Sunday, August 14, 2011

Growing in Love for Our Husbands: Submitting to His Authority

This post marks the beginning of our new series "Growing in Love for Our Husbands" in which we will be looking at what the Bible says about a wife's duties to her husband as well as what our husbands say we can do to best honor and serve them.
To begin, let’s consider the relationship between a husband and wife and what the Bible says that should look like. We will begin “in the beginning.”
In Genesis chapter 2 verse 7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” When God saw that the man was alone and needed “a helper suitable for him,” He created woman from man (Genesis 2:18). From Adam's own rib, God made Eve (Genesis 2:22).
Eve was created for Adam; she was to be a helper to him. The word woman even means “taken out of man.” Thus, in the very beginning, God had in mind a hierarchical relationship for husbands and wives, with man as the head and woman as his helpmate. The apostle Paul confirms this point in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, which says:
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."
Because of this headship, wives are not "to have authority over a man" (1 Timothy 2:12), but are to "learn in quietness and full submission" (1 Timothy 2:11).
When Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, she not only disobeyed God, but she usurped her husband’s authority, desiring the wisdom and power the serpent promised. In so doing, sin entered the world and so did a grasping for power between husband and wife.
In his New Testament commentary, John MacArthur states: "By nature Eve was not suited to assume the position of ultimate responsibility" so when she left the safety of her husband, she was vulnerable and fell, "thus confirming how important it was for her to stay under the protection and leadership of her husband" (694). God formed men and women with different qualities that distinguish us from and make us compatible with one other. When we try to usurp control—whether because our husbands refuse to step up or because we don’t want to be subject to them—we defy God and His intentions for us as women.
Because of Eve’s disobedience, God punished her—and all women after her—with pain in childbirth and a desire to rule over her husband:
"To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’" (Genesis 3:16).
I have read this verse many times in the past but never understood how having desire for my husband was a punishment. But from the commentaries I have read, I have learned that, in this context, desire actually means "to have an urge to control or have mastery over." So, Eve’s punishment was that she would now want to be her husband’s master, thereby going against God's will.
In Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife & Mother, Carolyn Mahaney states that "[b]ecause of the curse, we now have a sinful tendency to want our own way and to resist our husbands' authority. This evil desire poses the greatest opposition to our submission" (140).

Enter the word “submission.”
What comes to mind? A weak-willed woman bowing at her husband’s feet? Or a humble, gentle woman with the strength to control her desire for power?
In our culture today, “submission” is an unpopular word that has gotten a bad reputation, even among Christians. Our society encourages women to be independent, self-sufficient leaders, and the idea of a woman being submissive to her husband seems quaint, old-fashioned, and even chauvinistic.
But as Christians, we are called to be separated from the world even as we live in it so that people will see Christ living in us by our examples. Being submissive to our husbands is not a sign of weakness but of great inner strength because when we place ourselves under our husbands' care and allow him to lead as God has instructed, we give up selfish ambition and trust completely in God, that He is working in and through our husbands.
So what is submission?
"Submission" actually comes from the Greek hupotasso meaning "to rank under or place under." It might be easier to identify what submission is not to help us see what it is.
Submission is NOT male dominance or superiority. We were both--male and female--created in God's own image and therefore are of equal value in God's eyes (Genesis 1:27).

Submission is NOT punishment for sin or a chauvinistic ploy to control women. It is a part of God's design, intended for His glory. For women, submission is a complete trust in God, that He will lead our husbands to do what is right.

What does the Bible say?
There are a number of scriptures pertaining to marital submission (Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 9-11; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; Titus 2:5). However, we will focus our discussion on key verses in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3.
(1.) In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul describes the biblical hierarchy of the home:
"Wives, submit to your husbands as 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."
In these verses we see that the husband is the head and his wife is to be subject to him. In Love & Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says that for a marriage to work there needs to be one head, that is, one person in charge. When there is one boss, there is no confusion about who gets the final word and who makes the ultimate decision: the boss does. However, when there are multiple bosses, there is chaos, disorder, and a grappling for control.
This doesn't mean our husbands are allowed to treat us as doormats or as inferiors. Rather, with that authority comes a heavy responsibility: husbands must be willing to lay down their lives for their wives, if necessary, just as Christ died for the church.

If we continue reading in Ephesians 5 verses 25 and 26, we will see the husband's duty to his wife:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word..." (emphasis mine).
Just as Christ, in His great love for the church, submitted His will and sacrificed His life, so also our husbands, in their love for their wives, must be willing to die for us.
Wow! Would you rather submit your authority or give up your life?
Mahaney says that refusing to submit to or respect our husbands is a refusal to trust in God. If we can place ourselves under God’s authority, then we can submit to and respect our husbands (224). And when we do, peace and harmony within the home will naturally result.
What about if your husband is not a Christian or is not the spiritual leader of the home? What then?
(2) Let’s turn now to 1 Peter 3:1-2:
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
I love what MacArthur says about how a Christian wife’s behavior affects her unbelieving husband:
“The loving, gracious submission of a Christian woman to her unsaved husband is the strongest evangelistic tool she has. Added to submission is modesty, meekness, and respect for the husband” (822).

When we defer decision-making to our husbands; when we offer advice quietly and with humility; when we support them in their decisions, whether we agree or disagree with their judgment; and when we honor and affirm their leadership of the family, we become a witness to our husbands of Christ’s love and God’s perfect plan. That witness—the witness of our conduct—has the power to convert the unbeliever.
But, you might be thinking, "I run my own business or I have a job where I make important, even life-or-death, decisions every day. My judgement is much better than my husband's." Submitting our wills to our husbands is not easy! Remember Eve? Because of her sin, our desire is to be in charge, but that is not God's will for our lives. When we refuse to submit to our husbands, we are essentially refusing to submit to God.
When I asked my husband to tell me some areas I need to work on to make him feel more loved, among (several) others, he mentioned how hurtful it is when I ask his advice but instead of trusting him and taking it, I get other people's opinions first. This is an issue of both respect and submission that I need to work on. As my husband, Daniel wants what is best for me {remember, our husbands have the hefty responsibility of sacrificial love} and his counsel is always in my best interest. I need to defer to his judgment even if my natural inclination is to want second (and third and fourth) opinions.
So how do I submit my will to my husband? In what ways can I lovingly submit to and honor him each day?
  • By using the gifts God has given me to support him
  • By thanking him for his desire to lead the family, allowing me to lean on him for support
  • By offering my suggestions and advice with humility and gentleness
  • By praising his good decisions and not belittling him when he makes poor ones
  • By trusting him even when I doubt the soundness of his decision
  • By not going to others for a second opinion but trusting in his ability to lead
  • By honoring and affirming his leadership and not criticizing him, especially in front of the children
  • By praying for him to lead according to God’s will
How do you view marital submission, and how can you improve in submitting to your husband's authority? Why don't you ask him?
I would appreciate your thoughts and feedback and hope you will join me again next week as we look at what the Bible says about submitting to our husbands’ desires. I covet your prayers!
Blessings to you …



  1. This is wonderful! I appreciate all the thoughtful study and analysis you put into this and will pray for you as you continue. There were several thoughts to ponder and I agree with all you said!

    I think I'll write a post linking back here and add my own thoughts. Otherwise I'd ramble on your blog :) 

    Looking forward to the rest of the series!


  2. Exactly what I needed to hear! Praise the Lord for your work in this! In many ways it was a relief for me to read about the origins of the Garden, women's inclination to want to compete with the husband's leadership. It brought so much light to my perspective, and I am so encouraged to move forward with this insight and truth. Thank you so much and I can't wait for the next post in the series!!!

  3. Thanks, Tauna. I will be sure to check out your post today!

  4. Jennifer, my prayer is that the Lord might use me to encourage and lift up women (including myself). Submission is such a difficult concept and I must say that I learned quite a bit by writing this post! All glory to God! Thanks for your encouragement.

  5. Very good post!

  6. Such a well thought out article. Thank you for all of the effort you put into it.

  7. So glad when I see posts like these, always such a good reminder. I know in my own life even in just the past week, I've been convicted of not being the wife I need to be for my husband and for God's glory. I don't see myself as a bad wife as my husband is very happy with me. But I definitely have been reflecting on our marriage and I see where I keep failing and where the rebellious attitude keeps wanting to kick back in. Time to stomp it out and practice gentle humility before my God and my husband because God lifts up head of the lowly. Blessings and thanks again for the beautiful reminder!