The Wilful Submission of a Christian Wife


Ephesians 5:22-24

I don’t need to remind in biblical times people were married by the time they were fifteen or sixteen, some of you are way overdue. Get married.

The Proverbs 31 woman

And, men, stop looking for the Proverbs 31 woman. That is an ideal to which women aspire. And the truth of the matter is, find another Holy Spirit-led, loving Christian and get married.

The death of marriage

We are watching the death of marriage. And you could say while we’re watching the death of marriage because of divorce and you would be right. Or you could say we’re watching the death of marriage because of homosexuality and you would be right. And we’re watching the death of true marriage because we’re watching the rise of homo-sexual marriage, and you would be right. You could say we’re watching the death of the family because of sterilization, abortion. But we’re also watching the death of the family because of an over-extended, preoccupation with selfish desires and personal agendas that push people into some perpetual singleness.

Single into your 30’s

I can only give you a general perspective that it gets harder and harder for some people the longer they perpetuate their singleness, to give themselves to another person. Now there are exceptions to that. The Lord may keep a person for many of years…many years into their thirties and later because there is a person that God has designed for them. But for a general trend, when you reach the age for marriage, then you need to ask the Lord to make you the kind of person you should be so that you’ll recognize the one that the Lord draws into your path.

Be subject or submissive to one another

And then in verse 21, and this is what triggers the rest of the section, they submit…they submit. You could break these things down singing is a personal expression of joy for what’s going on in one’s own life by the working of the Holy Spirit, “saying thanks” is directed at God and “submitting” is directed at others. So, self is involved in the Spirit-filled life and out of one’s own heart comes praise. And thanks is involved in a Spirit-filled life directed toward God and submission, verse 21. And I want you to notice that because it’s a very important spiritual concept, “Be subject, or submissive, to one another in the fear of Christ.”

In other words, if you reverence Christ, if you are in awe of Christ, if you desire to honor and please Him, then be a submissive person…submissive person. As general characteristic, we are to be submissive. Spirit-filled people are submissive. That is to say, they are not dominating, they are not proud, they are not self-willed. They do not live by their own agenda which is, of course, the way people in our culture and our society today live. We have sown the seeds of a self-esteem psychology and we have reaped a harvest of pride, overwhelming pride, personal pride, self-glorification, self-will, domination of the environment by one’s own person and plans. But Spirit-filled people are submissive by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Submission in the Greek: what it means

The word here for “subject,” or “submit” is hupotasso, it’s a Greek verb, hupotasso, it’s compounded. It means…tasso means to arrange, to place in order, and hupo is under. It’s a military term, it means to place yourself under, to rank yourself under. That’s what it means in the military sense. It is to rank yourself under those in authority over you, under those who have responsibility for you, to be under someone.

…You say, “Wait a minute, aren’t men supposed to be the authority in a relationship?” Yes, but it is a submissive kind of authority, and we’re going to talk about that.

So this is a kind of submission that is really pervasive through all relationships whether you have the role of being the head or not.

Submitting to your wife

…but I understand that while I have authority over her (his wife) given to me from God, I am also commanded to be submissive to her in every area of her needs. Sometimes when people say to me, “What’s the key to a good marriage? What’s the key to a marriage full of joy and blessing?” And I’ll tell you what it is in a very simple sentence. And this is my objective in dealing with the wife that I adore; it is simply this, “Whatever will bring her joy and be to her benefit, I will submit to do, happily, because all I want is her joy and spiritual benefit.” It’s that simple. It’s not complicated. It’s not brain surgery. Do I always achieve that end? Ask her, she will tell you no. But do I always desire to achieve that end? Of course. I submit to her joy, to her fulfillment, to what blesses her and encourages her and exercise my leadership in that way.

Everybody submits at some level

Everybody’s in the order of God’s design. A wife follows the lead of her husband. But her husband is under the authority of the elders of the church and they’re under the authority of Christ. And so it goes.

….in verse 22, let me read you what the original says, “Wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.

It doesn’t say obey your husband

Did you notice the word “be subject” is in italics? That’s because it isn’t in the original. It isn’t in the original. It doesn’t say, first of all, obey your husbands. It’s not that kind of a relationship. It has already established mutual submission and then it gives you the first illustration. “Wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.” This is the first illustration of submission, the relationship that a wife has to her husband.

But it doesn’t say obey your husband because this relationship is more intimate, more inward and that is, I think, indicated here by the personal pronoun, “Wives to your own husbands.” Not to every man, not to any man, but to your own husbands. This has nothing to do with the spiritual inferiority, nothing at all to do with spiritual inferiority, there is no inferiority among believers between men and women…none at all.

Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “In Christ there is neither male nor female.” Neither male nor female. We’re not talking about spiritual things here, we’re simply talking about divinely established categories of responsibility. And God is even fabricated us to fit those categories. For the sake of fulfilling God’s design, the woman is commanded to be subject to her own husband as unto the Lord.

In Colossians 3:18 the word ‘submission’ is there

Now I told you that the word submitting is not in verse 22, but just to be fair about that, in Colossians 3:18 you have a parallel verse and the word “submission” is there, “Wives, be subject to your husbands.” And the reason it’s there is because there’s not a parallel to verse 21, there’s no comment about submission at all, so it has to be introduced in verse 18 which is why they put it in over here in the book of Ephesians. Be submissive or subject to your husbands and then Colossians 3:18, it says, “As is fitting in the Lord.” In Ephesians it says “as to the Lord.” In Colossians it says, “As is fitting to the Lord.”

Aneko, a word that means seemly, appropriate, correct, the right thing. It could even mean legally binding, that’s a usage that we find in the Greek Old Testament. It is fitting. It is not a cultural issue. It is not a transient issue. It is not a temporary issue. A woman is to be submissive to her husband because it is fitting, it is appropriate, it is correct, it is legally binding, it suits the created order of God.

In the same way that you submit to the Great Shepherd

To expand on that a little bit, and I said I was going to do this and I will. Turn to 1 Peter 3. This is such a rich portion of Scripture and I know many of you are familiar with it but we need to look at it because it says essentially the same thing. Verse 1 of 1 Peter 3, “In the same way, you wives be submissive to your husbands.” In the same way as what?

In the same way as sheep are submissive to the leadership of the Great Shepherd.

That’s how chapter 2 ends. In the same way that you submit to the Great Shepherd, so wives…and again that’s what Paul said in Ephesians, as to the Lord, it’s the parallel, “Be submissive to your own husbands.”

Feminism is an outright attack on God

It has always been the standard. Verse 5, “In this way in former times, the holy women also who hoped in God used to adorn themselves from the inside, being submissive to their own husbands.” This is unmistakable. This is unmistakable. Any effort to overthrow this is an attack on God and on the divine order, which, of course, is what Feminism in all of its elements is, an outright attack on God. Holy women have always done this. Holy women, women who hoped in God, this means redeemed women, this is how they’ve always adorned themselves by being submissive to their husband. Illustration: Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.

…But I just want you to get a sense of what this passage says, so let me read, starting in verse 3, “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of a woman.”

The Greek word kephale (authority)

And I want to just stop there and say, head is a very important term, kephale in the Greek, kephale. There are people who say, Feminists who say that that doesn’t mean authority, it does not mean authority. It means origin, they say, or source. That it’s going back to creation and saying that since woman was taken out of the side of man, man is the source of woman.

Listen, Wayne Grudem did a study of the word kephale in the history of the Greek language. And every time it doesn’t speak of a specific task, like the head waiter, every time it is used in terms of relationship, it always means authority…always.

It never means anything else, certainly not origin.

So, Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. God exercises His rule over Christ in His humiliation and incarnation. Christ exercises His authority and rule over us and men the same over women.

Verse 11, we can pick it up there…well; verse 10. The woman has a symbol of authority on her head and because of the angels? Yes, the angels want to see the woman in submission because that’s God’s design and they want God’s will done.

Women are to teach

In Titus chapter 2, Titus is giving instruction on relationships in the church. He talks about older men, older women, younger men, younger women, and that’s the theme in this second chapter. Talks about slaves and how they submit to their masters. So it’s about those relationships, very much like Colossians and Ephesians.

But notice in verse 3, “Older women are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good.” Okay, now women are to teach. They’re to teach what is good. And just exactly what does that refer to? It refers to encouraging the young women, the next generation, to love their husbands…to love their children, to be sensible, pure and then this, “Workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands.” And what’s at stake? “So that the Word of God will not be dishonored.”

Here the word is an interesting word, to be really submissive in the sense that you line up under again. It’s not, some of the translations say obedient, but it’s not hupakouo which means to be obedient, it’s to rank yourself under. So whether you’re talking about Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Peter, Titus, you’re going to get the same verb. The term is translated in Ephesians as submit as we saw in verse 21 in a general sense.

So the pattern here is that young women are to be husband lovers and children lovers. And the instruction is that which is consistent with God’s design for women to the degree that in 1 Timothy 5 Paul says if there are young widows, tell them to get married and fulfill this God-ordained and God-blessed privilege.

A woman’s calling is to be at home

Then also, you can’t leave this out, they are to be workers at home…workers at home. What does that mean? That means what it says, workers at home, home workers. God must have written that for our day when millions and millions and millions of women are working mothers outside the home. Millions of them have young children. In fact, the statistics of the number of women who work outside the home and have children under three is staggering, it’s something like a third of all mothers with children under three work outside the home.

You wonder why there are delinquents? This is a very fascinating term, workers at home, oikourgos from ergo, to work; and oikos, home, work at home. Your task is at home. A woman’s task, a woman’s work, a woman’s employment, a woman’s calling is to be at home.

Decline in society

…Working women contribute to lost children, delinquent children, children who have lack of proper understanding of God-ordained roles in the home, terrible decline, drugs. We don’t even talk about the working woman phenomenon of adultery and divorce.

And for a woman to be the bread winner you say, “Well our house payment requires two jobs, we both have to work.” Then get another house and have a family.

Women working part-time

Is there any room for doing something part-time, serving in a ministry? Of course, of course. When you read Proverbs 31 you know that that lady had all kinds of things going but the home was the base, the center and the focus of all of it. She’d go a long way to get food cheaper. She worked hard with her hands to make garments and things for her family, and also to provide for other people who had need. She was so enterprising she bought a field; she was doing real estate on the side. But it was all about the home and from the home and for the home.

Your husband stands to you in the place of Christ

…back to Ephesians 5:22 as to the Lord. Your husband stands to you in the place of Christ.

Do you remember that the Scripture says very simply that when you receive another believer, you receive Jesus Christ, Matthew 18? When another believer comes to you, you receive Christ in that believer. That is particularly true of a husband. The husband is Christ to a wife in a sense, a kind of a delegated authority. That’s why Sarah called Abraham Lord because God had delegated to Abraham authority. Your husband stands in the marriage and in the family in the place of Christ. That’s the highest point of reference. That is the manner of submission. How would you submit to Christ, that’s how you would submit to your husband because he is in that union, that Christian marriage, as Christ to you.

…But this is how it is in the Fall, according to Genesis 3:16, the woman fights against that authority, remember that?

The model of this submission

What about the model? The model of this submission is given then in verse 23, as Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. And as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. A wife is to be submissive to her husband, following the model of the church’s submission to Christ.

I really don’t think any Christian would argue that the church is to submit to Christ. Anybody want to argue that? You read through the Feminist literature that wants to overturn all of this, and you won’t find anybody, any evangelical, saying, “Well, the church doesn’t have to submit to Christ at all.” Well then if the church is to submit to Christ, then the wife is to submit to her husband because that’s what it uses as the analogy, the model. What kind of leadership does Christ give the church? Loving leadership, loving direction, protection, safety, security, strength, provision. And the church loves Him for all that He is and all that He provides.

Men as guardians

He goes so far as to say he is the savior of the body, the church. The church submits itself to Him because He’s the Savior. He’s not the head in a dictatorial sense. He’s not the head in a domineering sense. He’s the head in a delivering sense, a rescuing sense, a protective sense. He’s the Savior and that’s the model that the husband and the wife must see.

How can a husband be all that? Be being what?…filled with the Spirit. How can a wife be all that? By being filled with the Spirit. This is what overthrows the curse.

The full sermon can be viewed at at Grace to You.

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