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The Biblical Mandate
for the
Christian Wife

In addressing the issue of marriage, many practical principles could be given. Lists of what a wife is "to do" and what a wife is "to be" can be rattled off. Often today we are thrown much advice on how to do this or that, or the steps to follow to achieve this or that, whatever the goal may be.

God’s Word also has much to say on how we are to live as wives. But the Bible never just says to do something w/o explaining the importance of it. Logical reasons are given for the arguments in God’s Word. This is so vital because if we do not know the theological significance for our actions as wives, the carrying out of our marital duties will be a lifeless and mindless activity. There will be no joy in serving our husbands, making meals, washing clothes, cleaning the house, listening to our husbands…this all will be heartless motion unless we understand the Biblical reason behind our actions. And it is for this reason that doctrine and practice can never be separated –they are always intimately connected.

The Apostle Paul’s book of Ephesians consists of 2/3rds of the epistle being doctrine and the rest on how to live it out practically. In Ephesians 5, Paul expounds the mutual duties of husbands and wives and in doing so he explains the doctrine of the relationship between Christ and the church. Paul’s argument is that we will not truly understand what marriage means until we understand the doctrine of the mystical union of Christ and the church. The proper relationship of a husband and wife is typified in the relationship of Christ and the church.

I want to focus on the principle of the wife’s submission and reason it out theologically. I believe that the practicality on how to be submissive will live itself out once an understanding of the doctrine is reached. I have no simplistic rules on ‘who should do what’ because the responsibility of marriage is not determined in outward action, but at the deepest levels of the Christian heart.

God’s Word tells us in Eph. 5: 22-33…Christian wives have to be submissive.

The reason we have to submit is because the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the church. In the relationship between Christ and the church....The church, we as believers…are to arrange all our energies and abilities under the purpose of glorifying the Savior. To do less than this is not submission.

As Christians we would never think that we could possibly fulfill our purpose without submitting to Christ.

Therefore, the relationship between the husband & wife is the same…as the church submits to Christ’s headship, so are we as wives, to submit to our husband’s headship. We are to arrange our life under the purpose of our husband. As Christian wives, we cannot fulfill our divine purpose if we do not submit to the Biblical purposes of our husbands and this submission is to be in everything. Of course we are not to sin if that is our husbands desire…Scripture is never ridiculous!

Scripture says that our submission to our husbands is to be "as to the Lord." Our obedience to the Lord will be lived out in our submission to our husbands. Submitting is not for our husbands only, the overarching motivation for this submission is for Christ’s sake, as it is an expression of our submission to Him, as it is Christ’s command to submit. Submission is part of the "whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God" in 1Cor 10. Everything we do is to be done to please God. If we as Christian wives are concerned above everything else to please Christ, we will submit to our husbands.

Submission can be further explained in this text in these analogies… what our bodies are to our heads, what the church is to Christ is what the wife is to the husband. These all portray the idea of completion & wholeness. The body and the head are one as when we think of the body, we do not think of it in parts, but as a whole, a body. Christ and the church are one as we are "in Christ", united with Him in His death and resurrection. So, the husband and the wife are one flesh.

We can not detach our heads from our bodies, so we can not detach ourselves from our spouses. We do not hate our own bodies and therefore should not hate our spouses, precisely because they are our own bodies. That is the biblical unity. We as wives are not to be independent of the headship of our husbands. The head is to control the body, the husband is to lead and the wife is to follow. The action of the body and head must be in unity and harmony to function properly.

A convulsion is when the body moves independently of the brain, it is a chaotic malfunction.

If we as wives choose to act independently of our husbands; if we live in the disobedience of acting how we want with no regard of our head, we are malfunctioning and ultimately hurting ourselves. For the two have become one. The tendency to assert self conflicts with the fundamental concept of marriage, which is one flesh. We do not instinctively feel like our spouse is part of ourselves and that we are actually one being –this is a truth we learn through Scripture.

A Christian wife who sees how important her submissive obedience is for the health of her marriage will love to please her husband, to be useful to him, to help him, to aid him and enable him to function.

The union of the husband and wife as one flesh and thus one life, parallels the union of Christ and the church. It is a mystery how the temporal, earthly covenant of marriage foreshadows God’s eternal, holy covenant. Woman was made from the 1st Adam, when he was in a deep sleep, she was taken from his side. The church was made and given life from the 2nd Adam, Christ. In His death, the church was formed from his wounds, as He redeemed,His bride. We live because He lives because our life is part of His divine life. In Christ we have a new name. . . We stand holy before God due to Christ and His righteousness.

Husbands are directed to use their headship as Christ uses His headship, which is for the perfecting of the church for the glory of God. Christ chooses, sanctifies and cleanses the church, He sets it apart for a particular possession and leads it in growth and development. A husband chooses his one wife from out of all the women in the world. A husband chooses one, takes her and separates her, making her his very own and leads her in growth. The church is not free to do what pleases herself or what pleases the world, for she belongs to Christ, even so the wife is not free to do as she pleases, she belongs to her husband.

As Christ nourishes, cherishes, loves, guards, preserves and provides for the church, so husbands are to nourish, cherish, love, guard, shield and provide for the wife. Caring for our spouses in the same way that we love and cherish our own bodies goes against every grain of our fallen condition. We must look to Christ and see how He loved the church…Christ loved the church in spite of her unworthiness, when she yet needed washed and cleansed. Christ loved us while we were yet sinners, we are born in sin and shaped in iniquity and that was the state in which He loved us. While we were enemies against Him, having enmity towards Him, full of ugliness and vileness… and Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

You see we don’t learn about love from TV shows, romantic movies or novels-How Christ loved the church is what love truly is and that is how we are to love our spouses. In the marriage relationship we find things we don’t like and disapprove of in our spouses, deficiencies, faults, failures, sins and weaknesses. We as wives may in our criticalness often condemn our husbands, we may quarrel and fight.Why do we act like this? It is because we fail to remember the way we have been saved. Love goes on loving in spite of everything....That is the love wherewith Christ loved the church. Christ’s love for His church was such that He bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things and endured all things. That is the true meaning of love never fails.

Paul’s address on marriage concludes by dealing with each gender in the weak points of their relational tendencies.

Husbands are told to love their wives as themselves and wives are told to see that they reverence their husbands. Husbands have a sinful tendency to use their power of position as a dictator rules, to be consumed with their control and thus self-absorbed, only concerned about themselves. God tells him to love sacrificially, he is not to intimidate or ignore his wife.

Wives are told to have respect for their husbands. Wives have a sinful tendency to use the power of words and emotions to diminish the husband’s influence, so she can control the home. She is disobedient not submitting to her husband out of fear that she will be taken advantage of. An unsubmissive wife does not trust that God knows what is best for her. A wife in her sinful self-seeking and pride can desire to usurp her husband’s authority in order to manipulate the relationship for her own vain purposes. A certain look, cutting remark, accusation, embarrassing reminder or tone of voice of the wife may be used to diminish or shame her husband, so that he becomes less sure of himself and more controllable.

Sin feeds on sin. A wife’s disrespect can make a husband insecure of himself and thus abuse his authority by being domineering…then, the husbands domineering often makes the wife manipulative, thus making the husband even more insecure and therefore more domineering and the wife in turn even more abusive. Sin loves company.

A gentle and quiet spirit is what we are called to have…God views a gentle & quiet spirit as an imperishable beauty. I Peter 3:4-6 tells us that that is the way the holy women of the past who put their trust in God used to adorn themselves, that is how they made themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. Scripture tells us that, we are her daughters if we do what is right and are not afraid with any terror.

Just as Paul asserted in Romans that before the law came he did not know sin. I can say in a similar way that before marriage, I did not know sin. Marriage is a convincing tutor to bring you to Christ. Often in our attempts to obey God’s commands, we discover the depths of our depravity. "Nothing shatters the illusion of one’s own decency and goodness quite like the instrument of marriage."

It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are basically good, loving people, until we are in a situation where we must daily sacrifice our own self interest for that of another. Every one of us, in Adam, is born self-centered by nature and sharing intimate space with another person can illuminate this. Marriage is definitely an instrument of sanctification.

Nothing happens automatically in our Christian life and in our marriages. Just as becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you instantly know how to behave like one ... becoming a wife doesn’t mean you instinctively know how to submit to your husband. Submission is something learned through obedience. A Christian marriage progresses, it is to become more and more wonderful and glorious as a oneness develops and as it conforms to the ideal relationship of Christ and the church.

What we have to repeatedly ask ourselves as Christian wives is if our marriage corresponds to Christ and the church’s relationship? Is it manifesting that truth? Is it governed by that truth? Do my thoughts, actions, words, tone of voice, attitudes and expressions enable my husband to lead us into a better knowledge of God? We must ask ourselves if we have submitted to Christ by submitting to our husbands.


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