This is the second part of a three-part series, The Crowning Quality of a Meek and Quiet Spirit." See Introduction at http://faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=17009 and Part One: Modesty at http://faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=17011.
PREPARING OUR HEARTS FOR THIS LESSON
In Part One we talked about a meek and quiet spirit as it relates to modesty in attitude, behavior and appearance. For sake of this Part Two, let’s recall that “meek” means mild, humble, gentle, amiable or friendly-spirited, soft, moderate as opposed to harsh, stern, violent or inordinately passionate or expressive. “Quiet” can mean calm. Our priority as godly Christian women is to let our beauty be more what’s on the inside—our spirits—than what’s on the outside. Not to the neglect of the outside but that our whole being should reflect our profession of Christ.
We’re going to look now at how that relates specifically to, or is applicable to, our duty to submit to our husbands. This study is suitable for all women—including single women and even teenagers. You need to be aware of and prepared for what God will expect from you in advance of whenever you become a wife. Now’s the time to know what’s coming in terms of your biblical obligations to God and to your future husband. And when you become interested in a particular man, you need to evaluate whether he is the man you could submit yourself to for the rest of your life.
To prepare our hearts and minds to receive from God this hard lesson of submission to our husbands, let’s first hear again one of the quotes from Part One:
“I have noticed that whenever there has been a faithful following of the Lord in a consecrated soul, several things have, sooner or later, inevitably followed. Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, the characteristics of the daily life. A submissive acceptance of the will of God, as it comes in the hourly events of each day, is manifested; pliability in the hands of God to do or to suffer all the good pleasure of His will; sweetness under provocation; calmness in the midst of turmoil and bustle; a yielding to the wishes of others, and an insensibility to slights and affronts; absence of worry or anxiety; deliverance from fear – all these, and many other similar graces, are invariably found to be the natural outward development of that inward life which is hid with Christ in God.” -- Hannah Whiteall Smith
Now, let’s review our foundational scriptures from Part One of our series: Proverbs 3:5-6; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:16; Romans 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 10:23,31; Titus 2:12; James 4:6-8 (cf. 1 Peter 5:5); 1 John 2:15-17.
Okay! Now we’re ready! We’re going to try to discover together the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW from God’s Word about wives’ submission to husbands. Don’t worry! In Part Three we’ll look at husbands’ duties! It’s all about balance!
THE “WHO” OF SUBMISSION TO HUSBANDS
Turn to Ephesians 5:22-33. That’s our primary passage, giving women indisputable instruction on submission to husbands. We may not like it, but we’ll discover why we don’t!
Let’s consider the fuller context of what the Apostle Paul is saying here. Prior and up to verse 22 he is admonishing believers on living a consistent Christian life, abandoning their previous sinful practices as well as the sins of the world around them. Let’s now read from verse 15:
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Note again what verse 21 says, and to whom it is written. All Christians are to submit ourselves to one another in the fear of God. As Matthew Henry states [Vol. 6, p. 575]:
There is a mutual submission that Christians owe one to another, condescending to bear one another’s burdens: not advancing themselves above others, nor domineering over one another and giving laws to one another. …We must be of a yielding and of a submissive spirit, and ready to all the duties of the respective places and stations that God has allotted to us in the world. …Where there is this mutual condescension and submission, the duties of all relations will be the better performed.
Again, all Christians are to submit to one another. That is the foundational rule that Paul lays down and upon which he then begins to address specific categories of Christian people (through verse 9 of Chapter 6), giving them practical application of that rule. He starts with Christian wives at verse 22; then husbands at verse 25; then children at 6:1; then fathers at 6:4; then servants at 6:5; and finally masters at 6:9.
So, in terms of tonight’s topic, while the “who” of submission applies to all Christians according to the contexts of their respective stations and relationships, we are looking in particular at the wives’ station and relationship to their own husbands and the call of the wife’s duty to submit in marriage.
THE “WHAT” OF SUBMISSION TO HUSBANDS
Now let’s answer the “what” of wives’ duty to submit to their own husbands. What is submission?
In Webster’s, to “submit” means to surrender or yield oneself to the will, opinion or authority of another; also, to allow oneself to be subjected; also, to be subdued unto, be subordinate, be subject.
That sure sounds like submission is something volitional, not automatic; something we wives are to initiate, bring about, be in control of, make ourselves do. The subject of the action is us wives, not the authority to which we are submitting ourselves.
Now let’s see what submission is in the Greek. The same Greek word used in several different places in these scriptures means: be subdued unto, be subject to or in subjection to, submit one’s self to, be under obedience or obedient unto. I also looked up “reverence” at Ephesians 5:33. The noun denotes a sense of shame, bashfulness, modesty; then, regard for others, respect. The verb denotes to shame one’s self before anyone, feel respect or deference towards, respect; to fear in the sense of honor.
So, it is the duty, the responsibility of wives to submit themselves to, be subject to, subordinate themselves unto, be obedient to, revere, respect, honor their husbands. The instruction is towards us and not to anyone else to make us submit. It is not enslavement but a conscious, sincere endeavor to fulfill our place in the will and delight of God. We’ll get more into the question of “why” we have to submit, but in the meantime understand that submission is in our control in the sense that yielding to the authority of our husbands is something God instructs us to allow ourselves to do.
THE “WHEN” AND “WHERE” OF SUBMISSION TO HUSBANDS
The “when” and “where” of wives’ submission to their own husbands should be mostly obvious. But some people misapply it and others fail to apply it often enough.
So, when and where should wives submit to their own husbands? All the time and everywhere. But now, let’s qualify that, because no truly God-fearing wife would allow herself to submit to a husband (even a Christian husband) who is expecting her to do something that violates the Word of God. We’ll look more closely at husbands’ duties in marriage as they relate to the Crowning Qualities of Christian Manhood, in Part Three. We already see from Ephesians 5: 15 and forward that husbands need to be in the fear of the Lord, too. A man who willfully violates God’s will, or who won’t at least investigate the possibility that he’s violating God’s will, is not operating in the fear of God.
Barring such cases of violation of biblical principles, a wife should submit to the authority of her husband consistently, with her and her husband each and together operating in the fear of the Lord. Even when she may disagree with his opinion or decision, as long as he’s not in violation of God’s Word, she must allow herself to be the one to yield every single time. The duty of godly submission is just like the godly marriage itself: there should be no pauses. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit never stops being priceless to God.
Also, keep in mind that we Christians are always being watched—watched by the world around us and watched by our own children. We want every aspect of our lives to shine the light of Christ. How can we expect to properly train our kids in the things of God, or to influence our neighbors or unsaved loved ones towards Jesus Christ when we won’t surrender ourselves consistently to our God-given duty to submit to our husbands? Read Titus 2:5—“that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Be in an attitude of submission to your husband especially when he’s around but even when he’s not around.
THE “WHY” OF SUBMISSION TO HUSBANDS
Now, the much-awaited question is, “Why do wives have to submit? Why don’t husbands and wives have equal authority in the household?”
The most obvious and preeminent reason is because your heavenly Father says so. Period.
Of course, the Scriptures give us an additional reason. For one thing, the wife’s submission to the authority of the husband as the head of the household is the divinely ordained order of things. That’s how God ordained the relationship between husband and wife to be; it is a hierarchy with the man above the wife in terms of leadership in the home, directly reflecting the relationship of Christ as head of the church.
Read again Ephesians 5:23. Also read 1 Corinthians 11:3,8-9. God created man first, then woman. She came forth out of man and was specifically created for him. The husband/wife relationship is from God’s perspective modeled after Christ’s wondrous relationship with His church. Christ and the church are not “partners” in the sense of equal authority. Christ’s role is to lead the church, not lead with it nor be led by it. The church’s role is to allow itself to be led by Christ (be subject unto, submit itself unto, revere, honor, etc.). Similarly, the husband’s role is to lead the wife, not lead with her nor be led by her. The wife’s role is to allow her husband to do his job. Matthew Henry puts it this way [p. 576]:
Christ’s authority is exercised over the church for the saving of her from evil, and the supplying of her with every thing good for her. In like manner should the husband be employed for the protection and comfort of his spouse; and therefore she should the more cheerfully submit herself unto him. So it follows, Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ [Eph. 5:24], with cheerfulness, with fidelity, with humility, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing – in every thing to which their authority justly extends itself, in every thing lawful and consistent with duty to God.
So, the reasons why we should submit to our husbands is, first and foremost, because God says so; and second, because we were created after and for our husbands and are in relation to him as the church is to Christ.
THE “HOW” OF SUBMISSION TO HUSBANDS
So, how do we do it? How do we surrender ourselves particularly to a duty that for most of us (or am I just speaking for myself?!) goes so heavily against the grain of a society that cries for the self-determination of our gender?
Well, first of all, memorize those foundational Scriptures we’ve looked at in this series. Meditate on them.
Then, go home and read and study the Scriptures we’re looking now. Understand that all Christians are instructed to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord. Understand that submission is initiated by you, under the call and direction of God, and is in your control and not your husband’s control over you (he has authority over you, not control, as we’ll see in Part Three, Lord willing). Understand that the duty of submission is a constant duty, and that you are to be consistent with your profession of Christ before your children and the lost even in that area. And understand that the command to and expectation of your submission comes from God and no one else, and that is reason enough to do it. But also remember that God has intended your marriage relationship to be modeled after the wonderful relationship of the church to Christ.
Also part of how to submit to your own husband is to pray for God’s grace to help.
But that’s not all. Peter says also that we should look to the example of older women of God. Read 1 Peter 3:5-6. Consider [with a grain of salt] Matthew Henry’s Commentary [p. 824]:
Of Sara, who obeyed her husband, and followed him when he went from Ur of the Chaldeans, not knowing whither he went, and called him lord, thereby showing him reverence and acknowledging his [headship] over her; and all this though she was declared a princess by God from heaven, by the change of her name, “Whose daughters you are if you imitate her in faith and good works, and do not, through fear of your husbands, either quit the truth you profess or neglect your duty to them, but readily perform it, without either fear or force, out of conscience towards God and sense of duty to them.”
[1.] God takes exact notice, and keeps an exact record, of the actions of all men and women in the world.
[2.] The subjection of wives to their husbands is a duty which has been practiced universally by holy women in all ages.
[3.] The greatest honour of any man or woman lies in a humble and faithful deportment of themselves in the relation or condition in which Providence has placed them.
[4.] God takes notice of the good that is in his servants, to their honor and benefit, but covers a multitude of failings; Sara’s infidelity and derision are overlooked, when her virtues are celebrated [in this passage of 1 Peter 3].
[5.] Christians ought to do their duty to one another, not our of fear, nor from force, but from a willing mind, and in obedience to the command of God. Wives should be in subjection to their…husbands, not from dread and amazement, but from a desire to do well and to please God.