It is said that apple cider vinegar is good for you and that you should have a little every morning. Well, I tried a sip, and I can tell you it is not a pleasant experience!
When you hear, “Wives submit to your husbands”, what happens to you? Do you cringe like you just took a swig of apple cider vinegar? A misunderstanding of the biblical teaching on the submission of wives has led men to believe they have the right to demand obedience from their wives, and it has led wives to submit to sinful situations. It behooves us all to understand God’s plan for the marital relationship and the benefits of His design for us.
The Role of the Wife
In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul writes, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” This short passage provides answers to some important questions:
Who is to submit: It is addressed to wives. To all wives. Not just to wives whose husbands are Christians, and not just to those who feel their husband is worthy of their submission. When my counselees tell me they don’t think their husband deserves their submission, I respond, “Then do it for the Lord. It is your sacrifice of worship to Him” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If exhorting her husband is appropriate, she must do it respectfully and be mindful of her own “log list” (Hebrews 3:13; Matthew 7:3-5).
What is commanded: “Be subject to your own husbands.” The verb implies that wives are to “put themselves under” the authority of their husbands. Wives are not of less value than their husbands but have different roles. Submission is God’s design for the good of the family and society. “Be subject to your own husbands” also makes clear that wives do not have to submit to other women’s husbands, just to their own. The husband and wife are a team of two.
When is she to submit: “In everything”. Maybe you’re objecting, “But I know how to handle our finances better than my husband!” That may be true. Then remember that God designed you as your husband’s helper. With Christlike communication (Ephesians 4:29-32), propose your financial expertise to serve him, and if he is convinced that his decision is best, you can submit to his plan, trusting that God is over your husband and that he is accountable to God for his decisions. If his plan turns out to be a poor one, he will learn humility from it, and that is good! Pray for your husband and commit the decision to the Lord. Watch out for the temptation to argue. Proverbs 21:9 warns, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” You don’t want your husband to be wishing he were living on the corner of a roof! Being “a contentious woman” is not the way to a sweet witness or a happy marriage!
“In everything” does not mean that you must submit if he asks you to do something that is clearly against the will of God. In that case, imitate the courage of Peter and John who declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Let your fear of God prompt you to respond something like, “Honey, I love you very much, but it is wrong for me to lie for you. Let’s figure out a better solution to this situation.”
Where is she to submit: The epistle was written to the church in Ephesus, over 2000 years ago. Does it apply to us here and now? God established the roles of husband and wife and communicated them to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2). If Paul held to that teaching for the Gentiles of Ephesus thousands of years later, it is certainly still true for us here in our society.
Why is she to submit: “as to the Lord”. It is an act of obedience and trust in God. Even here in our modern world, we must remember our goal as Christians: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Obedience is the path to blessing: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).
How is she to submit: Peter sheds some light on the “how”: “with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4b). “A gentle and quiet spirit” is the fruit of a heart that is not at war with God’s will but fully trusting in His goodness and faithfulness. Submission that pleases God will reflect a joyful, enthusiastic attitude.
Now, you might be feeling the apple cider vinegar cringe at this point, thinking, “That’s just not fair!” But for a clearer picture of the context of the submission of wives let’s look at what the Bible says about the husband’s role.
The Role of the Husband
The wife may feel like submitting to her husband is an unfair burden, but look at the husband’s part in submission: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Did you get this? The husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He submitted to the Father and died for her! Does that sound easy? No! The husband has the harder role – to submit to God and sacrifice his life for his wife!
How is the husband to treat his wife? Peter wrote, “You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). This means there is no place for bullying or abuse (and if there is bullying or abuse, God has provided the church and government for the wife’s protection: Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 13:1)! Peter is calling for husbands to appreciate and take special care of this unique human relationship that is marriage, and to be sensitive to their wives’ needs. When the husband is striving to fulfill his role and faithfully submitting to God by tenderly loving, leading and providing for his wife, she will willingly, and joyfully, and gratefully submit to such a caring, sacrificial husband, and both will be blessed. God’s plan is for our good and His glory!
Apple cider vinegar was disgusting when I tasted it straight from the bottle, but when I use it in a good recipe it enhances flavor! Likewise, when we correctly understand the biblical teaching of submission of wives, it does not cause us to cringe. It is a source of blessing when applied with a heart that is submitted to and trusting in God.