“As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Eph. 5:22)
“Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to what it ‘can’t possibly mean,’ rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. (As Mark Twain said, ‘I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.’)” Elisabeth Elliot
Why do we have trouble with the practice of submission? What is it about this command that can make us bristle? Even though we may accept, as Elisabeth Elliot does, the clarity of Scripture on the issue, we also can agree that submitting to our husbands is not always easy.
Certainly our culture presents us with a formidable challenge. It treats the submissive wife with a noxious mixture of scorn and pity. And it doesn’t help that many in the church are trying to explain away this command, thus cutting off a vital source of our encouragement.
But the real threat to submission comes from a place we may not initially expect. More on the source of our submission troubles tomorrow.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
“Marriage was designed by God most deeply, most importantly, to be a parable or a drama of the way Christ loves his church and the way the church loves and follows Christ.” John Piper
Being a bride means—above all—that we imitate THE bride, the church. We are to respect, follow, love, and submit to our husband as the church does to Christ. “As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Eph. 5.22).” That’s a pretty tall order, for sure.
We have to admit, though, that our husbands might have the tougher assignment: they are to imitate Christ who “gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5.25). We have to follow, but they have to die! This series is not about the husbands, though. We want to focus on God’s calling for us as wives.
Submission (Eph 5.22) and respect (Eph. 5.33) comprise the primary role of a bride, and that’s who the command is addressed to. Submission was not our husbands’ idea, and neither are they responsible to enforce it. This command is not divine permission for husbands to assert authoritarian leadership. Nowhere in Scripture does it say, ‘Husbands, see to it that your wives submit.’ That’s our job.
The requirement to submit to our husbands comes straight from God to us as wives. And we are answerable to Him for our obedience. We cannot blame our husbands for our lack of submission. The responsibility is entirely ours!
And notice to whom we are to submit. As married women, we are not called to submit to all men (and neither are single women, for that matter), but rather to our husbands. Conversely, we should not seek leadership from other men, apart from our husbands, no matter how worthy they are of honor or respect. We are to follow our husbands.
But as I said, this isn’t always easy. We’ll talk about why, next time. Stay tuned.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
The gospel makes it possible for us to be gospel wives. But what does this look like exactly? Over the next few weeks we’re going to talk about who we are called to be:
I am his bride…
I am his lover…
I am his best friend…
I am his equal…
I am his helper…
I am his glory…
We need to be reminded of God’s ideal for marriage, because so often our own ideal gets in the way. We don’t naturally want to be a gospel wife. Our natural drift is toward the selfish ideal of marriage idolized by our culture. And so without realizing it, we can often struggle, strive, long, and even pray for a marriage that fits our selfish, worldly ideal (and usually includes our husband changing big-time!).
If we don’t keep God’s ideal for marriage front and center, we’re going to be headed in the wrong direction. That’s why we must be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s Word, and we must ask God to give us hearts that long to be gospel wives.
“God works in the faithful to restore them to their ‘gospel’ relationship.” Bruce Waltke
Your hopes and dreams for an “ideal marriage” were preceded by the purposes of another. From the beginning of time, God had a purpose for your marriage: to forge a gospel relationship.
“Remember this and stand firm…” God encourages his people, “‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:8-10, emphasis mine). As the ESV Study Bible comments, “The only true God will succeed in his glorious purpose for his stubborn people.”
Marriage is the union of two stubborn sinners. Yet God will succeed in his glorious purpose to restore an ideal gospel relationship.
You may think your problems are too high or your rut too deep. But do you really imagine that the Creator and Restorer of marriage throughout all generations is going to throw in the towel when he gets to you? To put it another way: Do you really think you are the exception to the rule of God’s faithful purposes?
In the days ahead we will talk about how to be a gospel wife. But we must start—and return often—to the truth that our work is effective only because He works. Our faith is possible only because He has redeemed us. Our hope is realistic only because He has promised to accomplish His purposes.
God will succeed in His glorious purpose for marriage. In fact, whether we see it or not, whether it feels like it or not, He is succeeding right now.
“The story about the gift of the bride (Genesis 2:18-23) represents marriage ideally before the Fall, providing… a type of Christ’s relationship to his church (Eph. 5:22-32). This latter represents their relationship by the metaphor of the gospel. As Christ dies for his church, the husband dies for his wife; as the church obeys her Lord in everything, the wife obeys her husband. After the Fall the man and the woman become divided and struggle in their relationship (Gen. 3:16), but God works in the faithful to restore them to their ‘gospel’ relationship.” (Bruce Waltke, Genesis, pp.104-105, emphasis mine)
The story of marriage in the Bible has a happy ending. We, the faithful, are in the middle of it right now. God, whose ideal for marriage was rejected by sinful human beings, sent His only Son to die for us. He bore our sins, died in our place, absorbed God’s wrath, redeemed our lives, and will one day present us faultless before the throne of grace. And He is at work turning sin-shot marriages into gospel relationships.
He works. He restores. He takes divided, struggling, selfish, proud husbands and wives and patiently forges gospel relationships: for His glory and for our good. No matter our difficulty, we have hope because of what God has done and what he is doing. He is even more committed to an ideal marriage than we are.
He works, but we cooperate. We have a part to play. We must “toil” as Paul says, “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). By the grace of God we must strive for a gospel relationship. We must seek to become “gospel wives.”
“Being A Gospel Wife” is our new series here at girltalk. Hope you’ll join us!
The first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, had the ideal marriage—for a little while, anyway. But it wasn’t long before sin entered the world (Genesis 3); and almost immediately, the first couple began to have marriage problems. They blamed each other. They argued. They did not love.
Sound familiar? The Fall is a historical event and a present reality in marriage. From that day to now, marriage has been less than ideal, because all marriages for all time have been corrupted by sin.
It is not good.
But the problems in our marriage are bigger than we realize. That’s because the stakes are higher than we think. You see, we don’t just disappoint each other’s expectations, or dash each other’s hopes; we fail to attain God’s glorious ideal of reflecting Christ and His church. And we cannot hope to do so on our own.
But the Bible’s story of marriage doesn’t end here. And neither does yours or mine.
Talk about a dramatic opener. The story of marriage in the Bible begins suddenly, unexpectedly. One moment there is a man and animals and a beautiful world and everything is good. And the next moment, God declares: “it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).
So God created marriage. And it was good. It is good.
Not only is it good, marriage is glorious: a picture of Christ and the church. God created marriage to display His good news, the gospel. Thus Paul’s stunned reaction: “This mystery is profound” (Eph. 5:32).
”[Paul] interprets the original creation of the husband-and-wife union as itself modeled on Christ’s forthcoming union with the church as his ‘body’. Marriage from the beginning of creation was created by God to be a reflection of and patterned after Christ’s relation to the church. Thus Paul’s commands regarding the roles of husbands and wives do not merely reflect the culture of his day but represent God’s ideal for all marriages at all times, as exemplified by the relationship between the bride of Christ (the church) and Christ himself” (ESV Study Bible, emphasis mine).
Did you catch that? Marriage as a picture of the gospel wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t a backup plan. It was the purpose for marriage from the beginning. And God’s purpose hasn’t changed. Reflecting the gospel is God’s ideal for all marriages at all times.
It is good. It is glorious. It is for the gospel.
What do you want from your marriage? What would you change if you could?
No doubt something, or many things, come to mind. In one way or another marriage has probably fallen short of your expectations. But we must consider: where does our definition of “the ideal marriage” come from?
Do we get our cues from the culture and its illusive ideal of a mutually satisfying relationship? Do we compare our marriage to our friends’ marriages, to our everlasting disappointment? Or are we myopically focused on our husband’s weaknesses as the cause of our less than ideal marriage?
We need to ask: What does God want from my marriage? What does He want to change? What is His ideal?
Would it surprise you to know that His goal is not for you and your husband to have a “mutually satisfying relationship”, or to have a marriage that’s as good as or better than your friends, or to finally change that husband of yours?
His goal is far greater than that. His agenda far more glorious, far more satisfying.
What does God’s ideal marriage look like?
The answer begins with a story. A long story. A beautiful story. The story of marriage in the Bible.
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.” ~Shirley Rice
The other day, my three boys tramped downstairs to the kitchen. They were arguing.
“He took my quarters!” my seven-year-old pointed to his brother.
“No, Mom, I brought these quarters home from Mom-Mom’s house!” the accused brother defended himself.
As I tried to get the story from them, one…at…a…time, the words of blame kept flowing, with frequent interruptions and scowls.
My temptation in these moments? I want to bring swift resolution through my commands and directives: “Boy #1 is wrong. Boy #2 is right. Case closed.” I want peace for myself more than I want to teach my children God’s Word.
But my words—although very important!—are not sufficient. My children need to hear God’s Words. They need Scripture, which is “profitable for teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). They need God’s promises and commands sown like seed into their little hearts. They need the words from God’s mouth, which never return empty (Is. 55:11).
So we return to the most often quoted verse in the Chesemore home—Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
“Is corrupting talk coming out of your mouths?” I ask my boys. “What words would give grace to your brother?”
And surprise, surprise—Scripture serves me too. I need the life-giving words of Scripture as much as my sons. I too need the encouragement and correction of Ephesians 4:29.
This is one reason why I must sit and listen to Jesus’ teaching every day. So that I—and my boys—can profit from His Words.
—from the archives