Wives, Submit to Your Own Husbands
Ours is a world in which feminism is regnant. We hear today of “toxic masculinity,” implying that there is something inherently wrong with being a man or at least acting like one. As a result, we see among contemporary interpreters of Scripture attempts to explain this passage away either as a shadow of a bygone culture or worse an example of ancient misogyny. It is always painful for me to hear evangelical preachers dilly-dally around with it and in effect apologize for its being in the Scriptures before expounding upon it. A godly woman should be offended by such patronizing and kindly tell the preacher after the sermon that she is big enough to both hear and obey the word of God without his making excuses for explaining it to her.
That said, the passage is plain enough: Wives are exhorted to “submit to [their] own husbands.” The word, “submit,” is understood from the previous verse. It is not the same word for “obey” as is used for children and slaves. Other translations say, “be subject to.” What is obvious is that the wife is to follow her husband’s leadership. It is not a servile obedience the wife offers but one that is given voluntarily with her heart, mind and will; that is, she not only submits because she has to, she submits because she wants to.
But we must add that latter part: the wife submits unto her husband “as to the Lord” just as “the church submits to Christ.” The wife actually receives the honor of being referred to the Church of Jesus Christ in this way, for she is his Bride. There is nothing more beautiful to Christ than his Church. (And we shall discuss tomorrow the husband’s responsibility to behave towards his wife as Christ behaves towards his Church, but for now we must speak of her.) And so as the Church gladly submits to Christ, so must the wife gladly do so, but not, of course, as a child, but better, as a wife who loves her husband and her Lord.
Some commentators will say that this is for the proper functioning of the family. They speak of “roles.” I don’t disagree with that, but I don’t like the utilitarian way that such an interpretation reduces the relationship between husband and wife, man and woman. I believe that there is something natural to the “roles” each sex plays such that a godly marriage makes each sex more godly than before. Marriage is both a natural and sacred institution where each sex learns better how to be itself as God designed before the fall, which can only be learned by being wed to a member of the other sex. And this is a gift which God in His grace gives to all.