[Paul] says that [wives] must obey. You must obey, not primarily for the benefits that you and your husband will receive, but in order to exhibit the relationship of Jesus Christ to His church. At all costs you must not misrepresent this relationship. You cannot exemplify the love that the church must have for Jesus Christ if that kind of love is not seen in your heart for your husband. And it must be seen in your submissive life as a result.
Freedom in God’s world never comes apart from structure. When one is free to live as God intended, he is truly free indeed. We hear much about women’s liberation today. I want you to be liberated. Here is the path of genuine liberation for a woman: submission. Submission allows her to run on the track; it allows her to make beautiful music in her home. When you do what God intended a woman to do, when you are what God intended a woman to be, that is when you will be most free.
It is not the nagging, but the behavior, that shows Christ in a life. The quiet winsomeness of a wife speaks eloquently of Jesus Christ.
The Body of Christ needs its women! It needs singles, newlyweds, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, “spinsters” – every last one of them. And it needs them to embrace the role God has given them without looking back. We have so much to do, and we have so little time to accomplish it all. God has given us a great gift in calling us to the home. Our role is not inferior because it is “unpaid.” Our role is not of lesser importance because it isn’t out in the public sphere. When God created mankind “male and female,” He showed us that it takes both “halves” to make up the whole of humanity. That our roles differ is a cause for rejoicing and glory – not a cause for shame or depression. When both roles complement each other beautifully, we demonstrate to the world a picture of God’s divine image that is breathtaking to behold. We demonstrate the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Rejecting our roles or revising them to suit our individual tastes and plans is blasphemy. I didn’t say it; St. Paul did.
Women continue to cringe before the divine mandate of submission to husbands. Desires to lead rather than follow recur. Temptations arise to take the dominant initiative in the family, to act as the head. But each instance of a wife failing to defer to the known wishes of her husband (unless those wishes oppose the moral law of God) subverts the divinely appointed order and multiplies misery in the earth.
In contrast to the wise woman, the foolish woman is not content to be a keeper at home. She is not satisfied with where God has put her. One of the things the feminist movement has done so successfully is to stir up discontent in women with being homemakers and to convince them that other pursuits can increase their sense of self-worth… Fueling discontent and pushing women out of their homes in search of greater meaning and satisfaction has resulted in off-the-chart stress levels for many women who can no longer survive without pills and therapists… The greatest spiritual, moral, and emotional protection a woman will ever experience is found when she is content to stay within her God-appointed sphere. This does not mean that she never leaves her house, but rather that her heart is rooted in her home and that she puts her family’s needs above all other interests and pursuits.
It should come as no huge surprise that the secular world is confused and off-base about the identity and calling of women. But what I find distressing is the extent to which (this) has taken hold even within the evangelical world. We see the fruit of that revolution as prominent Christian speakers, authors, and leaders promote an agenda, whether subtly or overtly, that encourages women to define and discover their worth in the workplace, in society, or at church, while minimizing (or even at the expense of) their distinctive roles in the home as daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers – as bearers and nurturers of life, caregivers, as those privileged and responsible to shape the heart and character of the next generation. The feminist revolution was supposed to bring women greater fulfillment and freedom. It was supposed to make us feel better about ourselves; after all, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” But we see the poisoned fruit of the revolution in the eyes and pitiable cries of women who are drowning in the quagmire of serial divorce and remarriage and wayward children; women who are utterly exhausted from the demands of trying to juggle one or more jobs, function as single parents and be active in church; women who are disoriented and confused, who lack sense of mission, vision, and purpose for their lives and who are perpetually, pathetically shrouded in woundedness, self-doubt, resentment, and guilt.
Extremist egalitarian assertions are based on false premises:
1. Absolute equality of rights, privileges, responsibilities and authority produces the chaos of no one having ultimate responsibility or authority.
2. The egalitarian premises of socialistic communism and radical democratization are equally unworkable.
3. Identity, value and worth are not found in gender-function, but in a personal Being beyond ourselves.
Three of the New Testament passages that call women to submit to their husbands include an important phrase. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 similarly reads, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” These parallel phrases serve as reminders to all wives that submission in marriage must be with the same loving wholeheartedness with which we submit to the Lord. When we submit to our spouses, we are once again agreeing with God that His beautiful ordered plan is worth obeying and the mystery worth preserving. By so doing we once again acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.
Wives are called both to love and to submit to their husbands. Their submission is not to be grudging or perfunctory but loving and willing. The Greek word for “submit,” hypotasso, conveys the notion of “placing oneself under” another person’s authority, which implies that this is done voluntarily rather than under compulsion. Ephesians 5:21-33 links wives’ submission with respect for their husband (5:22, 33). This respect ought to be freely given. Respect does not mean uncritical adoration, just as submission does not mean subservience.
What biblical submission for the wife is NOT:
1. Submission is not merely a concept for women.
2. Submission does not mean that the wife becomes a slave.
3. Submission does not mean that the wife never opens her mouth, never has an opinion, never give advice.
4. Submission does not mean that the wife becomes a wallflower who folds up and allows her abilities to lie dormant.
5. Submission does not mean that the wife is inferior to the husband.
The Lord commands the wife to be submissive. Refusal to submit to the husband is therefore rebellion against God Himself. Submission to the husband is a test of her love for God as well as a test of love for her husband. The wife then must look upon her submission to her husband as an act of obedience to Christ and not merely to her husband.
Submission means that she sees herself as a part of her husband’s team. She is not her husband’s opponent fighting at cross purposes or trying to outdo him. She is not merely an individual going her separate way. She is her husband’s teammate striving for the same goal. She has ideas, opinions, desires, requests, and insights, and she lovingly makes them known. But she knows that in any good team someone has to make the final decisions and plans. She knows that the team members must support the team leader, his plans and decisions, or no progress will be made, and confusion and frustration will result.
It’s a striking fact that every New Testament passage discussing the role of a wife in relation to her husband requires her to submit to him (Eph. 5;22-24; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1; Titus 2:5), while no passage indicates that a husband should be subordinate to his wife. Any honest reading of Scripture must conclude that a wife is commanded to submit to her husband.
The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies. A true mother is one of the holiest secrets of home happiness. God sends many beautiful things to this world, many noble gifts; but no blessing is richer than that which He bestows in a mother who has learned love’s lessons well, and has realized something of the meaning of her sacred calling.
Without the companion of Christ, the primacy of [the wife’s submission to] the husband “in everything” (Eph. 5:24) could be misunderstood as a license for every form of male tyranny. The comparison with Christ shows the content, character and limits of this subjection. Christ’s headship is a reign of sacrificial love.
At the heart of this submission is the notion of “order.” God has established certain leadership and authority roles within the family; submission is a humble recognition of that divine ordering (Peter T. O’Brien).
A woman was given not for a man’s whims but for his character. She elevates him in true masculinity. It takes a woman to make a real man. This is God’s design, and we tamper with it at our peril (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
To call a woman a helper is not to emphasize her weakness but her strength, not to label her as superfluous but as essential to Adam’s condition and to God’s purpose in the world. Helper is a position of dignity given to the woman by God Himself (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
The woman ministers to the man in the role of helper. She helps him to do and to be what God calls for. She treats him as a brother in Christ, not as a savior who is to fulfill her every desire (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
A wife submits voluntarily, not merely as demanded and enforced by the man. It is a gift that a woman offers to the man she has vowed to love in obedience to God who first loved her. For this reason, it is imperative that a woman’s submission be “as to the Lord,” that is, flowing from the submissive obedience she already yields to Jesus Christ (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
God’s will for every Christian wife is that her most important ministry be to her husband (Genesis 2:18). After a wife’s own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing else should have greater priority. Her husband should be the primary benefactor of his wife’s time and energy, not the recipient of what may be left over at the end of the day. Whether her husband is a faithful Christian man or an unbeliever, God wants every Christian woman to be a godly wife- an excellent wife.
Wives are not the only ones instructed to respect their husbands. Children are told to honor their fathers (Ephesians 6:2-3). If you are disrespectful to your husband, your children will likely acquire the same attitude. It will be much more difficult for them to honor their father if you are belittling him and speaking to him in a harsh, sarcastic tone of voice.
The wife must focus on her THREE GOD-GIVEN BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES towards her husband: to love him, to respect him, and to submit to him. Her “good works” are not dependent on what her husband does, but on her obedience to God in these three areas.
Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts… It’s the disposition to follow a husband’s authority, and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish in the relationship when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.”
Here are six things [submission] is not, based on 1 Peter 3:1-6:
1. Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says.
2. Submission does not mean leaving your brains or your will at the wedding altar.
3. Submission does not mean avoiding every effort to change a husband.
4. Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ.
5. Submission does not mean that a wife gets her personal, spiritual strength primarily though her husband.
6. Submission does not mean that a wife is to act out of fear.
When Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” the word as does not mean that Christ and the husband are the same. Christ is supreme; the husband is not. Her allegiance is first to Christ, not first to her husband. The analogy only works if the woman submits to Christ absolutely, not to the husband absolutely. Then she will be in a position to submit to the husband without committing treason or idolatry.
God made clear from the start that men and women are equal in dignity, value, and worth. Submission is not about denigrating the value of another’s life. Instead, this biblical word means to yield to another in love.
Understanding that the word is “submit” (to place oneself under) and not “obey” (cf. Eph. 6:1), helps us to understand that the woman’s objective is simply intended to complement her husband’s leadership. Rather than a two-headed monstrosity leading the family, she is there to support his God-designated role while fully functioning as his equal partner and “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). This means the wife should be free to share opinions, provide insight and even respectfully disagree. But when it is all said and done, she is willing to come alongside her husband’s spiritual plan for the family as God is holding the man accountable.
It is conceivable that the husband should defer more to his wife than the wife submits to her husband. If it is always the husband always getting his way, where would the husband need to die to self and prefer his wife’s needs above his own? Although Jesus Christ is our head, I do not see Him demanding where we go on vacation, what temperature we keep the house, what food we serve on the table and what color the kitchen should be decorated. Husbands, in the same way, consider your wife’s needs above your own and do not abuse the verses on submission as an excuse to be selfish! It is ultimately your spiritual service to Christ.
A wife’s submission has nothing to do with being inferior, just as God the Son is not inferior to God the Father, though submissive to Him in role (1 Cor. 11:3). As John MacArthur said, “What it calls for is an active, deliberate, loving, intelligent devotion to the husband’s noble aspirations and ambitions” (The Fulfilled Family, p. 32).
The word “submit” (hupotasso) simply means –“to line up under.” It carries the idea of willingly or voluntarily placing oneself under someone else. It relates only to role, not to essence.
Submission in marriage is not a bad thing. The entire principle is based on God the Son’s submission to God the Father. Consider 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman [his wife], and God is the head of Christ.” Submission does not imply inferiority. The Son in not “less God” than the Father. We are not talking about essence, but role or function. And regarding essence, the Scripture is clear that women have the same value and worth as men. They are equally saved and loved by God. They are, verse 7, “Fellow heir[s] of the grace of life.” Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Why is the wife in marriage required to be the one who submits (Eph. 5, Col. 3, Tit. 2, 1 Pet. 3)? Because God set it up this way, based on the order of creation (1 Timothy 2) and ultimately to show the primary purpose on marriage. Marriage is to be a visual picture of the Gospel. Sex before marriage is wrong because we do not have intimacy with Christ until covenant. Adultery is wrong because we are to be entirely devoted to Christ and not other idols. Divorce is wrong because God would never leave us nor would we ever want to leave Him. We are one flesh in marriage to show the oneness we have with Christ – Him in us, us in Him. We leave our parents and cleave to our spouse to show how we leave the world and cleave to Christ. Marriage is between one man and one woman to show the marriage between Christ and His bride. And we have God designed roles in marriage whereby the husband would show Christ by leading through example and sacrificial love and the wife would show the bride of Christ (the church) by trusting her husband’s spiritual leadership for her well-being. After a lengthy discourse on the marital roles, Paul in Ephesians 5 makes the point clear in verse 32. “This mystery is great [marriage]; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. It’s all Gospel-centered.
Specifically, how does a wife submit? She does so by trusting God’s good commandments. By being thankful God’s accountability is not on her. By understanding that someone needs to be in charge of any institution. She does it with joy, like the church submits to Christ, without nagging and with respect. Wives, to agree with your husband’s leadership is wonderful, but that is not submitting. What do you do when you do not agree? And what is your attitude? Is it resentful compliance or is it encouraging your husband’s desire to spiritually lead the family? Remember the curse of the fall from Genesis 3? “Your desire will be for your husband.” Even as a Christian, wives, you are continually tempted to usurp your husband’s authority. Be aware of that and fight against it.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). This is a service and an act of worship that the woman gives to the Lord Himself. It is the Lord’s will that the wife be submissive to her husband, and if she want to honor Christ, then one of the concrete ways she does this is by being in submission to her husband. If a woman is contentious and refuses to follow the leadership of her husband, she is in rebellion, not simply against him, but also against Christ.
To submit to anyone less than Christ is difficult in a marriage. Yet it is Christ who commands women to be submissive to their sinful, fallible husbands. In this sense Christ is the silent partner of the marriage. It is hard for a wife to submit when she disagrees with her husband. But when she knows her submission is an act of obedience to Christ and honors Christ, it is much less difficult.
A gracious wife satisfieth a good husband, and silenceth a bad one.
In 1950, the great Scottish American preacher Peter Marshall stood before the United States Senate and he explained it this way: The modern challenge to motherhood is the eternal challenge – that of being a godly woman. The very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other kind of women – beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career woman, talented women, divorced women, but so seldom do we hear of a godly woman… I believe women come nearer fulfilling their God-given function in the home than anywhere else. It is a much nobler thing to be a good wife than to be Miss America. It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second-rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realm of morals to be old-fashioned than to be ultramodern. The world has enough women who know how to hold their cocktails, who have lost all their illusions and their faith. The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women…who would rather be morally right that socially correct