A stewardess was talking to an elderly couple. Learning that it was the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary, the flight attendant congratulated them and asked how they had done it.
“It all felt like five minutes…” the gentleman said slowly.
The stewardess had just begun to remark on what a sweet statement that was when he finished his sentence with a word that earned him a sharp smack on the head:
I hope you don’t feel like you’re underwater this morning. God’s design for faithful families should be more like a cool drink of water, than a permanent plunge beneath it.
This morning I’d like you to turn to two passages which will form the basis of much of our study together. Taken in Biblical order they are Genesis 2:18-25 and Ephesians 5:22ff.
Listen to What God’s Word Says:
This is God’s Word.
Taken together, incredible dignity is bestowed upon you ladies, together with responsibility. But it is a responsibility that is altogether different from that of your husband. Having summarized your husbands tasks as Leading Sacrificially, Loving sacrificially, Living with you in honor, and Laughing – that is, enjoying life. I’d summarize your tasks ladies with the three words: Submission, Support and Strength.
Since it’s the one word that causes the most anxiety, let’s begin with the first: “Submission”.
Submit (receive strength and leadership)
The concept of submission is not a part of the curse. Arrogant and foolish men have made it seem that way. But, headship and submission is inherent in the creation narrative. In fact Genesis 2:18-25 which takes place before the fall unveils for us that you have been created to be what the old King James described as “an help meet”. Immediately after God’s declaration that he would do that, he brought every animal to Adam in order that he might name them. And at the end of that episode we read in the 20th verse that “for Adam no suitable helper was found for him.”
It is in light of this revelation that God causes Adam to undergo the first ever anesthesia in order to create “a helper suitable for him.” It was mandatory that Adam have someone who was his Spiritual equal – made in the image of God and specifically crafted to help Adam as he performed the tasks God had given him.
For his part, when Adam awoke – and saw her he responded by naming her – thus demonstrating headship – his willingness to take on his God-given role of sacrificial-loving-leadership.
The proper, biblical understanding of submission has to conform to this pre-fall context.
Again our texts in 1 Corinthians 11:3-12 and Ephesians 5:22-23 will help to provide the framework to help us understand what submission is and is not.
God’s word calls for a submission to your husband’s God given authority. 1 cor. 11:3-12 Speaks specifically about headship – which I’ve already defined. Ephesians 5.22-23 says that the wife must in the words of the NASB “be subject to your own [husband]…” The NIV renders it “submit to your [husband]” while the New Century Version (NCV) renders it “yield to your [husband]” The difference between them all is not entirely insignificant. Each translator has made an effort to communicate what is there, but I think the NCV more appropriately communicates the Biblical concept to our culture.
The simple word “Submit” or the phrase, “be subject to” can seem a bit dismissive and even demeaning. Perhaps it would help to understand that The Bible’s word for “submission” doesn’t mean “obey” in the terms a child is called to obey their parents. There is a distinctly different verb used to describe those relationships just a few verses later in Ephesians. The difference is intentional in order to describe the different relationships. Submission doesn’t mean blind obedience it means deference to his leadership.
Men just as our task is not to snap orders to your wife as though she were an underling, she is not called to be a blind follower but rather an affirmer of a God given position of authority. To submit to your husband ladies means to be positively responsive to his leadership – even encouraging it!
Remembering the first message in this series in which the Son clearly submits to the father we gain a workable definition of Biblical Submission which is this:
“Biblical Submission means one Spiritually Equal individual lovingly and voluntarily yields to another Spiritually equal individual possessing a position of authority established by God.”
Notice if you will that I’ve intentionally included the phrase “Spiritually Equal” for both people. That is for two reasons. First, because the Bible’s teaching has been too often misrepresented as declaring some kind of inferiority to women. That misrepresentation has been responsible for all sorts of evil. Additionally that error springs from a complete ignorance of the foundation of biblical anthropology from Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7,21-25; 5:1 all of which clearly teach that both man and woman are created in the image of God. To rob a woman of that dignity is to deny the giving of glory to God for what he has created.
Second, I’ve included “Spiritually Equal” because throughout the scriptures there is a consistent call to appropriate leadership/headship and submission.
In Luke 2:51 the Spiritually superior Jesus submits to his parents.
In Hebrews 13:17 puts the spiritually equal church in submission to her spiritually equal pastoral leaders “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.
In 1 Peter 5:5 young men are told to “Be submissive” to those who are older.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that Jesus the son of God submits to the Father.
The list could continue but I don’t think it needs to.
Far from being a curse, it means operating under God’s decree of righteousness. John Piper summarizes submission this way,
“Biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”
There’s no room for “doormat” theology here, because it’s not a part of the text. Jesus never calls any of his servants to be a doormat, but he does call us towards love and peace and appropriate, loving, voluntary yielding to established authority. But are there limits to submission?
Take a look at Ephesians 5:22, note first what it DOES say “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Eph 5:22, NASB95)
There are two delimiters here.
A. Submission is to your own husband – not to someone else’s. (The NIV leaves this out for no discernible reason as the Greek phrase translated “Your own husbands” is in every major manuscript.)
B. Submission to your husband is the form of submission you would give to the Lord. “As to the Lord”
Verse 23 and following goes on to explain the reasoning, first and primarily is that God has established the husband as head. And beyond that because the husband/wife relationship is intended to reflect Christ to the World.
So we define Biblical submission wherever it is applied as
“…loving and voluntary yielding to an authority established by God.”
In that we can’t afford to neglect the attitude which I’ve tried to communicate with the word “loving”.
Ladies as you yield to your husbands it ought to be done respectfully and not grudgingly or with bitterness – or even fear. Ephesians 5:33 summarizes the whole matter by commanding the husband to love his wife as himself and the wife to Respect her husband Eph 5:33. Peter also repeats the lesson in 1 Peter 3:1-6
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Ladies, don’t be afraid to respond with faith and obedience to the Lord in the way you respond to your husband. Even in the case where you have an unbelieving husband – it is possible that your beautiful humility will win him to Christ.
Last week, a lady told me about a lady they knew in Indiana who was a believer and who went to church. But she was conflicted because her husband didn’t want her to go. Long conversations later it was suggested that she obey his wishes. So the following Sunday, determined to be obedient to God she spoke to her husband something like this, “you know that I would like to go to church today, but because you are my husband and you do not want me to go, I will stay home with you.”
He went to church with her that morning.
It probably won’t always turn out that way, but who knows? As Peter says, They may be won by your chaste and respectful behavior – without even a word being said.
May God give us the grace to live in obedience to His word.