I decided to write this article because I believe that it is so critical to the foundations of our marriage and family. The subject of wives submitting to their husbands is one of the hardest subjects for teachers in our church to speak on because of its contoversial nature. Many teachers fail to address it and those who do carefully weigh their every word as if they’re walking on eggshells. Between the current attitude of our society and the general misunderstanding of the message and intent of what is being said in the Bible, the subject has pretty well become taboo.
Let’s begin by seeing what the Scriptures say:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For 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. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Let’s look at this in depth:
We are told here that we are to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord.
We are told that the husband is the head of the wife, comparing his authority over the wife to the authority that Christ has over the church.
This clearly shows us the order that God has set up for marriage.
Putting the Word into practice:
My own experience:
When I first got married, one of the hardest struggles I had to was to submit to my husband because I simply just didn’t trust my husband to make good decisions. I was both afraid that he’d embarrass me and resented the concept of having him over me. I knew the commands of God in this area and knew that obedience to God wasn’t a choice but was still afraid of being embarrassed by him making a mistake. One day, though, I remember thinking to myself that I had married a good, Godly man who just might make mistakes sometimes but in the big picture of things, he would make decisions that would be God-honoring. Realizing this, helped me relax tremendously and trust his leadership in our marriage.
The model relationship:
Let’s look at the chapter in context:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That 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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:25-31)
Did you catch that? Men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. When I realized this fact, I had a lot more respect for the responsibilities that God had given to husbands. It also made me realize the order that God had set up for the home. Men love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives were to submit to their husbands. Now there’s a relationship filled with love and unity. When you come to terms with this, submission goes from looking quite as daunting and like some kind of forced slavery to the actuality of God’s plan for unity, communion, and intimacy in marriage. It really isn’t all that bad submitting to a man who loves you to that degree.
Let’s look at another aspect of this verse:
When it says that the man is the head of the home and the wife is to submit to him, it is also showing us that God holds the man responsible for the decisions of the home. So, therefore, whatever decisions are made, God will hold the man responsible for them! And you thought submission was hard! When you are able to realize that the man is responsible to God for all the decisions of the home, you realize the gravity of exactly what is going on. It is important to emphasize this point. The man is responsible for all the decisions that he makes, even the ones that the wife may have suggested to him. If he makes a bad decision, then he’s responsible to God for it. If the wife gives advice and the man follows that advice, the man is still responsible to God for it. Fellow wives, can you grasp the awesome responsibility that is? Your husband will be facing the music for all the decisions made. Therefore, our responsibility as wives is to help our husbands make good decisions by giving the best Godly advice and counsel that we can, but then when he’s made that decision we must submit ourselves to it as graciously as we can. Knowing that the husband gives such an accounting to God makes me not envy his position. When I think of this, it makes me realize that my job is comparatively easy.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
This verse is specifically referring to those who are over us in the Lord but by extension I believe that it could also be said of our husbands.
CONSEQUENCES AND BENEFITS:
Another consequence besides disobedience of failing to submit:
“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things– that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:1-5)
Now there’s a long list here of things that women are to do. Note that among them are for wives to be obedient to their husbands. Why? What is the consequence listed for the above instructions? “…that the word of God may not be blasphemed…”?!?! Wow, now that’s a sobering thought.
OTHER BENEFITS OF SUBMISSION:
For the Christian couple:
A good book to read especially to understand some of the different ways men think in contrast with women is the book, For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn. One of the sections I found particularly memorable, a section in which the author talks about the need that a man has to be respected. A poll was given to men: What would you prefer, to alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected? An overwhelming amount of men (74%) said that they’d rather be unloved than disrespected. Other men (including my husband when I asked him) said that they had problems with the question because they didn’t see the difference. I believe that this is one of the reasons that there are so many problems in the home is because the man doesn’t feel respected and therefore truly loved by his wife. We wives tend to have the tendencies to criticize our husbands, to struggle with them for the reigns of power in the home, and flat out refuse to respect or heed the decisions that they make. This is wrong. When I heed the command of God and submit myself to my husband’s authority, I can notice the difference that it made in my husband and our relationship. It frees him by giving him the confidence that he needs and reassures him of my love. It also makes him more attentive and responsive to the things I would ask or the advice I would give him. Even the times that he doesn’t listen to my advice, I know that he’s at least heard and considered it thoughtfully before making a disagreeing decision. I won’t say that submission is always easy because it isn’t; I still have a brain and will of my own. So I won’t say that I never struggle with it. If I’m going to heed the Word of God, though, submission isn’t an option.
For the wives with unsaved husbands:
For you wives who are married to men who are not believers, my heart goes out to you. I know that it must be terribly hard being pulled in opposite directions. You are constantly faced with trying to strike the balance between the desires of your husband and following God. The Word of God commands submission even to an unbelieving husband. When or if a conflict arises your first priority is to obey the commands of God and then obey your husband. Be sure, though, that when you are forced to refuse your husband that you do so with the right attitude and right motive because you can be sure that your husband will notice. Your conduct is capable of being the best witness and best means of leading your husband to God!
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” (1 Peter 3:1,2)
“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
This article is not written for those who find themselves in a relationship that is physically or sexually abusive for themselves or their children. If you are a person in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to get help and get out for your sake and the sake of your children. You will help neither yourself, your children, nor your mate by staying in such a relationship. By getting out, you save yourself and your children, who are your most important responsibility, and hopefully in the process you’ll give your mate a wake up call and the chance to get help for themselves as well.