Grace For The Journey
Ever heard the expression “It Takes Two To Tango?” Or maybe you’ve heard that “Marriage Is A Two-Way Street.” Both expressions mean, of course, that both husband and wife have a role in making the marriage work.
A marriage consists of two people
– Husband and wife –
Each working together,
Working with one another,
And for one another,
Never against one another.
It may “take two to tango,”
But it takes more than two
To make a marriage work.
It takes three to make a marriage work because . . .
Marriage is inherently a biblical institution.
The family is the first institution
Created by God.
Marriage is God’s idea.
So . . . It takes three:
Husband, Wife, and the Lord.
We pick up today in our verse-by-verse study of the third chapter of Colossians looking at Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” Remember, the Apostle Paul is writing to Christians so he has God’s definition of marriage in view. We’re talking about . . . “God’s Idea of Marriage.”
In order to understand the commands that Paul gives in verses 18 and 19 it is critical that we understand the context for them. Over the last week, we have studied these and the radical changes that occur when a person places their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from sin and becomes a Christian. A Christian is redeemed and regenerated by Jesus so that he is reconciled to God. Before we came to Christ, we were entrapped in Satan’s dominion, but God through Jesus has transferred us to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14). We were dead in our transgressions, but we have been made alive together with Jesus and raised up with Him (Colossians 2:13; 3:1). Jesus has reconciled us to God by His death on the cross for our sins so that we now have peace with God (Colossians 1:22). The person we used to be has died with Christ and been replaced by a new man that is chosen of God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:3, 12).
The result of these things is that we are to put to death the vices of our old way of life such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Colossians 3:5). We are to set aside our old ways of thinking and their consequential actions such as anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech (Colossians 3:8). We are to then put on Christian virtues such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other and love for they reflect Jesus living through us. (Colossians 3:12-14) In addition, the peace of Christ is to control our hearts and we are to be thankful letting the word of Christ richly dwell in us so that we can teach and admonish one another in song, hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:15-17). Yesterday we examined Paul’s final general exhortation in that section that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” That command includes everything we communicate and all our actions and behaviors.
It is out of this context
That Paul now makes
Specific application of
To particular groups
In regards to the role
They are to fulfill
In their relationships
Today we will examine the role of the wife, and in future blogs we will look at the role of the husband, the children, the parents, employees, and employers. This will takes us from Colossians 3:18-4:1.
Let me begin by making some preliminary comments in preparation for examining what the Bible says about the role of the wife. I would like to both warn about improper application of this verse and avoid some cultural land mines if possible.
First, be careful about your response to each of these studies. Each one will be directed at a particular group, today it will be those who are wives, but those who are not part of that particular group also need to pay close attention so that you will understand the role of others and know how to encourage them in fulfilling it. Also, be very careful about using this information to attack and criticize others. We are to seek to build one another up, not tear one another down. Those who are quick to criticize others will usually have a lot more about their own life that can be criticized.
Second, be aware that due to the prevalence of feminist thought in American culture that the subject of the role of the wife has become controversial even within the church. When I say feminist thought, I am not referring to just the radical views of the feminist extremists such as those in N.O.W. whose touchstone issues are abortion for any reason and lesbianism. I am referring to the general view of women and their roles that have come to be accepted by most Americans including professing Christians. You will know what I am talking about when you start feeling uncomfortable by what I will be discussing today.
Third, be aware that many preachers are fearful of speaking on this issue because they do not want to risk the possible backlash. I heard of one preacher that even succumbed to the silly argument that he was not qualified to speak on issues concerning women because he was not a woman. If it was a matter of personal opinion that might be true, but is not a matter of opinion but of declaring what God has said.
Everyone is obligated to bring
Their thoughts and opinions
Into alignment with what
The Lord says about every
Subject He addresses.
He is the Sovereign Creator and knows the truth even about women. My responsibility as a pastor is to faithfully explain what God has revealed in His Word, and as much as I would like to avoid having any women here upset at me, I am much more concerned that I am true to what God has said.
Colossians 3:18 simply states, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” That command fits into the wider context of God’s commands concerning marriage, so before I discuss the idea of wives submitting to their husbands, I want to make sure you know God’s design for marriage, for the wife’s role must fit into that design.
Paul is led by God to explain in Ephesians 5:31-32, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Verse 32 is a quote from Genesis 2:24 where God brings Adam and Eve together and institutes the first marriage. Verse 33 is an explanation of the purpose of marriage.
Marriage is not so much
About the individuals involved
But about the glory of God.
Marriage is to be
A picture of Christ and
His relationship to the church.
Your marriage is to bring glory to God.
This is the primary reason that the continuing talk about marriage being anything other than between a man and a woman is not only nonsense, but is wrong. God is the one that instituted marriage, so only He can define it, and He did so when He created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and then gave her to him. In addition, since marriage is to glorify God as a picture of Christ and the Church, then anything other than a man and a woman is a perversion of what God intended. Those promoting such perversions need to repent and turn from their sin to the forgiveness and freedom from sin that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in serious danger of the Lord turning away and leaving them condemned in their sin for eternity as explained in Romans 1:18-32.
Because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church,
There is always hope even for marriages that
Are in turmoil and in danger of breaking apart.
God is much more interested in the marriage
Than anyone else for He has a larger
And more important purpose for it.
Any two people that are willing to follow God’s design for marriage can have a wonderful and joyful relationship because that is always the side benefit of doing things God’s way. The marriage will still take a lot of work and there will be hard times, but God will use even those things to mold each one into what they are supposed to be. There will then be purpose and meaning in life because the reason for existence is being fulfilled.
There is no such thing as an irreconcilable marriage, just individuals that refuse to be reconcilable to God and their spouse. When a husband and wife will not follow God’s design, then the marriage will be at best a hollow shadow of what it could have been, but more often, the marriage will flounder into just two people living separate lives under the same roof or it will fail completely and break apart.
While it only takes one spouse to destroy a marriage by a refusal to follow God’s design, there is good news for the spouse that does strive to follow God’s design for their life. They can still bring glory to the name of the Lord and be a blessing to others. We are told in 1 Corinthians 7:14 that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse.
Remember, marriage is more about the glory of God than it is about the two people that are married.
The purpose of marriage
Has a divine objective.
That objective can still be met, but ever since Adam’s fall every marriage starts out with a strike against it. If husband and wife each take a swing at marriage in their own wisdom and power they will strike out, but if Jesus Christ is the focus of the marriage and they let the Holy Spirit be the one that guides and empowers them, they will hit a home run.
Now let’s look at . . .
The Role of the Wife
The institution of marriage begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:18-25 records, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helpmate for him.” (Someone called alongside to complete, complement, and assist). And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought [them] to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, (Isha – female man) Because she was taken out of Man.” For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
The scenario God used here set Adam up to know his lack of companionship and his need for someone who would be his compliment. God then made Eve from out of Adam’s rib. Paul comments on this in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 saying, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
That verse is repulsive to feminist thought and is the reason that Christian women who have been affected by feminism tend to think of Paul as a male chauvinist and not worth listening too. The truth is that Paul elevated the position of women for women in many of the ancient societies and in even within much of Jewish practice at that time were treated little better than farm animals. Paul emphasized a woman’s equal standing and worth before God in verses such as Galatians 3:28, but Paul also understood what God had said from the very beginning and made clear statements about the proper role God has given to women. Paul did not compromise on the truth and neither should we. God created the woman specifically to be the helpmeet, the perfect completion and compliment, for the man.
If this truth that the woman was created for the man’s sake bothers you, then you have a two fold problem. First, you are in rebellion against what God has done, and second, you have also failed to understand the incredible importance of the role God has given to women. You have been deceived into the absurd lunacy of feminism that places premium value on those characteristics which are typically male rather than female. There is very little that is feminine in feminism.
Eve had no problem with the role that God gave her, but that role became a curse when she and Adam fell into sin. Prior to that, Adam and Eve were completely open with each other. The word, “naked,” in Genesis 2:25 means “without impediment” and is actually a mental concept. It is a lot more than just not having clothes on. The very same word is used in Genesis 3:1 to describe the serpent as “crafty.” Adam and Eve were not selfish. They were not sinful. They were completely open with each other and willingly served one another in the roles God had given them, but sin brought a curse upon them.
In Genesis 3:14-19 God places a curse on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. The aspect of the curse on Eve at the end of verse 16 relates to our subject this morning, “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” While there is some controversy over the exact meaning of “desire” here, I believe the case is very strong for it to include the idea of wanting to control her husband, for the contrast to it is him “ruling over her.”
Rather than being a compliment to one another,
They were now in competition to one degree or another.
Selfishness desires what it wants and
Demands from the other leading
To conflict that easily becomes
A power struggle in the marriage
Over the responsibilities and resources.
God’s design for marriage is against this curse of sin. It moves both the husband and wife back into their proper roles within which they again compliment one another rather than conflict with each other. Paul explains here Colossians 3 and in Ephesians 5 what is necessary for a husband and wife to live in this manner.
The Issue of Submission
Many shudder when they hear that word “submission.” The word annoys and stuns some people. So . . . Before we do anything else, let’s make sure this is not the “Word of Terry,” but the “Word of God.” Look carefully at Colossians 3:18 and read it again, making sure this is what it teaches: “Wives, submit (there’s that word) to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Don’t miss the key phrase at the end of this verse. It literally reads, “as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.” In other words, biblical submission is expected on the part of those who “belong to the Lord.”
Okay, but what does “submit” mean?
First, it is nearly always as helpful to know what a term does not mean as well as what it does mean. So . . . Let’s look into that first.
- Biblical submission does not mean that a wife is in any way inferior to her husband. She is not inferior morally, intellectually, or in value.
- Submission also does not mean that a wife has no say in decisions in the relationship.
- Neither does submission mean that a wife is to be treated as a doormat, someone to be walked upon, ignored, or walked over.
So . . . What does it mean?
Biblical submission simply means “to follow the lead of one’s husband.” That is pretty much it. Follow the leader. Think about it: if more than one person is involved in anything, someone has to be the leader. Have you ever been in a group of people at work or school, and everyone’s just standing around? An assignment is given, but everyone is just standing there. Someone has to lead. Imagine a tour group and everyone is huddled together, but not going anywhere. Finally, a leader emerges and says, “Okay, everyone. Here we go. Follow me.” Someone has to lead.
God creates the family and assigns the primary leadership role to the husband. This is called “headship.” The husband is the “head” of the family. Headship does not necessarily mean the husband is smarter, wiser, or in some way morally superior to his wife. He is simply the leader. His wife “submits” by following his lead. She yields voluntarily to the leadership of her husband.
I believe the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity is helpful to our understanding the relationship of husband and wife. In the Trinity, God is one. God is one yet three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So . . . God is one in essence. Whatever is in the Father is also in the Son. And whatever is in the Son is in the Spirit. There is no difference in essence. Father, Son, and Spirit are all one and the same in essence, nature, and worth. Yet, the Persons of the Trinity have different functions, or differing roles and responsibilities: the Son submits to the Father and the Holy Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son.
In a similar way, the difference between a husband and wife is not a difference in essence, nature, or worth, but a difference in role, responsibility, or function.
The Christian husband lovingly “leads” his wife and the wife “yields” herself graciously and voluntarily to the headship of her husband.
The assumption in the text is that the husband is, in fact, a Christian, but if he is not a believer, the principle still holds. A husband lovingly leads and a wife graciously follows – neither acting in a way that demeans the one nor exalts the other.
One of the reasons many bristle
At the very mention of submission
Is because of the unbiblical way
Many worldly men have
Wrongly understood the term.
The secular, non-biblical understanding of submission provides a stark contrast to the biblical teaching of submission. And it’s not just the overbearing “neanderthal-like” men with warped minds who have wrong ideas about submission. Faulty notions of submission are often discovered in literature, popular culture, art, comedy, and among the most gifted of musicians.
Have you heard the folk song by Shel Silverstein entitled, “Put Another Log On The Fire?” The lyrics are about a simple country man who expects his wife to do everything for him. It’s meant to be funny and is intentionally exaggerated, but is also unfortunately “too true” in that it captures the way many men wrongly think of marriage:
Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
You can fill my pipe and then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire babe,
And come and tell me why you’re leaving me.
Now don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday?
And don’t I warn you when you’re gettin’ fat?
Ain’t I a-gonna take you fishin’ with me someday?
Well, a man can’t love a woman more than that.
And ain’t I always nice to your kid sister?
Don’t I take her driving every night?
So, sit here at my feet, cause I like you when you’re sweet,
And you know it ain’t feminine to fight.
Shel Silverstein wrote the song as something of a parody of the ineptness of a man who can’t understand why his wife wants to leave him. This is what has made the song so funny to so many men and women over the years. At the same time, however, the song also depicts an unfortunate reality in many marriages. Too many men neglect their wives, demean their wives, speak down to their wives, and then wonder why their marriage is in shambles.
Wise husbands love their wives and are grateful for their wives. It was Solomon who wrote in Proverbs 18:22,“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord”
Look back at verse 18a again, “Wives, submit subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” The word translated “submit” here is, “A Greek military term meaning to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
With this understanding
It is easy to see
That the idea
In this passage
Is a voluntary following
Not a demanded obedience.
To submit is to
Place yourself under
Another through the
Surrender of your will
Rights to that other person.
Where can such a voluntary submission come from given the selfish and sinful nature all humans have and the specific curse women have upon them?
It comes from the change
That occurs when the
Wife becomes a Christian.
In Ephesians 5 Paul deals with the same subject of the family and makes the same command concerning the wife, but he gives more background and explanation for how to do it.
In Ephesians 5:15 Paul warns about . . .
The need to walk as wise men
And understanding the will of the Lord
In being filled with the Spirit.
The context in the passage makes it clear
That this means to be controlled by the Spirit
Since it is contrasted to being drunk with wine.
Out of being filled with the Spirit comes a joyful and thankful attitude and “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). That is a command to all believers, not just the women. In the next verse Paul makes his statement about the role of the wife, but the verb is supplied from verse 21. A more literal translation of verses 21 & 22 would be, “and being submissive to one another in fear of Christ, the wives to their own husbands as to the Lord.” All Christians are to be subject to one another, but in the marriage the wife is in particular to take on that role in her relationship with her husband.
The ability of a woman to do this will be dependent on her relationship to God and being filled with the Spirit. In fact . . .
This cannot be done
Without the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, there are cultures where the women are subservient and obedient to their husbands, but that is out of fear, not love. They are dependent on their husbands and fear losing their provider, their position in society, and even their children.
The submission called for here
Is based on a love for Christ
That is then extended
To the husband willingly.
She submits primarily for Jesus’ sake because it pleases Him and secondarily for her husband’s sake. The Christian woman needs to realize that her serving her husband as a godly wife is a major way in which she serves Christ, so it is a voluntary submission to him in the same way that she submits to Jesus Christ.
Paul states the reason for this submission in Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body.”
The idea of the husband being the head
Is one of position of authority and responsibility,
Not one of superior to inferior.
The wife may even have superior abilities and skills in many areas compared to your husband, but the question here is not one of ability and skill but of order and purpose. Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of every man, and man is the head of a woman. The headship of the man is not arbitrary, but follows the order of creation, as Paul points out in 1 Timothy 2:13. And it also follows the purpose of our creation as we have already pointed out from Genesis 2. The woman was created to be the compliment of the man, not the other way around.
In tomorrow’s blog we will see that God will hold your husband responsible for how he leads you in godliness, but God is going to hold you responsible for how you follow his lead in godliness. Wife, it is God’s will for you to demonstrate your trust of Christ in your submission to your husband which Paul says in verse 24 is to be in like manner to your submission to Christ – “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything.” The apostle Peter is even stronger in this than Paul. 1 Peter 3:1-5 says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any [of them] are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be [merely] external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Certainly this is easier if your husband is a Christian man who lives out the principles of the Scriptures, but notice from 1 Peter 3:1 that your submission takes place even if your husband is disobedient to the Word, so you are to do this even if he is not living as he should or is not a Christian at all. No one says this is easy, in fact it is impossible unless you are filled with the Spirit. Yet, this passage says that the way to win your husband is through your “chaste and respectful behavior.” Your humble submission is what God will use to draw your husband to Himself.
Not let me quickly point out that this idea of submission does have limitations. Paul says here in our text in Colossians 3:18 that wives are to be subject to their husbands “as is fitting in the Lord.”
Here then are some qualifiers to that submission . . .
1) Your submission is primarily to God, then to your husband.
You cannot submit to anything He may ask you to do that would violate any of God’s commandments. Ideally your husband would fulfill his role in helping you be holy and blameless, but there are many men that would lead you in the opposite direction. As Peter and John said before the Sanhedrin, “we must obey God rather than men.” The same must be true of you.
2) Submission does not mean you are to allow your husband to abuse you. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul says, “. . . the wife should not leave her husband, but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband.” Separation is the Biblical alternative to an abusive marriage. That is the wake-up call for the man to get his act together. I will add here that physically abusive men need some jail time for two reasons. 1) The God given role of government is to be an avenger of evil and it needs to carry out that role; 2) More importantly, the loving thing to do is make the person aware of the seriousness of their sin that they may repent and walk in holiness. A little jail time on earth to be what wakens him up to the need for salvation is much better than eternity in hell; 3) Submission does not mean that you have to coddle an unbelieving husband so they will not leave you. I Corinthians 7:15 states, “yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” You are to live a godly life with all humility and with all righteousness. If your spouse cannot stand to see Jesus Christ living in you, then you are free to let them leave. Just be sure it is righteousness of Christ in you that causes them to leave and not you driving them away by your own sinful manipulations. I remember a man asking me in all seriousness if God would approve him leaving his wife and going to live in the desert since Proverbs 21:19 says that is better to live in the desert than live with a contentious and vexing woman.
The Issue of Respect.
Looking back to Ephesians 5 we find verses 25-33 all deal with the husband’s role. That gives you an idea of who gets the most instruction; and who needs to most instruction; but the very end of verse 33 has one more command to the ladies, “and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” I believe few women really understand the importance of their influence on their husbands. Sure, there are a lot of jokes about her changing his wardrobe and manners into something more socially acceptable, but I am referring to accomplish anything significant in this life.
The saying that “behind every great man is a good woman” is more than a cliche. It is a general truth. Remember that you were created to be his help meet – his complement and companion that would enable him to function properly and accomplish something with his life. The Proverbs 31 woman enabled her husband to take a position of leadership in the community (Proverbs 31:23). For all their bravado, men are generally fearful and insecure. He may never admit it, but he wants and needs someone to believe in him and encouragement to succeed. God has given that role primarily to you wives. You treat your husband with respect and he will try to take on the world. If you belittle him, you will either lose him or watch him shrivel up into a shadow of what he is supposed to be.
But you might say there is much about your man that you do not respect. The Bible does not say he has to be perfect for you to respect him. Start in the areas you do respect him and then learn from there to treat him with respect.
The Issue of Resistance.
What is the major reason that women struggle in submitting to and respecting their husbands? Many times it is because their own walk with the Lord is lacking so they are not filled with the Spirit. This lack leads to very poor marriage choices resulting in difficult marriages. Those who are single need to be very careful about who you agree to marry. After marriage, the continued spiritual lack results in selfishness and pride and therefore resentment of being called to play what she thinks is second fiddle to her husband. Why should he get the glory? Why does he get to do all the important things? Why should he hold the reigns of power? Why do I have to do what he wants? etc. etc. That brings me back to my major point.
If you are to fulfill
Your God-given role
As a godly wife,
You must be controlled
By Holy Spirit first.
You must see your life
The way God sees it and
Learn to value what He does.
We place too much importance on doing what we think is important rather than on being what God says is important. It is completely up to God what position he puts us in, what gifts He gives us, and the extent to which those gifts are used. That is as true in the church as it is in the family (1 Corinthians 12).
What God wants from us
Is simply humble service
To Him from our hearts.
The Lord values faithfulness, not “success” as the defined by the world. The importance of the position God has given to women is incredible and should never be underestimated by either men or women, so don’t you do that. Do not be jealous of other people including your husband. You just be the most godly wife you can possibly be and know that it is pleasing in the Lord’s sight. Put off the vices of the old nature and put on the virtues of the new. Submit to God, fulfil your role, and watch Him work in your life and in the life of your husband.
And a wise husband knows his wife will help him as he leads. She will be supremely helpful to him in decision-making, often providing counsel and even warning. She may see or sense something that he fails to see or sense. And generally, where a husband and wife are walking hand-in-hand – each for the other and both for the Lord – they will be in agreement on most decisions.
But the ultimate responsibility for leadership falls to the husband. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”