In this sermon, part of a series on “Whatever You Do,” Pastor Neil tackles the question of submission in marriage. Here are some excerpts:
Submission does not mean inferiority. It does not mean the wife is inferior to her husband. Any man who is married or has ever been married knows that☺. It does not mean the wife is spiritually or mentally inferior. It does not mean the wife is less gifted or worth less than her husband. A wife’s submission to her husband does not give him a license to boss her around, to treat her with contempt, or to mistreat her in any way. Submission is not slavery. That is not what submission in the Bible is about.
For most of us, submission has a connotation of weakness. In reality, biblical submission is exactly the opposite. It takes strength to willingly submit to another, to set aside your own desires and defer to the desires or authority of another person, whether in marriage or any other relationship.
Husbands and wives, men and women: We are all under the same injunction to submit to one another, as an expression of our reverence and love for Christ. For wives, the command is to “submit to your husbands.” It is not an absolute command. It is not unlimited in its scope. If your husband asks or orders or compels you to do something that goes against God’s Word and will, you have no obligation to submit to him.
In fact, you have an obligation, under God, to refuse to do it. Just in case there is any doubt, there is never any justification for a husband to abuse his wife in any way (or for her to abuse him). Any wife who is endangered physically or emotionally by an abusing husband has not only the freedom but the moral obligation to separate and get away from her husband. If you are in an abusive marriage, or any kind of abusive relationship, you don’t have to stay. You need to get to a place where you can be safe. And your children, too.
Understanding the meaning of submission and working it out is not an easy thing. Author Jill Briscoe points out that first-century wives were already in submission to their husbands involuntarily. The wife’s submission and the husband’s authority were woven into the fabric of ancient culture. Why then, she asks, since they were already in submission to their husbands, did Paul tell wives to submit? “The clue,” she says, “is in the grammar. The [Greek] verb ‘submit’ [hupotasso] is in the middle voice. Literally, it means ‘place yourself in submission.’ It means”, she says, to “sit down on the inside as well as the outside.
You’ve been sitting down on the outside because you had no choice. Now [in Christ] we give you this voluntary choice, this act of will rather than this legal requirement. Paul was after a heart attitude, a spirit of humility by choice, not coercion. Paul,” she says, “is pro-choice where women are concerned” in this respect: “the choice to lay down our lives for our brothers, sisters, husbands, and children, because we have laid it down for Christ.”
Pastor Neil has much more to say on this topic. Please click on the link below to hear his sermon in its entirety.