Biblical Submission | The Marriage Relationship

marriageIn an effort to counter the commercialism and false-teaching of Valentine’s day, let’s look to the Scriptures to find what God has to say about relationships. Now that we have established the baseline for Biblical relationship, let us look at Marriage Relationships. We will be looking at passages in the Bible that lay out, in no uncertain terms, what the roles of wives and husbands are within the Marriage Relationship. To keep this post from becoming too long, I would ask that if you haven’t looked at the foundation for the delegation of Authority to Adam please take a few minutes to do so. Please note that in that post, we not only establish the chain of command, or line of Authority, we also establish the equality of man and woman. Our previous post ended with a look at Ephesians 5. As a bit of review and introduction, let’s return to Ephesians chapter 5 to begin our discussion in context. If this is you first visit to FaithfulStewardship, please visit our Welcome page for links to this and other Bible study series.

Ephesians 5 (ESV)

Walk in Love

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. Without a doubt, the toughest calling for a Godly woman is to submit to her husband. This is simultaneously a clear description of authority, responsibility, but also of love. Remember, love is the baseline for all relationships of Christians. What makes the Marriage relationship special for men, is the special love, dedication, honor and respect from the one woman, in all of creation, that he asked to marry him.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Husbands, your love for your wife should serve as a depiction of Christ’s love for the church. You are the example to your children of the love of a Father, and of the love of Jesus Christ who laid down His life for the Church.  This is a tall order, but it is not new to mankind. God gave authority to Adam before He even made Eve. Jesus bore in His flesh, the punishment for all the sin of mankind that entered as a result of the sin of Adam. The Apostle Paul lays this out wonderfully in 1 Cor 15. Now, while the authority was given to Adam, he screwed up. But, by the Grace of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, man (by Grace, through Faith) is made righteous in the sight of the Lord and has his example in Jesus Christ. Therefore, let each husband love his wife as Christ loves the Church, and let the wife submit to and respect her husband. Paul felt this was such an important lesson, he also gave it in his letter to the Colossians:

Colossians 3:18-25 (ESV) 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Colossians 4:1 (ESV) 1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

I find this separation in modern translations a bit odd; however, remember that Paul is writing a letter, not chapters and verses. Again, here, we have the entire unit of the family, of the household (which includes bondservants), to the Kingdom of Heaven. The roles of husband and wife remain the same (not just from Eph, but from Genesis), the role of children and of fathers, bondservants, and masters all are maintained in perspective of first our foundational charge to of 1 Cor 13 love for our neighbors, and as a service of our Lord Jesus Christ. To bear this last point to mind, understand that Paul calls himself and Timothy “bondservants of Christ Jesus” in his introduction to the letter to the Philippians. Now, I’ve heard and read commentaries accusing Paul of mixing in cultural norms here. We dare not entertain such notions given the fact that All Scripture is God-Breathed. Thankfully, we have another Apostle who writes on these things, the Apostle Peter.

1 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV) 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Wow. Notice here, that Peter takes it another step forward. Remember that Paul setup the family or household relationships as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. Here, Peter takes it the next step by suggesting that the Godly submission of a wife to her husband might win the repentance of a husband who is disobeying the Word of God, without speaking a word herself. The next portion is often misconstrued as a prohibition of physical beauty… well that’s just silly, especially given the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon (yay, homework reading!). What Peter is doing here is commanding a shift of importance away from the physical, temporal (and even temporary) beauty to that of the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is Precious in God’s sight. Peter also extend the exhortation of husbands (don’t get tangled up in misogyny/feminism and stumble over “weaker vessel”) to live with your wives in honor and understanding so that your prayers may not be hindered. Did you hear that, husbands? Your prayers to God the Father might be hindered by your failures as a husband. Let us be clear, your failures are in your charge, not hers. If she refuses to submit and show you honor, that is not your failure, that is hers. If you don’t love her as Christ loves the Church, honor her, and live with her in an understanding way, that’s your failure, and it may hinder your prayers. While this might be a new concept for you in the context of marriage, it isn’t a completely new concept, because teaching the Lord’s Prayer,  Jesus taught that if we don’t forgive others their sins, we won’t be forgiven ours. He also taught that we are to settle our differences with our brothers before giving our gifts to the Lord. So this shouldn’t be a totally foreign concept for us. Husbands, your failure to love your wife Biblically may hinder your prayers to God the Father. We must get this right, gentlemen. Just as Eve received her own punishment for her sins, God will deal with hold our wives accountable for their actions, we are responsible for our households. So we bear a double-load, one of fulfilling our role, and another as a result of being responsible, and accountable for our household. Where am I getting this? Let’s go back to Paul for just a moment, in his letter to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:1-13 (ESV) 1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

We will look at Biblical instruction for how the Church is to be established, later. I do want to say that if you’ve had a divorce in the past that is sin. But just as all other sin, there is forgiveness for sin, by the Grace of God, through Faith, and that not of yourselves it is the Gift of God. Having had sin in your life at one time does not forever prohibit you from being a deacon or Overseer (Elder) in the Church. There is forgiveness at the cross, otherwise none of us would ever be worthy of approaching the Throne of God, much less to be entrusted with the Word of God. We are no longer under the Law, for we are under the Gospel of Grace. There is, however, an element of time involved, and fruit of the spirit must be cultivated and evident in our lives if we are to be set as examples within the Church (verse 10 let them also be tested first….).

Marriage, is serious business. It is only for this life. It does not extend into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a picture of God’s love for His people, of Christ’s love for His Church, and a blessed path for avoiding sexual immorality.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV) 1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Husbands, this is not a verse whereby you exact your demands for sex. She has rights to your body as well, and this verse isn’t limited just to sex. While women are just as interested in sex as we are, the avenue or pathway of that desire usually looks vastly different from our own (usually, there are exceptions). Our wives desire relationship, and that requires our presence, attendance, affection, understanding, honor, and love before and after the sex. These are her conjugal rights and your obligation as a husband, too (if you are perplexed… start again at the top of the post, and re-read). Laying down your life for her as Christ laid down His life for the Church is a way of life, one that we can only hope to walk by the Grace of the God. Note, there is no such thing as a “sexual need”. It doesn’t exist. Sexual immorality exists, temptation exists, and I am so grateful that God provided us the gift of the Marriage Covenant. Does marriage take away temptation? No. If you ignore the marriage covenant, you’ve added more problems to your life and brought more people into your immorality than you would have by sinning alone. I mention this for 2 reasons, first there is no Biblical basis for gay marriage and second, there is no “free out” anywhere in the bible for divorce. There is only Law which exposes sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ where He paid the price for all unrighteousness, and if we remain in Him we are forgiven. In Proverbs 5 we find a warning against Adultery. 23 verses, the first 14 of which identifying the dangers of the temptation. In verse 15; however, we find hope…

Psalm 5:15-23 (ESV)
15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

So you see, Paul isn’t unfounded in his assertion “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” since if you avoid sex outright, you avoid the snare of sexual immorality. However, He recognizes that not all men and women are capable of living that way, so rather than burn up with passions, he encourages men and women to marry and stick to that covenant in a manner pleasing to God.

Therefore, this Valentine’s Day, and every day from this day forward… Let us love our spouses in accordance with God’s Word. Let us love our neighbors in accordance with God’s Word. And let us place our faith on Jesus Christ… for it is only by the Grace of God that we have any Hope, Faith, and Love. Husbands, love your wives… Wives submit to your husbands… and both of you, do everything in service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,

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