Partners or Peons - Part II
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Ephesians, which we have been using as the basis for our discussion of Christian family relationships. The outline for our study is found in the paragraph which begins with verse 22 of Ephesians, chapter 5, and continues through verse 4 of Ephesians, chapter 6. We will reread this passage, looking for those things which are addressed to husbands:

Ephesians 5

22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord,
23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,
31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

A Review

We emphasized to you that the marriage relationship is a partnership, and we suggested to you that if each person in the partnership takes his appointed place, then each individual member is a partner. If either one of the members of the partnership fails to take his place, then either or both exchange the place of partners for that of peons.

I have been using the phrase, “take his place.” The key word to the partnership, we have learned, is found in verse 21. It is the word “submitting.” We pointed out to you that this literally is a military term which describes an individual's taking his place according to rank. It is not a matter of one person's feeling inferior to another. It is simply a matter of each individual member of the partnership taking the place that God has appointed for him.

Being a Partner

We said that wives can make or break the partnership by the manner in which they do or do not take the place that is assigned to them. As we pursue our discussion, I would like for you husbands to examine your own minds and arrive at a conclusion as to whether in your marriage relationship you are a partner or a peon. Just as importantly, I would like for you to determine in your own minds whether you are making a partner or a peon out of your wife.

Refresh your minds as to Webster's definition of a partner. A partner is a sharer, one of two associated as joint principals in carrying on a business with a view to joint profit. We pointed out to you that the greatest business in the world is the rearing of a family; we pointed out to you that God's chosen method of testimony is the family unit. Certainly if you and your wife are partners in this greatest business in the world, you will some day be able to see the fruit of your labor.

The greatest investment my wife and I have is our children, and no expense is too great to protect our investment. I know parents who are denying their children things they need with the simple excuse that they cannot afford it. You wouldn't treat your home that way. You wouldn't treat your automobile that way. You wouldn't let your business go to pot because you didn't have the money to spend on it. You would sacrifice everything you had, with the simple explanation, “I have got to protect my investment.” We feel that our children are the greatest investment we have, and therefore no expense is too great to protect our investment and further its usefulness.

Being a Peon

Are you a partner in the greatest business in the world, or are you a peon? To refresh your memory as to Webster's definition of a peon, he says: “A peon is one who is forced to serve virtually in bondage to creditors, a person bound to service in payment of a debt.” We emphasize to you that many wives do what they do because they feel they owe it to their husbands, or they owe it to the marriage vow they took the day they were married; they are literally in bondage to a creditor. They are literally bound to service until the debt is paid.

Sometimes I find it very difficult to officiate at funeral services. I find it very difficult to speak about how this dear soul is missing this beloved partner with whom she has spent so many years, because I have reason to believe that although she has made sure that he is laid out according to their standing in society, although she is sure that no criticism will be leveled about the way the memorial service is carried on, inwardly she is saying, “Thank God I am rid of that.” You may not believe that, but it is true. Some folk are bound to pay the debt, and they will, if it kills them; but it often kills their partner.

Are you a partner or a peon? As I ask you husbands to analyze your position in the light of what I have said, I want to give you three words which may help your thinking–three words which may help you to take your place according to rank in your household. A lot of husbands have not taken that place. A lot of husbands don't realize they haven't. The first word that I want to leave with you is brought to mind by what you see in verse 23 of chapter 5:

Ephesians 5

23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

The Husband's Authority

The phrase to which we call your attention is, “for the husband is the head of the wife.” Some of you wives have found that difficult to accept. You husbands enjoy the thought of it. It means just what it says. I think the simplest presentation is found in the translation known as “Good News for Modern Man.” The translator puts it as simply as it can be put: “The husband has authority over his wife.” No ifs or buts about it; that is what the Word of God says: The husband has authority over his wife.

But listen carefully, husbands, before you become too jubilant. This word “authority” should be and must be interpreted in the light of the context. If it is interpreted in such light, it does not have that connotation which causes a husband to make a peon instead of a partner out of his wife. The correct interpretation of this authority will not allow the husband to be a bully or a brute. It does not grant him unrestrained license to have his own way. Nor does it grant him unrestricted liberty to do his own will. The place of authority, men, is by divine appointment. That makes it an awesome responsibility, indeed; for remember this: The authority which the husband has over the wife has its roots in the authority which Christ has over the man.

Since we have already discussed that from the standpoint of principle, we are not going to say any more about it, but I would suggest to you, husbands, that you are responsible for the way you exercise this authority over your wife. If you have misinterpreted this authority and think that it gives you unrestrained license, or gives you permission to exercise unbecoming brutality, you will have to give an account for that.

Danger of Surrendering Authority

I would like to emphasize also that if because of some misplaced affection, or lack of backbone, you surrender this place of authority to your wife–too many of them are all too ready to take it–if you surrender this place of authority to your wife, you will have to give account to Christ for that as well. You may say, “Well, now, just what is going to happen to me if I don't exercise my authority as I should, or if I neglect to take the place of authority that I must?” I am going to give you only one illustration, but it is an effective one. It is an awesome thing to me when I think about it. Turn with me, please, to the first epistle of Peter, chapter 3:

I Peter 3

7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Hindrance of Prayer

Oftentimes this verse is presented as suggesting that if the relationship of the husband and the wife is not what it ought to be, then their prayers will be hindered, and there is an element of truth in that. But it is wise to keep in mind that good authorities suggest that the pronoun “your” before the word “prayers” in verse 7 should be the pronoun “his.” That puts a tremendous responsibility on the husband:

I Peter 3

7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; [listen carefully, husbands] that [his] prayers be not hindered.

What will God do to you, husbands, if you don't exercise your authority according to the Scriptural intent? He will stop answering your prayers. That is one thing He will do. I would like to suggest to you that some of the problems you may be having in business may not be because of the people with whom you work. That could very well be because you are not treating your wife in the way that you ought to treat her from the standpoint of the authority that is God given you. That could very well be the cause of the problems that you are facing in any number of areas, about which you have prayed and about which you have said, “I cannot understand why God does not do something about this.” It could very well be that if you examine your relationship to your wife, God would reveal to you that in the exercise of your authority you are tremendously unscriptural. God is not going to answer your prayers until, if you will permit a colloquialism, you straighten up and fly right. That is how serious it is.

Providing Guidance for the Wife

What is this authority? If it is not a matter of the exercise of brutality, what is this authority? While we are here at I Peter, chapter 3, let me suggest to you that there is an interpretation of the husband's authority suggested to us in verse 6:

I Peter 3

6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

The Amplified translation amplifies this verse in a way that emphasizes some truths. It suggests that it was thus that Sara obeyed Abraham, following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by calling him lord, master, leader, authority.

To these synonyms which the Amplified version brings to our attention, I would like to suggest that you notice the word “guidance” and the word “leader.” Husband, how do you exercise your authority over your wife? By providing guidance for her in those areas where the guidance is needed? Tell me, how many times has your wife said to you, “Dear, Johnny is a little problem. He has got an…and I don't know…” “Oh, don't bother me with that. I have enough down at the office to worry about. Work it out yourself.” Does that happen? How many times has your wife said to you, “Husband dear, Mary wants to do thus and so [some activity at school] and I don't really know whether we can.” “Oh, don't worry me with stuff like that. Can't you tell your own daughter what to do?”

Husbands, you are not exercising your authority. You see, what your wife is doing is saying, “Dear, I need some guidance. I don't know what to do.” Or it could be that she knows what to do, but she does not want to violate your convictions on the matter and she wants to find out what your convictions are.

A Personal Illustration

Many times my wife has talked with me on the phone and said, “Now, honey, when you come home tonight, our son is going to talk to you about such and such a thing.” Just this past week she said that very thing, and she said, “I think you ought to know these details, and he can fill you in on the rest.” Then she said, “I told him that it was my opinion that he should do thus and so, but that he had better clear it with you.”

It would have been very easy for me to say, “Honey, why in the world did you tell him that? You know what I have to do tonight, and you know I haven't got time to listen to a long explanation about a thing like that.” But I didn't; I said, “Thank you dear.” Then when the boy told me all about it, I was prepared for the answer. I was not going to relinquish my authority to my wife. I could have. I could have said, “What you told him is all right. Tell him not to bother me.” What she told him was all right, but he needed to know that I was the one in authority. Don't relinquish your authority.

Being the Spiritual Leader

The other word is the word “leader.” If you are exercising your authority, you are being what God intended you to be–the leader in your home. You don't have to answer this audibly, but listen to this question: Who leads the devotions in your home? Is it your wife who looks around the table and says, “Johnny, do you want to say grace?” Because the husband doesn't take the initiative and say grace, or ask the visitor to say it, or ask one of the children to say it, or occasionally even ask his wife to say it?

When it comes time for family altar, in whatever form you have it–the form isn't important–is it the wife who takes the initiative and leads the family devotions? “Yes,” say some husbands, “she does because she knows the Bible better than I do.” That doesn't have anything to do with it. And, wives, may I suggest to you, although this sermon isn't for you, that if you think you know more than your husband does, keep your mouth shut, will you, at devotional time? If he mispronounces the words when he is reading the Scripture, don't say, “Honey, just a minute, Dear. We learned in Mrs. So-and-so's Bible class that it is pronounced this way.” It won't hurt for him to mispronounce a word, and it won't hurt for him to get a little erroneous theology in the family altar. Let him lead.

Men, I am saying to you that you have no right to relinquish your place of leadership in the matter of discipline, in the matter of devotion, or in the matter of development of your children. If you relinquish that place of leadership–and you will be tempted to do it sometimes because it is easy to do–you are in for trouble; the moment you abdicate the place of authority that God gave, trouble comes. The moment you let your wife tell you what to do, at that moment you have sowed seeds which you will reap later.

Abraham's Abdication of Authority

Did you notice the example in this portion of the Word–the wife who is used as an example, Sara? She is painted as a marvelous character here, isn't she? If I were to ask you, “Give me an example of the obedient wife in the Scripture,” if you were familiar with your Bibles you would say, “Sara.” Peter said she was a good example, and she is. But do you know that two times Abraham abdicated his authority and let Sara have her way, and we are still reaping the harvest of the seeds that were sown?

You say, “Why do you say that Abraham abdicated? Maybe Sara was just a headstrong woman and she took the authority.” No, I think that if that were the case, when God was writing the record He would have indicated it. You don't find this in the New Testament record, and I am of the opinion that Sara did it because Abraham let her.

Do you know what I am talking about? God said, “Abraham, I am going to give you a child, but you are going to have to wait.” Sara laughed when she heard it the first time, and then she got tired of waiting, and she did what so many well-meaning wives might do. She said, “Now, Dear, I know we prayed about this, and I know you think you know what God told you to do. You think you know; and I am sure you do, Dear; but I think we ought to be practical. Now Dear, you know that both of us are too old to have any children, and if we are going to have this child, God expects us to use our heads. Now, Dear, I know your faith is great, and I know you think you know; but Dear…” And what happened? They had a child of the flesh that is still creating trouble. That is when Abraham abdicated his authority.

Abraham's Treatment of Ishmael

And then do you remember the unfair thing that happened? I am ashamed of Abraham. Ishmael and Isaac couldn't live under the same roof. I have always been interested in the way those two boys treated each other. I don't blame Ishmael for getting back at Isaac; I can understand why he would. But Sara saw it one day, and she said, “I am not going to have that.” She said to Hagar, “Woman, you keep that kid of yours under control or you are getting out of here.” Hagar said, “Well, that is what you think. This is Abraham's son, and he is not going to throw him out.” “Well, we will see about that.” And Sara called upon Abraham and she said, “I have taken all I am going to take from that brat, Ishmael. He was your idea. He is your responsibility. It is your fault that he is here.” She forgot that she was the one who instigated it. “You get rid of them.”

What did Abraham do? Had he done what he should have done, he would have said, “Sara, you may have talked me into one mistake, but you are not going to talk me into another one. Now you get along with Hagar and Ishmael the best you can, because I am not going to do anything about it.” So, what did he do? He said, “Dear, you do whatever you think is best.”

Have any of you men ever said anything like that to your wives because you didn't have backbone enough to do what you knew God wanted you to do? “Do whatever you think is best, Dear.” She did not what she thought was best, but what she wanted to do. She said, “Hagar, get that kid and get a bottle of water and get out of here.” If God had not acted in mercy, they would have died. Don't abdicate your authority even though you think you love your wife. You are not showing it that way.

Sacrificial Affection

The second word that I want to leave with you is the word “affection.” More is said about affection in this passage of Scripture than is said about authority. Let me emphasize to you that this affection about which I speak should be Christlike. Go back with me to Ephesians, chapter 5, and notice verse 25:

Ephesians 5

25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church…

Your affection is going to be Christlike. It will not be purely physical. Look at the last statement of verse 25, as I suggest to you that this affection will be sacrificial:

Ephesians 5

25…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

How sacrificial are you in your affection for your wife? What real sacrifices have you made for her lately? You say, “I make sacrifices all the time. If I didn't have her and the kids I would be making a lot of money.” I have heard that, too. But what real sacrifice has your love driven you to? This love of which I speak is going to be a sympathetic love. Some of you may think I am straining the Scripture too much, but I don't believe I am by parallel. Look down at verse 27. Christ speaks of the Church, “that he might present it to himself as a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” What is He saying about the Church? He is saying, “The Church has spots and it has wrinkles and it has blemishes; some day I am going to present it to Myself without a spot or a wrinkle or a blemish or any such thing; in the meantime, I hate the sight of it.” Is that what it says? No. My Bible says that the Lord Jesus loves the Church even though it is filled with spots and wrinkles.

Sympathetic Love

Some of you are young people, and you may not need this right at the moment, but you will need it. There will come a time when the wrinkles will be there. There will come a time when the spots will be there. Your wife will be concerned about it, and oh, she will long for you to tell her that those spots and wrinkles don't matter. But they do; that is the reason some of you men look for greener pastures. Your love needs to be a sympathetic love, remembering that if the wrinkles are there, in all probability you put them there.

I have never been able to understand a man who makes jibes and slurring remarks about the figure of his wife when she is carrying his child. I have never been able to understand the man who makes slurring remarks about the figure of his wife when it is not as trim as it was before she bore all the children she bore him. I know a lot of men who have been able to maintain their own figures because they had time for tennis or whatever, and they feel apologetic about their wives. I have told my wife this, and say it publicly: I believe with all my heart that my wife has never been more beautiful than when she was pregnant. I never thought of her as an individual out of shape. She did, and I don't know how many times she has said to me, “Honey, you don't know what it means to me for you to tell me that I am beautiful when I know I look horrible.” Learn to be sympathetic. Remember this men: If that girl that you fell in love with and that you have spent some years with isn't quite as attractive as she was when it first started, you in all probability are the reason.

A Concerned Affection

This love of which I speak will be not only sacrificial and sympathetic; it will be a concerned affection. Will you look at verse 28:

Ephesians 5

28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.

Notice the words “nourish” and “cherish.” That is the reason I say that this affection of which I speak is a concerned affection. One of the meanings of this word “nourish” is “to pamper.” Sometimes you think “nourish” means only to feed and to clothe and to give enough of an allowance to buy food to put on the table, but it does mean “to pamper.”

Let me ask you: How long has it been since you have pampered your wife? “I am not about to pamper her. It is hard enough to live with her now.” Well, it might be easier to live with her if you tried a little pampering sometimes. What in the world do I mean by pampering? Doing some foolish things that you don't need to do. Better waste a little money on a dress that she doesn't really need; better waste a little money on a dress that ministers to her pride but that you can't stand the sight of. Pamper her a little. It won't kill you, and it will do a whole lot for her.

This word “cherish” presents a picture of a brooding hen which protects what belongs to it–carefully protects from harm and danger that might hurt. Have you ever protected your wife from being hurt? By maybe bearing a little of the burden by yourself without telling her all about it?

A Conscientious Affection

This affection of which I speak will be a conscientious affection; look at verse 33:

Ephesians 5

33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Notice the phrase, “nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife….” That does not mean that you ought to love your wife and no one else's wife; you ought to have enough sense to know that already. It means to give your wife some particular attention continuously.

We won't take the time to turn to Colossians, chapter 3, verse 19, which is a companion verse, but Phillips translates it: “Give your wives much love and sympathy. Don't let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.” Williams says, “Keep on loving your wives, and stop being harsh with them.” You can be harsh with them sometimes, you know. Quit it and keep on loving them.

Anticipating the Wife's Needs

The last word I want to leave with you, if you will go back to I Peter, chapter 3, verse 7, is the word “anticipation.”

I Peter 3

7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Notice particularly the phrase, “Husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge.” Berkeley says, “Live understandingly with them.” Williams says, “Give them some intelligent consideration.” I would like to make it even more personal. Make a study of your wife. Anticipate what her needs are, and meet them. Have you thought seriously about your wife any time recently, enough to know how she feels about anything?

Why don't you exercise the privilege of anticipation? Anticipate those tears before they come. What happens? You come home and your wife is in tears, and you say, “What is wrong now? Every time I come home, you are bawling about something.” Is that the way it is? Well, that is the way it is with some families. If you would make a study of your wife, you would know that at certain times she has periods of depression and the tears come easily; what would ordinarily not bother her, bothers her very much right at that time. You probably don't even know the time on the calendar; you haven't paid enough attention to your wife to find out. If you did, you would know the time when the period of depression is going to come, and instead of waiting to find her crying at the door because the kids are yowling and the neighbors are fussing, you would call her before you get home and say, “Honey, I have got a little something planned tonight. Call the baby-sitter before someone else gets her. We are going to do thus and so.” You would be surprised how much that helps.

An Illustration

Let me give you a little word of wisdom. I don't want to provoke any dishonesty; but if you have a wife like mine, you are going to have to play as if it is you who needs the relief, not she. You know, you could go in the house and say, “Well, Dear, I know it has been a hard day, so let's go out and see if we can't cheer you up.” Do you do that? That is the way a lot of men do. Well, what is her reaction? “Well, Honey, you don't need to do that; everything is fine.” And she goes into the bedroom and cries about it. What you need to do is to go home and say, “Honey, this has been one of the toughest days I have had and I don't want to listen to those kids. I want just us to go out.” She will think she is doing it for you. You may say, “Well, that is being economical with the truth.” I think the Lord will forgive you.


Father, we ask that Thou would take these few things that have been said, remove the nonessentials, and fix deeply in our minds that which is needful to remember. Grant, our Father, that as husband and wife, wife and husband together, take their places as ordained by God, tranquillity will rule in the home and the testimony will be real. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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