Many women, even Christian ones, are confused and sometimes resistant about what it means for a wife to be submissive to her husband. This topic is very important topic, especially to study it by unpacking the truth in the Bible on the subject.
Obedience vs. Submission
For the Christian women who seek to apply God’s Word on her life she would seek to change the attitude of her heart and her outward actions. It’s possible for the wife to obey God’s Word yet without submitting in her heart. Obedience is an outward action, while submission is an inward attitude. God calls us not just to obey, but also to submit.
A mother ordered her disobedient son to sit in a corner. After a couple of minutes of sitting, he told his mother, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” He obeyed, but he didn’t submit. (Kent Crockett, Making Today Count for Eternity, Sisters, 2001, p. 128)
While the Bible make distinction between obedience and submission when talking about the wife’s submission to her husband. Christian wives are called to submit to their husbands with joy and delight. What we ought to be concern about is the attitude of our hearts as we consider submitting. We need to humbly obey God’s Word with delight in the Lord to submit to our husbands.
Five Biblical Principles Concerning the Wife’s Submission
Martha Peace in her book The Excellent Wife (2005, pp. 137-153) she gives five biblical principles that relate to the wife’s submission to her husband. These five principles are:
1. A wife is to be submissive to her husband in all things unless her husband asks her to sin (Ephesians 5:22, 24).
The submission of the wife to her husband according to the Bible does not make the wife inferior or unequal to the man as human being. No, not at all. God gave the husband to be the head of the wife and the wife as the helper of her husband.
2. A submissive wife is not afraid to do the “right thing” (1 Peter 3:6).
A submissive wife is not afraid of doing the “right thing”. She entrusts herself to God, knowing that in difficulty, God will give her the grace she needs to get through it at the very time she needs it (Peace, p. 146).
3. A wife is to be submissive even if her husband is not a Christian (1 Peter 3:1, 2).
The Bible is clear that submission of the wife to her husband is an attitude and action out of obedience to God’s Word and submission to the Lord. Thus if the husband is a Christian or not the wife is to submit to her husband.
4. A submissive wife does not dishonor the Word of God (Titus 2:3-5).
To dishonor is to “malign, slander, speak against, or speak of as evil.” When a wife is not submissive to her husband, she brings shame to God’s Word because she is not living up to the standard God has clearly laid out for the godly wife. If she is outwardly expressing faith in Christ, but inwardly has not changed in her heart regarding submission to her husband, she is not submitting to the Lord in that area of her life. The Apostle Paul expressed it another way: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18, emphasis added). Anything other than godly submission is not fitting or proper for a Christian wife since it dishonors God and His Word.
5. A Wife will seek training and counsel on submission from a godly older woman (Titus 2:3-5).
God’s design of the church that we would receive instruction, and training from each other (Colossians 1:28). Seeking the advise of other older godly women in your local church will allow you to seek submission in practice.
Some Specific Ways Wives are NOT Submissive
Martha Peace in her book above also gives us some practical ways where the wife would not be submitting to her husband when she does them. Here are some of these ways.
1. She does things that are annoying or vexing to her husband.
“It is better to live in a desert land, than with a contentious and vexing woman.” Proverbs 21:19
2. She does not discipline the children as she should (even after her husband asks her to).
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 29:15
3. She is more loyal to others than to her husband
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, he will have no lack of gain.” Proverbs 31:11
4. She argues or pouts or gives him the cold shoulder when she does not get her own way.
“It is better to live in a corner of a roof, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 21:9
5. She does not stay within the limits of their budget.
“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” Proverbs 19:14
6. She corrects, interrupts, talks for her husband, and is too outspoken when others are around.
“A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; He who restrains her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand.” Proverbs 27:15, 16).
If you are encouraged by this post. I encourage you to get a hold of this book by Martha Peace and study it for your own growth and benefit.
Martha Peace, The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective.