In Eden. (Genesis 2-3)
Back in the beginning, God created the man and the woman. They were each created in the image of God. They were created as equal partners to one another. Both were blessed to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth with their children.
Each one, the man and the woman, first knew God before they knew anyone else. They walked with God in the Garden of Eden. It was all “very good!” (See Genesis 1-2).
Beyond Eden. (Ephesians 5-6)
In the long passage that runs from Ephesians 5:15-6:9, the Apostle Paul brings up the example of the unity of the first couple in Eden and says that believers together with Christ live in an even better communion! He calls the unity of Christ and the church “the Great Mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). The unity we experience with God and one another in the church goes beyond the unity experienced with God in the Garden of Eden!
This is a passage about life together as Spirit-filled believers. It is about how believers build up one another and give of themselves one for another as Christ did for the church.
This is not a passage primarily about marriage as many have assumed. To say that it is first of all a passage about marriage covers over the message contained in it about life in the church.
How was this a passage about the united relationship of believers in Christ? We can answer this question by looking at how Paul put together the parts of the passage.
Verse 32 is the high point of the passage. It comes at the center of a lengthy bell curve pattern often called a chiasm or a rainbow pattern.
This bell curve comes as the third part of a pattern used by Old Testament writers. It is a “jump-jump-high jump” pattern.
Verses 5:15-18 are the first “jump” in the pattern. The main idea is found at the end, in verse 18. We are to be being filled with the Holy Spirit!
Verses 5:19-21 are the second “jump” in the pattern. The main idea is split up and presented in two places – at the beginning in verse 19a and at the end in verse 21. Verse 19a says we are to be “speaking” to one another, teaching and correcting one another (compare Colossians 3:16). Verse 21 connects with 19a and says we are to be “submitting” to the teaching and correction we get from one another.
Verses 5:22-6:9 are the “high jump” in the pattern. The main idea is found in the center. In that center verse, in verse 32, we learn that what was mysterious is now revealed – that mystery is the unity we have with Christ.
The verses that surround this central idea in verse 32 are two long illustrations that each have three parts.
– The verses leading up to it in verses 22-31 talk about “as Christ.” Jesus is our example of how to love others and give ourselves for others.
– The verses that follow the central idea in verses 5:33-6:9 talk about members of the family. A husband and wife mutually submit in Christ (5:33). So too do Christian children and parents (6:1-4) and servants and masters (6:5-9).
Many people miss the teaching in this passage of Ephesians 5:15-6:9 that focuses on the Great Mystery! Inadvertently they cover over the relationship we have with one another in the church and with Christ as we mutually submit and build up one another. They cover it over with unrelated speculations on so-called headship and on hierarchical household codes found in ancient pagan cultures.
There is much more to notice in this passage. Paul uses the patterns of Genesis 2-3 and places them in the “high jump” section of Ephesians 5:22-6:9.
When we have the true view of what happened in Eden, and especially what God said to the woman in Genesis 3:16 – that God didn’t curse Eve (or Adam) or limit woman in any way, we can build on the wonderful unity experienced with one another with God in Eden. We can go beyond Eden and focus on mutually submitting in Christ!
The Beyond Eden Bible Study by Bruce C. E. Fleming is drawn from the book Beyond Eden. You can learn much more at Tru316.com. Or get your copy of the book Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5:15-6:9 (the Great Mystery revealed: Mutually submitting in Christ).
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