“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”
What does that mean?
First of all, when we hear that verse from holy Scripture, we must remember that it is the Word of God. That means that we must hear the call of our Lord. We must see it as something that is good and right, and that will bring us a great blessing.
That means do not cringe when you hear that Word of God. And husbands, do not gloat. Do not lose heart. Do not set yourselves in opposition to it. But hear, first of all, the one who speaks, and hear by faith in a risen Savior to whom you belong.
Perhaps nowhere does the world’s influence come upon us more than in our calling in a home, as a wife and a mother. Our own rebellious, sinful nature takes hold of us and introduces fury in us against God’s Word and we will not even hear it. Then there is the evil of femininism, the teaching of the equality of the sexes, against male dominance; and our own sinful flesh likes to take in the world’s thoughts. The result is that when we hear that word “submit,” we become like a wild stallion before the rope.
But we must understand that the word “submission” in the Scriptures is not only the Lord’s call (it is), but it is also a call to that which is good and blessed and which will bring blessing and peace in our souls. The word “submit” is used frequently in the New Testament Scriptures. It applies to every child of God: male and female, old and young. We read in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
This is something we all must do. It refers to elders in Hebrews 13:7, where we are admonished to submit ourselves to those who have the rule over us in the church. We are to submit to the government and to our employer (1 Peter 2:13): “Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
Still more, we read in Luke 2:51 of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He grew as a boy, that He was “subject (the same word) to them.” To Mary His mother and Joseph His stepfather, He was subject. Though He was the Son of God who held all things in His hands, yet, when He was a child, He came under the ordinances of God. And He willingly subjected Himself to two of His creatures.
The word “submit” means “to arrange under, to yield to another.” It has the military sense in the word. When you join the army, you are no longer one who follows your own desires but you are subject entirely to others. Paul applies this now to the body of Jesus Christ. We are to be in subjection to the will of our Savior for His church. For only then can His church function as His body.
To submit is the blessing of God’s grace by which we surrender our own way and life to the care and to the will of our Lord. Submission is founded in the grace of redemption. We have been purchased by Jesus Christ so that we are no more our own, but we belong to Him in all that we are and do. And, therefore, willingly we follow His way as it is in marriage.
By nature, of course, we revolt and are revolting. Rebellion would bring upon us ruin. We have all turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53). That is the way our sin is described. We are like the demoniac whom the Lord healed — the man who lived in the tombs and yelled and cut himself, “and no man could tame him,” says the Bible. That is the way we are, by nature. By nature we say, “My way or I’m out of here.”
We are thoughtless of others. We are threatened by others. We are selfish, self-centered, self-assertive, opinionated, and critical. But grace, the grace of God, conquers. The grace of God shows us our sin and brings us into the subjection of Christ so that we desire to submit to Him. Grace tames us and brings us under the intelligent will of Jesus Christ. Submission, then, is the delightful abiding under the will of our sovereign Master. It is the peace that the child of God has that he is in God’s hands. We do not need to be agitated. He cares for us. He assigns us our place. And now we find it sweet and delightful to do His will. That is submission. It is the grace of God. It is rooted in the redemption of Jesus Christ.
Are you subject to Christ?
If you are not, then you cannot be subject to the church, to your parents, to your husband, to the government. Submission is a grace found in Christ.
Now the Word of God says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” The Scriptures are saying that our subjection to Christ is worked out in God’s created spheres. The Word of God is saying to us that the Christian is not a revolutionary. The Christian does not say, “I belong to Jesus and I’m going to overthrow dictatorships.” Or, “I’m going to go on strike against my boss.” Or, “I’m not going to pay my taxes.” Or, “I’m going to throw out these old ideas of marriage.”
Oh, no. But the child of God understands that God has instituted certain spheres, and that marriage is God’s institution. According to that institution, as we find it in the Scriptures, there is to be one husband — the head of his wife, who is to lead his wife and to be responsible for his wife. And there is one wife who is called to submit to her husband, to complement, that is supply the needs of her husband, and to live with her husband. To submit means that you know the will of God concerning your place in marriage and, by the grace of God, you set yourself to do it as unto the Lord, as is fit in the Lord.
It means, then, that to submit we must put away our own self-seeking and sin; our own independence, our own native self-centeredness. Perhaps more than anything else, that is the reason for all marital problems — husbands and wives are, by nature, self-centered sinners. It does not take long in marriage to learn that about yourself, if God’s grace is at work in your heart. You learn that in marriage two are no longer two but one in a beautiful expression of the self-denying love of Christ. But we remain sinners. We are of ourselves self-centered and concerned about ourselves. We are concerned about our future, our safety. Our self-centeredness makes us thoughtless of others. Self-centered people speak before they think; they act before they consider. They say, “Now just wait a minute. I’ve got my plans. I’ve got my ideas.” We think of ourselves. And we feel that unless we get our word in there real quick, my husband is not going to consider me. And we become resentful and critical and we say, “Well, what does he know anyway?”
Submit. This means that all of the issues of ourselves have been resolved in Christ. I no longer live out of my self-centered nature; but I desire to live out of my Savior Jesus Christ simply to do His will. It means that I know the truth about myself. Of myself I am hopeless, I am lost, I am damned. But the Lord has saved me. Now no more do I live to myself, but unto Him who has died and is risen again. I live unto Him and I live out of Him. And out of that grace I submit to my husband. That is the testimony of a believing wife.
Note with me, though, that the call of God of submission to a husband has two aspects. First of all, it is voluntary. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” This is a submission that is freely given. Consider our Lord Jesus Christ. He came under the will of God for our redemption. He submitted to all that must be done to redeem us.
He did so willingly — out of the love of God — He loved us. He said, “No man takes My life from Me. I lay it down of Myself.” The church, now, is subject to Christ.
Because grace works within us freely to do this. We do so because by grace we want to please Him because this is what is right. A Christian wife, now, submits to her husband.
Freely, from the heart, out of love to Jesus Christ.
Note that, husband. You will not find a verse in the Bible telling you to subjugate your wife. You will find one with respect to your children ( 1 Timothy 3:3 ). But Christ calls your wife to submit to you. That means you may not use physical force as a husband, yelling, temper, your hand or your fist, to subjugate her. Don’t you ever lift up your hand to your wife. Don’t you ever threaten her with violence.
Do you hear Christ?
Every man who is hearing this message today, as a child of God now, is not so sanctified that he does not need to hear that blunt warning. You have had words with your wife. You are frustrated with your wife. She might be right in your face. You may not ever lift your hand against her. You may not force her.
You want to use your hands?
Pray. Submission is sacred. Submission is something that Christ calls the woman to give to her husband.
But, notice with me also that this submission is exclusive. Submit yourselves to your own husbands, not to every man, but to your own husbands.
Because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. And the church is subject to Christ, not to everyone else. We are subject to Christ. We follow Him! Now, submit, as a picture of that, to your own husband. He is your head. God gave him for your protection, for your safety and your shelter. Confide in him.
But you say, “He doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t understand me. We don’t get anywhere.” The answer is not that you begin to run to what looks like better shelter. But it means that you (and your husband) must develop spiritually the thinking, “He is my husband. He’s my man. And I must seek my life in him. I must.” You say, “But how do I do that?” You agree that your calling from the Lord Jesus Christ is to submit to your husband. But you say, “It doesn’t work so well. He makes mistakes. He’s touchy when I try to point out to him the areas where I feel a lack in our marriage. Besides, I don’t like him telling me how to do my housework. He doesn’t understand how much things cost. He doesn’t understand what it is to go for the groceries or to take care of the clothes. He doesn’t make decisions. And I’ve waited long enough for him to make a decision. Something has to be done. And you say to me, submit? How am I going to do that?”
Well, let us look at this chapter for some light. If you go back to verse 16, you will find that the answer, first of all, is that we are to be saturated with the Word of God. We read in verse 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” You must be saturated with the Word of God if you are to submit to your husband. You must go to the Word of God not only in desperation. And not (as we are prone to do) when there have been hurts in your marriage and you go to the Word of God for some ammunition to hurl at him and for some self-justification. Oh, no. Don’t you dare use God’s Word that way.
We must be, as women of God, as wives, as husbands, as men of God, saturated with the Word of God daily and personally. That means that if you need time to be with the Word, you mention to your husband that he is to watch the kids because you need to have that Word. You need to have that time with the Word. The more you study the Word, the more you will come to the understanding of the character of God and the easier it will be to trust in the living God. Through the Word you will be brought to see your own stubborn sins. And under the throne of God’s Word you will find strength.
There is another way that we practice this submission. This is more negative. But it is in the Scriptures. Do not gossip. That is a sin that everyone is prone to do. But the Scripture speaks specifically about this sometimes to wives. Wives should not be busybodies, speaking things they ought not ( 1 Timothy 5:13 ). This brings ruin in the church and it brings ruin in the home and in the marriage. Perhaps on the phone you become free to criticize your husband. You feel free to criticize others.
What are you doing?
You are going outside your marriage with your problems. And you are inviting other problems into your home — the latest gossip that you have heard. Then, perhaps, you take up the woe of other people. And you tell all of these things to your husband when he gets home. The sin of gossip and submission can never go together, because gossip and tale-bearing is going out from under the rule of Christ. Gossip is saying, “I’m free to say and to hear what I want.” But you are not. As a child of God you are not. You are under the will of Christ.
But, you see, if in the sin of gossip you have gone out from submission to Christ, how can you submit to your husband?
You say to me, “I do understand that and I do love the Word of God. I try to keep myself from gossip and I try to saturate my soul with His Word. Yet, there are areas where it is very hard to subject myself to my husband.”
What about that?
With the eye to the Lord, I point out to you that God calls you as a Christian woman (wife) to respect your husband. That is part of submission. We know that the calling of children is that they are to respect us (more than just obey), honor us. The apostle draws this out for the wife, that submission includes respect. We read in Ephesians 5, “nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence (or respect) her husband.”
What does it mean to respect your husband?
It means that you see the hand of God in giving you that husband that you might serve him. It begins in your heart. That means, do not tear him down before others, do not degrade your husband, do not share his weakness with others, do not rub him on his mistakes.
God calls you to respect, but then God calls you also to be ready. A submissive spirit is a ready spirit.
Ready for what?
Ready to forego one’s own rights and opinions for the unity of the marriage. Ready to listen, to give the husband a proper hearing. Ready even to suffer the things that you should not have to suffer. Ready to serve in cheerfulness.
Wives, be subject to your husbands as it is fit in the Lord. That is the motive: as it is fit in the Lord. That is proper. That is the correct thing to do. The Lord has delivered us from the darkness and dominion of the kingdom of the evil and has brought us into His own kingdom by grace. Now, as it is fit, render this subjection to your husband, for the Lord’s sake.
Wives, do you hear Christ?
This is the Word of Christ — as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wife be subject to her own husband as is fit in the Lord.
That means that if the Bible is ever confiscated and it is gone, and there are yet young converts brought under the gospel of Jesus Christ, that these young converts can be taught what it means that the church is subject to Christ in love. The church would say to these young converts: “Look at our Christian wives. See how they conduct themselves toward their husbands? That is what it means that the church joyfully and willingly is subject to Christ.”
By Carl Haak