“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior.”Ephesians 5:22–23.Many women believe that the Bible’s command for wives to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” places a woman in an inferior role to her husband. However, this is not the case.
The concept of submission is found throughout the Bible. One of the keys to maintaining the order God desires is recognizing the authority structure He established. Of course, the best example of one who submitted to authority is our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who submitted to God and fulfilled the role He was called to by the Father.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:36–39
The Creator chose to form man first and to entrust to him the role of leader in the home, for His glory. Obviously, man is not the ultimate authority, but is also under authority. “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”1 Corinthians 11:3
The Bible commands the husband to be a loving servant leader who models the sacrificial love that Christ has showered on the church a love that led to His death on the Cross on our behalf.
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church- for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:23–33.
God designed both the man and woman in His own image equally. Yet they were designed to fulfill different roles. God assigned the married woman the responsibility of being a helpmate to her husband Genesis 2:18, 20.A helpmate (or helper) is a position of great responsibility and gentle strength. It is not a position of weakness as often associated with the command of submission Ephesians 5:22-25.A godly helpmate entrusts herself to God, follows her husband’s lead, and uses her gifts and abilities to effectively support and aid her husband. Joshua Harris, author and speaker, reaffirms this biblicalteaching in his book Boy Meets Girl.
From the first two chapters of the Bible we learn that Adam and Eve were created equal in God’s sight. Within the context of their equality, God assigned men and women different roles. He made Adam first, signifying his unique role as leader and initiator. He created Eve from Adam and brought her to Adam to be his helper in the tasks God had assigned him. She was made to complement, nourish, and help her husband. God’s greatest gift to man was “a helper suitable for him” Genesis 2:18. This doesn’t minimize a woman’s role, but it does define it. Men and women were created equal, yet different. And the fact that we’re different is wonderful.
God didn’t make us to duplicate each other, but to complement each other. The point here is not that Adam was better than Eve, just as God the Father is not “better” than God the Son. Father and Son are equal in essence, power, glory, but they have different roles; and the Son joyfully submits to the Father’s will. “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”1 Corinthians 15:28. So in marriage a husband and wife are equal, even though Scripture tells the wife to joyfully submit to her husband’s leadership.
Even with these truths, some women struggle to follow and thereby to fulfill the Bible’s requirements for godly womanhood. The husband, as the God-ordained leader of the home, can make his wife’s mandate to submit easier by also obeying God’s command to love his wife, “just as Christ also loved the church” Ephesians 5:25.
Both husbands and wives must realize that God’s plans are always for our good and that following them brings us happiness and fulfillment. But when we attempt to reverse God’s lovingly prescribed order, we disobey His commands, just as our first parents did only a few thousand years ago in the Garden of Eden.
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