Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken Encourages Christians in Asia to Practice Submissions in Relationships

Dr. Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, gave an online lecture recalling the stories of Dr. Nelson Bell at the 2023 Global Missionary Mobilization Conference on April 20, 2023.
Dr. Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, gave an online lecture recalling the stories of Dr. Nelson Bell at the 2023 Global Missionary Mobilization Conference on April 20, 2023. (photo: Screenshot/2023 Global Missionary Mobilization Conference)
By Karen LuoOctober 26th, 2023

Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken encouraged Christians in Asia to commit to Christ's lordship in three relationships, as Jesus has dominion over every area of our lives. 

In the ninth plenary of the Jakarta 2023 Global Convention on Christian Faith delivered on October 5, Dr. Philip Ryken, the eighth president of Wheaton College, who has published more than 50 Bible commentaries and also serves as a board member for the Gospel Coalition, the Lausanne Movement, and the National Association of Evangelical, exhorted Christians to obey the will of God in the household relationship between husbands and wives, between parents and children, and the relationship between workers and employers. 

Based on Ephesians 5:15–6:9, Dr. Ryken claimed the urgency of the apostle Paul’s appeal by urging the participants to make the best use of time, as "soon we will have endless eternity to see God’s face."

Paul started the passage by calling the church in Ephesus to "redeem the time by doing what the Holy Spirit loves: sing, praise, and share the gospel."

The speaker said that at the age of 20, the American theologian Jonathan Edwards made a resolution not to waste one minute of time but to use it in the most profitable way. "Verse 20 says, 'Once you believe in Jesus, everything in you wants to bow down.' It is a beautiful way to describe a Christian," he stated. 

Then "our relationship to Jesus as the Lord extends to every area of life," but those transitions are based on Ephesians 5:21: "Out of reverence for Christ and out of respect for his kingship, we all practice submission in all relationships," he stressed. 

When it comes to the exhortation passage specifically for marriage, Dr. Ryken stated that women and men are equal, “both created in God’s image,” but God has given husbands a leadership role in families. For wives, “submission” is a hard command for daily discipleship, but for husbands, they are commanded to love their wives. He joked that there are three verses for wives, but nine for husbands. “I think probably husbands are slow to understand.”

“When we care tenderly for our wives, they become more holy, like the church,” he added. “This command was so countercultural in the Roman world, when wives were regarded in many cases as property. Maybe it is still countercultural today. Too many husbands expect their wives to sacrifice for them rather than to set aside their preferences for their wives. For the sake of the gospel, God is saying, Don’t think about what your wife can do for you; think about what you can do for her.”

“There is Christ’s lordship for this to be next of the children.” The president said that Paul simply instructed boys and girls: children, obey your parents.

The reasons why Paul exhorted children to obey their reasons were that parents are always wiser to help them discern right from wrong, and there is a promise of long life according to the Ten Commandments.

Dr. Ryken said that children are given to parents to become the children of God rather than to fulfill the dreams of their parents. Illustrating his personal story, in which his mother was giving him a hard time, his father would say, “Every child deserves a happy childhood.”

“This is a hard world, and there will be plenty of suffering for all our children. What can we do to give them a happy life and bless them? We should take their obedience as a blessing, not an order.”

He continued, “The apostle brings fathers again under God’s lordship by saying, ‘Don’t provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’” He said, “I believe this command also applies to mothers. Mothers should not exasperate their children, neither, but God has given fathers spiritual responsibility in the home.”

“Fathers, you set the standard. When you treat your children fairly and lovingly, mothers will also do so.” The president explained, “John Calvin said, ‘Cherish your children and deal gently with them.’ We exasperate our children when we set a standard that is too high for them to meet. It’s good to challenge our children to excel in their lives, but if we set that goal too high, they can get discouraged and become resentful.”

“Our calling is to teach our children the ways of godly patience, only to give them as much disappointment as they need... Loving words demonstrate the mercy of Jesus Christ.”

Christ’s lordship also extended to the relationship between workers and employers. While the Bible is absolutely against race-based slavery, Paul encouraged “slaves” in Ephesians in the first century context to do work for the glory of God. “When you are with the Lord Jesus Christ in your daily work, whatever it is, you will be blessed.”

He learned this through his very first job at Burger King, where he encountered a difficult boss. When he realized that he was working as the “king” of Burger King, he offered heartfelt service to Jesus Christ.

The principle is also applicable to masters or employers who also have a master in heaven. “Treat your workers with dignity. This is the kind of verse that inspired many Christians to close slavery.” He interpreted, “Because when servants are treated like people with dignity, servants bear the image of God. That is the end of slavery.”

“God loves both masters and servants. He holds masters as capable servants, but God never treats one person more valuable than another.”

“Sadly, many masters disobey this verse,” he lamented.

Raised as an orphan in the Netherlands, his father’s grandparents married his great-grandmother, who was a housekeeper. One day, the great-grandfather used one of his master’s handkerchieves to dry his hands; he was demoted from head carriage driver to assistant driver due to this act.

“I don't know how to hold that master accountable, but you’re in authority over other people. You’re calling this to bless people who work for you. God is calling you to loving leadership,” he said.

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