Point/Counterpoint: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands:’ Another view

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EDITOR’S NOTE: To read the counterpoint to this article, click here.

My understanding of the roles of men and women stems from my understanding of the Scriptures and the nature of creation. My view of the Scriptures impacts my study of it, response to it and application of it. This is true for all of us.

I affirm the divine inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures. Inerrancy might best describe my approach to the Bible.

I hold to a rapid and sudden God-breathed creative event, in which there was an actual first man Adam and a first women Eve.

I endeavor to approach the Bible in an open-minded fashion; meaning, I am open to the Bible changing me regardless of my feelings. Feelings are easily swayed by things as trivial as who wins an election or what team makes the playoffs.

Start at the beginning

In Genesis 1, we read that God made man in his image; man is defined further as consisting of both male and female. Man, in this passage, is the name of the human species, of which two sexes occur.

Genesis 2 gives an expanded explanation of God’s creative action in making Adam and Eve, culminating in verse 24, which declares the manner in which God made Adam and Eve dictates that a man and a woman will leave mother and father and become one flesh.

God wove marriage and family oneness into the very fabric of creation—all this prior to the curse and distortion of sin in the world.

In Genesis, God defined marriage and family in a wonderful oneness with one husband and one wife, with the command to procreate. This idea of husband, wife and children is tied inextricably to a divine creative event prior to the development of any culture or sin’s corruptive influence.

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Rejecting an actual Adam and Eve opens up every doctrine pertaining to humanity and marriage to cultural redefinition.

We have experienced marriage and family only under the curse of sin. A survey of world history provides every type of abuse and deception imaginable. I affirm no historical period or national movement as epitomizing what godly marriage and family ought to be. I affirm a God-honoring marriage can occur only through seeking and submitting to the will of God.

I see in Scripture God designing and requiring differing roles and responsibilities for husbands and wives. There are many shared and identical responsibilities, but God made men and women differently. Was this for the purpose of procreation only, or does the obvious physical difference indicate other differences as well?

Traveling to Ephesus

Surveying Ephesians 5:21-33, a husband is commanded to love his wife—absolutely, unconditionally and sacrificially—for his wife’s purity, protection, holiness and devotion to Jesus.

A wife receives no direct command but is asked to be submissive. She is not addressed with imperative, and in fact, verse 22 needs the participle supplied from the previous verse.

This much maligned word translated “submitting” is in the middle voice, which we do not have in English. The middle voice implies volition and is the antithesis of an imperative.

So what? Going to the text teaches me as a husband that God demands I love my wife and serve her completely. My love and care for her is not in response to anything she does. At times, possibly, my love and devotion might be in spite of what she does.

In this passage, my wife is asked to consider her love for God, see my love and service to God and to her, and then respond accordingly. Thankfully, for my sake, the emphasis is more on her love of God than what I do.

Verse 32 puts a great twist on the topic. The preceding verses really are about Jesus and the church.

Verse 33 brings the subject back to husbands and wives: “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (respects—middle voice, which implies volition).

Husband and wife are to be a walking, talking gospel presentation. Husbands, love like Jesus. Wives, respond to this sacrificial love, and follow the one who gives his life for you. Together, go demonstrate the gospel. This is what marriage is all about.

Isaiah 43:7 tells us we exist for God’s glory; so, why shouldn’t marriage be all about God’s glory?

Marriage then and now

If the instructions for husband and wife in Ephesians are too culturally bound to be directly applied today, then the relationship between Jesus and his church is also culture-bound and needs new definition for today.

Going back to verse 23, we read Jesus is the head of the church, and the husband is the head of the wife. Those rejecting this verse because of the presumed unfair subordination of women, please consider the relationship described in this passage.

Christ leads his church, and a husband must lead his family. God literally moved heaven and earth to provide salvation for his church through the death of his Son on the cross. Should I be repulsed that Jesus wants to be head over my life? There is nothing greater than being under Christ.

Husband, God commands you to be a loving servant for your wife and family. You are to lead your family toward greater goodness, deeper holiness and richer worship of God.

Wife, you are an amazing partner in a divinely ordained one-flesh union God chose to be the representative display and example of his love for humanity and his relationship to his church.

In the age of formal and arranged marriage, a husband who served his wife and loved her unconditionally and a woman who truly and deeply loved her husband would stand out as a representative for the gospel.

Today, a husband who serves his wife and loves her unconditionally and a woman who truly and deeply loves her husband will stand out as a representative for the gospel in an American—post-Christian—culture.

Mathew St. John is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Anson. The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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