Summary: I don’t accept the often, to me, lame attempts to somehow explain this passage away and act like the Bible, properly interpreted, has a 21st century view of marriage. It doesn’t. I think the biblical view is beautiful, but it is very much not modern.
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
First of all, there is no problem with the translation here, though I’ll clarify a bit in a moment. Ladies, how does this make you feel? You ok with this? Are you immediately thinking of reasons for exceptions? What if your husband is a louse? What if he is violent, a deadbeat, a drunkard or a generally unethical person? What if your husband does not provide the kind of leadership you think is worth submitting to? The problem remains. Just by asking the question you’ve not excused yourself from dealing with this sentence. It’s still there in the Bible (several times reinforced) staring at you, demanding of you a response. You can either embrace it or reject it, but you cannot really explain it away. This is a part of the Good News of Jesus just as much as John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him doesn’t have to die, but can have everlasting life). We don’t get the right to pick and choose which parts of the Gospel we like and embrace them while throwing away the parts we don’t like. As Spurgeon said
“I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two.”
Ok. Ladies, if you feel I’m beating you over the head with a Bible, I apologize. I’m simply saying I don’t accept the often, to me, lame attempts to somehow explain this passage away and act like the Bible, properly interpreted, has a 21st century view of marriage. It doesn’t. I think the biblical view is beautiful, but it is very much not modern. Here’s the academic part.
The word for “submit” is ?p?t?sses?e hupotassesthe, if that helps. It means to place yourself under the authority. It’s a word used in Greek classical literature to refer to military relationships-like a captain placing himself under the authority of a general. Paul uses this word several places to refer to the wife’s role in relation to her husband (Ephesians 5; Philippians 3; Titus 2). But it may be more helpful to look at a few other places in the Bible the term is used. Jesus placed himself under the authority of his parents (Luke 2:51). Paul said concerning the people of Israel “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3).” In the same book he says “Let everyone be subject to (place themselves under the authority of) the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1).” Also, the spirit of the prophet is under the authority of the prophet (1 Corinthians 14:32). And people in the church are to bring themselves under the authority of church leaders (1 Corinthians 16:16).
I think there is a key to understanding what the Bible is teaching here. All things are to be brought under the authority of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 3:21). One way a woman demonstrates her relationship with Jesus is how she brings herself under the authority of her husband. If you take your relationship with God seriously, you can’t escape this. All followers of Jesus are required to bring themselves under some form of authority. There is no one above all authority but God. Even Jesus had to submit.
Now, to be clear, the Bible does not demand women stay in relationships with a deadbeat or abusive husband, or one who has the capacity, but denies his wife the normal conjugal pleasures (Exodus 21) or, an unbelieving husband who wants to leave (1 Corinthians 7). Yet these seem to be the exceptions, rather than the rule. The rule is Christians in marriage experience the extraordinary privilege of becoming one organism, and ladies are expected to demonstrate this in their submission to the husband. In Ephesians, Paul eases us into the family house rules section of his epistle by beginning the section with “submit yourselves (same word-place yourselves under the authority of) one another out of reverence to Christ. The Christian community is to live in a kind of submitting dance of allowing others to be in charge for a time. In marriage, the wife is to always take this role in relation to her husband. This is a way of honoring, or revering, or loving God.
And love brings us to the subject of tomorrow’s meditation. It is the commandment given to the husband.
Prayer for Wives to Pray