Because of our sinful natures, a husband will not fulfill his duties perfectly in this life, but his wife should always seek to honor, appreciate, value, and encourage him as much as possible. A husband and wife should have grace for each other as they seek to grow in holiness in their marriage.
One reason some biblical topics are increasingly being discussed, dissected, and debated today is because people don’t like all that much what Scripture has to say on the subject. Surely, the Bible doesn’t mean that, does it?
This is certainly the case when it comes to submission and authority in marriage. However unpopular biblical male headship is today in secular society (and sadly in many churches as well), it is still God-ordained, even though it is often misunderstood and abused. Following are ten questions and answers pertaining to important aspects of submission and authority in a Christian marriage.
1. Does the Bible instruct me to submit to the godly authoritative leadership of my husband?
Yes. The Greek word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:21-24 for “submit” is hypotassó, and it is directly related to respect:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.(Eph. 5:22-24)
Hypotassó refers to a wife’s “recognition of an ordered structure” in which her husband is the person to whom she should show appropriate respect “as to the Lord” (BDAG, 1042); Eph. 5:22); see also Col. 3:18 and 1 Pet. 3:1-6). Respecting one’s husband is not optional for a Christian wife; rather, it is her duty. Christian wives are also instructed to submit to the authority of an unbelieving husband:
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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Pet. 3:1)
2. Do I have to tolerate any and all abusive behavior of my husband toward me in order to be a submissive wife?
No. When Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:24, he does not mean that wives must endure abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of any kind by their husbands. Rather, Paul is reminding the church that a wife is under the authoritative headship, not tyrannical rule, of her husband (Eph. 5:23).
Some Christian women have been wrongly taught that they have to tolerate any kind of treatment from their husband in order to be biblically submissive and respectful, and this instruction must be fervently repudiated by the church. If a husband directs his wife to do anything that goes against God’s law or her conscience, she always “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Because women—and men as well—are vulnerable to abuse in a marriage, they need to be under the proper oversight of faithful church leadership and civil authorities that God has provided for their care and protection.
This is why it is so important for Christians to be members of a local church that upholds God’s word carefully and provides proper oversight over its members. There is no situation where anyone should ever be abused—period.
3. Am I of equal value in the sight of God even though my husband is the head of our family?
Yes. The Bible is clear that God is not a respecter of persons, and both men and women have equal worth in his sight. All who are in Christ are “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”:
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slavenor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:27-29)
Because God has given men and women different roles in marriage does not mean that one role is more important or valuable than another. The Bible even says that the wife’s “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” is very precious in God’s sight (1 Pet. 3:4).
4. Do my husband’s needs come before my own needs?
No. Even when times are difficult due to financial, emotional, or physical challenges, a husband’s personal happiness must never take precedence over sacrificially loving his wife:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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. (Eph. 5:25-27; see also 1 Cor. 7:1-5)