Women and Marriage
In Ephesians 5:22-33, we have the longest statement on the relationship between husbands and wives in the New Testament. Last week we looked at God’s call to husbands to sacrificially love, protect and provide for their wives. This week, we examined the controversial and often misunderstood topic of “submission.” Wives are called by God to submit by freely, gladly, and fully respecting her husband’s leadership – just like the Church does Christ.
For more background and notes from last week go HERE.
Marriage is a living parable that portrays the relationship of Jesus and the Church, his bride.
Husbands, as the “head”, are to sacrificially love, protect and provide for his wife, as Christ does the Church. The call to men is a call to servant leadership, ultimately dying for their bride if needed. This is NOT angry, independent self-glorifying leadership. Rather, this is leadership that serves God’s purposes for the benefit of others – just like Jesus. Headship DOES NOT mean you have right to rule, but a responsibility to bear.
Wives, as the “body”, are to submit to their husbands by freely, gladly, fully, respecting her husband’s leadership, as Church does Christ.
In other words, husbands sacrifice in love (to the point of death, if needed) and wives submit in love.
Q: How does the Church “submit” itself to Jesus (5:24)?
Freely, Gladly, Fully, Actively, Respectfully.
In same way as the Church does to Jesus, wives submit by freely, gladly, fully, respecting their husband’s leadership. Submission is NOT slavish, coerced or cowering but free, willing, glad, affirming & strengthening. It is a posture and disposition of affirmation, love, and respect.
What submission is and is not?
6 guiding principles.
#1 Submission is first to Jesus, NOT first to your husband. 5:22 “as to the Lord”
Wife’s primary hope is in the Lord, not in her husband or in getting a husband. She loves her Jesus. Loves her Bible. Knows her theology. Knows the promises of God. It must begin here. Why? Your submission to ur husband is a tangible expression of your trust in Jesus.
#2 Submission is for your husband, NOT for all men. “to your own husbands” vs 22
Needs to be said. Not boyfriends, bosses, male baristas, etc.
#3 Submission is about the role of the wife, NOT the value of the wife.
Submission does not mean woman is unequal, inferior, incompetent or less intelligent than her husband. Marriage isn’t like the job market where the most qualified gets the job. No. Our roles are cemented in creation. Feminists put all their emphasis on roles b/c they equate roles w/ inherent worth.
But, neither headship nor submission have anything to do w/ capacity, but roles. There is equality of worth, but different functions. Husband given role of being the head, dying for bride. Wife given role of freely, gladly, fully helping.
There is no necessary relation between personal role and personal worth. The absurdity of feminism is that a woman cannot be a serious person unless she occupies a position of headship…the world’s reasoning is invalid. Authority does not authenticate my person. Authority is not a privilege to be exploited to build up my ego. Authority is a responsibility to be used for the benefit of others w/out regard for oneself. Feminism and male domination are based on the same premise – my personal significance is measured according to what rung of the corporate ladder I’m on…by this the goal of life boils down to power and no one is left hungering and thirsting after righteousness. (R. Ortlund)
#4 Submission is about the role of the husband, NOT the merit of the husband. “respect your husbands” 5:33
Submission is not based upon the performance or merit of your husband. You are called by God to submit to an imperfect man (one thing every wife has in common!) But, we can be sure this didn’t escape God’s notice when he created us and inspired these verses to be written. Your submission to your imperfect husband is part of God’s plan to form Christ in you.
Men rise to praise. Respect him until respectable.
#5 Submission is about thoughtful help, NOT fearful cowering.
To submit does not mean that you leave your brain, skills, desires at your wedding day. To submit does not mean you agree w/ everything your husband says, thinks or decides.
Rather, fully engaged, offer careful advice, seek to lovingly influence and help in every way. Not a blind follower, but a faithful friend and wise sister in Christ. Anything else, and you’re not helping him. God created Eve was b/c Adam needed help.
#6 Submission is voluntary NOT enforced by the husband.
Husbands don’t enforce submission. Wives submit b/c it’s an expression of worship to Jesus. It is an act of love to Jesus not merely a duty to perform for the husband. Many sinful abuses occur when husbands demand it when it is not something to be demanded.
Practically, what does this look like? Four practices of submission.
First, give him the gift of submitting TO CHRIST before him. (5:22)
If you’re submission to him is an overflow of your submission to Jesus, there will be joy, peace and love. If you’re submitting b/c that’s what you’re supposed to do, inevitably there will be irritability, impatience and resentment. The husband wasn’t meant to bear the weight of godhood. If you make him a god and he sins, you’re world will be rocked b/c you’re god failed you. Give him the gift of submitting to Christ first.
Second, give him the gift of your respect. (5:33)
Your husband will feel loved and affirmed if you respect him in private and in public. A man feels most loved when he is respected, trusted and honored. By respecting your husband you create a home-centered man. By disrespecting your husband creates an outside-centered man. Give him the gift of respect.
Third, give him the gift of responsibility.
Let your husband have the weight of responsibility. We unpacked what this could look like last week. Whether he realizes or not, he is created by God to bear primary responsibility of the marriage. Let him. Let him bear the primary burden of financial support (I know there will be seasons where that can’t be the case). Let him bear the primary responsibility for the tie-breaking vote. Let him bear the primary role of protecting the you and the family. Let him bear the primary role in spiritually leading the family. Give him the gift of responsibility.
Fourth, give him the gift of your dependence. (5:23)
The covenant of marriage creates a vital union, an inseparable oneness. You honor the head when you depend on the head. Marriage is vital union. You are a team. When one suffers, other suffers. When one rejoices, all rejoice.But, b/c you want to submit to Christ and want to give your husband the gift of your dependence.
Biblically, marriage is intended to be a beautiful union that reflects the triune God. Husbands are to sacrificially love, protect and provide for his wife, as Christ does the Church. Wives are to freely, gladly, fully, respect her husband’s leadership, as Church does Christ. It is a posture and disposition of affirmation, love, respect and trusting the Lord.
As we live out our God given roles and responsibilities, trusting and treasuring Jesus, we commend Him to one another and the city.
Questions? What struck? What was most helpful? Where do you see need for growth in your life?
<h3>Note & Recommendations:</h3>
If this is the first time any of you have heard anything like what we’ve covered over the last two weeks on headship and submission, I want to encourage you towards further reflection and study. I didn’t come to these views overnight, and its not likely you will either. It is a significant worldview shift.
One of the most helpful books on a biblical exposition level is “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” It is a little more academic, but extremely helpful when working through the “tricky” texts that deal with these issues. You can get read it FREE online here. Another helpful book the deals with a wider range of topics, though still academic in bent, is “God, Marriage, and Family” by Andreas Kostenberger.
Other recommended practical books on marriage and complimentarianism:
- This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper (marriage)
- Love that Lasts, Gary & Betsy Ricucci (marriage)
- When Sinners Say I Do, Dave Harvey (marriage)
- Feminine Appeal, Carolyn Mahaney (women)