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Submission Equals Trust

Last week, we waded into a potentially controversial topic. You see, for the past several weeks, we’ve been talking about the church in your house. That church being, of course, your family.

When we started this series, we noted that “church” is not just a building or an event – but it’s people. The church is the family of God. And anyone who has put their trust in Jesus is part of that family.

That means, that if your family is part of the family of God, then your home is really like a little mini-church. There is a church in your house – and each person in your house has a role to play in that church. So what are those roles?

Well over the course of these past few weeks, we’ve spend quite a bit of time looking specifically at the roles of husbands and wives in marriage and we’ve discovered that God has actually designed our marriages to be modelled after Christ’s relationship with his church. 

We’ve discovered that husbands are to play the role of Christ – and we are to do for our families exactly what Christ has done for us.  Not that we can die on a cross for the forgiveness of sins, but we are are to love our wives with that same self-sacrificing love that Christ demonstrated for all of us. Likewise, wives are to play the part of the church – relating to their husbands in the same way as the church relates to Christ.

And this is where the potential controversy comes in. In describing this role of the church as it relates to Christ and the role of wives as they relate to their husbands, the Bible describes this role as one of submission. Ephesians 5:22 says…

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

Now in our modern North American culture of 2019, this idea of wives submitting to their husbands often comes across as a very negative thing. Many would say that it is demeaning to women – that it robs them of their true value and worth and degrades them as second class citizens.

But that understanding of submission is not at all what the Bible teaches. In fact, I would argue that Biblical submission actually goes the opposite way – it actually affirms the incredible value and worth of women. 

Think of it like this: It’s kinda like how the president of the United State puts his trust in his secret service body guards. To a certain extent, the president places himself under the care and protection of his body guards. The president is the important one – and those bodyguards affirm that because they are willing to take a bullet to keep him safe.

Well, in Biblical submission – the husband is the bodyguard. God has entrusted him with the job of keeping her safe. In fact, the definition that we’ve been looking at for headship is this:

Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. ~ John Piper

The husband is the bodyguard. That’s why the Bible tells husbands to love their wives like they love their own bodies! We are to be willing take a bullet both figuratively and literally for our wives. We put her good ahead of our own!

Of course, this is exactly what we see Jesus doing for us. He took the bullet – he died on the cross for our sin so that we could live. Why? Was it because he thought we were worthless and second-class citizens? No way! He did that because of how valuable we are to him. Ephesians 2:4 says…

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the bullet for us because he loved us sooo much! When we accept Christ as our Lord and saviour – when we willingly submit ourselves under his leadership, under his provision, and under his protection – that doesn’t de-value us in any way. It’s actually the opposite – what Christ has done for us affirms how valuable we are to God.

So when it comes to our roles in marriage, in the same way, I think submission only affirms the great value and worth of our wives.

For a woman to willingly submit to her husband means that she knows without a shadow of a doubt that he loves her like crazy – and that he will sacrifice his own good for her good! When she places herself under his protection and provision and leadership, that’s a huge responsibility for him! For him to take on that responsibility, he has got to think the world of this girl!

Biblical submission in marriage should only affirm the incredible worth and value of our wives.

But that being said, that’s not always what we see in the world around us, and it’s not always what we experience even in our own marriages.

We pointed out last week that even though God has designed our roles as husband and wife be perfectly complimentary to one another – when sin is introduced into the equation, God’s good design is quickly messed up.

As I husband, I know there are times when I act selfishly – I put myself ahead of my wife. There are times when I’m not willing to take the bullet for my wife and she takes the hit. And when that happens, she’s not going to want to submit to me. I’ve proven to her that I’m going to let her down – and so she feels she’s got to do what I’ve failed to do. She’s got to lead, and provide and protect herself. Of course, when she takes control, that makes me resentful and I either try to selfishly wrestle back control and or just stop trying and bail out on my responsibilities as a husband and let her do it all. Either way, that’s not God’s design for marriage.

God’s design is that each of us fulfill our God-given roles – but our selfish, sinful nature makes that really difficult to perfectly balance those roles and responsibilities.

I think most husbands and wives can probably relate to that struggle. It’s a given that we won’t do it perfectly and we will make mistakes, but the closer we can get to God’s design – the better for our marriage and the better for us personally. It’s so important that we each strive to fulfill the role that God has designed for us.

So today, I want to dig a little deeper into what this submission actually looks like in a marriage. We saw last week how submission is a good part of God’s design – not only in marriage – but we see it in the church’s relationship to Christ – and we even see that Christ Himself – who is equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit – how he submitted himself under the authority and leadership of the Father. So this is a good healthy thing, but what does that look like in your marriage?

You’ll recall our definition of submission that we’ve been using from John Piper:

  • Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. ~ John Piper

And again, remember, we’re basing this on what we see in Christ’s relationship with the church – so we can just as easily say that submission is the divine calling of the church to honour and affirm Christ’s leadership and help carry it through according to our gifts.

We need to keep both of those relationships in mind as we go through this – both the wife’s relationship with her husband and the church’s relationship with Christ. How do we honour and affirm that leadership and help carry it through according to our gifts?

Well, let’s start by looking at the church. Romans 10:9-10 says…

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  Romans 10:9-10

This is a great Gospel verse, but what in the world does that verse have to do with submission? Everything!

You see, the first step in becoming a Christian – the first step in become part of God’s church – is to believe that Jesus is Lord. You acknowledge in your heart and with your life that Jesus has the authority to be your Lord. You acknowledge that He is God. He is your creator. He died and rose again for you. In other words, you acknowledge that He is your rightful head. 

And as such, you choose to live your life under his headship. You recognize that He loves you and that he wants the best for you – and so you willingly submit to his leadership, his protection, and provision for your life. You put your trust in Him.

And this is a very similar first step when it comes to wives submitting to their husbands.

Step #1 is believing in your heart that God has put your husband in that place of headship.

You’ll remember from last week – when we explained the difference between submission and subjection – that submission is always voluntary. We read that quote from Tim Challies that said:

Submission is the act of someone who acknowledges legitimate authority and willingly arranges himself or herself accordingly. Submission is voluntary, never forced. It is responding to the divine order of things first in the heart and then in the life. ~ Tim Challies

To submit to your husband means that you acknowledge that God has placed him as the head in your home. It’s to acknowledge that God has given him certain responsibilities and with that, the authority to carry out those responsibilities. 

A huge part of what it means for a wife to submit to her husband is simply this acknowledgement – this belief in her heart that her husband is the head – and then from that, her willingness to allow and to encourage Him to carry out those responsibilities.

Submission is very much a heart issue. It’s a belief. It’s choice.

Very much like Christianity. God is much more concerned about what’s going on in your heart – then He is about all your outward actions. It’s very easy to look like you’re a Christian – going to church, reading your Bible, all that good stuff – but even while you do all that, you can still have a heart that is rebellious against God and that rejects him as Lord of your life. You might fool a lot of people, but that certainly doesn’t fool God.

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b 

God is much more concerned with what’s going on in your heart – than with all your outward actions.

And I think that can be very true when it comes to this issue of submission. It’s certainly possible to look like you’re submitting to your husband through your words and actions – but still be rejecting him as the head in your heart. If you don’t believe that God has put him in that place of authority, it’s going to be a real struggle for you to submit to him.

Submission is very much a heart issue. It’s a belief. It’s choice.

And so this morning I don’t have a list of things wives should do in order to submit to their husbands – because that’s not the core of the issue. The core of the issue is whether or not you believe that God has given your husband those responsibilities and the authority to carry them out – and that God has done so for your mutual benefit as husband and wife.

Because whatever you believe, your actions will naturally follow.

If you believe that your husband does not carry the responsibility to lead, protect, and provide – and if he does, he’ll make a mess of things….. You would likely never let him lead. You’d fight him for control every time. If you believe that you and your family are better off not submitting to your husband, then you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure that he’s not the one in control. And that’s what we see in many homes today.

But on the other hand, if you believe that God has given him those responsibilities, and that it’s to your benefit to have him carry out those responsibilities, then you’re going to do everything in your power to encourage him and to help him accomplish those things that God has given him to do. His success will be your success. This is all part of the two of you becoming one. It’s learning to trust one another and help one another for your mutual success.

This week I came across an interesting quote from a lady writing in “Relevant Magazine”. She writes this:

“I know the tendency I have deep in my heart to just “take control” of any and every situation. But part of learning to be married was learning to let my will fall into the will of my spouse, as the two of us became one. And in order for me to unite with him, whether it be in lifestyle choices, decision making, intimacy or parenting issues, I had to learn to trust him in a way that, up until marriage, I had only done with God.” ~ Debra Fileta (Relevant Magazine)

A huge part of learning to submit to your husband is learning to trust him. And I know that that is a huge challenge – especially when your husband has proven to untrustworthy in the past. I mentioned earlier than when a husband fails to lead, protect and provide for their wives, their wives don’t want to submit to them because you have to trust someone in order to submit to them.

And really, this is a struggle even for the church. We have the perfect husband – Jesus Christ has never let us down. He has never failed to lead, provide, or protect us. He was literally willing to die for us and we still struggle to fully trust him. Even after being a Christian for over 30 years, there are still times when I struggle to trust God in different situations. But Proverbs 3:5 exhorts us to….

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding.

6 Acknowledge him in all your ways,

and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I kinda found it interesting that the NIV says instead of “acknowledge him in all your ways” it actually says “in all your ways submit to him”.

This idea of submitting is almost synonymous with trusting. When we trust God, we willingly submit to Him.

Same thing in marriage. We could almost reword that Ephesians 5:24 verse to say.

As the church TRUSTS Christ, so you wives should TRUST your husbands in everything.

Now again, I realize that when there’s a history of broken trust, that’s going to be hard to do – but that’s the goal. God’s design for one-ness in marriage requires trust.

So husbands, I hope you can see that you’ve got to learn to be as trustworthy as Christ. That’s why you’ve got to love your wife like you love your own body. When she knows that you are willing to take a bullet for her – when she can trust you – she is way more inclined to submit to you.

But at the same time, wives, having an imperfect husband is not an excuse not to submit to him. Now again, submission doesn’t mean allowing him to abuse his power and authority, it’s not being a doormat for him to walk all over, it’s not giving up on your life so that he can live his. And if those things are happening in your marriage, that’s a very unhealthy marriage and I would encourage you to get some help for your marriage immediately. The folks from Masquerade Ministries would be some great people to talk to.

But what I’m saying that is that even though your husband isn’t perfect, submission is the belief that God has given your husband certain responsibilities and the authority to carry them out and that your job as his wife is to encourage him and to help him however you can to carry out those responsibilities. And that’s where the second part of Piper’s definition of submission comes in:

  • Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. ~ John Piper

Even though God has given the responsibilities of Christlike servant leadership, protection and provision in the home to the husband, that doesn’t mean he has to do that all on his own. Even though he’s the one who is ultimately responsible and the buck stops with him, one of the key roles of wives is to encourage and to help their husbands carry out his responsibilities according to her gifts.

We can see this pretty clearly in the church’s relationship with Christ. We’ve pointed out before that as the head of the church, the buck stops with Christ. He is the One who is ultimately responsible for the success and growth of the church. Jesus Himself said…

“I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Mathew 16:18

He’s the one who is ultimately responsible – but that doesn’t mean He’s gonna do it alone! Far from it. As the church, we are to join him in this mission – we are to help carry out all that God wants to accomplish.

Probably the prime example of this is the great commission. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said to his disciples:

18 “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Matthew 28:18-20a

Jesus is the one with all authority in heaven and on earth. He has the ultimate responsibility of bring people to Himself – of making disciples. But he has commissioned us to partner with him in accomplishing this.

Making disciples is our responsibility, but we only do that under the direction and authority of Jesus Christ. In essence, we are helping Christ carry out His responsibilities using the gifts that God has given us.

And that’s certainly not to say that Christ is shirking his responsibilities or dumping it all on us! That’s not the case at all! Christ is very much at work in the world – in fact, without Him, all of our work would accomplish nothing. But God has designed it that when Christ and the church work together – that is when Christ acts as the head and the church follows his lead – then amazing things are accomplished! God’s Kingdom grow’s and flourishes!

God’s design for marriage is similar. God has given the authority and the responsibility of headship to the husband, but God never intended him to do everything alone. God’s design is that our wives would partner with us to accomplish all that God has set out for us to do together.

Back in Genesis – after God had created the first man – God noted that it wasn’t good for the man to be alone. He needed a partner. God said in Genesis 2:18…

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

And by the way, that word ‘helper’ isn’t the kind of helper that tags along and carries your things and stays out of the way when you do the serious stuff. It’s not describing the kind of helper that your 3 year old is when you’re trying to do laundry or work on the car.

The word used here is the Hebrew word “ezer” and it comes from two roots that mean ‘rescue’ and ‘strength’. It’s the same word used in Psalm 121:1-2 

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

    where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

It’s also the same word that’s used in Psalm 115 – verse 11.

All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord!

    He is your helper and your shield.

Psalm 115:11

You can see that this kind of helper isn’t the ‘tag along carry your things’ kind of helper. This is the kind of help that God brings. It’s a strong and mighty help! It’s a rescue from imminent danger! It’s a “save your life” kind of help.

And that’s the kind of helper that God was going make for Adam. Adam’s wife, Eve, would be Adam’s rescuer, a strong and mighty help who was just right for him.

I am so thankful for the helper that God has given me. My wife is a strong and mighty help. In many ways, she has rescued me! If she could no longer help me in ministry – I don’t think I’d pastor anymore. I couldn’t do it without her help.

But that’s exactly God’s design! Even though God has put the weight of responsibility squarely on the husband, He never intended him to carry that responsibility alone. God has provided every husband with a strong and mighty helper.

When the husband carries that responsibility – when he lovingly leads, provides, and protects his family – when he loves his wife like he loves his own body – and when the wife submits to that leadership – when she believes in her heart that God has given him that responsibility and she does everything she can to encourage and to help him carry out those responsibilities – that is a family that is going to do some amazing things!

Together, that husband and wife is a family of incredible strength.

So this morning, I just want to encourage you – both husbands and wives – to take up the roles that God has given you. I know it’s not always easy to do that – and your spouse is certainly not perfect – I get that. But God has given you a blueprint for a strong and beautiful marriage – it is to your benefit to do your best to follow His blueprint.

I think all of us want to see the church in our house grow strong, to flourish, and to do great things for the Kingdom of God. We want to have marriages that reflect the one-ness and unity of Christ and his church. We want our children to grow up with parents that imitate Christ-likeness – both in loving servant leadership as well as in trusting submission.

Let’s make a commitment to modelling Christ in the church in our house.

One Comment

  1. Anonn Anonn

    Reading this in 2022 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the definition of submission. I completely desire to submit and know my husband has been chosen to lead our family, unfortunately he’s heard some bad doctrine and uses his authority to oppress his household. I know there’s nothing God cannot do and I will do my bit to submit to the word of God whilst the Lord changes his heart.

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