Summary: A scriptural examination of the duties of Christian husbands and wives.
Poet Samuel Daniel, a contemporary of Shakespeare, said, "Love is a sickness full of woes, all remedies refusing." Love is the universal topic of writers, poets and singers. It is the subject of both highbrow literature and the lowly country song. Man acts as if he has a working knowledge of the concept of love. However, true love is not the domain of man. Love is God’s business. He is its author. He is its sustainer.
The truest love is that which is shared between God and His children. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us, "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Deuteronomy 6:5 says "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." God’s kind of love is a deep, meaningful, expressive love that is not easily explained. It cannot be imitated or counterfeited.
God has also allowed for a special love between a woman and a man. This love is different from God’s love in that it can be expressed physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Our passage deals with this marital love. As I sit at my computer terminal and type these words, I have just been informed of another marriage break-up in my circle of friends. It is shocking to consider the high number of failed marriages in Bible-believing churches today. The institution of marriage is under attack by the forces of Satan and society. No more can the Christian stand back and observe divorce from a safe distance. It is now a part of most church families.
Marriage was designed by God Himself. He instituted it and performed the first wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden. He has continued it down through the ages. It is God’s vehicle for the propa- gation of mankind collectively and our own happiness and fulfillment. Satan regards marriage and the home as his greatest battlegrounds. The easiest way to destroy churches and society is through the home. The cornerstone of every home is the relationship between the husband and the wife. God takes special care to make sure we understand His principles in this relationship.
I. The Wife’s Duty v. 22-24
In fundamental circles, this passage is well known. Many husbands take pleasure in sticking their wives noses to the pages of scripture and preaching to them about the duty of the wife to be submissive. The Southern Baptist Convention has received bad press for their support of this principle. The world outside the church has a problem with these principles, especially the modern women’s movement. They see it as a serious regression to more unenlightened times. As believers, however, the Word of God is not debatable. But what does it mean to be submissive? How far must the wives go?
The Principle v. 22 In verse 22 we have a command. It is not a suggestion nor an outdated idea. One woman said, "I’ll willingly submit to my husband -as long as he doesn’t cross me." In many marriages there is a power struggle of political proportions. Paul here speaks directly to the wives. "Wives, submit yourselves..." The word "submit" means to arrange your life in subjection to another. This seems like a difficult demand, and most women would certainly say "amen." But we must remember that submission is a Christian attribute, not just a female one. In verse 21 we find that we are to "submit ourselves one to another..." In Hebrews 13, we are to submit to our pastor; in 1 Peter 5:5 we are to submit to the elder; in many passages we are told to submit to God and His Word; in 1 Peter 2:13 we are to submit to the law of the land.
The last portion of this verse is particularly troublesome. "...as unto the Lord." In other words, God wants wives to submit to their husbands as they would the Lord Himself. There are some ladies in the churches that will never allow this verse to touch them. "It’s humiliating," some say. "It’s unfair and outdated," they say. But we must trust the Lord and His Word not to lead us the wrong way. The Word of God is not the problem; our understanding of it could be the problem.
The Pattern v.23-24 Here we find the principle magnified. The husband is the "head of the wife." He is the leader and the authority in the marriage. This does not make the wife a second class citizen, although some husbands use this verse to put their wives in exactly such a situation. I work for a fairly large company. My plant manager is my leader and my authority figure. He is not better than me or even more intelligent than me. He relies on his workers for many things and trusts us to carry out his wishes, for he is ultimately responsible for the running of our plant. It is the same situation in the home. There must be someone responsible for leadership. God has placed that responsibility on the husband. Someone said that marriage is "an ordered equality."