We come to the next verse in Ephesians 5, turning to the Christian wife’s duty to embrace the glory of imitating the church’s obedience to Christ in her obedience in everything to her own husband. The world calls this oppression and tyranny, but we call it glory under God’s blessing.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24).
THE GLORY OF OBEDIENCE
While we live in a culture that has glamorized rebellion and disobedience, we really must embrace the biblical teaching that obedience, when God requires it, is our glory. Obedience to God is our crown. When Abraham obeyed God, going to the brink of sacrificing his own son, God declared great bless- ing on him (Gen. 22:18, cf. 26:4-5). Obedience to God would make Israel God’s treasured possession among all peoples (Ex. 19:5). And when God set blessing before Israel, it was the blessing of obedi- ence, and no one would be able to stand before them (Dt. 11:25-28). Conversely, disobedience to God is described as sexual infidelity: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever is a friend of the world is the enemy of God… Submit yourselves therefore to God” ( Js. 4:4, 7, cf. Jdg. 2:17). Refusal to submit to God is enmity and infidelity.
If you think about the Word of God being that which created the Heavens and the Earth, the Word that is Light and Life to all things, then obedience to that word could be nothing less than blessing, life, glory, joy, and power (cf. Ps. 119). Was it a glory for the wind and the waves to obey Jesus? Then it is a glory for us to obey Him. When Peter and the apostles said that they must obey God rather than men that was a glory (Acts 5:29), including the glory of suffering for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:2). Of course our response of obedient love to God is always entirely a response of grace, God working in us what is well-pleasing in His sight (Eph. 2:10, Col. 1:10-11).
Therefore, the old marriage vows that included a wife’s promise to “obey” her husband were completely biblical, and whether or not you used the word in your ceremony, Christian marriage includes the duty: “As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6). Nor do we mind noting that Scripture says here “in everything.” A wise man will not micromanage his wife, but a godly woman will not resent her hus- band’s instruction anywhere. A wise man will not micromanage his wife, but he must not shrink from responsibility anywhere, saying “that’s none of my business.”
AS THE CHURCH TO CHRIST
By the image of the church’s submission to Christ, we certainly insist that the central postures of a godly wife are love, reverence, and obedience to her husband, but by this same image, a wife should see her role as also including a great deal of input and feedback. The church does not merely come before the Lord to receive instructions, we come before the Lord to raise our voices in prayer (spoken and sung). The Psalms are the central prayers we are invited to offer to our Lord, and we should note that many of them are full of praise, reverence, and thanksgiving, and so a Christian woman, should regularly praise, honor, and thank her husband for his hard work, his wisdom, his accomplishments, his courage, and his faithfulness. Nevertheless, we do not mind also pointing out that many Psalms include pleas for help, requests for saving, and laments for hardships. In the Hebrew it says, “Why have you been gone so long, and why don’t you answer any of my texts? I’m surrounded by people in diapers, come quickly with chocolate to help!”
There is an “asymmetry” in Christian marriage that reflects Christ and His church and must be always remembered in marriage. A Christian wife may pour her heart out to her husband in a way that a Christian husband must not do to his wife. This doesn’t mean that a Christian husband hides things from his wife, but it means that he is careful to protect his wife from his feelings and burdens. He must model Christ’s care for His bride, and not dump on her. This doesn’t mean that a Christian woman can just “dump” or “vent” on her husband, but it does mean that she may pour out her heart to him and he must not resent it. But a Christian woman should labor to pour out her heart to the Lord first before pouring her heart out to her husband.
A man may not accept responsibility for “everything” and then resent the fact that she tells him about “everything.” And remember that Christ is the model in this. The Church is subject to Christ “in ev- erything” (He is Lord of all), and therefore, we bring to Him everything. At the same time, not every moment is ideal for sorting through everything, and so a wise man must learn to thank his wife for bringing things to his attention and commit to a particular plan for addressing the concern, includ- ing giving his wife permission to remind him if necessary. A woman must not nag her husband, but a husband leads his wife into that particular temptation when he does not give clear instructions for how her concerns need to be handled.
Scripture says that women are, “to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:5). Likewise, elsewhere, it says, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none reproach to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan” (1 Tim. 5:14-15).
And the point is simply to underline how high the stakes are: the veracity and glory of the Word of God is at stake and even these duties play into our spiritual warfare with Satan. The submission and obedience of a wife to her own husband either confirm the glory of the Word of God and obedience to God or else it is blasphemed and grants credibility to the lies of Satan.
As it also says, “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:6-7). What makes women vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy? Sin and lusts. So the stakes are high, and therefore, you must be free from all your sins through the blood of Christ. If Christ is your Savior-Lord, then do not balk in the slightest if He has given you a husband-lord.