Husbands Are Never “the Absolute Authority”

I don’t want anyone to be unclear about this!!!!

God is the only absolute authority.

God’s Word, the Bible, speaks for God. It is authoritative over our lives. When God delegates authority to people, it is to protect, care for, nurture, love, tend to, shepherd, and honor His beloved people.

In Christianity, authority is not about rights and privilege, it is about responsibility and accountability to God. Those who are in positions of authority are commanded by God to submit first to Christ and to be humble servants.

No husband or human on earth ever has the right to demand total submission or to claim total authority over anyone else. That position is reserved for God alone.

For a man to claim that his wife must submit completely without any question to himself and that he has total authority over her—is to put himself in the place of Christ in her life. That is very wrong and sinful.

  • No husband has the right to demand that his wife put himself as equal to or above Christ in her heart.

For anyone to put anything or anyone above Christ in his/her heart is idolatry and is breaking the Greatest Commandment that Jesus gave to us.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment… Matthew 22:37

No human authority has the right to direct other people to commit or to condone anything God calls sin.

If someone with God-given authority over us (the government, our boss, a police officer, a pastor, a husband, or a parent of a younger child) asks us to clearly violate the Bible, we must choose to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Please see Spiritual Authority for more on this topic. The fact that a human has delegated authority from God does not mean that he/she is always right. All humans are imperfect and sinful apart from Christ. No human is infallible. Only God is perfect and infallible.


We must also take great care to be sure that if we think our husbands are asking us to sin, that it is God’s definition of sin, not just our personal convictions. Sometimes, we can convince ourselves that something is sinful when the Bible doesn’t say that it is. If we are not careful, we may judge our husbands wrongly.

If we are not sure if something is clear sin, it may be wise to speak to an older, godly, mentoring wife before we decide to refuse to cooperate with our husbands. I would want to be VERY sure that what my husband was asking me to do was truly wrong in God’s eyes before I would go against Greg. God commands me to submit to and respect my husband “as to the Lord.” I am accountable for my obedience to God.

Wives DO have a voice and can share their feelings, concerns, and ideas in respectful ways. God does not command that we must agree with our husbands or that we may have no input. But I do need to use caution not to label my convictions as the standard by which I measure sin instead of God’s Word. (Is My Husband Bound to Follow My Personal Convictions?)

Jesus describes and demonstrates godly leadership (this is what He expects from anyone to whom He grants authority to protect, nurture, shepherd, care for, provide for, teach, and lead others):

JOHN 13:12-17

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

MATTHEW 20:25-28

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In God’s definition, authority is about responsibility, love, true humility, selflessness, and sacrifice – its not about power, “rights,” abuse, or ever taking advantage of anyone.

Some of the best descriptions of God’s design for the authority of husbands in marriage I have found are available here:

– The Danvers Statement – from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Spiritual Authority – a post on my blog that contains class notes from a minister at my church 3 years ago (used with permission)

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood – edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (link has a free download for this book)

– John Piper’s site

– David Platt’s site

– Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (available as podcasts)

God’s design for marriage is found in a number of passages in Scripture:

– Genesis 2

– Malachi 2

– Matthew 19:1-12

– I Corinthians 11:3

– Ephesians 5:22-33

– Colossians 3:18-19

– I Peter 3:1-7

– I Corinthians 13:4-8a

– Titus 2:3-5

and other places, as well.