Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
(Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV)
At the moment a man and woman are married the husband is tasked by God with the responsibility to lead. God has tasked wives with recognizing and respecting their husbands as leaders in the same way (as) the church respects and recognizes Christ as our leader. This doesn’t mean the wife is to see herself as inferior – she is not. It means that she does not usurp the responsibility God has given to husbands; she allows him to lead out of reverence for God.
As we learned yesterday, marriage is a witness to the world of the relationship and love between Jesus and believers with the husband representing Jesus. When a husband and wife play the roles God has given them they are demonstrating the very same relationship God has with His children [James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:6 et. al].
Notice that God says wives should submit in everything to their husbands. But obviously God is not giving husbands absolute authority. As we’ll read starting tomorrow, husbands are to lead as Jesus leads.
To that end, if a husband asks his wife to do something that is illegal (e.g. sell drugs or cheat on taxes) or that goes against God’s will (e.g. watching pornography) she would be under no obligation to obey. In fact, her refusal to comply would be a fantastic witness to the authority of God in both her and her husband’s life.
We see a great example of this in the Old Testament book of Esther. Queen Vashti, the wife of King Ahasuerus, was asked by her drunken husband to “perform” in front of him and his inebriated friends. She rightfully refused [Esther 1].
Both the husband and wife are equal before God, albeit with different roles. But this does not mean that wives are slaves. They are not to be used by husbands for selfish purposes. They do not exist to simply serve their husbands. They are not to be ordered around like a dog, fixing their husband’s meals and bringing him his slippers.
Its true that historically some men have abused their God-given authority in this regard. But when they do so they are sinning and will be held accountable. No wife is under the obligation to foster her husband’s ego and/or laziness. A married couple should share the responsibilities of the household and family based on their own abilities and skills.
In Romans 13 God instructs His children to subject themselves to the government. We are to pay taxes and drive the speed limit. But if the government asks us to do something that goes against God’s law, such as we saw with the Hobby Lobby case recently, we are not to obey otherwise we are raising human authority over that of God. And that is being a very poor witness to a world that desperately needs to know God.
Likewise, wives do not need to obey their husbands if doing so would be sin. Otherwise, she’d be saying that her husband’s authority surpasses God’s. And that clearly is never true.
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