The Scary “S” Word: Portrait of Eve, Part 2
I think it’s time to take a time-out for a very controversial word: submission.
What’s Up with this Submission Stuff?
So where does the whole submission thing fit into the portrait of a redeemed Eve? You may be thinking, “If you’re telling me that I was created to be under Adam’s arm, protected and loved, as his equal, his compliment, a woman of strength and dignity, you can’t possibly also be saying I have to submit to him? Doesn’t that seem a little backwards?”
In our postmodern culture, submission does seem backwards, outdated, and weak. But in reality, submitting oneself to the Lord and to your husband is incredibly freeing. Proverbs 3:5-6 read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” By submitting, we admit that someone else is better equipped to guide/lead us, to protect and provide for us. Yes, it may be scary at first, but isn’t it freeing to know that you’re not in charge and you don’t have the responsibility to govern your own life, that God does? Isn’t it freeing to know that your husband is responsible for your well-being and safety, even your spiritual growth and sanctification? Just read the Ephesians 5 passage about husbands cleansing their wives and presenting them holy and radiant before the Lord if you want further proof.
Something we need to keep in mind is submission absolutely existed before the Fall.
1) Within the Trinity
Within the Trinity there is a mutual submission among the members of the Godhead: Father praises and uplifts Son and works through Holy Spirit; Son yields to the will of Father and gives preference to Spirit; and Spirit points to Son and submits to the Father’s authority. The Trinity is present from the beginning. Although the first reference of Christ explicitly isn’t until Genesis 3, each member of the Godhead was there, with equal power and yet equal submission. Within the Trinity, there is a beautiful picture of service, love, and honor, as each gives preference and submits to one another in perfect unity.
2) Between God and Man and Woman
The very fact that God created Man from nothing and fashioned Woman from Adam’s rib, and Man didn’t exist prior to God is evidence of submission between God and Man. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God, He created them; male and female He created them.” Three times it says God created Man: God the Creator + Man the Creation = Submission. Also God gave them an explicit command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of life. Why? Because He’s a tyrant? No, because God is Lord of Man. He was protecting Adam and Eve, but He also was giving them freedom of choice. They could choose to follow God and obey His commands, living in peace, harmony, and love with each other and God, or they could choose to disappoint God and experience life outside of grace and the consequences of their sin.
God also gave Adam and Eve a mandate. Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” God gave them a mandate so that they could A) have purpose, B) bring glory to God, and C) find joy and pleasure in each other.
3) Between Man and Woman
Adam and Eve were designed for unique roles. This is evidenced through the way their physical makeup and the unique attributes of God they individually portrayed. As previously mentioned, woman introduced relationship on a whole new level when she was created. She was designed to portray the beauty, mystery, allure, and vulnerability of God. But she was also designed to meet her husband’s need for someone to share life with him, for someone to bear his children, for someone to guide him gently (note I didn’t say lead; I used the word guide), for someone to listen to him, to share his problems and his work, to encourage and uplift him, to allow him to lead, and to love and respect him unconditionally. The fact that Adam and Eve were cursed differently when they sin are evidence of their different roles and submission. Adam is cursed in his work because one of man’s innate desires is to work and provide for his wife. He is cursed by struggling in his service to her. Eve is cursed in childbirth and desiring her husband because one of woman’s innate desires is to loved and romanced and to carry and bear life. She is cursed by struggling to submit to his leadership, and experiencing pain in life. Adam receives a heftier curse because he was responsible for Eve’s wellbeing, physical, emotional, and spiritual, and he failed. Eve sinned by the classic “take control” mentality that women today struggle with in their marriages. So often, we as women want to just take over because we think we can do things better. But God didn’t design us that way. He designed us to be in service and submission to our husbands.
Man and Woman’s Greatest Need
The following is a long, but necessary passage, and most likely very familiar passage to explain the man’s deepest spiritual and emotional need – respect and the woman’s deepest spiritual and emotional need – love.
Ephesians 5:21-33 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
First and foremost, a husband and wife are to submit to one another out of respect and reverence for the Lord. God has designed a husband and wife to respect and love each other so we should follow our God-given roles. As a woman, especially living in a postmodern world, we hear the word submission, we get squeamish. Who wants to be in subordination to another person, especially a man?
But Biblical marriage is not about being a doormat or not having any say or never making any decisions. Consider the Proverbs 31 woman. While sometimes I do feel like it’s hard to compete with her, God sets a high standard for a reason. The Proverbs 31 woman is trusted by her husband (vs11), she is valuable to him (vs 11), makes decisions for the family and manages money (vs 16), works hard (vs 17), makes an impact in the community (vs 20), takes care of her home (vs 27), and is blessed by her children and respected, praised, and honored by her husband (vs 28-31).
And then read the part about the husband. The wife has 5 verses that apply to her. The husband has 9 verses. He is to love her sacrificially as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. He is to be willing to put her first, even unto dying for her. Christ was a servant leader and the husband is to be also. A husband submits to his wife because he loves her by serving her unconditionally and wholeheartedly as Christ came to serve, instruct, lead, and guide the Church. He is apart of the process of making her holy and pure. She is his responsibility. He is to take care of her as he would take care of his own body. He is to leave his parents and unite himself to her, trusting himself to her. While he may still accept advice from his parents, she is the one who has his ear. She is the one he listens to and trusts and asks for input. He is to honor her and to seek to lead her spiritually. If you ask me, that’s a lot of responsibility, and that also does us great honor.
5 Ways for Practical Submission
1) A godly wife submits first to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 say “Wives submit yourselves…as you do to the Lord” or “as is fitting in the Lord.” Before you can ever submit to your husband, you must submit to God. This requires humility. James 4:6-7 read, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Humility, like unity and harmony, reaps benefits and blessings. When you submit to God, the Devil loses his foothold. This is why Ephesians talks about putting on the full armor of God – the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the Sword of the Spirit, and the breastplate of righteousness. This is your protection against the enemy. You wouldn’t go into battle dressed like you are now… unless wearing a suit of armor is typical attire for you. :o) No, you’d be wearing everything you could to protect yourself. Instead of being struck down, you can stand when you’re wearing God’s armor because you are trusting Him alone to protect you and to equip you to fight the Devil on the front lines. By submitting to the Lord’s leadership, you can then submit to your husband.
2) A godly wife submits to her husband’s leadership and guidance.
She respects the decisions he makes even if she thinks she can do it better because she loves him and desires good for him. Proverbs 31:10-12 reads, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Honor your husband. Be trustworthy. Do your husband good, not harm, by submitting to his leadership and guidance.
3) A godly wife allows her husband to be the head of the household.
She doesn’t try to take over his job. Ephesians 5:24 reads, “as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Submit in everything? Sounds a little much, right? But isn’t it wonderful to know that you aren’t responsible for everything in your life, that your husband is there to lead and guide you through tough times, through finances, through spiritual decisions, through your work, through your home life, through teaching/correcting/raising children (if you have them), through your emotional insecurities, etc?
Taking over “his” job not only disrespects your husband, but it shames him and takes away a crucial part of his manhood. Proverbs 12:4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”No one wants a rotten marriage. Protect your marriage from rot and disease by allowing your husband to do his job.
4) A godly wife corrects and guides lovingly.
She guides her husband in humility, kindness, gentleness, and respect. Proverbs 27:17 reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and so one (wo)man sharpens another (person – her husband).” In order to sharpen something or someone, there is often pain involved, but the godly wife does so lovingly. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones,” says Proverbs 16:24. We need to speak to our husbands our of love, not judgment, malice, bitterness, or anger.
Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” We are equipped through Christ, who is our head, to build up our husbands in love, and to confront them with the truth lovingly.
For further expansion – The Message version of Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love toward one another.”
5) A godly wife shows her husband unconditional respect.
She is not judgmental or overly critical. She holds him in the highest regard and doesn’t point out his flaws to others. Romans 14:13, 19 in the ESV says, “Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of (our husbands)…So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
We are to build our husbands up and pursue peace, unity, and respect. We are to humble ourselves and show our husbands godly unconditional respect.