Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This is part 3 of the 'Cultivating a Godly Marriage' blog series.

Part I — The Meaning of Marriage
Part II — The Husband Leads with Love

Part 3: the wife submits with delight
The all-wise God fashioned and designed the marriage covenant to manifest His glory in the best possible way. In the Bible, God commands all wives to submit to their husbands (Colossians 3:18). Since God created marriage, He has all the rights to define marriage and to state how the people in the marriage covenant should act. God created man first in the Garden of Eden and then, from the man, God created woman. The headship of man over a woman is a creation ordinance and is not, therefore, a result of the fall. God’s glorious design in marriage is to reflect the relationship even within the Trinity. The Father has all authority and the Son willingly subjected Himself under the Father’s authority and made it His ambition while on earth to do precisely what the Father had appointed Him to do. This in no way suggests that the Father is more important than the Son or that the Son is inferior to the Father. Similarly, the headship of a man and the submission of a wife in the marriage relationship in no way points to the importance of men and women or their equality before God. Rather, it is entirely connected to their particular roles and specific functions within the marriage just as God has designed and revealed them in Scripture.

Thus, according to the Bible a Godly wife is a gentle, respectful helpmate who worshipfully submits to her husband in all things. I hope to elaborate a bit more fully on this definition in the brief essay that follows so that Godly wives will understand what submission is, why God has called them to submit, and how to submit to their husbands.

I. Wives must submit AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP.
God desires loyalty rather than sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6). In other words, God is not so much interested in mere outward ‘religiosity’ as much as he is in heart-felt, inward genuineness in worship. A heart that rightly loves God will express itself in Godly actions. So it is for the woman in the marriage relationship. God calls all wives to submit to their husbands. To submit is a word that can refer to placing oneself under the authority of another. All Christians must submit to government (1 Peter 2:13) and every Christian must also submit to God (James 4:7). It must be, then, that submission is not inherently evil, bad, sinful, or corrupt. Submission is a God-given gift whereby those who are called to submit must joyfully follow the Lord in obeying His decree while trusting in His wise and sovereign goodness. Ephesians 5:22 calls wives to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord. As a wife submits herself to the Lord in a heartful, worshipful, honest, sincere way, so ought she to submit to her husband in a heartful, honest, sincere, and God-honoring way. She must submit with an attitude of worship.

2. Wives must submit WITHOUT RESTRAINT. 
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord not for men” (Colossians 3:23). This applies to all of Christian living, including the specific role of being a godly wife. God continues to tell wives that as the church submits to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:24). This little phrase, “in everything” includes no exceptions. Putting all Scripture together, the only reason a wife must not submit to her husband is if he commands her to sin in any way (cf. Acts 5:29: we must obey God rather than men). Otherwise, the wife must submit to her husband in everything. Why must her submission be without restraint or contingent upon the husband’s actions? Because the church must submit to her Lord in all things. As the church submits to Christ, her Head, so also a wife must submit to her husband, her head. When a wife refuses to submit, she essentially refuses God. When a wife decides to pick and choose what areas of the husband’s leadership she will submit to, it suggests that the submission of the Church to the Lord Jesus Christ is optional. So then, let it be said again, God commands all wives to submit to their own husbands in everything just as the Church submits to Jesus Christ.

3. Wives must submit AS AN ILLUSTRATION.
A marriage relationship is the theater by which many spectators watch the drama of the gospel lived out. As friends, acquaintances, co-workers, fellow members at church observe your marriage, what does this illustrate about the gospel of Jesus Christ? A wife is called to submit to her husband in the same way that the church submits to her Lord Jesus Christ. A husband is called to love and sacrifice for his wife in the same way that Jesus Christ loved and sacrificed Himself for His chosen bride. Thus, marriage is an illustration. It is a picture. It demonstrates something. It is the canvas through which the gospel of Jesus Christ is painted. Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 and reminds husbands and wives that a man must leave father and mother and he must cling to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31). The next verse cannot be omitted in this discussion. Paul continues by saying that this is a mystery and it refers to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). Thus, Paul reveals that marriage has been a mystery: something that was once hidden but now is fully known/manifest. Marriage has always been, in the mind of God, a glorious picture — a walking, breathing illustration — of the gospel between Jesus Christ and His Church. For marriage to properly illustrate the gospel in this specific regard, a wife must submit to her husband in everything since that is the God-created, God-designed, and God-given and God-graced privilege and role for her. To refuse this role is to distort the gospel picture.

4. Wives must submit WITH RESPECT.
A man loves respect. God commands wives to see that they respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). The idea of respect is that of holy reverence, holy fear, Godly honor. Whether a man reciprocates the love, responds with selfless sacrifices, expresses gratitude for all the wife’s labor and work, the godly wife still must respect her husband. Again, the parallel to Christ and the Church is paramount. The Church has a holy reverence for Jesus Christ. The Church has a holy fear of Jesus Christ. The Church has a godly honor for Christ the Lord. Similarly, every wife must respect her husband, her divinely-appointed and sovereignly granted head.

5. Wives must submit WITH DELIGHT.
The God of all wisdom has designed the marriage relationship to suit His own purposes and to promote His magnificent glory. The godly wife must fulfill her God-given role with delight and joy. She must serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2). To serve the Lord is to do His will (Psalm 103:21). A wife who willingly and worshipfully comes under the headship of her husband with an attitude of delight is a woman of God who fears the Lord and practices biblical submission.

With this kind of submissive wife, only the Lord has a higher place for her. No house, no job, no child, no ministry can hold her; she wants to please and honor the man God made for her. This is her calling and role given by the Lord Himself (John Barnett).
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