Wives, Children, and then Slaves
It is purported by some that since Paul’s instructions to slaves and masters are now passé, it can be argued backward, that his instructions to wives must also be cultural, and thus passé as well. This is rejected outright for the following three reasons:
1) The Structure of Marriage was Ordained Pre-Fall. Slavery, on the other hand is most definitely a result of the fall. Scripture clearly acknowledges, then regulates, minimizes and mitigates the effects of slavery (particularly in the nation of
2) The Consistent Picture. Throughout Scripture marriage is pictured as good (cf. Song of Solomon). Though sometimes effected by the fall so that it was not practiced as intended (Gen. 3:16; OT practice of polygamy / harems, etc), in the NT, as a result of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross which reverses the effects of the fall, marriage is defined with all the more clarity (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22ff; Col. 3:18-19; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1; cf. elder qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:2ff and Titus 1:6ff). While slavery is pictured as a result of sin and the effects are mitigated, the order in marriage is consistently seen as good, particularly after the redemption accomplished in Christ.
3) The Parent-Child Analogy. While egalitarians argue backward for the abolition of the authority of the husband on the basis of the temporality of the commands to slaves, they ignore the logical and necessary implications with regards to the parent-child relationship. In fact, this must be intentional, because the parent-child relationship is discussed in between the commands to husbands and wives and the commands to slaves and masters (this shows intentional manipulation of the text). If it is true that the authority relationships discussed with regards to slaves and masters and husbands and wives are all passé, then what becomes of the commands to children to obey their parents? It must be supposed that a mutual submission would be the ideal state (cf. the egalitarian interpretation of Eph. 5:21) in that regard as well, if the logic is applied consistently. Therefore, parents should have no more authority over children than children have over the parents.
Historical Novelty of “Mutual Submission” Overruling Authority Relationships
It is worth noting that not until 1971, after significant strides had been made in the west by the feminist movement did a single commentator ever present this argument from Eph. 5:21. In contrast to that, commentators as early as Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) and John Chrysostom (c. 345-407), right through Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Calvin (1509-1564), to Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), John Wesley (1703-1791), and Charles Hodge (1797-1878) all saw the classical complementarian interpretation as being plainly in view (namely that the instruction to submit to others in the church is qualified by the instructions that follow which detail some specific authority relationships).