That the Word Be Not Blasphemed
I have recently read the following disturbing comments from older Christians who are in a position to have influence on the body of Christ, including young men and women:
Comments from Christian Men and Women
These are not exact quotes, unless noted, but they reflect the ideas that have been presented on a couple of e-mail discussion lists. The comments in parentheses are mine.
1. The Bible doesn't say a wife must obey her husband.
2. A wife must submit to her husband but he must submit to her too. (This destroys the whole concept of obedience or even submission.)
3. Christ is the head of the home. (This was said in an attempt to discredit the man as physical head).
4. We must obey but I can't say whether it's a sin if we don't--too many what-ifs.
5. If a man isn't a good husband, he doesn't even deserve a wife's respect. (If she shouldn't even respect him, then obviously she wouldn't feel the need to obey him.)
6. If a man doesn't love his wife as Christ loves the church and as himself, then the "pattern God set is broken" and the woman is "released from the command to obey," since the man has "stripped himself of his right to be over his wife."
7. If a man is down and discouraged and needs support, he is in a "temporary position of not being the head" because he needs his wife's strength at that time.
8. I am not over my husband and my husband is not over me. (Again, this destroys the headship of the husband.)
9. A man can't be a dictator. (Since a dictator and ruler are the same, this destroys a man's right to rule his home.)
10. God never said a man was supposed to rule over his wife.
11. A woman doesn't need anyone to tell her what to do. (Again, this was said as if the woman's not needing to be told meant the husband had no right to tell her. If nothing else, the attitude is wrong.)
12. Women can be anything they want, including preachers.
13. A man has no right to command his wife to do anything. (I wonder then what a head does, and what the word rule means.)
14. If a woman won't obey, a man can take no action at all to enforce his headship, and to say he may is satanic teaching. Even taking away a woman's credit card is an "abuse of the marriage bond."
15. A woman is to obey her husband only in spiritual matters. He is the "spiritual head" or the "spiritual leader" (indicating that as his only domain).
Does this shock you? Well, it may not shock some of you at all. It's what we've come to expect nowadays, isn't it? Sadly, mature Christians (or at least those who should be mature) have been brainwashed into believing the thoughts listed above, which totally destroy God's order of creation and His plan for the home, the church, and society in general. It may be that your own personal level of shock will be based on when you were raised and also to what type of teaching you have been exposed. In general, the younger one is, and the more liberal his background of teaching, the less likely this will be shocking to him or her. Unfortunately, I have found lately that even older men and women are espousing the ideas mentioned above.
Who Is the Ruler in the Family?
Does a husband have authority over his wife? Is he her head? Is he her ruler? Look at the following scriptures:
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
1 Corinthians 11:3 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.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
1 Timothy 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
1 Timothy 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
It is obvious from these scriptures that a man has the rule, the dominion, the control, in the family. That rule extends not just to his children but also to his wife (his whole house).
And just so we understand what this means, the word for rule in Genesis 3:16 is mashal. And it means:
1) to rule, have dominion, reign
a) (Qal) to rule, have dominion
1) to cause to rule
2) to exercise dominion
When people hear that a man is to rule his home, sometimes they think that means he is a tyrant walking around carrying a whip, ready to snatch up his wife or one of the children at any minute and give him or her a painful beating. As ruler of his home, a man should consider godly principles and treat his wife as he would want to be treated. He should rule with love and patience. He should seek to teach in positive ways in order to avoid negativity and, especially, harsh corrective means. It is not always easy for a wife to be obedient. Just as he wants Christ to lovingly accept him while he grows, a man should do the same for his wife, loving her as his own body.
However, we do need to understand that inherent in the right to "rule" is the right to enforce the rule. We understand that in every other area of life. An employer may bring negative consequences. The civil authorities have a right to bring negative consequences. A teacher (even in a college or university when teaching adult students) has every right and responsibility to bring negative consequences. And parents have a duty to bring negative consequences. A strong and godly man rules his house well (I Tim 3:4), which might sometimes involve bringing about negative consequences, hopefully in the most minimal yet effective way. Perhaps something like setting a more restrictive budget or placing a limit on some desirable activity would accomplish the intended result. To avoid any such consequences, we women need to do as Ephesians 5:22 teaches us and let our submission to our husbands--our obedience to our husbands--be as unto the Lord.
Obviously, a wife must be obedient to her husband. And disobedience to one who has authority over us is a serious matter.
Jude 1:5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
We recognize how serious a thing it is to disobey a command of God. And forgetting our place and failing to obey our husbands is just as wrong. It puts us in a position to disobey both the Father and the Son as well as our husbands. It can also promote blasphemy.
Who Will Blaspheme?
Let's consider this for a moment. Wives are to obey their husbands "that the word of God be not blasphemed." Servants are to obey "that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." Who is going to blaspheme the Word of God if we don't obey our husbands? I'll tell you who. Those who are not Christians--those in the world who don't even necessarily recognize the God of heaven--will blaspheme God's word if we do not obey our husbands.
Why Will They Blaspheme?
Why would our disobedience to those in authority over us cause rank sinners to blaspheme the Word of God? Why should they even think one way or another about our being out of subjection to our husbands or our masters? Why? Because people, even those who have no spirituality, recognize right and wrong. If they see Christians doing something they know to be morally wrong--either from their own innate sense of right and wrong (if they are Gentiles or others outside the Christian community, Romans 2:12-16) or, if they are Jews, from their reading and acceptance of the Law of Moses (which we know taught subjection, I Cor 14:34-35)--they will speak evil of the Word of God. They will say, "These people are apparently being taught to disobey their husbands. We know that's wrong. So this teaching of Christ is not of God." Evidently Paul, in giving these instructions, recognized that their evil speaking of the Word of God if Christian women were not in subjection to their husbands, was valid.
Titus was in
Titus 1:12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
Not good people, are they? Cretians were always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. And yet even the Cretians had enough fundamental morality, enough of an innate sense of right and wrong, to know that a woman should obey her husband! And if the Christian women in
The fact is, almost all cultures recognize the headship of the man over the woman. Even in our own country, prior to World War II, the headship of man was not questioned. Had feminism not reared its ugly head, it would most likely never have been questioned.
Does Submit Really Mean Obey?
Some tell us that the word submit does not mean the same as the word obey; therefore, a wife is merely to submit to her husband and does not need to obey. This is probably the most bizarre of all the objections to wifely obedience that I have heard. But let's pursue this line of thinking.
The word for submit is hupotasso, and it means:
1) to arrange under, to subordinate
2) to subject, put in subjection
3) to subject one's self, obey
4) to submit to one's control
5) to yield to one's admonition or advice
6) to obey, be subject
Notice that definition numbers one and two are what is done to another, but numbers three through six are what one does himself. And notice that the first two describe one who dominates another but three through six are the opposite idea. More on that later.
The word that is translated as obey with regard to children and their parents is hupakouo, and means:
1) to listen, to harken
a) of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is, (the duty of a porter)
2) to harken to a command
a) to obey, be obedient to, submit to
As you can see, no significant difference exists in the meanings of these words, when we compare definitions three through six of hupotasso with hupakouo. They both mean to obey. So, just because the word hupakouo is not used with regard to wives, that does not mean that wives are not to obey their husbands, as the word hupotasso also means to obey. (And, as I note later, the word hupakouo is used to show how Sarah, the wife of Abraham, behaved toward her husband.) The word hupotasso is used in the passages telling wives to be submissive; however, it also is translated as "obedient" in the KJV in Titus 2:5.
If this does not convince you, we'll consider what Henry Thayer says about the meanings of these two words (hupotasso and hupakouo).
1 Corinthians 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [passive] him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
Hebrews 2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
Let's take a look at both verbs used in English. We can see how that changing the voice will change the meaning. First look at two sentences with the verbs used in active voice.
The son obeys his father.
The son subjects his father.
We could change the second sentence to say the same as the first by changing the voice to middle, like this:
The son subjects himself to his father.
This is using the word subjects in middle voice and it totally changes the meaning so that it now means the same as obey. In active voice the word means what you do to another. In middle it is what you do to yourself. If an author wanted to place emphasis on the "himself" part and use the middle voice, then this verb (hupotasso) would be the one to use, and not hupakouo. You can reverse this too. Suppose one wanted to express dominance rather than submission. You could use subject in active voice, or you could use the passive form of obey, such as:
The father subjects the son (active).
The father is obeyed by the son (passive).
Thayer defines the word hupotasso (in middle voice) as "to subject oneself, to obey" and then lists many passages involving wives, proving that Thayer sees subjection, submit, and obey all to be synonyms (just as we do in English, by the way). Thayer didn't have two lists--one set of passages meaning submit and others meaning obey. If he had seen a distinction he would have listed two meanings and then given passages for each one, not one group of passages for both of the synonyms.
We find that slaves are told to do both hupotasso and hupakouo. Are we supposed to think of that as two things to do? If so, then the church is not to obey Christ, since it is told only to hupotasso. I think this needs to be repeated. If indeed, as some say, the word hupotasso does not involve obedience, then the church is not told to obey Christ!
But we see Thayer use both obey and submit when defining hupakouo. He defines hupokoa (the noun form of hupakouo) the same way. In the ASV we see both Greek words and both English words used in I Peter 3:5-6 regarding the same exemplary wife--Sarah. She was "in subjection" and she "obeyed"--according to the ASV. We know that Sarah has been presented to us as an example to follow. Therefore, we know that we are to submit to--obey--our husbands.
Must the Husband Also Submit?
Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Some like to use this verse to teach that every Christian is to submit to every other Christian. But that makes no sense at all. It would make submission meaningless.
If we follow this, Paul says that we are to submit to one another. Then he goes on to say who is to do the submitting
Yes, Paul says we are to submit to one another, but who is to submit to whom? Wives to husbands, children to parents, and servants to masters. We can't think Paul wants fathers to obey, or even put themselves under, their children. (Most mothers seem to readily accept the idea of one-way authority when we are considering children! They definitely don't want that one to work both ways. But when it comes to their husbands, many women want submission/authority to go both ways.) Neither can we think Paul wants the civil authorities to obey or put themselves under us. Nor would he expect masters to put themselves under their servants. Likewise, we cannot think he is telling husbands to put themselves under their wives.
Many of you have seen the Duggar family on TV. Jim Bob Duggar is a state senator from
If in Ephesians 5:21 Paul is telling everyone to submit willy nilly, then it would have been more important to tell husbands to submit to wives, parents to children, and masters to servants. It is more natural, and we would expect, for wives, children, and servants to do this. But if indeed all are to submit to all, I would think Paul would make sure to tell the parents, husbands, and masters to submit--because they wouldn't expect to have to do it and it would be harder for them. What should really make this ring true for us is that the figurative bride of Christ, the church, is told to submit to Christ (Eph 5:24). Shouldn't that tell us a lot about what is expected of a non-figurative wife? Does the church have to obey? Can it somehow be in submission without being in obedience? How is that even possible?
Wife: Honey, I'll submit to you but I won't obey you.
Husband: Okay, take the dog to the vet today.
Is the wife refusing to submit or is she refusing to obey? Can you tell? Yeah, neither can I.
We can get to the point that obedience, or submission, of wives means nothing at all, and if we do we will strip men of all authority in the home. They won't even be over their own children. Have you ever heard the expression "Too many chiefs and not enough Indians"? If everyone is in a place of authority over all others, what we really have is no one in any place of authority. Have you ever been in an organization where no one was the clear authority in a room full of people with some task assigned to them? What you see is great inefficiency because uncertainty and antagonism take over as different ones attempt to either put themselves into an authority role or take someone else out of it. It is just asking for trouble. And too often that is what we get in our homes when both husband and wife, and sometimes even teens, try to assume the role of "chief" or even only a "co-chief."
Obey Only the Good Husband or Only in Spiritual Matters?
If a man fails in his duty to love his wife as Christ loves the church, has he stripped himself of any right to be obeyed? If he is selfish or hateful or doesn't always consider her in making his decisions, may his wife say, "The pattern is broken! God has released me from the command to obey you"?
Let's see what the Word of God says on this.
1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
It is clear here that a woman has her duty to the Lord no matter what her husband does. In fact, if she obeys her disobedient husband, this may cause him to come to the Lord. The man has his own responsibilities, and God will judge him if he does not live up to them. But whether he does or not, the wife still has her duty to obey her husband. What does the "likewise" refer back to?
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
Paul wants wives to be in subjection to their own husbands just as servants are to be in subjection to their masters. This is undeniable.
But is this obedience only in spiritual matters, or does it apply to all aspects of the couple's life together? Again, let's go to the Word.
Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
We can see from this that the wife is to obey not only in matters that pertain to life and godliness but in everything. Yes, this would apply even to how much money she can spend or whether she may go visit her sister on the weekend. Of course, we understand that a good husband will act according to biblical principles.
Do We Really Need It?
What about the claim that we wives are mature and just as intelligent as our husbands and we don't need them standing over us telling us every little thing to do? Well, of course we are intelligent. We may be even more intelligent than our husbands. But that's not the point. Our children may be more intelligent than we are too, or we may be more intelligent and more capable than our supervisor at work. But that's beside the point, isn't it?
Nobody is suggesting that a man must micro-manage his wife. He may give her free rein about many things in the home. He may delegate much authority to her, which he can also take back anytime he chooses, of course. No mother wants to stand over her children and tell them every little thing to do either--she may delegate authority too--but the question is whether the mother has the right to tell her children what she wants in everything. We know she does. Some may say, "But that's a child!" Yes, that is a child. But obedience is obedience, no matter who is practicing it. And rule is rule, no matter who the ruler is. A child is also not a slave, but both are given the same duty of obedience to the one God recognizes as in a place of authority over them.
Besides, as we wives are to obey our husbands "as unto the Lord," let's consider what we're saying when we whine that "we aren't stupid ninnies who need to be told every little thing." (Yes, I've heard women say just that.) Would we say that to our Lord Jesus Christ? No! We wouldn't dare! Well, ladies, we are to obey our husbands in the same way. Even if our actions are right with God, our attitude can be displeasing. We don't need to have a need in order to have to obey. We just need to obey--with a willing heart. Let's seriously ponder the meaning of the following verse of scripture:
Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
A Fervent Plea
Today I call upon all faithful women of God to stand with me against the open rebellion that has become so commonplace that many no longer even recognize it! Arise, dear ladies, and let's be the women God wants us to be. Let us reverence our husbands as our Father commands (Eph 5:33). Let's not proclaim that we don't need to be told anything. Ladies, please, I beg of you, let's all decide today that we will do what God asks of us and obey our husbands in everything, as the Lord would have us do.
Christina Elizabeth Dozier
September 29, 2008