God commands and enables every Christian marriage to act as a platform for gospel proclamation. It is God’s design and intention for every Christian marriage to be a living illustration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While last post we considered the wife’s glorious and honored position as man’s helper, this post will introduce the role of submission in marriage.
Submission comes from a word in Greek that means “to subordinate” or “put under.” Submission then is simply a women who voluntarily follows the leadership of her husband (Ephesians 5:22; I Peter 3:1). This is something a wife actively does, NOT FORCED upon her by the recipient. Submission occurs as a wife allows her husband to take leadership in their relationship. The next post we will discuss more in depth what submission IS and what it IS NOT, but this post I just want to deal with several reasons submission is neglected or ignored.
This post comes from truths I have gleaned in a marriage Bible study I am apart of, as well as from reading the book Sweethearts for a Lifetime: Making the Most of Your Marriage by Wayne A. Mack and Carol Mack. I highly recommend this book!
Note on Submission
Submission is not just for women (Ephesians 5:21; I Peter 5:5; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 13:1).
Everyone has to submit. As seen above, every human is called to submit to someone, often in different ways and times. Children are to submit to parents, church members are to submit to faithful leaders (Hebrews 13:17), and as apart of God’s redeemed people we are to submit to God and each other (James 4:7; Ephesians 5:21).
Reason #1: Sinful resistance toward authority
We are all fallen beings, and thus we naturally resist authority (Psalm 1:1-3). Authorities are a blessing: We need to remember that God placed authorities over each of us for our protection and blessing (Rom. 13:1, 4; Heb. 13:17).
Reason #2: Fear based on misunderstanding of Scripture
Wives and husbands oftentimes misunderstand the true and full meaning of Biblical submission. They believe that the husband has all the privileges, and the wives are left with all the menial work. Submission is akin to slavery in the minds of many, and thus women are fearful of their calling to submit.
Reason #3: Belief that husband is not qualified
Husband is immature / selfish / unqualified / bad decision maker / not leading, therefore, he is not qualified to lead. Yet we read in Scripture that the Husband is God’s appointed leader. Just as a man is not to love is his wife based on how lovely she is, a woman is not to submit based on how great of a leader her husband is. As citizens of countries, we are not commanded to submit to our authorities because we agree on every point (Rom. 13:1, 4). If a wife usurps her husband’s role and refuses to place herself under her husbands care and authority, they are usurping God’s authority in their life. If a wife refuses to submit to her husbands role in marriage, she is actually opposing God.
What about a husband and his wrong decisions? Remember, a husband’s mistakes and wrong decisions are within God’s providence. Remember also, that good decision making is a skill developed over time, with practice, and with some mistakes. Making wrong decisions is part of the leadership process. Remember from last post that a wife’s honored and glorious position is to be his help mate. You have the amazing position of aiding your husband in decision making.
Encourage him to lead.
Reassure him when he makes wrong decisions.
Allow him to make decisions.
Help him lead by not leading.
Reason #4: Fear based upon a lack of trust in God
1 Peter 3:1-6 reminds us that Sarah submitted to Abraham (who had a terrible track record at times), because she “hoped in God.” Therefore, even when her husband did not make the best decisions, she was able to submit to him “without being frightened by any fear.”
A woman submits to her husband not because she trusts her husband’s character (although she very well may trust his character), rather she submits to her husband because she trust’s God’s character. She trusts that God is wise and loving, and therefore His ways are best. You could say that Sarah submitted to Abraham not because of the greatness of her husband, but because of the greatness of her God.
In Sweethearts for a Lifetime, Carol Mack states that “It is never appropriate for a wife to put herself in God’s place and fail to submit because she is afraid that her husband’s decision is poor or irresponsible” (pg. 244).
Instead, submission is rooted in God’s role for wives as a picture, in part, of the glorious relationship of the church as she submits to Jesus Christ. In light of his substitutionary atoning work for her, she has the opportunity to picture the gospel and submit to her husbands authority. So, since submission to one’s own husband is rooted in the gospel of Christ, biblical submission is intrinsically glorious and something of great dignity.
It must be noted that just because a woman submits to her husband, it does not necessarily entail that a husband will be a just and loving figure. And as we will discuss in future posts, submission in Scripture never commands a woman to turn her brain off and blindly submit to anything a husband suggests. Submission for the wife is ultimately an act of worship and submission “as to the Lord.” A wife’s role is not to sit idly by, but to help and support her husband, knowing that he is the leader and will be responsible foremost unto God for every decision. May men and women pray for grace as they seek to follow the biblical pattern for marriage. May each one of us humbly consider the roles God has ordained and look to Jesus, our greatest example of self-sacrifice and submission, who lovingly chose to submit to the Father’s will so that we might be redeemed.