Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Submission in Marriage - Part One: "In the Beginning"

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 01 June 2006

The word “submit” is surely one of the most difficult,
disliked, and divisive words in the Bible.
This is the first of a series of articles on Submission in Marriage.
When I married Mark, I knew that there were many things in my life that would definitely have to change. I had been single for nearly forty years, was quite independent, very self-sufficient and perhaps a bit small-minded. I learned almost immediately that Mark was the head of our home, and I needed to submit to his authority. Here’s how some of our first arguments went: (Mark) “You just need to submit to my authority and there will be no problem.” (Esthermay) “And you just need to love me as Christ loves the Church and I will!”

Ever had that conversation? See, we both understood what Scripture said. Problem was, (and I’ll speak for myself) I hadn’t yet learned that submission is a doctrine that you apply to yourself. Not your spouse. Notice in Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul does not say, “Husbands, tell you wife to submit” – or, “Wives, tell you husband to step up and be the spiritual head of the home.” Instead, he speaks to each person individually about his or her own attitude.

Submission is obviously something that Paul believes every Christian can and should do because he illustrates submission with examples: wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters. In each example, one person has more power, and one person has far less power. In Paul’s day, a wife had no legal rights. Men had all the power, all the financial advantages and virtually all the education. Pagan philosophy was still guiding the culture and women were thought of as damaged, inferior forms of men. With an imbalance of power like that, husbands could easily control their wives, using them to make their lives easier. And wives could easily resist, rebel, and make their husbands’ lives miserable.

God’s solution: Submission. Submission means that we willingly limit what we might naturally do in our relationships in order to benefit the other person. Out of reverence for Christ, we use our position in the relationship to serve the other person. And when Paul says “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” the Greek word for submit is not a command. The command is back in verse 18: “…be filled with the Spirit.” Submitting is just a natural expression of that.

Now, here’s where we need to go back to the very beginning to learn God’s plan and watch things unfold and understand why the next verse says, “Wives, submit to your husbands.”

When God walked through the garden and found Adam and Eve hiding, shivering in the nakedness of their sin, He told Eve, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16) There are different interpretations of the first half of this verse, but it’s the last half that is of consequence. I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t like the verse! Some days, I hate that verse. But it’s God’s way. God has established a chain of command. Things may have been different if sin hadn’t entered the garden, but it did and now there is a definite order of authority in the universe. I Corinthians 11:3 spells it out, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” There is no shame or dishonor for a woman to be under authority. The Lord Jesus submitted to the authority of the Father and we can be sure that God thinks no less of us because we are women. We have His promise in Galatians 3:28: “
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

For my husband to be what God wants him to be, it is extremely important that I, as his wife, do my best to fulfill my purpose and role. Including submission. It may seem old fashion and impossible to live out in today’s world. But submission is Scriptural and if we are willing to do what God shows us through Scripture, He can also make it possible for us to do it. Are you willing? I am. Next issue: A Purpose in Life…

- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen

(This article originally appeared in Windows - The monthly church-news & ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)

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