God Said Subject… Not Subvert

Colossians 3:18, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

Can I tell you about one of my heroes today? Okay? Cool. This person sold all of their possessions while still in their early 20s and moved to South America to answer the call of God. It was the first time she had ever lived anywhere other than her hometown. In fact, it was the first time she had ever lived outside of the state of Georgia (much less the U.S.). She had no formal Bible training. She did not speak any Spanish. Her youngest child was not yet even a year old. No guarantee of an income other than the promises of a few stateside friends. No real understanding of how she would help. Nothing but a willingness to answer God’s call. She would go on to spend the next 15 years of her life serving God as a missionary. That person? It’s my wife.

Now, here’s the truly amazing thing. The call didn’t come to her. No burning bush experience. No audible voice. No dream or sense of Holy Spirit leading. Nothing like that at all. The call came to me. And I shared it with my wife. I find that simply amazing. She was willing to trust God even though He had not spoken directly to her. She was willing to trust that her husband had heard from the divine. She was willing to trust God even if her husband had gotten it completely wrong. What faith!!! With one word she could have ended all my dreams. All she had to say was, “No.” But she trusted God enough to subject herself to her husband. And for that I am left speechless (not to mention grateful).

That illustration is the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I think of the idea of Biblical submission. The Greek is very clear. (Yes, it does have a military application. But I hope that no one reading this views their marriage in that vein.) With regard to the marital relationship it is a word that focuses primarily on a voluntary attitude of giving in, of cooperating, of helping to assume responsibility and carry a burden. Makes sense when you remember the Gensis account. Remember the first woman? Eve? She was given to Adam as a helper. Not a servant. Not a slave. Not a subordinate. And certainly not as a soldier. She was there to help and support Adam because God had decided that it was not good for him to be alone. Adam needed Eve’s support.

With that it mind let me say two things. First of all, the Bible does not teach that wives are inferior. God has given special and specific responsibilities to the different members of the family. One of the husband’s primary functions is leadership. (Men, never forget that true leadership is always realized in Christlike service.) The wives’ function in this regard is support. God declares that it is fitting for the wife to support her husband. The primary way this happens? The wife subjects herself to God by submitting herself to her husband. She willingly lays aside her agenda and desires to serve God by serving her husband. The Bible itself gives us the classic illustration of this truth in 1 Peter 3. God spoke to Abraham, calling him to leave his family and follow God into a new country. Sarah demonstrated her hope and faith in God by subjecting herself to Abraham’s leadership.

Secondly, I imagine that there are women reading this right now who live in miserable marriages. Your husband is not Christlike by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, your husband might well be an unbeliever. I can only imagine how difficult the situation is for you. You would give anything for a godly husband. Let me remind you that ultimately the issue is not your husband’s conduct but your character. Will you trust God even when it seems to make no sense? The larger context of 1 Peter 3 makes it clear that the witness of your behavior can be the very thing that brings about your husband’s conversion. Your submission could well be the thing that brings about his salvation. No, I’m not saying it will be easy. All I’m saying is that in the end your faith and obedience will be rewarded. God will not fail you. Of this I am certain.

I want to challenge all of the wives reading this today to evaluate their lives in the light of His Word. Our culture and the world around us shouts at us constantly, “Be independent. Be strong. Submission is weakness. You are W-O-M-A-N.” During my 20 plus years of ministry, I have seen so many of my friends who were handcuffed by their wives unwillingness to be submissive. Put it in perspective. Can you imagine if Zipporah had told Moses, “No way! Burning bush? I think someone was out in the sun too long. I’m not leaving my home, my family, my friends. Go on your own. But I’m not leaving.” Her willingness to be submitted to Moses gave way to an entire nation’s deliverance. Who knows what miracles might be waiting on the other side of your obedience? Stop being so subversive. Stop fighting and resisting your husband’s leadership. Trust God enough to follow your husband. Trust God enough to submit.