This is an excerpt from a book I am currently writing. For this reason you shall find reference to things like “previous chapter,” “later chapter” etc.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
In talking about the roles of spouses, I had wished to speak on the man first, but while it shouldn’t be an issue in this book, as it doesn’t matter who goes first as long as all the issues are well addressed, but the Bible always has a pattern in giving out instructions to married people. It is always the wives first, before the husbands. Whether it be Peter speaking, or Paul speaking, the pattern is always the same. So I thought it wise not to contravene that pattern in my book. There is a good reason why the instruction always go to the wives first before the man as I shall seek to explain in a later chapter. But let us stick to the Biblical order of things.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
All verses concerning the role of a wife are the same. One would have been sufficient, but we have several verses saying the same thing. That is that women should both submit and be subject to their husbands. I chose the verse above because it gave us an example. In my article, “THE IMPORTANCE OF EXAMPLES TO LEARNING,” I wrote on the importance of having examples when talking about anything. I also pointed how Jesus made use of examples in everything he taught. He even presented his very self as an example. Meanings given to words may change from age to age, but the meanings we can get from examples don’t change. Examples also make explaining things easier. So when we look at the role of a Christian woman as a wife, it is best we go with the verses that comes with an example.
One of the examples we have in scriptures of the role of a Christian woman to her husband is how the church is subject to Christ. Now, many modern day translations, in these verses pertaining to how husbands and wives should correlate, only use the word submit which is wrong. NIV puts the verse above this way, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” NLT puts it this way, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” The Message Bible puts it this ridiculous way, “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” All these are wrong, and as I have always maintained, these new translations are the Devil’s tools to weaken everything Christian. They were done to weaken the Christian faith, the Christian doctrine, the Christian identity, the Christian home, and in this case the bond between a woman and her husband. If we must have scriptural understanding of things, we must stick to the King James Bible.
Now what the Bible really says in that verse, as accurately put by the King James Bible, is not just that a woman should submit but that she should be subject to her husband. They may seem similar, but being subject is stronger than to submit. To submit merely has to do with letting go of the will to accept that of another, but being subject goes beyond that to mean being under and accepting the dominion and authority of a husband. Now, there are verses where the Bible did use the word “submit” in place of subject, but in such verses it uses it this way, “submit yourselves,” which the other translations fail to say. It is not a mere submission of will, but a submission of the self. This submission of the self is synonymous to being subject to. So these verses are not contradictory in any way but are in absolute agreement. So this is the right understanding of how a woman ought to be subject to her husband.
The second example we have on the role of women is Sarah and other holy women of old. It is written, “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Peter 3:5 – 6). Sarah was pointed out as one of the holy women. I know many people would say the things written in this book are not suitable for the women of today. They would claim that this way of a woman relating to her husband is obsolete. But let me assure you that as many women who think that their lack of the will to be subject to their husbands is because they are living in ways suitable for modern times, that it is not being modern to be this way, rather it is being unholy. Yes, you may see the ways of the holy women as obsolete, but there were unholy women in their times too who lived just like those people we would like to term modern women. Such women the disciples saw as unfit to be presented as examples of godliness. What differentiated the holy women of old time from the unholy women of their time was not in the time they lived in but in their wilful submission of the self to their husbands. So being subject to one’s husband is not a matter of being obsolete or modern, rather it is a matter of being holy and unholy. Let as many women as wish to live a holy life and pleasing to God be subject to their husbands.
1 Peter 3:5 presented such submission of the self as an adornment and not a reproach. Is it any wonder why all the holy women were beautiful, whether Sarah, Rebekah, or Rachael? Dear women, holiness makes beautiful. Modern day women would wish to present such wilful subjection as a reproach to their being as females. It is no wonder that feminists deceive themselves that they have improved the status of womankind. This deception is because they don’t know what adornment means. But the holy women of old time knew, and their examples must holy women of today learn to follow.
Now I must be quick to point out that the Bible did not say, “let the wives be subjected to their own husbands…” rather it says, “let the wives be subject to their own husbands…” These are two very different things. It is one thing to be subject and it is another thing entirely to be subjected. That is where Christianity differs from most other religions that teach that women should be under the authority of their husbands. The Christian woman is commanded to be subject while others teach that their wives should be subjected. To be subject means to wilfully accept the authority of a husband for noble reasons such as love for their husbands and love for God who ordained it so, without coercion. To be subjected on the other hand means to be coerced to accept the authority of a husband, contrary to the will.
Therefore a Christian woman ought to willingly put herself under her husband and accept his authority. This submission is not reliant on whether he is intelligent, rich, well behaved, handsome, or whatever. This submission is simply reliant on the fact that she said, “I do.” So there’s no reason whatsoever for a Christian woman to choose to despise the authority of her husband after saying “I do.”
Love And Soberness
“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.”
While most of the command to love goes to the man, we do find that the woman should see it as her duty to love their husbands and children too. Loving isn’t as simple as it seems. If it were so simple, I don’t think the Bible would ask the older women to TEACH the younger women. So if love is something that has to be taught and be learnt, it means it is not something that we can do well naturally.
Love should be seen in everything between a man and his wife. They must in love seek the best for their spouses and avoid anything that may hurt them in any way. It is on account of this love that they are to pursue thoroughly chaste lives. I shall speak more on this in dept in a series of chapter in another section of this book.
Soberness is also a trait of a good Christian wife. Soberness does not mean having a lack of sense of humour. Soberness means being sensible, serious, and solemn. It is sad that when you read the writings of people who throw jibes at women who believe they ought to be subject to their husbands, they always liken such belief to lack of being intelligent, or being dumb. But Christian women need to ensure that they are sensible, serious, and solemn. It may take a while, but living this way is sure to silence such mockery over time.
“… [let] the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Many today try to make the Bible out to say, “women, respect your husbands.” But what is respect in the first place? Don’t you respect even strangers? Even when going by the road and someone passes by, do you not give them some form of greetings, even if it is just a simple nod of the head? That simple nod of the head is an act of respect. Is this what the Bible meant that women should accord to their husbands?
It is worthy of note that many marriage counsellors would often tell women to respect their husbands, while that is good, what the Bible says is, “… [let] the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33). Reverence is not mere respect but deep respect. Many so called Christian counsellors just talk about the need for women to show mere respect to their husbands but not reverence. Rather than point out that women ought to reverence their husbands they even talk disparagingly of the virtue of having a deep respect for their husbands. They also ask men not to expect reverence from their wives calling that old fashion and that they should shun it themselves for this reason. They also claim that this should be done on account of humility. While men should not go about seeking it as I’d point out further in the next chapter, it is wrong to downplay its importance. However, let counsellors say what they will, God does not expect women to merely respect their husbands, but to reverence them. This reverence should be seen in all her actions towards her husband.
We have a good example of reverence in the lives of the holy women of old. We have seen how Sarah showed reverence calling her husband lord. But I want to point something out about how Rebecca showed reverence when she spoke to him about who Jacob should marry. This is what the passage reads, “And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?” (Genesis 27:46). She didn’t give him instructions on what to do even though she would have been right. I get surprised when women get praised for being bossy in their homes and posing as people who must be obeyed else there’d be no peace. I also know that some “modern day ladies” in Rebecca’s shoes would have confronted their husbands saying something like, “look at you, you opened wide your eyes and allowed Esau to marry these crazy women, I am not going to allow my favourite boy, Jacob, to fall victim to your carelessness. He must marry from my people. If you stand in my way hell would be let loosed in this home. If you think I’m bluffing just watch and see.” But Rebecca, in her reverence for Isaac, didn’t even seem to see it fit for her to be telling her husband what decision to take. She didn’t even present it as an advice. She only told him of how those women made her life unbearable and left him to make a decision best to him. That was reverence at its best and a good example of godliness.
Should A Woman Disobey Her Husband For Any Reason?
“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.”
(1 Peter 3:1)
Now I wish to talk about an aspect of marriage that has the potential to be controversial. That is whether or not a woman should disobey her husband when he asks her to do something “against God’s will.” Now, I don’t think this should be the case in a Christian home, because a home that is Christian must be such an one that everything is guided by the holy precepts of God. A Christian man can’t give un-Christian instructions to his wife. What we may see, though still rarely in a Christian home, is a case where a woman feels that her husbands instructions are posing as a barrier to her devotion or service to God. And in more severe cases is when perchance something went terribly wrong and the husband is giving un-Christian instructions. So we shall look at the Bible and try to see what it says about these.
I don’t see any verse of the Bible that commands a woman or gives her leave to disobey her husband in any occasion. When the Bible says she be subject to her husband as the church is subject to Christ, I don’t see that there is an exception to that. Children have more justifiable reasons to disobey their parents when it comes to sin than wives do their husbands. Why I said this is because the Bible says to children, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1). By saying “in the Lord,” it means they are to obey their parents provided it does not contravene God’s laws. For example, children should not consent to murder, steal, cheat, or tell lies, even when commanded by their parents. Yet wisdom demands that should the need arise, they should refuse respectfully and not arrogantly. But we can find no such command to women regarding how they should be subject to their husbands. All we see is that they are to be subject “in all things.”
I read an article in which the author tried to explain why there are circumstances when it becomes scripturally okay for a woman to disobey her husband. This person put forward a seemingly valid argument in making reference to Ananias and Sapphira, saying Sapphira died because she obeyed her husband. But this is not true. The judgment Peter pronounced on her under the leading of the Holy Ghost goes thus, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.” (Acts 5:9). It was not a matter of obedience but a matter of agreeing together. Whatever it was that led her husband to do this evil was the very same thing that led her to lie. If it was the vain desire of applause that made Ananias to tell lies, she too desired the applause and for that reason told the lie. There is no reason for us to believe that she was commanded to lie and she did not want to lie herself. But when Peter confronted her, she lied vainly desiring that applause, not because she obeyed her husband. She died for her own sin and not for obedience. So the account of Ananias and Sapphira is inadequate to say that a woman ought to disobey her husband when he makes a sinful demand of her.
Even in the Law, in which God says that when others entice us to follow after other Gods, it does not mention that even in such a case a woman should disobey her husband. For example it is written, “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers… Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him…” (Deuteronomy 13:6, 8). Though we see the following words, “the wife of thy bosom” we see nothing about wives refusing to obey their husbands.
That is the Old Testament I hear someone say. But the New Testament contains similar commands, but being a Testament for a more radical cause than the Old, we find it this way, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29). Here again you see no mention of husband, though we see father and mother which we didn’t see in the Old Testament. There are other verses which show that people ought not to follow their fathers in the ways that displease the Lord, for example Ezekiel 20:18, but we can see none whatsoever giving women leave to disobey their husbands.
What God requires of Christian women is total obedience to their husbands. This also applies when a husband’s will comes in between a woman and her devotion or service to God. I was once at a church meeting where there was an election of people to different posts in the church. I am particularly against using election in selecting leaders or practicing democracy in the church, but I shall treat that topic in another book. So in this election a woman was elected to be an assistant coordinator of one of the church’s departments. After the election the husband of the woman said he doesn’t want his wife to serve in that post. I thought the pastor should listen to the man, but he turned on the man and questioned why he didn’t speak up before the election took place. I don’t know why, but maybe he didn’t want her to serve in that position but not wanting this to be known in the church remained silent probably hoping she would not win the election. Now that she won he had no choice than to speak out. We could only assume. But the pastor talked him down. His wife too said if the Lord wanted her to serve, that is taken her victory as God’s will, she could not oppose God. So she held to the position contrary to the will of her husband.
Let church leaders do what they will. This is what the Bible says, “If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth… And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.” (Numbers 30:3, 6-8). The husband has the power to disallow even her vow to God. So, not even service or devotion to God should make a woman disobey her husband. A woman may desire to go for church programs which she has attached strong spiritual importance to, but if her husband should disallow her, then she ought not to go and God shall not hold that against her. So when it comes to serving God, Christian women should serve God only within the confines set by their husbands. Even if they don’t go to any church program at all, to mention the worst case, they could still maintain a personal life of devoted prayer and intercession.
I also believe that is for the reason that a Christian woman is under the authority of her husband that we see that the Bible says little about the service of women. For example, in the verse above, in which Jesus Christ speaks about sacrifice and all out service to him, where he said, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29), it didn’t mention husband. I believe this is because she is supposed to only serve God within the confines allowed by her husband.
I noticed that God does not come between a man and his wife because he his not the author of confusion. When Sarah, Abraham’s wife, wanted him to send Hagar away, he didn’t wish to do it, but she was right. God did not on the account of her being right go to her and ask her to send Hagar away without the consent of her husband. Rather because it is right that he do so, God approached Abraham and said to him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Genesis 21:12). As far as God was concerned, the consent of Abraham was important, though he could have asked Sarah to send the woman away because she was right.
Now we can see that the bond of marriage is stronger than most people make it out to be. My advice to Christian women therefore is to be very careful before saying “I do.” You must know the gravity of the decision you’re making when you take a marriage vow. The world wouldn’t want to see it this way, but this is God’s way. So choose your husband wisely, and most importantly prayerfully. Don’t go into marriage thinking well if he says things that are not according to God’s will I will refuse to obey him. To refuse to obey him is against God’s will. So be careful and prayerful.
What if a woman chooses her husband wrongly and he makes demands that are not sinful but outrightly inconvenient? Now this is not sinful, what shall she do? Shall she act the hypocrite to make sinful that which is not sinful merely to justify her intended disobedience? That is assuming it were right to disobey one’s husband when his instructions are against God’s will. She can’t do that. So women ought to proceed into marriage with the intent and resolve to submit completely and be wilfully in subjection to their husbands. They must be careful to know if he is such a person they are going to be able to obey completely. They must therefore approach God on the matter of the choice of a husband in earnest prayer presenting their fears to God and asking for guidance. And so must she proceed each day in earnest prayer to God for her husband that he lead her not astray. Absolute submission of the self is the role of a Christian woman.
It won’t be good for women to be forward to disobey God on account of their husband’s bad instructions, rather, should this happen, their actions and should have an influence on him for a right actions. For example someone likes to steal but knows it is a sin, but when her husbands says she should steal from her office she happily goes ahead to do it because he has instructed her so. That is wrong. She must be in earnest prayer that God would restrain him from giving her bad instructions and must herself always seek to dissuade him from making such demands. For example in the case of stealing, she could present the dangers of the decision. She could find out what makes him make such a demand. If it be fear she could seek to ease his fears by encouraging him to remain positive and use the opportunity to offer him some godly advice.
So let it not be that a bad husband say, “honey I need you to falsify some accounts at your working place,” and she says in her heart, “Yay! Stealing time!” As I have quoted before, it is written “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; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” (1 Peter 3:1 – 2). Even if they don’t believe God, your actions and words should have the effect of winning them over and not give a happy consent to sinful demands.
Meekness And Decorum
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
(1 Peter 3:3-4)
Women ought to cultivate a meek and quiet spirit. They ought to maintain silence as much as possible, everywhere but most especially in public. The voice of a Christian woman should scarcely be heard in public, except maybe in a private conversion. They should speak only when necessary.
Today the virtue of having a quiet spirit is being daily trodden under foot. Having a quiet spirit does not mean one is ignorant or stupid. It does not have any ignoble connotation. Rather it means she has a high level of self respect. It also means she is no commoner. The voice of respectable people of understanding are rarely heard.
It is funny though sad to see that woman seek respect by cheap means and rather than by hard earned means. Sometimes you see women try to accord respect to themselves by saying they laboured for nine months to give birth to their children. For this reason, say they, they should be respected. But let me start with themselves. Do women know that animals too go through labour also? And it’s so painful too. But how many women accord respect to animals on account of bearing children in their wombs for whatever amount of period of time? So if child labour is the reason for respect they should first show us an example of how we ought to accord respect to them by the way they show respect for mother goats, dogs, rats, and what have you. Do forgive me for using animals for an example to present my point, but my advice to the Christian woman is this, get your respect from where the Bible says you should get it from. Not by cheap means that just every female in all creation goes through, but by that which is stated in scriptures, “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Peter 3:4). There are many other ways women seek cheap respect but you can look around you, in the Newspaper, tele, etc. to see them for yourselves. But let this advice guide at all times and let Christian women shun this reproachable means of seeking respect.
To be sure about this, what does the Bible tell us about what keeping quiet means? It is written, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:28). This verse does not mean that it takes a fool to hold his peace, or that a fool can hold his peace in order to look wise. Mark the starting word, “even.” This is only emphasising the amount of respect holding one’s peace attracts. If a fool is considered wise just because he holds his peace, how much more shall the wise be considered wise when he holds his peace. And it goes on to tell us that the person who shutteth his mouth is esteemed a man of understanding. So these commands to women about keeping quiet and having a quiet spirit is not to suppress them but that they may command respect and be highly esteemed.
Women are the pride of any people including the people of God, and the respect they command determines the esteem that shall be placed on such a people. The respect of women must therefore not be gambled with. They must retain that respect by all means including by being of a quiet spirit.
The Bible therefore does not have these several verses commanding a woman to be silent in order to deprive her but it is in order to protect her. It is he who speaks that is at risk of criticism, whether fair or unfair, constructive or destructive. It is he who speaks that is exposed to the risk of being ridiculed by fools. So let the women be silent as much as possible and let the men do the talking.
It is written “a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1). There is a glory that wisdom causes to radiate on the faces of the wise. There is this confidence and boldness (not haughtiness) that characterises the face of the wise. That is what the Bible is pointing out to us. Intelligence can be seen more written on people’s faces and not in the volume of words they speak. The intelligence of a woman should be seen on the soberness of her face, her decorum, composure, and actions. Being of a quiet spirit and of chaste disposition is the best way for women to command respect.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
The commands given to a Christian woman are all commands to be humble, and it is herein that a woman shall find her honour and not apart from it. As it is written, “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” (Proverbs 29:23). Also, “Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” (Psalms 138:6). Again, “Surely he [God] scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” (Proverbs 3:34). The woman therefore shall find beauty in the submission of the self. She shall find honour in silence. She shall find respect in reverence. This is the way God ordains it to be.
Prayer: Dear Lord and Father, help us to be able to live by your ordained instructions for our homes. Help our women to live to find joy in doing according to your will. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.