The Role of the Christian Wife
1. In this section Paul gives a brief dissertation on the Christian home.
a. While it is quite brief, (only 4 verses—unless we include the exhortations directed to masters and servants) it is the second longest in the Scriptures!
b. It is surprising to me how LITTLE there is in the Bible on Christian living in the home.
c. There are LOTS of principles found scattered throughout the Bible that are certainly applicable at home, but only a couple of sections directly dealing with the Christian home.
d. My explanation for the apparent lack of passages dealing with Christian living in the home (and this is only an opinion…) is that Christian living in the home shouldn’t be any different than Christian living anywhere else!
e. Thus EVERY passage that deals with the Christian life needs to be incorporated into our home life.
2. And in this second largest section on the Christian home, notice that there is but ONE main exhortation directed to the wife… one directed to the husband… one directed to the children… and one directed to the father… and none to the mother.
a. Critics might assume that this incredibly brief section on the Christian home is pitifully inadequate to deal with all the complex problems that might befall a Christian home in the modern world.
b. Those critics would be dead wrong.
c. In my mind, I see something beautiful in the simplicity of it all!
d. Modern psychology is quite complicated, with all of its competing and sometimes contradictory theories, methodologies, and therapies…
e. God’s plan of salvation is simple. Of course it can be dissected into theological complexities, but it can also be boiled down to something simple enough for a child to grasp: “Believe and be saved.” It is beautifully simple.
f. God’s plan for the Christian home is simple too. And there are complexities that can arise in the home too… and complex relationships. However, it can be boiled down to one simple command for each person.
g. Christian living in the home is available to every believer… to every Christian family… new and older believers alike… not just the elite theologians who claim to be able to dissect the complex human relationships and put them back together in such a way that they work effectively.
h. God gives ONE main command to each person in the home. And if we would each OBEY that one simple command, our homes would be transformed!
i. Obedience to one simple command would resolve EVERY problem that any family will ever or could ever face.
j. This morning we want to look at the one main command given to the Christian wife: submit.
3. We are going to spend a little MORE time on the command given to the wives.
a. But the reason is not what you think, men! It’s not because I am biased or am trying to be unfair in the coverage!
b. Rather, it is because the role of women is under attack today and demands more attention.
c. In the world today, if a man says he loves his wife, he gets a pat on the back from the world.
d. If a woman says she submits to her husband in everything, she is ridiculed, scorned, and looked at as a relic from medieval days.
e. In other words, for ladies in the modern world it is MORE difficult fulfilling their God given role than men.
f. We want to LIFT UP God’s concept of womanhood and make it clear what submission is and what it is not.
g. In the local church, we want to honor women for being women!
Submission Defined: Wives, Submit Yourselves
A. The Term Defined
1. ὑποτάσσω – to place or arrange under, to subordinate; to subject one’s self, obey; to submit to one’s control.
a. This is a compound word (tasso – to place in order; to place in an orderly fashion) + hupo (under)
b. Hence, it comes to mean to subordinate, to place under the authority of another.
c. Strong’s: a military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.”
d. Submission is similar to but not synonymous to obedience.
• It is possible to obey a command but not be submissive… to obey but without a submissive heart.
• A hostage might be forced to obey their captors, but that is a far cry from the concept of submission. That’s called duress… perhaps with a gun to their head!
• Submission speaks of a heart attitude out of which obedience arises.
• It is possible for a wife to do what her husband says, but to do so grumbling… to do so for various reasons (fear, under duress, in anger… even hatred).
• But Paul is telling the wives to willingly and lovingly SUBMIT to their husbands… to be submissive…
• It carries the idea of surrendering one’s will to another…
B. The Command
1. The verb is present, passive, imperative
a. The wife is commanded to continually BE submissive to her husband.
b. It is a command, not a suggestion.
c. It is to be continuous behavior… a continuous heart attitude.
d. Be careful with the “passive” here.
• The wife is not to BE subjugated (from an outside source—like her husband!).
• She is to BE submissive.
• She is to “put herself” in that place… not the husband.
• The command is not to the husband to subjugate the wife, but for the wife to submit to the husband.
• The wife is to choose to willingly place herself in the God-given role of submission.
2. Eph. 5:22-24 expands this concept.
a. He adds here that the husband is the head of the wife. (Eph. 5:23)
b. He also adds, “In everything.” (Eph. 5:24)
• There is not a lot of wiggle room in this passage.
• This does not speak of submission when it is convenient or when the wife thinks it’s a good idea… or when the wife wants to.
• There is no exception clause for days when the wife doesn’t feel like it, or if the husband is acting like a fool.
• There aren’t any qualifications the husband has to meet before the wife is to submit to him.
• The only exception clause is found in Acts 5:29 – we ought to obey God rather than men. When a husband tells his wife to violate Scripture, she is to obey God rather than her husband.
c. It is not difficult to understand what Paul means. It is not a matter of interpretation. The language is crystal clear. Some think it is “too” clear.
d. Even those who oppose this teaching do not doubt what the words Paul said meant.
e. There is virtually no disagreement as to what the message is in this verse.
• However, because it is crystal clear, and because it is so vilified in the world, some have resorted to attacking the messenger, Paul… or the preacher who teaches this: me!
• Some say: He was a product of his time; male chauvinist; single man who didn’t understand women; archaic and no longer fits the modern world.
• The fact is that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost… and these words are God-breathed and profitable!
f. Submission is an attitude of heart that recognizes this to be so… that the husband is the head and the wife is to willingly and respectfully accepts and responds to that headship.
• Submission is not simply what a woman does, but what she IS.
• It is more of a description of her heart than her actions.
• It is her attitude of heart even when there are no commands given…
• The present tense of the participle in Col. 3:18 indicates that this is to be the constant attitude of a godly wife.
3. Notice also that the command is supremely SIMPLE.
a. It is not a complicated formula for a happy home.
b. There are no footnotes to the command… or an additional commentary on “how to” submit.
c. Psychology (even Christian psychology!) loves to give us a series or steps to try to make things easy for us… or how to take the stress or the pain out of it… some new techniques… or a prescription to help us deal with the anxiety of it all…
d. There is nothing of the like in the Bible. Paul simply says: submit.
e. The wife is given nothing but the plain, straightforward, simple command and is expected by God to obey: submit to your husband in everything.
f. And young ladies considering marriage should take a long hard look at this text before you ever enter marriage. Ask yourself, “Is this really the man I would want to submit to for the rest of my life?”
g. Submission in everything is the role of the Christian wife… so pray MUCH before even thinking of getting married.
4. This is one of those Bible commands that is despised by the world.
a. It is scorned, ridiculed, and hated in many circles today… sadly even by some who claim to be evangelical Christians!
b. Some have tried to get around this passage by stating that submission is the result of the curse and that in Christ there is no difference, and thus no submission.
c. Some have tried to cut this command out of the Bible, claiming that it was just “cultural” or that it was an expression of Paul’s bias, etc.
d. But it is in fact NOT a cultural issue. It is inspired Scripture! It is as true today as the day it was written!
e. It is just as true and relevant as Col. 3:19 – “Husbands, love your wives!” Nobody says that we should cut that verse out and discard it as “cultural” or “biased.”
f. None of us has the right to pick and chose which verses we like and which we do not like… which are authoritative and which are not.
g. ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is PROFITABLE!
h. But just because something is despised and rejected of men, that does not mean it is wrong! Isaiah tells us that our Lord Himself was also despised and rejected of men!
i. Truth is not determined by opinion polls, popularity polls, or current trends.
j. God is the author of truth… not men. Let God be true and every man a liar.
God’s Original Creation Order
1. The concept of submission in the New Testament speaks of God’s earthly order of things… everything in its place… orderly—just like the rest of His creation.
a. There is a chain of authority… a chain of command in the world God built.
b. God’s plan is for the local church and for His world to function decently and in order… and He has built in a chain of command for that to transpire.
c. When that chain of authority is broken, or turned inside out, (in the world, the local church, or the home) chaos is the result.
d. When the divine order is kept and honored, contentment is the result… and there is peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
e. And that is what everybody wants (peace, contentment, fulfillment)… but most folks go about it the wrong way… by being conformed to the world rather than being transformed by the Word.
2. In the home, the husband is the head and the wife is to submit. This is based on God’s creation order.
a. I Tim.2:12-13 – for Adam was first formed.
• This is given as the reason why women are not to usurp authority over the man.
• In this verse, the reason given is not because of sin, but because of God’s creation order… the originally perfect design and creation order of things.
• “First” = protos – can either mean first in rank or first in time.
• This is similar to the concept of the firstborn. The firstborn was not superior to other sons. Often he was a scoundrel!
• But because he was born first in time gave him first rank. It said NOTHING about his intellect, his spirituality, his morality, or his character.
• Vs. 14 – mentions Eve’s sin. But her rank under Adam existed BEFORE the fall.
b. Gen. 3:16 – The curse was NOT that the husband would rule over the wife or that the woman would now have to give birth.
• That existed BEFORE the fall.
• Before the fall Adam and Eve both knew their roles. They knew Adam was created “first.” They knew that Eve was his helpmeet. It was natural for them.
• There was no pressure on Adam to lead, and it was no burden to Eve to submit.
• Both did naturally what they were created to do. They knew nothing else. They joyfully accepted and fulfilled their God given roles as naturally as breathing.
• The curse was that now her position as wife and mother would now be wrought with difficulties because sin entered the hearts of BOTH of them… whereas before it was nothing but delight.
• Childbirth was not the curse. God originally told them to multiply and fill the earth.
• The curse was that now there would be pain in childbirth.
• The curse was not that the woman had to submit to the man. That was true before the fall. The curse was that now the woman would not be so willing to submit to her husband as before. She might want to rule over him!
c. Gen. 3:17-18 – Man’s curse was not the fact that he had to go to work. He worked in the garden before the fall.
• The curse was that his original position as worker would now be wrought with trouble.
• And now he had a wife whose fallen nature did not naturally and joyfully submit to his leadership as it had before the fall.
• Sin affected everything! And the curse has not yet been lifted, as we are all painfully aware.
d. But note that Adam’s position was as head and Eve’s position was to submit even before the fall.
• This role is not part of the curse.
• It is part of God’s original, perfect creation order… untainted by sin.
• Gen. 3:17 – in fact, the curse upon man was given because Adam and Eve swapped roles! Adam “hearkened” (obeyed) his wife.
• God clearly puts the blame of Adam for sin entering the world. Adam was in charge. He should have taken the lead.
• Instead, Eve led and Adam followed her lead. Sin turned God’s order and design upside down!
• Before, Adam always led Eve into righteousness.
• Now, Eve led Adam into sin.
• In that one act, God’s perfect order was violated, twisted, and distorted.
e. I Cor. 11:9 – the woman was created for the man.
• Again, it is God’s natural creation order that places men and women in such a relationship to each other.
• Read I Cor. 11:3 – man is in the position of head.
• To deny one in this order is to deny the others.
• To deny that the man is head of the woman is a denial that Christ is the head of the man.
• This is God’s chain of authority, and it is all ONE chain. Removing one link breaks the whole chain.
• This is God’s design… and it is not to be tinkered with.
• This is the order of nature… the order of creation…
• Vs. 8-9 indicate that God’s order of creating man and woman were designed to teach and reinforce this important lesson. God created Adam first and OUT OF Adam, He created Eve.
f. This is a divine order, and God does not want that order upset in the home.
• God made men and women different… equal in Christ, but different.
• They have different bodies, different emotional make ups, different ways of thinking, different levels of strength, different functions, and different roles.
• We do ourselves no favor by denying that women are different from men!
• The modern notion that the roles of the sexes are equal in every way is almost laughable… it is so contrary to the obvious! Men and women are different… by design…
• Men and women are different by divine design.
• The differences are not to compete with each other, but to complement each other… when each submits to his and to her God-given role.
3. Submission does NOT imply inferiority.
a. I Cor. 11:3 – God the Father was the Head of Christ.
• That does NOT imply superiority.
• Christ was equal to the Father…
• But in His earthly existence, as a man, God was His God and He submitted to the Father.
b. Luke 2:51 – Jesus submitted to Joseph and Mary… his legal, earthly parents. That did not mean that those mere mortals were superior to Christ… the eternal Son of God… the Creator of heaven and earth! Hardly.
c. Jesus submitted to various earthly relationships.
• Jesus submitted to the Jewish leaders in Israel… and thus to the Law of Moses.
• Jesus submitted unto the Roman government… human government was established by God. (Give unto Ceasar.)
d. His submission certainly did NOT imply inferiority!
• Jesus was NOT inferior to the Father, but co-equal!
• Jesus was NOT inferior to Joseph or Mary; or to the Jewish rulers; or to Herod or the other Roman government officials… and to the soldiers that nailed Him to the cross.
• He is Lord of all! Almighty God!
• And yet, Jesus submitted to every earthly authority over Him… even though He was the Creator of heaven and earth!
e. Earthly relationships do not last forever. In glory, there will be no male or female… no husbands and wives; hence, what we are discussing is a temporary arrangement… God’s order for life on earth in the present order.
• God has built law and order into His universe.
• God’s world has beauty and design… as well as law and order. They go hand in hand.
• Whether we are looking at a micro picture under a microscope… or a macro picture of the universe from Hubble telescope… God’s creation is a system of law and order… and of beauty and design.
• The beauty and the order are intermeshed… interwoven… a union.
• God’s plan for the home is no different. God’s design for the home includes an order… the husband is the head of the home… the wife is to submit.
f. The fact that the husband is the head of the household and the wife is to submit tells us NOTHING about the person… only the position.
• It does not mean that the wife is inferior morally. Often the reverse is true.
• It does not mean that the wife is less spiritual. Often the wife is more spiritually minded than the husband.
• It does not mean that the wife is inferior mentally. Her IQ may be light-years above his.
• It does not mean that her character is inferior. Sometimes the reverse is true.
• Headship vs. submission tells us nothing about the person or their character. All it tells us is the place they hold in God’s order of things on earth.
g. Gen. 1:26 – In fact, Adam and Eve were originally created to be co-regents over the entire earth.
• They ruled together… they both had dominion over the earth.
• Together they ruled as king and queen of planet earth! Talk about authority!
• But in their relationship as husband and wife, Eve was to submit to Adam…
• In fact, it was natural for her to do so, God never had to TELL her… any more than He had to tell the birds to fly or the fish to swim. That’s what they do!
• It was the way God made her! She was Adam’s wife; it was her NATURE! She knew instinctively to submit… and did so in perfect joy and fulfillment.
• What could be more fulfilling than BEING what God designed you to be?
• Reversing roles is as frustrating as expecting fish to fly and birds to swim.
• There are flying fish—but try pushing one off the Grand Canyon! And there are birds that swim… but try keeping them underwater! It doesn’t work. That’s not the sphere God created them to live in.
• You can try to defy your God given role, but eventually, it will catch up to you. God’s plan is best.
Christianity Elevates the Role of the Wife and Mother
1. Christianity LIFTED UP the role of the woman in the ancient world… and still does today.
a. Let’s not degrade this concept of submission as the world does.
b. Submission in the Bible does not mean slavery, oppression, or subjugation.
c. The Bible never tells the husband to “subjugate” his wife.
• That is what evil men did for centuries before Christianity came along.
• It is human nature for the strong to trample over the weak. (power, wealth, or position in the world)
• Because women were physically weaker, men subjugated them for many centuries… because they could!
d. Christianity revealed that a woman’s weakness and frailty is her GLORY! (I Pet. 3:7)
• The woman is to be HONORED because of her weakness! (honor = honor, respect, esteem, value; price)
• Peter’s point is that a weaker vessel is MORE valuable and ought to be honored as such.
• Compare a cast iron frying pan and fine china.
• The frying pan is stronger… the china is weaker.
• Because of that the china is to be honored… given a place of honor in the home… not the frying pan.
• China’s beauty and value are seen in the fact that it is fragile and delicate. That’s what MAKES it beautiful and valuable!
• Take the pan and the vase to a pawn shop!
e. Christianity is different from the modern world.
• The modern world tries to ignore the differences. (dishonest)
• Christianity is different from the ancient world which took advantage of the weakness of women. (immoral)
• Christianity is both honest and moral. It is honest and acknowledges the differences. It is moral and HONORS the woman for her weakness… God given beauty and delicate design!
• And God ORDERS men to honor that difference… not trample over it… or take advantage of it… or ignore it, but to HONOR it.
• I Cor. 11:7 – the woman is the GLORY of the man. (The man who is honest and moral will recognize this truth.)
f. In the ancient world, women were often treated like cattle, property, or slaves.
• Christianity elevated the place of the woman…
• Christianity restored the woman to her rightful place in God’s order…
• Gal. 3:28 – in Christ there is NO DIFFERENCE spiritually or morally between male and female! They are both of equal value to God. What a slap in the face to the cruel culture of his day!
• In our relationship to God, BOTH male and females are priests… and have equal access to God through the Spirit… no difference… no advantage…
• And even though in Christ, there is no difference, in the world, there is still a natural creation order… a chain of command.
• And in this chain of command, the husband is commanded something that would turn those pagan cultures on their heads: Husbands were to LOVE their wives more than they loved themselves! AS Christ loved the church!
• And men were commanded to HONOR the woman FOR her weakness… and see it as an asset and not something to step on.
2. The concept of women submitting to their husbands is hated in the world today… sometimes out of ignorance.
a. Today what often comes to the minds of men and women when they hear of this concept in the Bible is the awful travesty of the history of male/female relationships in ancient cultures.
b. They confuse the idea of subjugation with submission… they think of it as a master/slave relationship.
c. Or perhaps they think of Islam… where women are STILL treated like second class citizens… and the clerics teach the husbands how to beat their wives into submission.
d. That is evil… it is sinful… it is an awful abuse of God’s perfect creation order.
e. The feminist movement (women’s lib) was perfectly RIGHT in opposing and fighting against cruel abuse and injustice in the treatment of women.
f. It is no wonder that women fear and recoil at any mention of submission… because they IGNORANTLY associate it with the awful abuse of the past many centuries… and what continues to this day in some places.
g. They wrongly assume that Christianity perpetuates that awful abuse. It does NOT.
h. If they only knew how Christ LIFTS UP the role of a mother and a wife… and exalts it… and demands husbands to show love and to honor her FOR her weakness…
i. The woman who SUBMITS to God’s design and role for her life will find contentment and fulfillment.
j. The woman who rebels will be frustrated and empty.
k. When everyone in the home functions in their God given role in the home, as God intended, it is a thing of great beauty, order, design, and splendor… unmatched by any relationship in the world.
l. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand. There are times when even Christian men trample over their wives and treat them like doormats… as the evil men in ages past have done. It was wrong then and it is equally wrong today… even more so for a believer.
m. Colossians 3 tells us all how to make a few simple adjustments… and home can really be a happy place!