The Happy Surprise

Putting the good book to good use

When spurs leave you bleeding and jumpy…

I have a history with spurs. I’ve been kicked and prodded by well-intentioned Christians hoping to change my direction. Those spurs hurt. I fear them. They leave me confused. I lose my sense of direction and purpose. I thought I was walking the straight and narrow until a sharp jab startles me into flight, and I take a nose dive off the path.

Pixabay: Denver Colorado Statue Monument Cowboy Horse Sky

“Spur one another on!” They use Hebrews 10:24 as justification for their punch in my gut. They don’t notice the direction their kick launched me.

Yet Hebrews tells us to apply the spurs to stimulate each other to love and good works. This has never made sense to me, I’ll be honest. The word translated spur or stimulate here means to incite or irritate. When I get irritated, love is not my go-to response, let me tell ya.

Something similar happened to Barnabas. Paul seriously did not trust Mark who had quit the work with Paul once before.  Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance.

They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Acts 15:39

So much for provoking the love. That word for sharp disagreement is the same one the author of Hebrews (interestingly, there is a good case it was Barnabas!) used as spur or provoke. They spurred each other in opposite directions. And frankly, that is my response to spurs.

Yet, in Hebrews, the follow up thought to this provoke is to come together with encouragement (Heb. 10:25). I guess the early church had given up on each other.

I wonder if those spurs had anything to do with it?

Today’s church-dropping habit

We are seeing the same thing happen today. People are giving up meeting together. Some people think this is a big problem. Some people have lots of answers:

It’s not really happening.

Its the fault of a watered down message.

We need more authenticity.

They just don’t believe its true.

I’m not going to add my opinion here.

What I am going to do is ENCOURAGE those still faithfully attending church …

…to lay off the spurs.

When you hear someone has stopped going to church, please don’t provoke them. Please try not to be irritating. Please don’t add to their pain or frustrations. Don’t poke them with promises to pray.

Instead, be a soothing balm. Build up your relationship with them regardless of your own disappointment. YOU hang out with them, and not to preach the Bible at them, but simply to BE with them. Love them – that doesn’t mean tell them everything they are doing wrong in the guise of truth. It means enjoy who they are! Encourage them – not to follow your understanding of Biblical instruction – but to be brave enough to explore their soul. Together. And do this together.

Do not give up on being together, but encourage each other. (Hebrews 10:25)

Its time to stop hurting others in the name of doing good.

Hot Diggity Dog! What’s the meat in Ephesians 5:21-33?

I am rabbit trailing off my series exploring the Problem Passages in the Bible surrounding gender roles in family and ministry. This article will step back from the single verse by verse study, and examine the differences of interpretation for the overall passage at the end of Ephesians 5. A great difference between Egalitarian and Complementarian interpretation is not just who should submit and what “head” means, but how to understand the broader literary structure.

Modern academic, instructional writing always begins with introduction to the topic. Reading the first paragraph or the first sentence of the paragraph will let you know what the whole is about. It is natural for our modern eyes to start at the beginning and expect to understand the point quickly. But this is the modern tendency. It is not the rule of the ancient pen.

Instruction, in ancient writ, often placed the meat in the middle with embellishment on either side for emphasis. Like a sandwich. This literary device is called a chiasm, and it is often overlooked when interpreting Biblical text. Brad McCoy writes that “a recognition of chiastic structure leads the interpreter properly to appreciate the pivotal function and the emphatic importance of that central thought unit. (page 10)”

So, when studying Ephesians 5:21-33, it is natural to begin at the beginning and to expect the point to follow the introduction. The main point then being, marriage, with the wife as its introductory focus. It would be easy to conclude that since the wife was introduced first, her role is most important. The correlating and back up point  follows: the husband’s role as head. Because Christ’s relationship with the church is buried in the middle, it is easy to assume that these truths prop Paul’s instruction for marriage described at the beginning and conclusion, with the focus being on the importance of each spouse’s specific roles.

But lets view this passage instead as a chiasm. We must search to the middle to find the point, and use the repeated and reversed (parallel) beginning and end as supporting explanations. Interpreting the verses from the pivotal message at its center subtly shifts the emphasis to the union of the church and its Savior through the metaphor of the body and its head.

What’s the meat, then?

Digested as a chiastic sandwich, Ephesians 5:21-33 is about the body becoming entitled to eternal life by the unity with the head, which is Christ. The husband then, as head like Christ, should invest likewise in his own body – his wife. Love was the motivation behind Christ’s sacrifice, and the husband is pointed to an identical action. There would be no body unless it agreed to join with the head so that it could obtain the head’s  inheritance and rights, mainly eternal life. Likewise, the wife submits to the union with her head as the vehicle by which the head’s inheritance and rights become her own. The goal of marriage then, is to mimic the relationship of the head and body of Christ and the church, primarily through the action of the head/husband. chiastichotdogeph5 copy John Paul Heil ties the chiasm in this chapter to the broader chiastic structure displayed in the entire book of Ephesians which propels the theme of  Christ empowering the church to glorify God. It is “the self-sacrificial love of Christ himself that empowers the “church” to be “glorious,” thus further developing Paul’s doxology that to God be “glory” in the “church…(3:21).” Ephesians : Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ (p. 247)  This “serves as the motive and model not only for believers to love one another (5:1-2), but also for husbands to love their wives (5:25).” (p. 248)

Starting with the meat in the middle reveals a slight emphasis change to the head’s empowering of the body by loving union. This understanding melds perfectly with the ancient laws surrounding gender and marriage. Paul was instructing husbands to treat their wives the same as they were treated in Roman culture- with the full inheritance and rights of paterfamilias. Christian wives, as part of the body of Christ, have the full privelegdges as the head (Christ), why should she not be treated as her male Christian counterparts?

More reading on the chiastic structure of Ephesians 5:21-33

Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-33 by Marg Mowczko

Is Marriage Really an Illustration of Christ’s Relationship with the Church? Part 2 by Kristen Rosser

Problem Passages: Ephesians 5:23

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. Read more about the series here.

Ephesians 5:23 says,

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.


This verse is the beginning of a descriptive metaphor Paul employs to describe Jesus Christ’s relationship with his body, the church. It is foundational to understanding the relationship a husband and wife are to enjoy.

Summary of Differing Opinions

Much of the controversy in this verse spills into the following verses, so I will condense a few of those into three main points for this post.

  1. What does head (kephale) mean? The word head can be literal, as in that thing on top of your neck, or it can be a metaphor for something. Paul is using head metaphorically in this verse. Complementarians believe it means leader or authority, as in head of state. Egalitarians believe it means either source, as in the head of a river; or a symbol of the whole body, as in “counting the heads of cattle.”
  2. Is the husband the head of the marriage in today’s culture? Or was Paul using a Roman-Ephesian phenomenon to illustrate an eternal truth about Christ and the church? Complementarians believe Paul’s teaching on marriage is God’s eternal truth, and culture should not play a part in the interpretation of this verse. Egals believe understanding ancient Roman marriage unlocks the truth of what Paul is teaching about the relationship between Jesus and His body.
  3. How should we interpret the analogy of Jesus and the church to husbands and their wives? Complementarians believe Jesus leads his church and as Savior, he displays loving authority over all aspects of the church. Hence, husbands should exhibit loving leadership of their wives. Egalitarians believe Jesus originated His church by his redeeming death and resurrection.  Through this work, he gave life to his body. Likewise, Roman husbands were the source of life for their wives. Comparatively, they should then treat their wives as Jesus treats his body.

Complementarian Interpretation

All complementarians agree that head metaphorically means leader. Their main argument for this is found in verse 22: wives [submit] to your own husbands. (See my explanation of that verse, here.) Because comps define submission as requiring some authority to submit to, they find that authority in the word head in verse 23. Ephesians 1:22 also uses the word head in conjunction with submission.

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”

Using these two verses together, comps maintain that submission, or being under, requires a leader to be over. A major goal for complementarian marriages is for the husbands to behave as a leader. As a member of the church, men are asked to submit to each other, but since the husband’s role is to “play” Christ in the marriage, men – as husbands- have a different script to follow. Their job isn’t submission, but leadership. Husbands are to lead their wives like Jesus leads the church.

Leadership encompasses a right of privilege, authority to rule, and responsibility for outcome. Comps believe that the husband is not only responsible for his wife, but a good husband must keep his whole house in subjection (1 Tim 2:11-13).  It is the husband’s responsibility to ensure his family honors the Lord and is properly cared for. Comps impress the importance of the husband’s stepping up into their role of being their family’s spiritual leader. The husband, not the wife, should instigate church attendance, prayer and devotions. The husband will be held accountable for how he leads his house.

Since comps believe Christ’s authority in the home is centered on the husband, a husband should lead like Christ. As Jesus leads the church for the body’s good, honor and glory; a husband’s headship is exercised for the wife’s good, her honor, and her glory. His leadership is one of love. Comps often refer to this as “servant leadership” or “loving leadership.”

“Paul tells us how to control our wives when he says to ‘love them.’ Love them. That is how you control a woman. You must love her. She is built that way. When she is fully loved, she is fully under control. Love her.”  Jay Adams, Christian Living in the Home. Page 101.

Complementarians believe the husband’s role is harder than the wife’s role, because husbands are called to reflect Christ’s role as Savior. Their role-model was perfect!  Even though it is an impossible job, the husband must actively lead because he represents Jesus’ relationship to the church. When he fails to lead his wife and family, he damages the name of Jesus.

All complementarians agree that God gave husbands (men) and wives (women) distinct roles. Comps believe these roles are rooted in God’s creation of gender, and are an eternal “script” that men and women are called to play. Because Paul’s writing was inspired by God, it vitally important we hold to its teachings. Many complementarians will point to the history of male authority throughout the Old Testament and church history as evidence of God’s plan for men to lead. Complementarians, though they admit that studying  culture enhances our understanding of this text, do not believe it should influence our interpretation of gender roles.

Further Reading

50 Crucial Questions Chapter 2 by John Piper and Wayne Grudem

Egalitarian Interpretation

Egalitarians all agree that the metaphorical meaning of  head  is not always leader. In this context, its meaning is either source (head of a river) or a singular symbol for the whole body (heads of cattle). Egalitarians take the cue from they way Paul uses head in the previous chapter.

…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:15-16.

Egalitarians understand Eph 5:23 in a similar fashion. The significance of the husband being the head of his wife is that they are joined together. It would be absurd to have a head that holds itself separate from the body. They are one. The husband and wife are both made from the same stuff. There is no fundamental difference between the two genders both made in the image of God and redeemed by Christ (Gen 1:26, Gal 3:3). Just as Christ, as the source of salvation and the First of many, gives the church fully of his inheritance and righteousness; so a Roman husband, as the source of income, property, sustenance and legitimacy in Roman culture, is to join 100% of those goods with his wife. Love is the connecting agent.

Egals believe a proper understanding of this passage cannot be divorced from the original culture. That the husband is the head of the wife was a fact in Roman society. Whichever meaning is chosen for head – leader, source or singular symbol – a case could be made that meaning existed in Roman law.  Women were the property of men. No one thought about equality or the absurdity of human property. The shocker for the Ephesian husbands was not that they were the “heads,”  but that they were to love.  Christians husbands are a head AS Christ is a head. The following verses describe how Christ heads the church (love). Egalitarians find no hint of authority or leadership in this context.

Egalitarians believe Jesus, as Savior, originated His church by his redeeming death and resurrection.  Through this work as head, he gave life to his body. Christ saves the church to share the privilege of heaven with those he loves. He transforms the church as a gift of eternal life. Everything Jesus enjoys, he makes available to his body. It is through the head, the body is equipped for true life.   The responsibility of a head is to share privilege and life with the body. Those with the elevated position bring up those in the subjected role to a place of equilibrium by virtue of joining together in unity. And ultimately that is the heart of Paul’s message and Egalitarian marriage.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Eph 5:31)

Further Reading:

An Exhaustive Study on the Meaning of “Head:” Are Women Really Free To Function Freely? by Wade Burleson quoting Lauren Fasullo

Household: Household Code in Ephesians (Part 3) by Michael W. Kruse

Christ as husband is about love not leadership by Retha

Ephesians 5:23

Comps Believe… Egals Believe…
For the husband is the head of the wife Head means chief or leader. The husband is responsible for his wife. His goal is to behave as a loving leader. Head means origin or source. A Roman husband was the key to life for his wife  in that ancient culture. This was a fact, not a goal.
as Christ is the head of the church, his body, Jesus’ relationship with his church is one of authority and leadership. Jesus’ relationship with his church is one of pre-eminence. He is the first of many.
of which he is the Savior. Jesus earned the right to lead his church by His death and resurrection. Jesus’ role as savior is to transform us into His image.



Gems from Numbers 11: Prophesying without Permission!

Moses was stressed out with the load of leading a million whining ex-slaves. So, God has asked Moses to share the load. Specifically, He wanted Moses to share His Spirit with 70 hand-picked leaders.

He called together seventy of the leaders and had them stand around the Tent. God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied. But they didn’t continue; it was a onetime event.

God gave his instructions. Go to The Tent where I always meet with you, and this time I’ll meet with your 70 helpers. But there was a problem. Apparently, only 68 of the elders actually showed up!

Meanwhile two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were listed as leaders but they didn’t leave camp to go to the Tent.

Two of the men did not follow instructions very well. That, or they got the time wrong. Or maybe they got waylaid with a broken down cart. Or maybe they didn’t understand they were chosen. Or maybe they had a gig to finish up first. I’m sure they had a very good reason for not being at The Tent when God showed up. This next part is chilling.

Still, the Spirit also rested on them and they prophesied in the camp.

God gifted those who were outside The Tent! His Spirit indwelt those who didn’t follow the “meet in The Tent” policy! No wait…. God used the two misfits wandering around the camp to bless His people!

Admittedly, I understand the reaction of those who witnessed what happened.

A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”  Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ right-hand man since his youth, said, “Moses, master! Stop them!”

I can hear Joshua’s voice in my head. (It sounds strangely like Mydad. pun intended) Put a stop to this right now! Tell them they are not supposed to be prophesying because they didn’t do things the RIGHT WAY! Prophesying without permission! What if someone sees them and thinks you’ve lost control of the camp! I think that last statement gets to the heart of the matter. Joshua was very concerned Moses’ authority would be questioned because Eldad and Medad got the gift of prophecy outside The Tent.

But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”

God’s Spirit does not always follow the rules as we understand them to be. This little incident is just a precursor to the fantastic outpouring Joel predicted at Pentecost where God gave his Spirit to young  and old, women and men.  The lesson I take away is that God does not always follow His rules when it comes to pouring blessing out upon His people. Sometimes He uses the Eldads and Medads who are like us, a little bit different, to speak with power and grace.

Will you be like Joshua and seek to silence the Spirit even when given to someone you don’t approve of? Or will you be like Moses? Would that God would put his Spirit on all of us.

Satan’s best tactic

How many of you have heard the sermon about what to do when tempted? <raises hand>

I bet the teacher used either the temptation of Jesus or the armor of God as text, right?

  • What did Jesus do when faced with temptation? He quoted God’s Word, of course!
  • We must weild the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!

But does quoting the Words of God alone work in our battle against sin? Nope. Words are not a talisman of protection against strong desire or deceit. In fact, referencing God’s Word is Satan’s best tactic in tempting Christians to act like heathens. As the first woman learned to her shame.

The Bible describes two famous temptation scenes: The First Humans and Jesus.

These two stories have much in common. Both Jesus and the First Humans were perfect. Neither knew what life was like unconnected to God. Unlike us, they were not enticed by the evil desires of their flesh, because their flesh did not desire sinful things. (James 1:14-15) Could that be why a literal Being presented itself as the tempting force?

Both the First Humans and Jesus were tempted by the evil one, who took visible form and talked with them. Not only did Satan appear, he initiated.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him

The devil used food as his opener.

…“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” It asked the woman.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Both Eve and Jesus battled with God’s Word.

[The woman said] … God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Satan responded by using God’s Word. To the woman he said God said something He never did, and to Jesus he twisted the context.

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:  “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Eve used God’s Word, but it wasn’t enough.

These two situations had more in common than not. But the distinction is what made the difference between success and failure. Eve was deceived.  She probably didn’t even know she was being tempted! She believed something that wasn’t. She acted on information that was false. Believing she was doing the right thing, she ate. But she understood God all wrong. And she was ashamed that she was duped by lies.

Oh dear. How often have I done the exact same thing? Believing my actions were what was required from God’s Word, I’ve sown discord, pain and destruction. Looking back, I realize I was tempted with pride, self-righteousness and the fear of man. I succumbed to the deceit of those desires. And, I too am ashamed I fell for the lies I believed about God.

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11

Paul, who wrote those warning verses, understood deceit. He was a zealous Jew. He loved God’s Word. He believed killing Christians was the right way to serve God. His sincere desire was to live -or die – for the Lord. But he got it all wrong.

Deceit blinds us to the temptation.

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  1 Timothy 1

I wonder at this. Can I even tell I’m being tempted if there is deceit sugaring the bait? How can I battle this ignorance? Paul was blindly sinning away, all the while believing he was acting righteously…based on his understanding of the Word of God. Only an encounter with the true Word, the incarnate and resurrected Christ, set him straight. And this is what he taught as the antidote to deceit. Holding our beliefs up to the light of Jesus, with the help of His Spirit. Paul knew how easy  it is to be deceived, and so he warns Christians to be aware to the possibility that teachers are twisting God’s Word to bind us to a gospel that is not Jesus’. Just like Satan. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Heed the warning.

There really isn’t a formula of Words. Sure, knowing God’s truth helps us discern error, but what if we ignorantly follow an interpretation that is in itself an error? It is Satan’s best tactic. He twists God’s Word to tempt us.




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