tune, and a few minutes later, you are humming that tune? Is that not amazing how that happens? How many of you come home grumpy, and what happens in your family unit? Yeah, the whole tone of the house changes. If I come home, and I am grumpy, then Karen has to be there for me to get me to the point where I can go to the Savior. She is there to point me toward the Savior who will recharge my batteries. I can be there for her, and she can be there for me like bulletproof vests or like silly putty.
One of the many things I like about silly putty is that it has this ability to reproduce pictures. Let us say that Karen is having a “cow” (bad) kind of a day. She is not having a good day at all. [When I (Karen) was in labor, I felt like I was having a cow.]
It was funny when Karen was in transition during the labor of childbirth. It was really awful. Boy am I glad that I am a guy! She got up out of bed, and I said, “Honey, where are you going?” She said, “I am going home. I do not want to do this anymore!” I said, “Honey, I am involved, but you are committed.”
If she is having a “cow” day, I can come home and help absorb some of that. It is kind of hard for you to see, but there is a cow on this silly putty. I can absorb some of that “cow” day for her. I can take some of the bad day that she is having, and I can just apply myself to her. I can form right to the form that she needs by taking some of the burden off her. Then I can go to my Savior and be there with him in a peaceful way. Guess what then happens? The burden that I lifted from her is gone from my life.
When I pressed the silly putty on to the picture of the cow, it removed the extra ink that was on the picture; thus, her day is looking better because I have helped carry her burden. Whatever was needed in that situation, I was there to help so the work that Christ began in her could continue. I can then go back and regenerate myself with the Savior and be there all over again for her the next day because Christ was there for me.
Some days I come home, and I am grumpy. She can be my silly putty at those times. She can mold herself into my life in a way that is just what I needed to calm my jangled nerves and to send me back out the next day. We can be for each other like silly putty. That is what Paul was to this church, to the Colossians. He could help to present them perfect. As I am absorbing some of the burdens (bad day) off Karen’s life, I am helping her to be more perfect.
Another way to look at this is in Ephesians chapter six, it talks about putting on the whole armor of God. What we have here is not first century Judean armor. [They have a suit of armor on display next to them for this section of the teaching.] It is really hard to rent a genuine Judean suit of armor. This is the best we have to offer you as a teaching aid at this time.
What makes us want to go the extra mile to put on everything that we can be in Christ for each other? I say it should be because Jesus Christ modeled it for us — with his waist girded with the truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the spirit, and the helmet of salvation, quenching all the fiery darts with the shield. You are only going to do that if you see that Christ first did it for us.
Christ modeled that for us. That is why I can love my wife because Christ loved me. The way that he wept for me, the way that he took the bullet for me, the way that he hung on the cross for me, and the way that he trusted that the Father would raise him from the dead. I can be there for her because I saw my Savior do it for me and do it for me every day.
Every day, I have to be like this with the armor for her.
We can be like this because the love of Christ entreats us. In closing, let me say that the ultimate picture of submission is to do all the Word says that we can do by submitting ourselves to Christ with a heart to serve and honor each other in love.