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The Godly Submission of a Wife to Her Husband (Ephesians Sermon 39 of 54)

The Godly Submission of a Wife to Her Husband (Ephesians Sermon 39 of 54)

May 15, 2016 | Andy Davis
Ephesians 5:22-24
Sanctification, Grace, Life in the Spirit, Holiness, Man as Male and Female, Marriage and Parenting


 Amen. Amen. So we come this morning, in my unfolding of the book of Ephesians, we come to Ephesians 5:22-24, this section on wives submitting to their husbands, and as we do so, I'm very well aware that these verses and the topics in here are controversial in our day and age. I'm aware of that. I remember some of you may remember back in 2001 when the Baptist Faith and Message was changed and there was a brouhaha over a simple phrase that wives should be graciously submitting to their husbands. And I remember that and being surprised at the surprise, shocked at the shock. I don't know how to put it. I was amazed that people saw this as an innovation or something new when it really is a pretty straight rephrasing of what it teaches in Ephesians 5. So as I come to this text, I'm aware that we are surrounded by people who will take umbrage with some of the things I'm going to say today I'm aware of that. And yet, for all of that, I have a high level of confidence. And a high level of joy in the word of God today and then what I'm going to do.

Trust the Word of the Lord: Three Reasons

I have that for a number of reasons: First, because I just trust the word of God. I trust that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I trust the inerrancy of the word. I feel that we are not listening this morning to the words of a man 2000 years ago but really what it actually is the word of God, which is at work in us who believe, and that's my second reason for confidence. I believe that I'm in a community of believers. I'm surrounded by brothers, and sisters in Christ, and I get to interact with you, my family of God every week, and I know your heart. And I have been surrounded by godly sisters in Christ who are wives, and who yearned to obey this passage. They're not fighting it, they're not pushing back, they just want to do it better, they want to be more faithful. And I am blessed by you, sisters in Christ who feel that way. And I know that next week, when I'm preaching, to my brothers in Christ that are members of this church, I'm going to be preaching to the same demeanor. Men who really want to be Christ-like husbands to their wives, they want to live out that self-sacrifice, with their wives, they just find it a challenge and they want to be faithful. And so I have a great level of confidence in you, the church. I guess the approach I'm taking is you're doing these things now we ask you and I urge you in the Lord, to do so more and more. And thirdly, I just believe that this is a vital topic for this day, this is the idea of healthy marriage, of biblical patterns of marriage, of biblical gender-based roles in marriage. I think more than ever, our culture needs to hear the truth, the truth on this, and as I prayed this is the role of the Church, we get to proclaim this we get to shine forth the beauty of the truth of the Word of God.

So for those three reasons, I have a great level of hope and joy as I preach today. My hope is that through the ministry of the Word of God, that specifically this morning, wives will be strengthened that their “arms and their knees will be strengthened” as the book of Hebrews says for the journey that's in front of them and that you, sisters in Christ, will be enabled to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord, and you'll be made ready to give an account to Christ on Judgment Day. That's my desire toward my sisters in Christ. I desire also that brothers, the brothers in Christ would be praying for their wives would understand the, the role of the wives because we get to read each other's mail to some degree. 

Sermon to Follow

Wives get to read next week's passage of the husbands, and pray for that and yearn for their husbands to fulfill that and we also can pray toward and help our wives to fulfill their roles as well. My desire is that by the end of the sermon, by the ministry of the word, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit that you'll have the same attitude toward the word of God toward the law that the psalmist said in Psalm 119:32, “I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free.” But there's just a freedom that comes from living life the way that God has intended and laid out. So I'm going to speak this morning to wives primarily. I'm going to say some things to the husbands that will help the wives, but I'm going to save a lot of that for next week. So my goal here is the glory of God in the health, and scriptural precision, and eternal fruitfulness of the marriages of this church. That's my desire.

The Topic: Submission

So in the text you've already heard, I'm going to read it again, and this is what we're going to walk through this morning. Ephesians 5, 22-24, it says, "Wives submit to your own 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." So, we begin by looking at the issue of submission and we began to talk about it last week, I did a little work on this last week. We're in a section in the book of Ephesians, which is practical, it talks about ethics, about morality of the Gospel applied, and there's a flow, and I'm going to get into that flow again, but in verse 21, there is this command, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” or “in the fear of the Lord.” And I mentioned last week that there are some that teach the idea of mutual submission, from that, and I think that that can be a very misleading phrase. I think it can lead us in bad directions. I think that my brother pastors that do that are emphasizing the one another part and leaning on the one another part more than on the submit part and understanding what that word means biblically.

The word, biblically, means to yield to or obey God-ordained authority, that's how it's used again and again in the Bible. And so, we can't redefine the word at that point to mean something like mutual servant-hood, or mutual loving yielding or various patterns of deferring to one another, which are clearly taught in Philippians and other places, 1 Corinthians 13, but that's not what submission is. What I said last week is that mutual submission in that sense makes as much sense as mutual obedience. And so, what Paul is doing, he's saying, “Submit one another, Church, mixed assembly, this group to this one. But then this group should carry their authority in this way, and then this group to this one, but then this group should carry themselves in that way, and then this group to this group should submit, but then this group should carry themselves in that way.” That's how the chapters, Ephesians 5-6 unfold. 

God Has Given Specific Individuals Authority

Now, I will say that among at least one member of my family, the idea of mutual obedience was very attractive. One of my kids said "I would love it if we could just alternate and you obey us, and then we obey you.” And that idea was taking root, and I felt the need to kind of pull it up from the roots. I don't know if it's been fully rooted out, but the idea of mutual obedience between parent and child is not going. Hopefully not going to take root in our family, although it would be an interesting ride. I wouldn't deny that, I'd be interested in what we would eat, what we would wear, and what we would do with our time. But I think that's what I'm getting at. But obedient submission has to do with recognizing that God entrusts to created beings responsible positions, that authority is the God-given right to command that with peers, we can give each other council, we can give each other advice, but we can't give each other commands. But there is such a thing as authority, that there are individuals created beings, who are given the right to command and that others must obey those commands and they're held accountable in reference that obedience. So we're told to submit to every governing authority instituted among men, 1st Peter, same thing in Romans 13. So that's what we're looking at here.

Submission is Not Demeaning

Now, this submission does not in any way demean the one that's doing this submitting. There's multiple ways we know that that's true, but the best is just to look at Jesus Christ. First and foremost, we need to see that it is Christ who's giving us this command. It is a bit of a red herring or a dodge to focus on Paul and who he was and what his upbringing was, his mentality and all that. We as Christians look beyond the Human messenger to the God who enables prophets and apostles to speak the truth, that's the essence of inerrancy the essence of the word of God. So we're not too concerned about Paul's attitudes and Paul's training and Paul's personality, any of that behind that we see Jesus Christ telling us what we must do, and we recognize that Jesus is our king, He's not merely our Savior, He is our king, we have entered the Kingdom of God by faith. And so, Jesus has told us and we're going to talk more about this later, but. Jesus as Our king is saying saying, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. From gentle and humble and hard and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And that yoke, I think is submission to kingly authority, biblically. And so, it is saying is my authority is not a crushing burden for you. John says the same thing in 1 John 5:3.

He says, “His commands are not burdensome.” And so, we understand that submission is not demeaning because Jesus is the one commanding he's not trying to demean anyone. We also know that submission is not demeaning to the person who does it, because Jesus Himself submitted to His parents, Joseph and Mary, when He was 12, He submitted to them and He wasn't in any way saying He was essentially or ontological below them, or that they were better in God's eyes, it's just that they were His parents and the Law of Moses commands it, the children need to honor their parents and obey them, and so Jesus submitted them though He was intrinsically higher than them, because He was incarnate, the incarnate Son of God, but in Luke 2:51, it says that He was submissive, it's the same Greek word. And then, we get in 1 Corinthian 15-28, “the Son Himself will be made subject to Him [God the Father] who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.” So the Son Himself submits to the Father. That's why Jesus speaks in the Great Commission. "All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to Me. I didn't usurp it I didn't grab it. It was given to Me by someone above Me, namely the Father.” And so, there's nothing demeaning about submission at all. Jesus Himself submitted. 

Satanic Lies About Obedience

I think it's the essence of Satan's lie in the garden to think that if we obey God's word, we're going to be robbed of joy. I mean, he's been trying to trick us on this ever since. You know, “for God knows that when you eat of the tree,” he's implying that we're missing out on something, and I think what we need to do is, instead, just have that delight in the word of God, in the commands of God in Psalm 1 in the Law of God, it says, “blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He's like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf never withers. And whatever he does prospers.” You want a prosperous life, yield to the Word of God, delight in the Word of God. And that includes, in our marriage.

Now I'm aware of how challenging this command can be to obey. So let's start with the challenges. You have the, what is it, seven-fold outline? It's just getting worse. Every week we started with the standard Baptist three points, now we're up to seven. But I think we can move quickly through these and I hope that this will give good coverage on the issue of submission. Let’s start with the challenges.

The Challenges of a Wife’s Submission

Simply Put: Indwelling Sin

The challenges of a wife submission. I can just probably boil it down to one word, sin. That's what makes this a challenge. And by that I mean sin on the part of the wife, and sin on the part of the husband. Every Christian husband, and every Christian wife still has the horrible burden, the grotesque deformity, to some degree of indwelling sin. It's a very strange thing. It's, praise God, temporary someday we're going to be free of all indwelling sin, but we're not free yet. And so, we have in Romans 7, it's very plainly taught where the Apostle Paul says, "I do not understand what I do, for the very thing I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Now, if I do what I do not want to do it is no longer I who do it but it is sin living in me that does it." Well, that's going to be true, absolutely of both the husband and the wife. We have this wickedness, this sin that grows like a tumor inside us, and it makes it very, very hard for us to submit to God, it makes it hard for us to obey His commands. We don't yield easily to authority, we tend to fight it, neither on the other side do we wield authority well. We tend to lord it over or domineer. And pride as it makes submission very hard.

Then there's just the issue of knowledge. A wife knows her husband very well. She probably knows him better than any person on the face of the earth knows him. She studies him probably more carefully than he studies her. It's not always true but I think it's generally true. And it's easy for her, as she sees the pattern of indwelling sin, work its way out in his life for her to lose respect for him. It's easy for her to lose respect for a husband that's inconsistent, or hypocritical, or harsh, or lazy, or sinfully angry, or any one of a number of other outbreaks of indwelling sin. It's easy to lose respect for a man like that, but every man is a man like that all of us struggle with indwelling sin nature. But honestly, it's a problem because even if he were sinless, even if he were flawless, she would still have trouble submitting because she has her own indwelling sin nature, too. And the proof of that every godly Christian women will say is, how difficult she finds it submitting to Christ. All of us do. We're all on that pattern. We understand God's word is pure. Romans 7 says, "In my inner being, I delight in God's law, but I can't keep it. I have trouble keeping it. And so even if he were sinless she would still have a hard time.

Greater Challenge With an Unbelieving Husband

Now, all of this is even more challenging if the husband is not a believer at all and I want to talk more about that later in the sermon, so I'm not going to say much about it, now, but 1 Peter 3 addresses that. It  still calls on the wife to submit and to seek to win over her husband without a word by the submissiveness of her life. 1 Peter 3. 

Increased Pressure to Disobey from the World

Also, we know that it's difficult for the woman, or the wife to submit to her husband because the world is ratcheting up the pressure on the marriage at many levels and right on this very issue, I'm teaching on today saying, “It's not true, it's a display of patriarchal sexism or etc.”. Those are the kinds of things floating around and that can weaken resolve. Satan is active on this issue. He's assaulting the wife's mind in her heart, accusing her and tempting her. He's assaulting the husband's mind and heart and causing him to behave in ways that make it hard for her to submit. And the world's system is just filling our minds and hearts all the time, and we've got to fight it. It comes in our entertainment and books that we read, it comes in news stories, it just comes in all the time. And feminism is part of the spirit of the age, and egalitarianism, and that kind of thing, and the idea that anything less than that is demeaning to the human and makes them less worthwhile. So this command is challenging. Secondly, let's talk about the power of a wife’s submission.

The Power of a Wife’s Submission

The Word “Submit” Does Not Appear in Verse 22

With all of these challenges, how can she do it? How is it going to be possible for her to submit to her husband? Well, the word “submit,” actually does not appear in verse 22, in the original language. It really is just a continuation of a flow from verse 21, which is a flow all the way back to verse 18. We need to see this whole thing in context. So the idea here, what I'm going to tell you is that the wife, the Christian wife is able to submit to her husband as the Lord intended only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As she is filled with the Spirit, she will be able to submit to her husband. So you just have to pick up if you would Ephesians 5:18. It says, "Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery, but instead, be filled with the Spirit.” And as I've mentioned before, what flows after that grammatically, and it comes across in many translations, but not all of them is a series of participles, “-ing” words that describe what Paul means by “be being filled with the Spirit.” So they flow, and this would not be an exhaustive list at all, there'd be many other verbs that would flow from the Spirit-filled life. Like evangelizing for example, or praying. Which aren't mentioned here so there are a lot of things, but he's just giving a sample of the kinds of things that describe the Spirit-filled life.

Submission is a Subset of the Spirit-filled Life

So be being filled with the Spirit, verse 19, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” secondly, “singing” and thirdly, “making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Fourthly, “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and then fifthly “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ,” "wives to your own husbands." That's how it flows. So I think to some degree, I think every English translation starts a new sentence, at verse 22, and inserts, “the word wives submit, etcetera,” might break off the flow and we don't see the beautiful power of the Spirit that comes to enable the wife to do this and I think we definitely next week we're going to need to see the same flow toward the husband. He will be able to be a Christ-like head to his wife, only by the power of the Spirit. So, it is the Spirit's power that enables her to submit to her own husband, only by the power of the indwelling Spirit and this be done. 

This Only Happens By the Indwelling Spirit

And so I think it's just so vital that we see Christian ethics Christian behavior, do’s and don'ts in the Christian life as they flow from the Gospel. You're not Christian, because you behave Christianly. Quite the opposite. Jesus said, "Make a tree good then its fruit will be good.” And so, we are trees that have been supernaturally made good by the sovereign grace of God. We have been transformed by the power of God by the Gospel. We are those Ephesians 1 that says, “we were chosen in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” So the wife was chosen for that and she was predestined to be adopted as a daughter of God, by the sovereign power of God. So this is something God's been working from before the foundation of the world, and in Christ, His blood has atoned for all of your sins, you are completely forgiven you're redeemed by the blood of Christ. And “having believed the Gospel,” Ephesians 1:13, “you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of God, you received the gift of the indwelling Spirit,” which is a marvel to me, because, earlier in the sermon I reminded you that you also have indwelling sin. So here we have the weirdness and the grotesqueness of the Spirit-filled Christian who also has indwelling sin. So we have both indwelling Spirit and indwelling sin.

Well, the Spirit's not going to put up with that forever. He's going to kick the sin out, amen. We're not going to become perfect in this world, but He will win. We will be victorious in the end, both Christian husbands and Christian wives in the end, we will be glorious, in Heaven. And so, that's the foundation we have. We have the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God and the Christian wife has had from Ezekiel 36, her heart of stone removed, and the heart of flesh put in, and there in Ezekiel 36 He said I will move you, “I'll put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and obey my laws and my commands.” And that's the beauty of the Christian life. We have the transformation, we've been made new, we have a heart of flesh, responsive now to the Lord, we have the moving of the Spirit, we have the perfect word of God, and we see it and do it. Both husbands and wives. So that is the power that we have.

Practical Application

So if I can just step aside and just say, a word of practical application to you wives. I saw a book title, a number of years ago. It stuck with me, I didn't read the book, but I saw it and just that was interesting is, on this very topic, I'm preaching on and it was, “Me? Submit to him?” That's kind of how I read the title. And it was written by a Christian woman who is seeking to help sisters in Christ still obey the very command I'm preaching on. But you get that sense, it's like I'm having a hard time doing this, and quickly you can start getting into, "you don't know my husband, you don't know the challenges I face and those kinds of things.

What I would say to you is go to the cross, go to the power of the Spirit, go to the flow of Ephesians 1-5. Remind yourselves of the supernatural work that God's already done in your lives, remind yourself of the new creation you are in Christ, remind yourself that you can be indwelt by the Spirit, but not filled with the Spirit, that that actually happens a lot. and that it's only by our sin that we stop being filled with the Spirit, and so confess sins at that point. And just breathe in the ministry of the Spirit, breathe in the sense of forgiveness, and the cleansing and the power. And say, “Lord, you through the Spirit, wrote these words, for me. I want to do them, I see the beauty. Would you please fill me? Forgive me and help me.” I think that that's the key both for husbands and wives, but that's the key for a wife to submit to her husband. Thirdly, the pattern of the wives submission. Let's talk about the pattern. Look again at the verses. 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.

The Pattern of a Wife’s Submission 

As the Church Submits to Christ

Now, as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. So we have two phrases here that give us a sense of the pattern, the type that the wife can latch on to in our her mind, “as to the Lord,” and “as the Church submits to Christ,” in the end it's going to be the same thing. But her submission should be similar to the submission that she yields to Christ or that the Church submits to Christ, so a wife's godly submission or husband is pattern in this way. Actually, her submission to her husband is a subset of her submission to Christ. Christ has far more commands covering her life than just submit to your own husband, there are many other commands that Christ is giving her. This is just one of many just like the husband's command to be a Christ-like husband, or head to his wife is just one of many commands for him. So, this is a subset of our general submission to Christ our King. And so, that's the pattern as you submit to Jesus, your king, in the same way in a patterned way submit to your husband.

Now we know that this extends, I think, to all submission that the Bible teaches. We will submit to governing authorities, in the same way. Children will submit to their parents, and in every case, whether it's the wife to the husband, children, to the parents, slaves to the master, citizens to government, we're not in any case, saying that by our submission, we are saying that each of these is exactly like Jesus and is sinless and perfect. We're not saying that at all. We understand that all of those authority figures will give to God an account of how they wielded their authority. All of them will. So we're not saying that the wife by submitting is saying that her husband is Jesus, or is as flawless as Jesus or perfect, it's not that at all, but it's in the pattern of that, as to her Lord, and this comes from a heart attitude that then flows out into outward actions. She submits in her heart. And then it flows out into action.

So first and foremost, as we've said she submits to Christ, Matthew 11:22-30, Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, take My yoke upon you and learn from me. For I'm gentle and humble in heart and you'll find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That is the fundamental moment of her conversion of taking her neck as all of us do, and yielding to the yoke of Jesus, the king. We're not going to fight as commands anymore, we're going to submit to His commands. And so that submission must come from the heart. It comes from a transformed heart, as we've been saying a heart of love to the Lord, and it's in that way also, in the subset sort of way, in a pattern way she's going to do toward her husband. And then it flows out into actions that comply with her submission to her husband's leadership.

This is the Key to Understanding Gender-Based Roles

If I could just say also, this is the key for me to all gender-based roles and all gender understanding. Fundamentally as our culture gets more and more confused about gender. And you know exactly what I'm talking about. And it goes way beyond bathrooms. Way beyond House Bill 2 and any of that. It's really a stripping away of the moral confusion that's happening in our nation where people just don't know what masculinity and femininity are anymore. Well, if somebody's going to come to me and say, Help me understand what it means to be a masculine man. What it means for me to be a feminine woman or what does that mean biblically? I would bring you right to Ephesians 5. Even if you're not married. I would just say this is the essential difference. All the other virtues that you give to masculinity, you could probably see corresponding virtues similar to that, like courage boldness leadership, other things like that in a woman, and they're actually commanded in other places in scripture. What then? I think it's this pattern within marriage of headship and submission, and then extends also in terms of an elders leadership of the church in a godly sort way, in a Christ-like sort of way. I would just take your meditations there. If you want to try to understand what the Bible means by masculinity, etcetera. It's the key to everything in terms of gender-based roles.

The Ground of a Wife’s Submission

The Reason for the Command

Fourth, what is the ground of a wife submission? What is the reason why she should do it? What does Paul say? What is the reason for the command? We'll look again at the verses. Verse 22 and 23 “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.” That's the reason why. Okay, you could take Verse 22, wives submit your husbands as to the Lord, stop. The wife then says, "Why should I do that? What's the reason you're giving me for that verse? 23 is the answer. “For,” or, “because,” or “since the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior.” That's the reason why it answers the question why? So in other words, the ground for her submission is his status, his state in her life as her head. That's the reason why, that's what Paul would say. That's the reason why she submits. 

The Headship is Beneficial to the Body

Now, the word “head” is an interesting word. Let me tell you. On the issue of gender and egalitarianism, and the struggles that have been going on in this over the last two or three, four decades, almost every keyword has been fought over. I can just tell you, there are battles that are fought over, the word “head.” Some scholars seeking, I think, to evade the sense of authority, the right to command say that head means source, like the head of a river, something like that. But if you look at, I think Ephesians, go ahead and look back their Ephesians 1:20-23. I think you'll get a sense of what Paul means by the word head in Ephesians 5.

So Ephesians 1:20-23, it says, "God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,”  Ephesians 1:21, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Now here comes verse 22, “And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” That's what “head” means. I actually think there's almost a direct correlation between these words here at the end of Ephesians 1, and in Matthew 28:18, then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me.” I think this is Paul's version of it in Ephesians 1, "God placed all things under Christ's feet rulers, authorities, powers, dominions everything and made Him head over the universe.” And I read it this way for the Church or for the benefit of the Church. So that's Christ headship over the church and over everything.

I think in the same way the husband, headship of the husband in reference to the wife is similar to it. It's patterned after that saying. It's a position of authority, the right to lead the right to give commands, and make decisions in the marriage and ultimately in the family. Now, one thing we note in both Ephesians 1 and then in Ephesians 5, is that this headship is beneficial to the body. It causes the body to live and flourish and thrive. It's absolutely vital for us to see that it says he is, Ephesians 5:23, says the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body of which He is the Savior. You see, the saving work of Christ here, he's not a domineering tyrant here, He is the savior of the Church, and so his headship is beneficial to her. So the worldly vision of authority must be rejected.

You remember how the apostles were arguing about which of them would be greatest in the kingdom, remember that? There's just so many little ugly moments there in the Gospels, we get a sense of the humanity of the 12 apostles, and the sinfulness too, and Christ’s patience and dealing, but they're arguing about which of them is going to be the greatest. Jesus called them together and He said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles, lord over them. And their high officials domineer [or exercise] authority over them not so with you, instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” We're going to see that exact same thing being said in Ephesians 5, about the husband toward his wife. So, this headship benefits, it is servant leadership, it causes the wife to flourish and grow in every way.

The Simple Truth: The Husband IS the Head

Now as we look at the ground over submission, we need to look at the simple indicative statement here. There's not an imperative or subjunctive here. What do I mean by that? The husband is declared to be the head, the husband is the head of the wife, he's not encouraged to be the head, he's not commanded to be the head. Nothing is said about what kind of head you should be here, that'll come, I think later in the chapter. You should be a Christ-like it but it's not the husband ought to be the head of the wife or his expected to be, he just is. We just need to understand how unconfused, God is about all of this. He's not confused at all about what he intends in marriage. He's not confused by Supreme Court decisions or by high-level academic books. He just knows exactly what He intended in marriage.

 And so, this has nothing to do with his behavior, his height, his racial origin. Even his, I would say regenerate status, it just has to do with marriage. That's what happened when they got married. The moment that she said “I do” at that wedding, he became, in God's eyes, her head. That's what you can clearly see that it's not merely a piece of paper at that point, nothing that we can do will change God's perception of that, that God sees her sees him as her head and he will evaluate both of them on Judgment Day, on that basis. So it's good for us to know that that's how He will evaluate. That's the basis of her submission.

Husbands: Embrace Your Responsibility

So husbands or I can just say in an aside, to husbands embrace your responsibility. I often think of the garden of Eden after the fall, remember after Adam and Eve had both eaten from the fruit, and then there was the sound of the garden, coming in the cool of the day, or of God coming, and He's moving. God is moving through the garden. And they became terrified, because they felt guilty, they were guilty and they hid. But who is He calling for, who is he calling for? He's calling for Adam. Now it's not that He didn't know what Eve had done. It's not that at all, and it's not that she's not just as accountable to God for what she's done, because He will call her to account it's who does He call for first. There's a sense of that responsibility of taking responsibility with positions of authority, come corresponding accountability, and responsibility for which we will give an account on Judgment Day. So husband just step up into your responsibility. We’ll talk more about this next week, but it's not that you ought to be the head. If you're married, you are the head. And that's the ground also for submission.

The Extent of a Wife’s Submission

How Far Does Submission Go?

Now what about the extent of the wife submission how far does this submission go? We'll look at verse 24. Now, as the “Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything,” in everything. So, in everything I take to mean in every topical area of life, and down to its details. So, that would be money and possessions, it would be life management, it would be scheduling it would be parenting, church involvement, careers, ministry, mission, anything and everything. You put a heading over that's relevant to their marriage. So that's the way I take the phrase in everything. So, turning around with that means there's no area that either the husband or wife could say, that this idea of headship and submission is irrelevant to that, or doesn't fit there. Basically there is no topic or area of life, which the wife can say that's off-limits or the husband could say it's off-limits. Headship and submission do not extend to that.

Now, brothers let's not be fools here. I've mentioned this before. She has the right to set her kitchen up the way she wants. She has the right to set her dresser up the way she wants. She can put this in this drawer that in that drawer etcetera. She has the right to quote the standards to you while you're putting dishes away from the dishwasher. “It doesn't go there, it goes over here, yes dear.” Alright? Put it where she wants. Don't like, pull rank and say, I'm going to rearrange your kitchen just because I can. Alright, that's not wise. There are areas of jurisdiction. And if she just has a more refined eye for fashion than you do, and if you ever have that marital moment, that I've had many times in which your wife asks you, “Is that what you're wearing?” That is a good moment for you not so much to be thinking about headship and submission, but to ask advice. Alright, do you think I ought not to wear this? What's up, you know, what's the deal? Well I hope we're not at the level of  Garanimals where you need the top and the bottom to match, but they don't. Okay, that's not ideal right now. We're not saying that it extends so, she can't give some advice, and let's get more serious that she can't confront you on a sin pattern in your life, that she can't rebuke you, because she sees sin in your life, you can't say, "Well headship and submission, you're not allowed to do that.” Your wife has the right to rebuke you for sins.


So toward the wife, this idea of, in everything means you should broaden not constrict the sense of headship and submission. Say, "Lord are there some areas in which I'm not being submissive. Are there some areas, maybe the finances, or life direction, or there's some areas where I am feeling some resistance to my husband's godly leadership." And as you Christian wives gladly and willingly by the power of the Spirit, put this submission on display and everything, you'll be putting the Gospel on display beautifully in everything, especially before your children. So, if there is that gentle and quiet spirit, which Peter says, is of great worth in the sight of God, she will beautify not only herself, but she'll actually beautify the Gospel. 

She'll make the Gospel appear attractive to anyone that's watching. Like it says in Titus 2:4-5, “older women can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and be subject to their husbands. Same teaching, so that no one will malign the Word of God.” That means so people want think negatively of the Bible or the Gospel. And then later in the same chapter, in Titus 2:10, it says so that “in everything they may adorn or beautify the doctrine of God our savior.” So it's both negatively, so that people won't malign the Gospel and positively so people would see how beautiful the Gospel is. So, a Spirit-filled submission, in everything in all the areas really beautifies the Gospel, it powerfully puts the Gospel on display. So, that's the extent of the wives submission. It's in everything but are there limits to the wife, submission? Well, the answer is Absolutely, as with all human authority, it's not absolute. It's not absolute.

The Limits of a Wife’s Submission

The Husband’s Authority is Not Absolute

The first limit to the wife’s submission is in the intensive right from the beginning, verse 22, and not every translation has this is. NIV doesn't have this, but I'll just read it as it is. It says "Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” So, it's intensive, it's made clear it's just pretty obvious, from that, that Paul is making it clear. You don't need to submit to every husband. You don't submit to a sister in Christ's husband or to every man. That's not true either, it's just to your own husband, also the words your own your own husband, implies a sense of ownership that the wife has over the husband like the husband has over the wife. And that we get into the issue of marital relations. Basically, she owns his body sexually just like he owns her body sexually. That's what 1 Corinthian 7 teaches beautifully, it says In Song of Solomon, 2:16, “my lover is mine and I am His.” So the sense of that mutual ownership specifically in the area of marital relations. Or in 1 Corinthian 7:3-5, it says “A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife. And likewise, the wife to her husband, a wife, doesn't have authority over her own body, but her husband does. Equally a husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. So, that's a limit.”

So the man doesn't have freedom to roam, as in some cultures like, “Men will be men, nothing you can do to stop it. They're going to be polygamists one way or another.” No! Christians have from the beginning said that is not true and it's a sin to be judged, and so he does not have the right, to do that. There's a limit there, that she owns their marital relations just as He owns hers. Next also even to her own husband and even within this, the wife's submission is limited. She is to submit as to the Lord, but he is not the Lord, he is a sinner. And there may be times that his leadership will not be godly, this is even more true if he's not a believer. Says in Deuteronomy 13:6-8, basically, we're going to say this, she, the wife, must never, ever follow her husband into sin, ever.

Deuteronomy 13:6-8. It says, “if your very own, brother or your son, or daughter or the wife whom you love or your closest friend secretly entices you saying, 'let us go and worship other gods, gods that neither you know your fathers have known, gods of the people around you, whether near or far from one end of the land of the other, do not yield to Him or listen to him.” Actually your hand should be the first in putting him to death that says In the Old Covenant scriptures. So, no, you can't even if the one you love, the most in this world says, "Hey let's go worship another God. Let me put it to you this way. We must never follow God-ordained authority into God-forbidden activity. Let me say that again, we must never follow God-ordained authority, into God-forbidden activity. That point we break and it says in Acts 4-5, the apostles, when they were commanded by the Jewish authorities to stop preaching the Gospel of Christ that We must obey God rather than men. And so, it is.

The situation with Ananias and Sapphira is a case study for this. It turns out they both mutually agreed to lie to the Holy Spirit about the amount of money they got from the sale. But suppose only Ananias had wanted to do, Sapphira would not have been compelled to follow her husband into lying before the church about the amount of money they got from that real estate deal. Her fraud was her own and headship and submission you're not allowed to command your spouse to sin, ever. So the wife’s submission to her husband must be a subset of her submission of Christ.

What if Your Husband is an Unbeliever?

Now, more specifically, "what if my husband is a non-Christian, what do I do then? Well, I want to commend to you, 1 Corinthians 7:13-16, and also 1 Peter 3:1-6. I'm not going to go carefully through those, but in 1 Corinthians 7, basically, it says if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her she must not divorce him. Instead she must live with him there to do life together. Paul says, The husband is in some sense sanctified or set apart by having a godly wife. Clearly Paul does not mean he's definitely going to be saved, because he says at the end, you don't know that you're going to save your husband, but if he's willing to live with her they should live together. You do your best as a Christian wife in that situation to follow whatever leadership he gives that's not ungodly. When it comes to the raising of the children, you should raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, you should say. I've got to bring them to church. This is what's commanded. Obviously, the more belligerent or intractable he gets about that the harder it gets, I understand that but fundamentally do what you can to submit to your husband when he doesn't contradict the word of God. Your overall demeanor should be one of loving submissiveness.

Same thing in 1 Peter 3. The idea in 1 Peter 3, as he says that without a word, you can win over an unbelieving husband when he sees the purity and submission and beauty of your life. The gentle and quiet spirit, so you're not murmuring or rolling under him. And when it says without a word, it means you don't nag your husband into the kingdom. You don't manipulate him into the kingdom, you just share the Gospel, and pray, and live your life, and pray and pray and pray some more. Honestly, I actually think 1 Peter 3 goes also for the Christian husband who's not behaving well on a given Tuesday afternoon, it's been known to happen. I'm not sure how bad I am on Tuesdays, but Wednesday can be a tough day.

Alright, so there are times that Christian husbands don't behave well, they don't seem to believe the word. I think it's wrong to take 1 Peter 3 and say it's only for the unbelieving husband. I think in general, all sin comes from unbelief and there's going to be a time that every husband in here, will be, to some degree, not believing the word at that moment. Same principles 1 Peter 3. Win them over without a word. Not saying you should never speak a word of correction. I already said you can, but I'm just saying your demeanor and your submissiveness will be powerful.

Practical Advice

More practical advice. What about abusive situations? Well, I don't think we're ever commanded by God to stand there and take a beating. As a matter of fact, the apostles, sent out on mission, he said “If they persecute you in one place, flee to the next, if you can get your freedom, do it.” And so, I think most Christian pastors that teach on this say that an abusive situation is grounds for separation and divorce and I believe that. Now when it comes to emotional or verbal abuse, obviously it gets a little more difficult just because you've had an argument, I wouldn't use the word “abuse” there. We all have a sin nature. You just need to be very careful what you mean. But fundamentally, the desire is that this headship is not abusive. This is something that feeds and nourishes the wife, ultimately the godly wife as you feed her with the word of God, as you pour into her the Gospel she's going to become a better and better counselor she's going to be able to give good advice to her husband. And she will be a helper suitable for him. So we'll talk about that more next time, but as you pour the Word of God into your wife cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, she will give godlier and godlier council.

The Delight of a Wife’s Submission 

The Husband’s Obedience Leads to the Wife’s Delight

Finally, the delight of a wife's submission. Well, the basic idea is this, and you've heard it before, but I'll say it. The more the husbands do their part, the more delightful it is for the wife to do her part. And so, next week, we're going to talk about the husband's work and his calling to be a Christ-like head. The more he actually lives that out by the Spirit, the more delightful this will be. So, “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, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” The more you love your wife brothers, the more delightful this will be for the wife. But even if the husband doesn't, there's still a secret delight that comes to any Christian, who by the power of the Spirit even when it's very difficult, obeys the commands of God. So wives submit to your husbands by the power of the Spirit next week, pray for me as I preach to the husbands. I want to say one final thing, as we go to the time of the Lord's supper.

Call to Repentance

This is a time for us to celebrate the ordinance of communion. It's a time for Christians who have confessed faith in Christ and been baptized to partake. If you have not been converted, if you're not a Christian. If you've not testified to your conversion by water baptism, we'd ask that you refrain. But I just want you to know how glad I am that you're here, how glad I am that you've heard even if you wonder “What is this, how is this relevant to my life? I'm a single guy. I'm 30 or whatever, not a Christian etcetera.” Well, if I can just say this, maybe you're here for just this moment. That you would realize that God sent His Son into the world to die for sinners like you and me, and that maybe God brought you here, not so much to hear about a submission of a wife to her husband, but your submission to Christ the King.

So I'm going to say again, Matthew 11, come to Him, Christ come to me. All you who are weary and burdened and I'll give you rest" yield to Jesus submit to him, let Him forgive you for your sins. Now I'm going to close the sermon time in prayer, and then we'll have the time of the Lord's supper. 


 Father, we thank you for the opportunity we've had today to hear the Gospel, to see it applied specifically to Christian wives and how they relate to their husbands. Father, as we turn now to the ordinance of communion, we pray that you would please enable us to hear and believe the Word and take it to heart. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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