Be in Subjection

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"Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands."
1st Peter 3:1
 

Forward

Is there a topic that is more intimidating and controversial than this one -- that wives ought to be submissive to their husbands, obedient to them and under their authority in the home? Just mentioning the topic makes many of us uncomfortable and even angry.

In spite of this, I find it needful to write on the subject, to describe what I see in Scripture, because I think it is very important that we are fully informed about what God says and I don't find any current literature or teaching that squares with what I see for myself in the Bible. Christians of earlier times seem to me to have understood these things pretty well, but not today. I am afraid the Church has lost her way here: believers in modern western culture no longer understand God's pattern for the home because no one seems willing to teach it.

Whether or not we like what the Bible says is not the point: my concern lies in our ignorance of what God says. Once we fully understand God and his ways we can ask Him to change our hearts to conform to His will. But we cannot do this intelligently, grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ, if we are deceived about His will and His nature.

My primary role then is an informer I am primarily a messenger. I didn't write the Good Book, I am merely a student of it, reading it for myself and trying to understand it. However, I also believe it is the Word of God, so I will not apologize for what it says. I want to obey it, in every way that I can, and to encourage others to obey it as well.

I hope you will consider the facts I present here and honestly evaluate the evidence for yourself. You are the only one who will die with your beliefs; God will hold no one else accountable for your thinking except you. We need to challenge each other to pursue God's ways and help each other out when one of us goes astray in some way. If you think I am in error in how I am interpreting Scripture, if I have misunderstood or misrepresented the Word in any way, or if you think my spirit about this is wrong in some way, then I would very much like to know and I invite you to help me see His way more clearly. Personally, I find no joy in getting beat up for promoting a lie or for promoting the truth in a prideful, arrogant or self-serving manner. If I am going to suffer I'd much prefer to do so innocently.
 

A Word of Caution

To My Brothers

Before we get into this together I would like to offer an obvious word of warning to disgruntled husbands and to men in general: one must be very careful to resist any desire to control and manipulate another with Scripture. Any husband reading this with a mind to manipulate his wife and make her feel guilty is being both hypocritical and extremely unwise. Men should not spend their time trying to get women to behave, but rather in wrestling out their own calling and responsibility before God as husbands until the truth has humbled them and set them earnestly on the path of servanthood. Then, as servants, we may rightly pursue truth for ourselves and offer it humbly to others who are also seeking it.

The standards of God's Word are very high for all of us, both for men and women. As we fall into disappointment or grief when the holy standards of God are not met by another, we should first stop and examine our own hearts. How would it feel if others looked down on us or complained because we do not love our neighbors as ourselves? Very few of us do this well.

Jesus Christ said He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mat 20:28) Those who follow him do not leverage the scriptures to try and get others to serve them. Believers search the scriptures in order to know and obey the truth for themselves, and to help others who are seeking truth to find it. The only holy motivation I find in pursuing this topic is love of the truth, springing from a faith that all of God's commands are for our welfare and that obedience to God brings our Lord pleasure and honor.

To My Sisters

Finally, I must offer one more gentle word of warning and this is for my devout sisters, especially those who are married, and even more especially to those married to callous men. To the best of my knowledge, I am writing to honor God by re-opening the door of God's Word as wide as I can on this subject, but I am painfully aware that this presents a danger to honest souls in a culture such as ours.

In this particular area regarding the duty of a wife our culture is now extremely broken. You probably don't have an accurate sense yet for how broken it actually is: personally, it takes my breath away. As you read on, you may begin to see how far off the mark even the most conservative teaching on the home still is here. When we are faced with the truth in all of its fullness in the midst of such a wicked and perverse generation it can indeed be entirely overwhelming, especially at first, even for the most holy souls among us. For this I would like to apologize in advance, and offer a perspective that may help to reduce your frustration.

If in response to reading this you are moved beyond common cultural and religious expectations, as I encourage you to pursue God's way, the reality is that you may be doing so entirely on your own, without the support of others in the Church, or in your extended family, or among your friends, or in society at large. This makes a difficult task nearly impossible without miraculous help from God.

In moving forward in your pursuit of God, I encourage you to move very slowly, very deliberately, and in a way that you can be assured of the grace and leading of God as you go. Take your time and make it a journey, a healthy one; be patient with yourself and do not let the enemy beat you up as you fall along the way. We all do.

You may find yourself treading alone, forging an untamed trail in a rugged wilderness. Even the sturdiest souls need company on such a journey. Please, do not become bitter in obedience: if the way becomes too much for you to handle, take a breather and wait for strength to keep moving ahead. Just keep getting up and going on after God and His ways as He gives you strength to do so as unto Him. Hopefully your example will encourage others to follow, and you will be able to comfort and encourage them. May God have mercy on you, and on us all. We definitely need it.

My Hope

In speaking the truth in love, it is my hope that believing wives may be led to carefully ponder God's full instruction for personal application, come to know the truth, start obeying it more and more fully, and in this be set free. I enjoin all other believers to seek an understanding of God's ways in order to know and worship Him in spirit and in truth, and to equip themselves in discipleship to help others establish godly life patterns and beliefs.


A Brief Survey of Biblical Content

Let us begin by looking briefly at the three key passages in God's Word that address the mutual responsibilities of husbands and wives: Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19 and 1st Peter 3:1-7. Each passage addresses the wife first and then the husband. Each passage tells the wife essentially the same thing: she is to be subject to her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-4 says: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." God directs the wife to yield to the headship of her husband, to submit to him and to be subject to him, in everything, just like the Church is subject to Christ. He concludes by instructing the wife to, "see that she reverence (phobeo, fear) her husband." (vs 33) God says a wife is to be sure to have a wholesome, godly fear of her husband, which is not the same as saying she should respect and honor him. We are all commanded to respect and honor each other (1 Pet 2:17) she is being called to something much more here.

Colossians 3:18 says the same thing: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord." The Greek word for submit (hupotasso) is the same as in Ephesians, and describes how a church leader is to have his children "in subjection with all gravity," (1 Tim 3:4) and how God the Father has subdued all things under the dominion of Jesus Christ: "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet." (Heb 2:8)

We find the same in 1st Peter 3:1-6, where we began:

    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. 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. 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.

God exhorts the wife to have a chaste fearfulness about her that is plainly visible to her husband, a demeanor that is so striking and appealing to her husband that she wins his heart to godliness, should he be taken with some fault or sinfulness, without so much as a word from her. She should strive to be meek -- not easily hurt or offended -- and quiet as a manner of life.

Toward the end of this passage God indicates that it is appropriate for the wife to address her husband as her lord. He uses the Greek word kurios, the word He uses hundreds of times to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, and translated "master" in the master-servant relationship. (Eph 6:5)

If I read the end of the text correctly, when God concludes by saying, "as long as ye do well," he is stating that a wife should only consider herself to be a daughter of Abraham if she is following God's pattern here. Evidently, this concept is so fundamental to the calling and role of married women that to violate it willfully is to resist the entire way of God Himself; evidently this is something no child of God can do, on purpose anyway, as a manner of life.

The above three texts above do not appear to me to be unusual in their content; the entire tenor of Scripture appears to be consistent with them. Let us briefly look at other relevant texts in Scripture to verify this.

1st Corinthians 14:34-35 says: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." God says it is shameful for women to speak in church, and that women "are commanded to be under obedience" (hupotasso) in any public meeting. He says this concept is expressed in His Law, the Torah, and that it is binding on the Church. He says that this principle is so important that a wife is to wait until she returns home before she asks her husband a question about something taught in a meeting.

1st Timothy 2:12-14 says: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1Ti 2:13  For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." God says that a woman is not to take to herself a position of authority over a man or to teach a man with authority, but she is generally to remain silent. Instead of orienting His concern around local examples of public disorder, perhaps involving outspoken women in the churches at the time (which is a common thought in addressing the text now), God states that He has purposefully designed the woman's role this way: He formed Adam first, then Eve. He adds as further warrant that it was Eve who was deceived, and that she was the first in transgression against Himself.

God elaborates further on such principles in this immediate context by instructing all women to walk in "shamefacedness." (vs 9) This word means to have a tender blush in the countenance, as though in the presence of a superior.

Titus 2: 3-5 says: "The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." As older women disciple younger women in the basics of godliness they are to encourage them to be obedient (hupotasso) to their own husbands so that the testimony and witness the Church gives of God to the world is not disqualified, discredited and spoken of wickedly by outsiders.

We began by looking at instruction in the New Testament ... where the loving kindness and mercy of God are perhaps more evident. What about the Old? In Exodus, in the Decalogue and immediately following it, God speaks of a wife as a servant to her husband, as his property, embedding this concept in the very first principles of Law. (Ex 20-21) Everything we find in the New Testament is evidently based upon this foundation.

Before the Law, even before the Fall, Adam names his wife: Woman, Eve. Elsewhere in the Word of God, when someone names another ... it is evidently an expression of ownership, authority, and dominion (R.C. Sproul,  Renewing Your Mind, 2003), as when Adam named the animals, parents name their children, or when Christ gave new names to His Apostles ... and as He does to each one of His saints. (Rev 2:17)

According to the Biblical narrative, Eve was made explicitly for Adam. (1 Cor 11:9) Before and entirely apart from the Fall of Man, God has evidently provided an orientation for gender-based roles in the way He created Woman and presented her to Man. Her life came from Adam's life; in Creation she was dependent on Man, sourced in and from Man. God then brought her to Adam without a name, without an explicit identity as a creature. As Adam gave to Woman identity, both as a kind of creature and as an individual, it seems reasonable to deduce that God also deferred to Adam the task of teaching Eve the names of the animals, the details of the garden paradise, and also His Word: God's command concerning the Tree of Knowledge. God evidently designed Woman's entry into the world such that everything she needed to know about herself and her world came through Man. Woman is taken from Man for Man, and depends upon Man for instruction and guidance. God appears to apply these basic principles repeatedly in orienting domestic, religious, and cultural behavior.

And as He does in the beginning, God concludes His revelation to us by pointing out that all twenty-four human names embedded in the eternal city, in its gates and in its foundations, are masculine names (Re 21:12,14). In concluding and summarizing earthly history, a history of God consistently delegating the leadership role to the male gender, God stamps an eternal reminder into the very structure of our eternal home. Though many godly women rose to places of great influence and public respect in God's kingdom, as Miriam, Moses' sister, and Deborah, a judge of Israel, not a single female throughout the biblical record was ever explicitly and formally appointed by God to a leadership position. I cannot find a single one.
 

An Early Exposition

To provide some historical context to our understanding of these passages, we do well to look at the opinions of devout men who provided their thoughts on them in times past, well before the rise of militant feminism. Take for example the commentary of John Gill, a widely read and well-respected Baptist theologian writing in the mid-eighteenth century, a contemporary of George Whitfield during the First Great Awakening whose congregation was eventually inherited by Charles Spurgeon, who says the following on Ephesians 5:22:

    This is an instance, explaining the above general rule; which subjection lies in honour and reverence (Eph_5:33), and in obedience; wives should think well of their husbands, speak becomingly to them, and respectfully of them; the wife should take care of the family, and family affairs, according to the husband's will; should imitate him in what is good, and bear with that which is not so agreeable; she should not curiously inquire into his business, but leave the management of it to him; she should help and assist in caring and providing for the family; and should abide with him in prosperity and adversity, and do nothing without his will and consent: and this subjection is only to her husband; not to any other man, nor to her children, nor to her servants, or any brought into her house; and this consideration should render the subjection more easy, voluntary, and cheerful: and which is but reasonable that it should be; as may be gathered from the time, matter, and end of the woman's creation, she was made after him, out of him, and for him; and from her fall, and being first in the transgression; and from her being the weaker and inferior sex; and from the profitableness and comeliness of it; and the credit of religion requires it, that so the word of God be not blasphemed: wherefore it follows, as unto the Lord; that is, either as the Lord has commanded, that so it should be, showing a regard to his precepts; or as in the sight of the Lord, and so yielding it sincerely and heartily; or in things pertaining to the Lord, which are consistent with the law of the Lord, and the Gospel of Christ; and in like manner as the church is subject to Christ, her Lord and husband.

This exposition by Gill is one example of many which illustrate how earnest Christians have viewed the above biblical passages for centuries. It is only fairly recently that the Church has lost her way on this subject and ignored the plain teaching of Scripture, evidently being intimidated by an ungodly culture as it moves farther and farther away from God's pattern for the home.
 

Objections

After such an introduction, perhaps it is a bit more obvious why I feel the need to write. I trust we can agree that what we see above, in both the Scripture and in early commentary, is no longer explained, taught, encouraged or practiced in our churches or culture. Instead, today we are confronted by very strong and common objections to any practical application of these concepts, ways in which Christian teachers take the Scripture itself out of context to entirely discount and ignore these texts. It does not take long to discover what these objections are; trying to address the above in any public context exposes them very quickly.

From my experience, in distilling all of the objections and separating fact from sentiment, there is only one compelling text that is used to dismantle all practical application of the above, and it is found in Ephesians 5:21. Just before telling wives to submit to their husbands, God tells us all to submit to one another: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." (Eph 5:21) In this text, God uses the same word submit (hupotasso) to describe the general disposition that any believer should have toward all other believers.

Those who wish to discount everything we have just noted in Scripture about the role of women in the home (and in Church and society) generally go straight to this text and claim that husbands are to submit to wives -- in just the same way -- that wives are to submit to husbands. They then claim there is no final authority in the home and that no decisions are to be made without mutual consent.

I think the best answer to this objection is to note the fallacy in reasoning that God is calling us all to submit to each other -- "in just the same way" -- that wives are to submit to husbands. We can just apply this concept to the full scope of the text rather than just the marital roles and observe the obvious contradiction.

We may note from the wording of Ephesians 5:21 that there is no clear context to limit the relational scope of the command to submit to each other in the fear of God: parents are to submit to their children, teachers are to submit to their students, clergy are to submit to their congregants and parishioners, policemen are to submit to citizens, prison guards are to submit to inmates, and kings are to submit to their subjects. This is what the text is really teaching, for all of these types of people could in theory be present in a local assembly of believers. Is God telling us that there are no authorities in society, that there is to be no law enforcement, no government? It is not too difficult to see God's intent if we use some common sense and think about how submission actually works.

When I take my dog for a morning run I find myself "submitting" to her. She wants to stop and relieve herself so she starts to drag on the leash and slow me down. I want to run and she wants to stop but I defer to her and let her do her thing rather than forcing her to continue. But this deference, or submission if you will, is quite limited. When she wants to do more than relieve herself and starts sniffing here and there and forgetting we are on a run, I make a call to move on and I exert some force on the leash if I need to.

When I interact with my children I often find myself submitting to them in a way, doing things they want when I'd prefer to be doing something else, and quietly tolerating behavior that I'd rather not. But they don't run the family or even play a major role in many key decisions. There are clear limits to what I will allow and how they should participate. They seem to have a good sense for where this boundary is and they respect it. It would not be good for anyone if I neglected or denied my parental authority in our home.

I find the same is true with my wife, and with my brothers and sisters in the faith. I consider their needs before my own in many circumstances, and their interests and health as well as mine in most all circumstances. Even when I might think I have a "right" to exert my own will in a particular matter, I often defer to the needs and desires of those around me when I think it will benefit them. This is the call of basic Christian charity, and this is Ephesians 5:21: it is not a denial of authority.

A husband certainly is commanded to submit to his wife ... in the same way that he is commanded to submit to anyone else in the church or in society to other men, women and children in all walks of life. The context leading up to the command in verse 21 is not the family structure, but the local community of believers, which by extension has general application in any social context. In particular, the text is calling all the men within the local church to submit themselves to the community of believing men as a whole, deferring to each other in humility and love rather than exalting themselves and demanding their own way. That this is not a blind and unqualified submission in which men abandon their responsibility to think for themselves and provide direction for their families, but a directional call to facilitate loving, humble, interdependent accountability, is clear from looking at how the early church actually functioned, which we can study for ourselves in Acts and the Epistles.

In summary then, we may answer the only real objection to the biblical concept of the woman's role by noting that there are degrees of submission, and that it is our duty to look at the general context of any particular command, and to the whole of Scripture, to determine the kind of submission that is appropriate in any given situation. We all are to consider all others as better than ourselves (Php 2:3) and in that sense to be "under" everyone else, or in a generally submitted posture, but we are all evidently not to submit to each other in the same way and to the same degree that we are to submit to government officials. There are differences in the nature of the submission that is required in each case.

The kind of submission applicable to wives is explained in the immediate context and is illustrated by the way that believers (the Church) submit to God Himself which is evidently an extreme degree of submission, perhaps the most extreme we could imagine. Yet in looking at the whole of Scripture we shall see that even this type of submission is not absolute: a wife's ultimate submission is finally to God and not to her husband; she should never sin against the plain commands of God or against basic human decency even if her husband demands it. So how do we know the godly counsel for a wife in any particular context? We need to proceed carefully and thoughtfully if we are to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
 

Practical Application

Perhaps it is good to follow this initial overview by considering some common examples of current Christian teaching on this topic and compare each one with what we have just seen in our overview of the Word. How well does each teacher seem to apply God's design and what do we think is the ideal counsel in each situation? Perhaps this will give us a context in which to flesh out our initial thoughts on the duty and role of the wife and help us find a wholesome place to stand in the complexities of life as we face it today. We can then evaluate and refine our initial reaction to each scenario as we go deeper in our study and become more thorough in our understanding of God's ways.

Scenario 1

    In the spring of 2001, as I listened to a famous Christian financial expert taking calls on live Christian radio, a woman called who was in conflict with her husband over a decision concerning his work.

    The wife related that her husband wished to leave his current job, take a job with less compensation that he felt he would enjoy more, and have the wife go to work outside the home to help support the family. They had a young child and the wife wished to stay at home, but the husband wanted the child in day care while his wife worked to supplement his income. She did not want to leave the child in day care, she felt that neither she nor her husband would be comfortable on the reduced salary if she did not work, and she was calling the counselor for his advice.

    Without hesitation, the host advised this woman to resist her husband, claiming that her desire to remain at home with her young child was good, and that her husband was being irresponsible in the matter of this job change. The advisor instructed the wife to tell her husband that she would only agree to cooperate with him if he would be willing to live for four months on the equivalent of the reduced income and try it out with her before he gave up his present job. Only then if she consented after the four-month trial -- should her husband be permitted to make the change.

    Under no condition was the woman advised that she should go to work and leave her child at day care as her husband wished; this was not considered an appropriate outcome of the trial period. She was told that no major decisions in the home were to be made unless both she and her husband were in complete agreement on it. She was offered materials and literature to assist her in following through with this course of action, and the counselor was more than willing to speak directly with the husband on national radio and tell him the same thing before the Christian public.

    The host seemed to take for granted that any reasonable Christian pastor would have counseled this woman similarly and that she could obtain equivalent encouragement practically anywhere in this effort to resist her husband. Indeed, there was no hint that this counselor was countering the normal standard of the Word of God or of the church in his advice, but the whole of it appeared to be offered as wholesome and godly counsel to the wife in her dilemma.

    No one called in to the talk show host to disagree with him; the host offered no biblical texts in support of the advice he gave.

So what do you think of this counsel? What scripture encourages a wife to resist her husband in such a circumstance, when she thinks he is being irresponsible, or asking her to do something that is against her better judgment? We have already looked at all of the relevant biblical texts in our overview, so we have all the information we need to begin to sort this out.

Telling a wife to submit to her husband only when she agrees with him is empty -- the command is only relevant when there is a real difference of opinion between a husband and wife. Putting children in day care is no small thing and may not be best for most families, but is it a sin? Can the wife look for ways to help out financially without leaving her children? Is there a way for her to help her husband take a job that he will enjoy more while they all live happy and healthy? We should first make suggestions to this end and see what she says.

Perhaps it will eventually come down to the fact that the husband actually is selfish and irresponsible and is unilaterally demanding his own way in this case. Can we read 1st Peter 3 honestly and still tell her to defy him? I cannot. I'd agree that day care is probably not best for kids, all else being equal, but I'd say that her defiance of her husband would be much worse for the general health of the family and for her own spirituality. Failing any appeal to reach a compromise, submitting to her husband and doing as he demands, while praying for God to change his heart, appears to me to be the only correct biblical response.

Scenario 2

    As I sat in a marriage conference the summer of 2001, I listened to a renowned pastor tell how he was called to the home of a couple in the midst of separating. The wife was packing her bags and the husband was in a panic. The pastor arrived at the home, and was passionately informed by the wife how she had lived in destitution with her husband for many years ... with him controlling her every move. She had been reduced to begging for the car keys whenever she wanted to go about town, and to begging for money whenever she wanted any small thing. She was told when to go to bed, when to rise, what to cook ... and that afternoon she had happened upon one of her husband's bank statements. She had had no idea that they were ... wealthy.

    Just one of the husband's bank statements reported a balance in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. The wife was exploding in exasperation. The husband looked to this pastor for help: "Tell my wife ... "

    The pastor, author of a very conservative book on the biblical foundation for marriage (Marriage On The Rock), who ministered on national television restoring God's design for the marriage relationship, who had helped many thousands of couples avoid divorce ... looked alarmingly at him. "Sir, you have a BIG problem on your hands ... and if I were you I would do something about it right now! I would not blame this woman at all if she left you. I'd not blame her one little bit! She has as much right to all this money as you do!" This was his simple counsel.

    It worked.

    The pastor happened upon the couple in a restaurant several weeks later. The husband was not at all pleased to see him and was obvious about it. The wife was delighted, however, and informed the pastor that they were doing quite well. She was spending a LOT of money! And very glad to be doing so ... much to the pastor's pleasure.

    This minister of the Word of God gave no compelling biblical text to justify his counsel. No one in the conference challenged him.

Again, if we look at the Word, was this godly counsel? Was this husband, miserly and overbearing as he appears to have been, requiring his wife to sin, or to violate common decency? Does the wife have the right to spend his wealth as she pleases?

Clearly, when a man understands the one-flesh principle of Ephesians 5, which was at the root of the counsel offered, he will not be so unreasonably domineering, unilateral and selfish in his marriage. But what should the wife do until he gets on board with God in this? Can we read Ephesians 5 and still tell her she is free to rebel against him? I cannot.

However, that said, if I were actually in this teacher's shoes and confronted with this couple in the midst of their distress, knowing what I know about western culture and current domestic law, I don't think I would have responded much differently, at least at first. If a man can't see the stupidity of treating his wife like this, especially in western culture today, hiding his wealth from her and thinking she will never find out, much less the unhealthiness of doing so in light of God's calling for husbands in Scripture it is unwise at this point to honor his request and harass his wife, trying to coerce her into submitting to him. When she is heading out the door thinking about which attorney to call, there is not much of an option left. I would not have used this pastor's same reasoning, but I think the sentiment of my response would have been very similar.

However, that said, I suggest that if the laws of our land did not allow a wife to strip her husband of half or more of his wealth, separate him from his home and children and force him to support herself and the children from a distance, as an outsider and a visitor, as she invites another man into the home to take his place, all at her whim and insistence, then I expect this scenario might have played out much differently, and the counsel of this teacher would not have worked at all.

The proper response here, as I trust we shall soon see, is to invite the husband into community with believing men who love their wives and who will challenge him to do the same, not encourage or support the wife in rebellion against him. The only godly counsel I can see for the wife, if she will hear it, is to continue to submit to and pray for her husband, and to ask God to give herself the grace to be thankful for him as she does.

Scenario 3

    A friend of mine went to his pastor ... my pastor, at the time ... for counseling on behalf of his wife. She was not interested in serving her husband or obeying him, and it was evidently generating some conflict in their home. My friend was hoping that our pastor would counsel with his wife and give her sound instruction in her proper duty in the home, for she refused to listen to his own teaching and she would not search the Scriptures for herself.

    It was in fact both true and well known that a number of women had approached our pastor with similar complaints against their husbands, accusing their husbands of emotional neglect, insensitivity and harshness. Without exception, these women had been offered great encouragement and their husbands soberly counseled and warned. Our pastor had openly confronted a number of men in this regard and had counseled them plainly after the words of God to walk in love with their wives, to give them honor as unto the weaker vessel and to cherish and nourish their wives unconditionally as Christ does the Church. What was my pastor's response to this man's unusual request?

    Instead of approaching the wife, my pastor scolded my brother for his selfishness, reprimanding him for his insensitivity and cold-heartedness. My pastor never spoke with his wife. Rather, my pastor gave this husband instruction in how to minister to and serve his wife, as Christ serves the church, and informed him that this was his most important task in life. He stated that all of the problems in his home and his wife's unhappiness were entirely his own fault, and that he was evidently a selfish and ungodly example in his home. He told the husband that until he would give himself to ministering to the needs of his wife in a godly way, he should not expect things to get any better, but to get even worse.

    My pastor assured my friend that if he would sacrificially and unconditionally minister to his wife that she would gladly fulfill her role and that their home would then become happy, peaceful and orderly. But, should she not respond for some reason, he was to continue in this selfless service to her unconditionally for the rest of his days.

    My friend did not tell me this story ... my pastor told me himself ... with an apparent sense of bewilderment and dismay that any man familiar with the Word of God could be so blind and selfish as to have asked him for such help.

What of this pastor's counsel, or lack thereof? Here, I might tend to agree with him in a sense: one spouse asking an authoritative figure to press the other for their own personal benefit does seem unhealthy and contrary to the spirit of Christ, unless the situation is severe. However, the pastor was evidently a bit one-sided about it; he should have responded similarly when wives complained against their husbands, encouraging them to examine themselves to see if they were being respectful, pleasant, submissive and quiet. It seems to me better to provide extensive teaching on both marital roles in friendly,  non-confrontational contexts, and leverage godly community and personal accountability to encourage all spouses to strive to fulfill their own roles as well as they are able.


The Way of the Lord

Applying God's Word in our lives definitely requires wisdom. The Bible must be taken in its entirety, and significant cultural differences between present-day and biblical times must be taken into account. If we contemplate the harshness and unreasonableness of wicked men, and meditate upon the injustices committed against women in patriarchal societies in order to justify departure from the standard of God and improve the lives of women, we will not redeem such men ... nor truly improve the lot of women. Departing from God's ways will only decimate the home and bring further ruin to the lives of all. God's commandments are not grievous and following them ourselves when others do not is not only best for all in this life, it is eternally best for all as well. However, if we apply God's principles blindly, without compassion and wisdom, we can also miss the mark quite painfully. We must humbly commit the keeping of our souls to God in well doing, even in the face of wickedness, as unto a faithful Creator ... One that knows what He is doing and loves us deeply

When society strays from the truth, bringing those who come to faith into complete alignment with holiness takes time and should generally be done by degrees, considering their frame. In western culture today, it is common for one or both spouses to come to marriage without a biblical expectation or orientation. Bridging the gap between cultural moorings and spiritual and emotional health often requires significant changes deep within, in both genders, and may be very difficult. Allowing time for such a transition rather than demanding immediate compliance is an art, not a science. Ultimately, deep dependence upon the Holy Spirit's guidance and a deep appreciation for and an understanding of the grace and mercy of God is an absolute necessity.

We should, for completeness, certainly also look at the extremes of domestic sin through God's eyes, according to His Word, and understand the limits of what God calls a married woman to endure. We must establish when divorce is appropriate, and we must explore and understand God's commands to the wife in all of the relevant conditions pertaining to these limits. This topic of divorce seems larger in scope than the purpose of this present work, and so is addressed separately in Is It Lawful? Within the boundaries of marriage we have challenge enough. Let us thoroughly explore the Word of God to understand His command and call, and then let us cling to what we have found and encourage others to do the same.
 

Wives, Submit...

God commands a wife in Ephesians 5:22 to submit herself to her own husband as unto the Lord. What does this mean?

As we have noted in our thoughts on the general charitable disposition in which God enjoins us all to walk in Ephesians 5:21, one can submit to another person without being under the authority of that other person. This is consistent with the secondary definition of submit: "to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or will of another," (Webster) which inherently lacks the concept of authority. Certainly, this is the sense in which all believers are to submit to one another.

This secondary understanding of submit certainly applies in the context of marriage for both spouses and is mutual, and it might be reasonable in this context to conclude that this disposition comprises the duty of the wife were it not for the fact that the wife is explicitly instructed to submit to her husband ... "in every thing." (vs 24) We find similar wording in the parent-child relationship (Col 3:20), in master-servant relationships (Col 3:22), and in regards to civil authority. (Rom 13:1-7) In each case, the primary relational context for such wording is not a mutually submissive one. Further, the wife is called to "be subject" to her husband in a way that is similar to the subjection of the Church to God Himself. This emphasis in the text is significantly problematic to merely employing this secondary definition: there is little if any sense of "mutual submission" between the Church and God.

At the very least, the wording of Ephesians 5 distinguishes the mutual roles of husband and wife and defines them as unique regarding the kind of submission that is appropriate. At the very least it implies that the wife should generally yield to her husband's opinions and decisions and yield to him most of the time, unless she is in desperate disagreement with him. Surprisingly, while considered quite radically conservative now, this behavior is perfectly acceptable even to some feminists, so long as it is perceived to be in the best interest of the woman and left, not as a moral requirement, but merely as an option for the wife if she is so disposed.

A well-known feminist, Laura Doyle, heartily promotes this kind of submission in her book, The Surrendered Wife , claiming that it is the fundamental key to a successful and rewarding marriage. She simply instructs wives to refrain from controlling their husbands, to consistently encourage their husbands to do as they think best, and to enthusiastically cooperate with their husbands in everything their husbands wish unless someone's health, safety or emotional sanity is directly threatened.

Laura claims, both from personal experience and from successfully helping thousands of unhappily married women turn their marriages completely around, that any woman who is willing to do this -- and has a reasonably sane husband -- can completely transform her marriage into a relatively ideal one by simply following this simple principle. She teaches this concept as a feminist without apology in the face of militant feminism for one simple reason: it works! She testifies that women who are willing to do this generally find themselves treated wonderfully by their husbands and are very happy in their marriages ... while those who will not are often quite miserable.

When the world is willing to follow more of God's counsel than those who claim to be his people it is indeed a very sad thing. If one could just get evangelical Christians to even come this far, just far enough in God's direction to function, it would evidently be enough to restore fundamental health to the home and bring great blessing to the Church and society.

To move beyond this practical earthy notion of submission to the ultimate intention of God's instruction to the wife, one may simply note that the primary definition of submit, according to Webster, is: to yield to governance or authority. This primary definition does not fit at all with most any notion of submission in the home that is accepted today. The concept of the husband having legitimate authority over his wife in marriage as a governor is totally foreign to the western mind.

However, this primary definition of the word submit, implying an authoritative scope, actually does appear to apply in the husband-wife relationship, as seen in the definition of a stronger English word, subjection, used in English texts of Scripture to define the fundamental duty of the wife. Subjection is defined as being in a position or in circumstances that place one under the power or authority of another or others.

So, in order to understand what it means to be subject to another in an authoritative sense, we must also take a moment to consider the concept of authority itself, which is not as easy to define or understand as we might at first think. What is authority, exactly, and where does it come from?

Our dictionary defines authority as follows: "the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience." If we think carefully about this definition, it is not describing something obtained merely by having the strength to enforce our own way, to get what we want by intimidating and threatening others. Authority implies the responsibility and also the ability to decree that certain behaviors are morally appropriate or inappropriate for another, not merely undesirable to those in power. As such, all authority is a spiritual gift: it is an instance of God delegating to human beings the privilege and responsibility of representing Him before others.

Having authority means having the right to define a moral duty or boundary that others are obligated before God to acknowledge, honor and obey. In a very real sense, it is being placed in a position to cooperate with God in defining moral behavior, to act as His representative within a certain sphere or context. Within that context, God allows human beings to define what His will is for others; He allows men and women to represent Himself in ways that are outside the context of general moral law.

God defines several types of authority in Scripture and has provided a clear limit to all authoritative privilege: no authority may define boundaries that contradict or violate Moral Law as He has revealed it. Rather than explicitly naming every kind of behavior that is acceptable in every conceivable context, God has established authoritative figures to represent Him in key relational contexts. We may identify these authority figures by understanding the kinds of people God tells us to obey and in what context or spirit we are to obey them.

God gives civil government authority to define moral boundaries within a specific geographic area in order to promote public safety and general welfare within that region. The Bible does not say, for example, that it is a sin to speed down the highway or to drive while intoxicated. Instead, God says that it is sinful to violate civil law. (Rom 13:5) So within the context of a society in a given geographic area, civil law becomes moral obligation through divine decree; God allows government officials to represent His authority in this context.

However, officials may not decree that lying, stealing and fornication are acceptable. God has not given government the freedom to entirely redefine morality but requires government to operate in a manner that is consistent with His moral law. This can be seen in the Apostolic response when they were commanded to stop preaching the Gospel: "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Act 5:29) When any type of authority commands us contrary to the revealed will of God, our obligation is to God, the ultimate source of authority. When sinful men in positions of authority abuse their power before God by commanding us in ways that are contrary to God's revealed will then we are responsible to recognize this and to disobey them instead of disobeying God Himself.

Similarly, parents have authority in their home and can define moral boundaries for their own children. The Bible does not tell children, "Thou shalt keep thy room clean," but it says, "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord." (Col 3:20) Parents have authority from God to define behaviors that are appropriate for their children: God treats violation of these boundaries as moral problems even though they are not explicitly enumerated in Scripture. Like civil government, parents have the right to represent God in the home before their children, but this authority is certainly limited: parents cannot rightly demand that their children sin against themselves or others.

In the same way, when God commands wives to submit to their husbands in every thing, He is giving each husband the right to define moral boundaries for his wife. The English word subjection or subject in Ephesians 5:24 expresses the idea of the wife yielding to authority vested by God in her husband: "as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." To be subject is primarily, again, to be under authority or control. The Greek word, hupotasso, generally embodies this idea of being under authority, quite often indicating a subservient-authoritative relationship when it is used in other places in God's Word. It is comprised of hupo meaning under, of inferior position or condition and tasso meaning to arrange in an orderly manner. (Strong)

Hupotasso describes how a deacon is to have his children under obedient control: "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;" (1 Tim 3:4) how servants are to be fearfully yielded to the will of their masters: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward;" (1 Pet 2:18) how the entire cosmos has been brought under the dominion Jesus Christ: "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him;" (Heb 2:8a) how all believers are obedient to God, their heavenly Father, pictured in how we reverently submit to our earthly fathers: "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb 12:9) This word is also used to describe the general disposition required of women in the church: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection ;" (1 Tim 2:11) "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." (1 Cor 14:34) In each case, the context helps us to extend and flesh out the implications of this word subjection. It is this word that God uses to define the primary duty of the wife in her relationship with her husband.

God powerfully illustrates the scope of this authoritative aspect in marriage when He likens marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church: Christ has the right to define moral boundaries and responsibilities for the Church. In this same kind of way, the husband has the right to define behavior that is appropriate or inappropriate for his wife, and she is to be under the authority and control of her husband in these things. However, as with any other type of authority, in no case is the wife to voluntarily violate the plain commands of God. Further, since her husband is under civil law, a wife should not cooperate with her husband in any illegal activity. Apart from this, the scope of the husband's authority appears to comprise every aspect of domestic life, in the same way ... "as the church is subject unto Christ" comprises every aspect of the life of the Church.

There is no matter in heaven or in earth in which the Church is not to be completely subject unto the authority of Jesus Christ with all reverence, fear, and joy. Though she is His bride, even of one flesh with Him, she is His servant and should abide under His explicit control and authority. Jesus Christ is absolute Lord of the Church. Though Jesus Christ loves, protects, ministers to, and serves the Church in an amazingly selfless way, no one can properly say that the divine relationship is a mutually submissive one. The fact that we are one flesh with Christ (Eph 5:30), or that He has called us friends (John 15:15), or that we are in covenant with Him (Heb 12:24) does not mean that our consent is required when He moves, that He is abusive in commanding us, or that we should not passionately and selflessly serve Him and obey His every command. We are to "serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Ps 2:11, see also Heb 12:28-9) In giving us a context to support the spirit of His instruction to a wife in her relationship with her husband, I do not see how God could have given us a more radical illustration. He made no effort whatsoever to temper it.

In considering how believers are to serve the Lord with fear, it is significant that God concludes Ephesians 5 with an admonition to the wife to reverence her husband. Very little attention is given to this word reverence in modern commentary or in a public discussion, but the word is translated from the Greek phobeo from which we get our word phobia, which is an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something. It suggests a demeanor in the wife with her husband that is much different than respect or honor, which Christians are generally enjoined to express in any social context. (1 Pet 2:17) The term is significantly revealing in God's definition of the marital relationship; it strongly suggests, perhaps even directly implies, that the husband occupies an authoritative role in marriage.

Phobeo is often used to express a response of deep concern when violating an authoritative will, as indicated in the following in bold (from the same root word): "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? If thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Rom 13:3-4) "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward;" (1 Pet 2:18) Evidently, the wife is generally called to respond this way to her husband, with fear, due to his role in a positional sense, rather than in a practical or relational sense. In other words, God is not telling every wife to be afraid of her husband because he is malicious and dangerous (though some husbands are) -- God is evidently telling the wife, even the wife of a kind and gentle man, to fear the position of her husband, his role , his authority. She should fear crossing or disrespecting him because of the authority God has given him in the home. Even if he is kind and gentle as an individual and does not respond violently, there is very real danger, both in temporal and spiritual consequences, in violating authority delegated by God himself.

The husband evidently has the right to define moral boundaries for his wife in their marriage and home outside the context of moral law, a context that implies that this subjection is of a significantly different nature than that mutual submission enjoined between brethren in Christ (Eph 5:21, 1 Pet 5:5, also hupotasso). Men in the church do not retain this kind of responsibility over one another. The marital relationship may consistently retain the concept of authority and jurisdiction whereas relationships between brothers in Christ may not: " the head of every man is Christ." (1 Cor 11:3a) Although authoritative relationships exist within each gender, as between mothers and daughters, headship implies a type of authority that applies across the gender boundary rather than within it: "the head of the woman is the man." (1 Cor 11:3b) This is particularly evident in the way that God has designed the marital relationship, as boldly illustrated by God in Ephesians 5:24.

Woman Is the Glory of Man

The concept of a husband's authority in marriage, suggested in both the authoritative relationship between Christ and the Church, in the use of phobeo,  and in the definition of hupo: meaning to be of inferior position or condition, is further reinforced by the explicitly stated biblical concept of Man's superior position in the divine order embedded in Creation itself: "For a man... is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man." (1 Cor 11:7) Man reflects the glory of God since he is made directly in the image and glory of God: only Man was created in the image of God, Woman was not created in this same manner. It is never said in the Bible that Woman was made in the image of God. Woman was taken out of Man: she reflects the glory of Man, not the glory of God. This shows us that the woman has a lesser glory than the man. Woman reflects the glory of God in a lesser degree; she is a likeness of a likeness of God.

This lesser glory is a matter of position, a type of spiritual rank: "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." (1 Cor 11:3) In this ranking Woman is beneath Man and subject to him, just as Man is beneath (angels, who are also beneath) Christ and subject to Him, and as Christ is beneath the Father and subject unto Him. As God is the Head of Christ, is positionally greater than He (John 14:28), and directs the work of Christ (John 5:30), and as Christ is the Authority in charge of every man, positionally greater than every man, and the Head of every man, and is Lord of Man, so Man is the head of Woman, positionally greater than she, and has a type of authority over her by God's decree and design.

Woman's very purpose in existence, from an earthly perspective, is defined to be one of ministry and help to Man: "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (1 Cor 11:9, also Gen 2:18) Woman is thus of an inferior glory, in a subordinate position and in a subservient role to Man in the order of Creation. Each of these concepts is certainly brutally offensive to feminism ... and subject to the sad abuses of proud self-serving men.

This superior rank of Man is certainly not a matter of eternal spiritual worth or value. It may even be temporary ... though Christ's subordinate relationship to the Father is evidently timeless, as well as the angelic position ... suggesting that both the angelic-human and male-female differences may also be timeless. It is evidently not merely coincidental that all twenty-four names embedded in the fabric of New Jerusalem are distinctly masculine, Rev 21:12-14). The odds of this occurring by chance are about 1 in 17 million. It was evidently deliberate and it will be an eternal reminder of God's present order during this earthly age.

If a Woman Vow A Vow

In confirmation of the authoritative aspects of the marriage relationship, the authority of a husband in the home is profoundly illustrated in the fact that God allows him to intervene in his wife's spiritual life in a practical way, covering her, protecting her, and partially managing her spiritual walk. The exact same principle is applied between a father and his daughter as between a husband and his wife. This power is given to Man by God as His authority in the home and is explained in Numbers 30. The entire chapter is as follows:

    1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children
    of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.
    2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul
    with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that
    proceedeth out of his mouth.
    3 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;
    4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound
    her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows
    shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall
    stand.
    5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her
    vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand:
    and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.
    6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out
    of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
    7 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.
    8 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.
    9 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they
    have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
    10 And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond
    with an oath;
    11 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her
    not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound
    her soul shall stand.
    12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard
    them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or
    concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made
    them void; and the LORD shall forgive her.
    13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may
    establish it, or her husband may make it void.
    14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day;
    then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her:
    he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he
    heard them.
    15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them;
    then he shall bear her iniquity.
    16 These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a
    man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her
    youth in her father's house.

The making of a vow is perhaps the most intense form of spiritual, emotional, and cultural expression that exists. Vows are binding on the person who makes them and God holds the person making the vow accountable for keeping the vow regardless of its impact on themselves or others.

The male authority in a woman's life, her husband or her father, may intervene in either establishing or nullifying a vow made by her if and when the male authority becomes aware of the vow. Widows and divorcees do not have such a covering. Men have no such covering at any point in their lives; only women in a domestic environment have such a covering and they always have this covering so long as they remain part of an household with male authority present.

Clearly, only vows that such a woman makes public can be managed in this way, which naturally includes any vow she makes openly and any private vow that affects others in the home (such a vow may become evident when her behavior is noticed and called into question, even if the woman does not openly inform others of it). When the father or husband hears of the vow he may speak against it and disannul it, or he may approve of it and establish it by speaking to confirm it or simply by remaining silent. God respects the decision of the male authority and accordingly either holds the woman accountable for her vow or forgives her and releases her.

The fact that a man can intervene in such an intense expression of any woman under his sphere of domestic influence is evidence of his authority in the home. If he is called upon to give order to the most intense, sacred, and profound expressions of life when they affect him and others under his care, he is certainly in a position to give order to general aspects of domestic life. By God's design the will of the man is the pillar upon which domestic order rests.

This benevolent headship does not imply, however, that the man is to intrude into and manage every single aspect of a woman's personal or spiritual life, as if she had no personal privacy and no individual walk with God. An overly fastidious, intrusive, overbearing dominance in the husband is not expected and is harmful and unhealthy. Laws prohibiting sexual activity when a woman is menstruating (Lev 18:19) indicate a woman's general right to at least some limited personal privacy. Further, the fact that a woman could evidently make a vow that goes unnoticed by her husband, dealing with issues in her own life in a manner that does not directly and noticeably affect those about her, and that she is never explicitly commanded to reveal such personal things to her husband to obtain his approval, indicates this general principle in the spiritual realm. A woman is certainly a unique, precious and responsible individual in her own right. However, any outward behavior is subject to the rule and management of proper domestic authority. This authority is her father while she remains in his house and her husband when she is married.

Adam Was First Formed

These general concepts apply across all racial, religious, cultural and chronological boundaries based upon the order of God in Creation: "Adam was first formed, then Eve." (1 Tim 2:13) God presents to us this principle, that Adam was formed first, before Eve, as evidence of divine order and the reason for different requirements in both the public and private conduct of men and women. The implications of the timing of the first husband and wife have not been given adequate attention in recent times, and it appears that this neglect is related in some way to the blurring of gender-based functions and roles in the church and home. God evidently intends for us to see great significance in His order in Creation as a principle to guide the behavior of women in both public and private domains. How is it that God expects us to see such significance in the fact that Adam was first formed? Perhaps we do well to ponder this deeply for a moment. With a little imagination drawn from the implications of the narrative, we find some interesting possibilities.

In the dawn of the sixth day God forms Man of the dust of the ground, breathes into him the breath of life, defines him as a Man and gives him a personal name: Adam. Adam becomes a living soul ... the only earthly creature named by God in this manner (as far as we know) ... and begins at once to commune with his Maker.

Adam and God enjoy a rich time of experience together as God introduces Adam to his new surroundings, perhaps even giving him a global tour -- a bird's-eye perspective of what he is soon to govern.

God plants a splendid garden and places Adam within it, causing every kind of plant to grow for him, plants beautiful to behold and delicious to eat. Perhaps Adam names all of these plants, as ruler of this virgin earth, as he will soon name all of the birds and the beasts when God presents them to him. Whatever Adam calls any living thing ... it is.

God gives Adam his work: he will husband the garden ... dressing it and keeping it groomed. This will be his home, the place where God will commune with him and enjoy the fruit of his creative labor with him. God also plants two special trees in the midst of the garden: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil ... and the Tree of Life. These are named by God and are not subject to Adam's dominion. These are evidently the only beings beyond the authoritative scope of Adam, they have a spiritual nature in them that is other-worldly; perhaps they represent God's ultimate sovereignty in the universe, over Earth and over Adam. He gives Adam the first command, and warns him of the consequence of sin.

God, in communion with Adam, perhaps as they observe together the workings and wonder of Creation, the ecosystem, the water cycle, the sun and moon and stars, all of the birds and beasts... eventually reveals to Adam His intention to create a helper for him. They discuss the topic and begin to consider the nature appropriate for such a helper. God proceeds to make anew each kind of beast that roams the fields and each type of bird that graces the air, brings each one to Adam for review and accepts his reaction as they commune together in rich exploration and discernment. Adam names each animal appropriately but rejects each one as a suitable help mate. Man is reasoning, judging, applying creativity and wisdom in working with his Maker... anticipating the nature and appearance of his new mate. A rich experience is being planted in him during this time that he enjoys only with God ... Woman does not yet exist, though she is certainly being discussed at length, conceptually at least.

Finally, some time on the sixth day, perhaps quite late in the day, after exhausting all external possibilities in their mutual search for a mate for Man, Woman is finally fashioned and brought to Adam. God makes her while Adam is asleep. When he awakes ... she is the one type of being he has not yet seen ... this is what he and God have been pondering together, anticipating for most of the day. God brings the new creature to Adam, just as He has all of the other creatures, to see what Adam's reaction will be.

God does not name His new work; He acts as He has with all of His other creatures. As has been His pattern, God presents this last creature to Adam for his review, just as He has all of the other animals. As far as we know, this creature has no independent definition or purpose, she has only design and potential -- and she has never heard a spoken word: the first word she will experience will be from her husband ... the one who will define here and give her purpose by either accepting or rejecting her, himself being the one she is so well designed to help.

When Adam sees his mate next to God, he immediately recognizes her as his perfect companion, more wonderful and beautiful than he had imagined. He enthusiastically receives her as his companion and helper -- and instinctively yet thoughtfully names her ... just as he has all of the other created beings. He does not ask God to introduce them, ask God what He has named her or who she is. Adam has already been taught that he is lord of all, that he has dominion over all things. He knows deep within that this is Woman, uniquely his, taken from him and made just for him: he names her Woman, accepting her as his own. (Gen 2:23) Adam defines her and gives her purpose as he names her, knowing from within both who she is and why she is. Adam also gives his wife a personal name, Eve, just as God has named him. (Gen 3:20)

In this way Adam receives his wife and gives her a unique identity with himself. She is part of him, one with him. She finds her purpose and her identity in relation to her husband as he interacts with her and expresses her name and explains her purpose. He is her teacher from the very outset, and God calls them both together, simply, Adam. (Gen 5:2)

Adam communes with Eve as he has communed with his Maker, evidently discerning that his mate knows nothing of what has transpired before her creation, and realizing that he must do for her as God has done for him. He eventually takes her on a tour of the Garden, teaches her the names of the plants and the animals, and carefully explains the vital restriction of the forbidden tree.

Adam has become his wife's mentor, teacher and protector ... introducing her to her new world because he was there first and gave much of it identity. He has already had vast experiences with his God that she has not known, and he shares his understanding with her as they become one.

The whole arrangement and timing of their creation, as well as the express purpose of her creation, gives order to their marriage relationship. When God returns after the Fall to continue His communion with the newly wedded couple, He calls to them by calling to Adam as a man, as the representative head of his home. Adam's precedence and prerogative and responsibility upon the earth is clear, and predates sin.

God would have us see and accept the precedence of Man in the order of created things. Man's precedence and position and prerogative in the divine order predates the Law, and even the Fall. There is nothing "cultural" about its applicability today. It applies in society, in government, in the Church, and in the home. It is a matter of authority and precedence and function.
 

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