Biblical Submission Begins
“Not My will, but Yours be done” Luke 22:42
Jesus, though He was fully God and equal to God the Father – submitted Himself to God’s authority out of His love for the Father. Submission began among equals and was born from holy love.
Every Christian is called to submit himself/herself to Christ in this same way. A beautiful example of submission to God is Mary’s acceptance of the angel Gabriel’s message to her that God would make her the mother of the Messiah. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38
Loving, reverencing and obeying God leads to being filled with His Spirit – the wonderful results of which are the spiritual treasures of God overflow in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – no matter our circumstances.
God’s beautiful design:
If you haven’t read it, please check out Ephesians 5:22-33. Since you are a wife, focus particularly on what God commands you as a wife to do. That is what my focus will be on since I am only writing for women. It is interesting to me that husbands have WAY more detailed instructions and much more responsibility in God’s design than wives do.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Eph 5:22-24
the wife must respect her husband. Eph 5:33b
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. I Corinthians 11:3
For an in depth look at what Biblical submission means, please click here.
Notice that there is no condition. God does not say:
- “Respect your husband IF you believe he is obeying His part of God’s commands for marriage.”
- “Submit to him when you agree.” (by the way, that would just be agreement, not submission)
- “If the wife thinks her husband is not qualified to lead, then she can be the head.”
- “Respect your husband when he deserves it by your standards.”
- “Respect your husband when he earns it according to the culture.”
Respect for our husbands is to be unconditional. (We are not required to respect sin – but the position our husband has as husband)
God does say to submit to our husbands “as to The Lord” or “in The Lord” – so if our husbands ask us to commit or to condone obvious violations of God’s Word (sin), we must resist.
Thankfully, God also does not say:
- “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church when they deserve it.”
- “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church when you feel like it.”
- “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church when they are perfect.”
- “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church when they earn it.”
Husbands are not required to love sin – they are to love us because we are in the position of being their wives.
We don’t earn Jesus’ love. It is unconditional.
In marriage – love and respect are unconditional and they are dependent upon the godly character of the person giving the love and respect NOT upon the recipient.
Jesus loved people and respected people who didn’t deserve it and didn’t earn it. He is our example. He loved and respected because He is love and He is holy. He calls us to love and respect in the same way He did. He loved people and He respected God-given authority, even when they were very, very wrong.
Also notice that the commands were given to the wife individually and to the husband individually. God did not say:
- “Wives, make sure your husbands love you as Christ loves the church.”
- “Husbands, make sure your wives submit to you and respect you.”
I am responsible to God for MY obedience to His Word.
My husband is responsible to God for HIS obedience to God’s Word.
WHY ON EARTH DOES GOD COMMAND WIVES TO RESPECT AND SUBMIT???? SURELY THAT DOESN’T APPLY ANYMORE?
Well, the SAME God who commands us as wives to respect and to honor our husband’s God-given leadership (which is what submission is – it is NOT slavery or women being “second class citizens”) – also commanded our husbands to love us with the same kind of love Christ has for us. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to kick out the “husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her” part of God’s design. And, it turns out – God gives us these commands because He is showing us His wisdom about what each spouse needs the most and how He designed men and women.
Did you know that men feel unloved when they feel disrespected? And did you know that many women today have no idea all the things we inadvertently do that make our husbands feel disrespected?
God also knows that a wife’s willingness to honor her husband’s leadership brings peace and unity for everyone in the family – allowing a husband a much greater opportunity and greater inspiration to love, cherish and protect his wife as his most prized treasure instead of competing with her for control.
Each spouse SHOULD show love and respect to the other all the time. Unfortunately, reality is that we are all sinful humans and so are our husbands. They will fail us at times, and we will fail them at times. But even if my husband does not meet my needs, God commands me to meet my husband’s needs. Why? Because God may decide to use my obedience to Him to get me out of His way and to bring my husband back around and possibly heal the marriage. My disobedience would certainly only push him farther away from God and from me. When I obey God, then I become God’s partner instead of Him opposing me in my rebellion and pride.
I have to be willing to do things God’s way – even though there are no guarantees that my obedience to God will help my husband decide to obey God. First, I submit to Christ. That is where submission begins for every disciple of Christ. I say, “Not my will but Yours be done!” I cannot control my husband. God alone can change my husband. Ultimately, I obey God simply to obey God because I love Him and desire to please Him. God said to do this and He is my Lord – so I say, “Yes, Lord.” There is no saying, “No, Lord.” My motives must be just to honor Jesus. I leave the results to Him.
The major time submission is an issue is when there is a disagreement between the husband and wife – then it is ultimately wife’s responsibility to cooperate with and honor her husband’s authority before God to make the final call in humility, love, selflessness and Christlikeness for the good of the family and the glory of God.
The amazing thing is that as we obey God – that is the path to blessing, peace, joy and godly power in our own lives! And He will reward us for our obedience one day – no matter how our husbands respond or how well they obey Him. God will judge my submission to my husband and my respect for my husband. My husband will also stand accountable to God one day for his love for me and his godly leadership. In fact, he has a much greater accountability as the God-given leader/authority in the marriage. God holds him to a higher standard and will hold him responsible for the decisions in our families. That helps me to understand that it is really crucial for me to embrace my role as a godly wife to empower my husband’s God-given leadership so that he can make the decisions he believes are best.
*****IF THERE ARE MAJOR ISSUES IN YOUR MARRIAGE – drug/substance addiction, infidelity, violence, uncontrolled mental health disorders -please get godly, experienced help ASAP! If your husband is not in his right mind – it can be dangerous to cooperate with him. Those issues go way beyond the scope of this blog – but they are not beyond the help of God. Please seek help!
Nina Roesner, in The Respect Dare #25, talks about that “Corporations have one CEO. Countries have one president, states have one governor, and towns have one mayor… Even in nature, when two pack animals try to be in charge, there’s conflict, often resulting in a fight to the death. The natural order of animals and social structures is such that they function best with one individual being in charge. When two try to have the same authority, conflict erupts.”
“Experience indicates that this issue (submission) is critical to alleviating marital stress. Many women … could have received the love and intimacy they deeply desired by giving away respect to their husband.” (Nina Roesner, The Respect Dare)
THE DRIVER’S SEAT
God placed husbands in the “driver’s seat.” I may be a wonderful driver, but if I am sitting in the passenger seat, and I grab the wheel of the car, I am almost certainly going to wreck the car and hurt or kill my family. God does not allow the husbands to give up the driver’s seat to the wives. It is God’s decision whom He wants to put in the driver’s seat in the family. And in His wisdom, He has decided to put husbands there. Not because they are “better than” but because He wants them there to represent the servant leadership of Christ for His church, and He wants the wives to represent the adoration, cooperation and respect of the church to Jesus.
Any time God gives someone authority over others – it is to protect, provide for and care for those who are under their leadership. Whether it is at church, in government, at work or in the family.
God’s design for marriage is about WAY MORE than just my marriage. It is about portraying the relationship between Christ and the church. And it is about drawing people to Jesus.
A GODLY WIFE
- JOYFULLY submits to Christ and obeys Him in everything – even when it is not politically correct, or she doesn’t understand it, or doesn’t like it, she trusts God completely
- joyfully cooperates with her husband
- has a spirit of being open to her husband’s ideas, wisdom, emotions, dreams and sexual desire for her
- brings ALL of her personality, strengths, emotions, support, ideas, talents, gifts, heart, intellect and soul to her marriage
- finds the good in her husband and admires that
- focuses on Philippians 4:8 about her husband and marriage
- spends lots of time with God and is filled with His Spirit – that is the only power source that makes it possible to be a godly wife!
- shares her feelings and emotions in a respectful, calm, mature, non-blaming, non-criticizing, non-manipulative way
- has opinions and ideas that bless her husband
- supports her husband’s ideas and leadership gladly
- trusts her husband (or seeks to want to rebuilt trust)
- shows faith in Christ and in her husband
- has grace, mercy and forgiveness to bestow upon her husband
- sometimes must gently, respectfully confront sin in him (Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 18:15-17)
- smiles a genuine, friendly, pleasant smile at her man, often
- has a peaceful, gentle spirit that does what is right and does not give way to hysterical fear – because she trusts the sovereignty of God and allows His perfect love to cast out every fear!
1. Do you as a wife try to take control in your marriage? Why or why not?
2. If you do tend to want to take charge or think you have to take charge, is your greatest concern that you don’t think you can trust your husband or that you don’t think you can trust God?
3. Do you believe that God is “sovereign enough” to lead you through your husband? I believe that biblical submission and respect for wives is our biggest test of faith in Christ as women. Is God sovereign enough to lead me through this imperfect man? What might God do to take care of your very worst fears if you obey Him and cooperate with your husband?
Pray that God shows you how to apply the concept of honoring your husband’s God-given leadership in your family. Ask Him to help you to understand and absorb all that He desires you to learn. Pray for unity in your marriage. Pray for your marriage to reflect the profound mystery of Christ and the church for God’s greatest glory!
What is on your mind? Let’s talk about it! This can be a difficult concept for many women to swallow in our culture. Some women feel really angry about it at first. Dig down into your anger to try to find where it originates. Determine to seek God’s wisdom over worldly wisdom. Wrestle with this with God in prayer until you believe you can understand what God is saying.
Check out my “about” page to see the results in my life
PS – DISTORTIONS of GOD’S DESIGN FOR MARRIAGE:
In marriage, if someone is not officially designated to be the “leader” – there is chaos. Here are the possible distortions that tend to happen apart from God’s design:
1. a dominant wife and a dominant husband => lots of fighting, yelling, arguing, maybe even violence, severe disunity and a very ungodly example for the children and others. No glory for God. “The gospel of Christ is maligned” Titus 2:5
2. a dominant wife and a passive husband => this seems more peaceful than option 1, but it is not God’s design. The husband is quiet, so he is not yelling and screaming, but the wife is generally bossy, controlling, critical, nagging, prideful, quick to speak and quick to become angry. So everyone in the marriage and family suffers. The wife is much more stressed than she should be because she is trying to carry weight that she was not designed to carry. The husband becomes more and more shut down, depressed, resentful and uninvolved. There is anger, resentment, lack of intimacy on every level many times, lack of unity and a very ungodly example for the children. “The gospel of Christ is maligned” Titus 2:5
3. a passive wife and a dominant husband => this situation usually involves a husband being very controlling, critical and tyrannical, demanding “respect” and attempting to force his wife to “obey” him and a wife who says nothing out of fear and/or shame, voices no opinions and contributes almost no influence to the marriage or family. It is as if she isn’t even there emotionally and spiritually. Everything tends to be all about what he wants, not what is best for the family and for others. This is NOT HEALTHY for anyone and is a very ungodly example for the children and others.
4. a passive wife and a passive husband => in this situation, it is possible for weeks or months to go by without a word being spoken in the marriage. No one takes initiative. No one makes decisions. Everything falls through the cracks. It may seem peaceful compared to some of the other marriage dynamics above, but it really isn’t peace. There is no intimacy or connection. It may be quiet – but there is great tension and resentment. This is an icy marriage and the frigid emotional/spiritual temperature greatly impacts the children and is a very ungodly example for them and others.