The passages about marriage in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, I Corinthians 11:3, I Peter 3 and Titus 2 all give God’s commands for husbands and wives in marriage.
Before we dive in, let’s begin with the understanding that God made men and women with equal value – both are “image bearers of God” in Genesis 2. We have equal worth and dignity as human beings, made in God’s image. And in Christ we are all equal (Galatians 3:28).
I think it is interesting to note that each spouse is given direct commands by God that are without condition.
There are no exceptions to the commands for either husbands or wives (with the one caveat for wives that they submit to their husbands “as unto the Lord” – so I understand this to mean that if a husband asks his wife to directly violate God’s Word, God’s authority and the authority of His Word trumps the husband’s authority. For example, if a husband tells his wife to steal, have an abortion, lie on the taxes, get drunk, do drugs, put something/someone above God in her heart, go to a strip club with him, have a threesome, etc…. it is a wife’s duty and responsibility before God to respectfully and firmly refuse to cooperate with such sin.)
God commands wives to submit to their husbands – which means, to honor their husband’s God-given authority. (Just like God commands all believers to submit to the government, bosses and church leaders – unless the authority is asking us to sin. The apostles told the Pharisees “We must obey God rather than men” when the leaders told them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus in Acts. In God’s command for wives to honor their husband’s leadership, there is no “IF.” As in, “If your husband:
- is a good leader”
- has prayer with you every day”
- leads family devotions”
- goes to the church you prefer”
- does things your way”
- makes more money than you”
- has a job”
- deserves to lead the family in your estimation”
God commands wives to respect their husbands. Again, there is no “IF your husband is:
- honoring God”
- loving you the way you want to be loved”
- making a certain amount of money
- has a job”
- is a Christian”
- is the kind of father you want him to be”
- deserves to be respected in your opinion”
God does not command us to respect sin. And He does not command us to cooperate with sin, addictions, infidelity, physical abuse, etc. If there are MAJOR problems like this in your marriage, that goes way beyond the scope of this blog, please find godly, mature, wise, experienced counsel. If you or your children are not safe, please get help ASAP!
God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:22-33).He also commands husbands not to be harsh with their wives, but to be tender with them (1 Pet. 3:7). He commands husbands to honor their wives as the weaker vessel and co-heirs with them in Christ. There is no qualifier that the wife must do something in order for her husband to obey God or that the wife must earn her husband’s love.
The way a husband treats his wife is an indicator of the depth of his love, respect and reverence for God. A husband’s love for his wife is gift to her that springs from his love, obedience and reverence for Christ. A wife cannot force her husband to obey God and to love her as Christ loves her. It is a gift he gives willingly because He loves and honors Jesus, so he loves and honors his wife.
A wife’s respect and biblical submission towards her husband are gifts that a wife gives freely to her husband out of her love, obedience and reverence for Christ, as well. There is no qualifier that a husband must do something first before the wife obeys God or that the husband must earn his wife’s respect. A husband cannot force his wife to respect him and submit to him.
Jesus gives us free will. He does not force us to obey Him. He loves us and demonstrates His great love for us. He invites us to come to Him. He wants us to love, reverence and obey Him freely – not because we are forced to.
The way a wife treats her husband is an indicator of the depth of her love, respect and reverence for God.
GOD’S COMMANDS TO HUSBANDS AND WIVES IN MARRIAGE ARE DIRECTED AT THEM INDIVIDUALLY
- God does not say, “Husbands, make sure your wives submit to you and respect you.”
- And He does not say, “Wives, force your husbands to love you and have a humble, servant’s heart towards you.”
- Wives are responsible for their own obedience to God’s commands for them to respect and submit to their husbands.
- Husbands are responsible for their own obedience to God’s commands for them to love, be gentle, not be harsh, be humble and give selflessly to their wives.
TRYING TO CONTROL OTHERS IS SELFISH, PRIDEFUL AND SINFUL – IT DOES NOT HONOR GOD OR OTHERS. BEING CONTROLLING IS NOT LOVING.
When I as a wife tried to control my husband and make him do what I wanted to – I was attempting to violate the free will that God gave my husband. I also repelled him and made him not want to be with me! If a husband tries to control his wife and force her to do what he wants her to do – that violates a wife’s free will. It will repel her, too.
When I am being controlling, I am idolizing MYSELF. I am putting myself in the place of God in my life and I expect my spouse and other people to obey me and submit to me as if I were God. This mindset is built on HUGE pride, selfishness and a lack of trust in God. I am saying I trust myself, not God. I am attempting to take some or all of God’s sovereignty on myself. It is sin for me to set myself up as god in my own heart. It is sin for me to try to demand that others put me above God in their hearts, too. It would be sin for others to cooperate with my demands.
It is ok for me to say, “I feel unloved.” “What you said/did hurt me.” “I feel disrespected.” “Please don’t treat me like this.” “Please don’t talk to me that way.” But I cannot try to make someone do what I want them to do.
JESUS KIND OF LOVE
The love Jesus has for us is unconditional. When we love as Jesus does, we have healthy boundaries.
- We don’t try to force or coerce anyone to obey/submit to us or love us.
- We don’t try to manipulate others with guilt, martyrdom, bribery, sabotage.
- We don’t try to control people by being people pleasers thinking “If I am nice enough, he/she will HAVE to do what I want.”
- We don’t try to change people ourselves thinking, “If I obey God, then God has to give me what I want, or then my husband has to change to be what I want him to be.”
- We realize we are responsible for our thoughts, our behavior, our attitudes, our sin, our actions, our emotions, our spiritual development and our relationship with Christ. And other people are responsible for their own lives.
- We trust the sovereignty of God to work for our good and His glory instead of trusting self.
- We love others because Jesus loves us.
- We forgive others and have grace for them because Jesus forgave us and lavished us with grace
- We repay evil with good
BIBLICAL SUBMISSION IS NOT
- destroying a woman’s personhood
- forced upon a woman
- a woman having no opinions, no voice, no influence in the marriage and family
BIBLICAL SUBMISSION IS
- given freely by a wife
- part of the path to God’s peace and freedom
- much less stressful for wives than trying to have control themselves
- the beginning of finding God’s joy
- totally counterintuitive to women and completely counter-cultural
- one of the greatest tests of a woman’s faith in Christ – to believe that HE is sovereign “enough” to be able to lead her through her sinful husband
- part of becoming a godly woman – a big part of having a gentle and peaceful spirit that does not give way to hysterical fear.
- when a wife is free to share her perspective, her feelings, her desires, her concerns and ideas respectfully and her husband takes her opinions and desires into very careful consideration, seeking God’s will far above his own.
- how a wife can rest in the sovereignty of God, knowing that even if her husband does make mistakes, God can and will use that for his good and her good ultimately – to make them more like Christ – and that God will use it for His glory in ways she can’t begin to understand at the time.
When Would I NOT Submit to My Husband?
The key to all of this – is that when I am in an intimate relationship with Christ – when I have fully surrendered myself to Him and desire Him and find my life in Him alone – then obedience to God’s commands is a joy and delight. When I am empowered by God’s Spirit to obey Him, His Words and commands bring LIFE, joy, peace, contentment, fulfillment, freedom for me – and then my life also brings great glory to God. That is what this is all about ultimately!
My purpose in life is to exalt the Name of Christ and to shine for Him, sharing Him with the world, loving others simply out of the overflow of my supreme love and abandonment to Jesus.