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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 27, 2011
The Role of the Wife
Over the next six sermons or so in my exposition of Colossians, I will be covering the role of each person in the family and our relationships in the work place. In order to understand the commands that Paul gives in these verses it is critical that we understand the context for them.
Over the last few months we have studied Colossians 3:1-17 and the radical changes that occur when a person places their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from sin and becomes a Christian. A Christian is redeemed and regenerated by Jesus so that he is reconciled to God. We were entrapped in Satan’s dominion, but God through Jesus has transferred us to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14). (See: The Prayer for the Colossians, Pt. 2 ) We were dead in our transgressions, but we have been made alive together with Jesus and raised up with Him (Colossians 2:13; 3:1). (See: The Superiority of Being in Christ) Jesus has reconciled us to God by His death on the cross for our sins so that we now have peace with God (Colossians 1:22). (See: The Preeminence of Jesus Over the Church) The person we used to be has died with Christ and been replaced by a new man that is chosen of God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:3, 12). (See: Christian Virtues, Pt 1 – The Character of the Elect)
The result of these things is that we are to put to death the vices of our old way of life such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Colossians 3:5). (See: Mortifying the Flesh, Pt. 1) We are to set aside our old ways of thinking and their consequential actions such as anger, wrath , malice, slander and abusive speech (Colossians 3:8). (See: Mortifying the Flesh, Pt. 2) We are to then put on
Christian virtues such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness,patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other and love for they reflect Jesus living through us. (See: Christian Virtues, Pt 1 – The Character of the Elect & Christian Virtues, Pt. 2 – Living on a Higher Plane & Christian Virtues, Pt. 3 – The Love of the Elect) In addition, the peace of Christ is to control our hearts and we are to be thankful letting the word of Christ richly dwell in us so that we can teach and admonish one another in song, hymns and spiritual songs. (See: Christians Virtues, Pt. 4 – Peace & Thankfulness & Expressing the Indwelling Word of Christ) Last week we examined Paul’s final general exhortation in that section that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” That command includes everything we communicate and all our actions and behaviors. (See: Doing All in the Name of Jesus)
It is out of this context that Paul now makes specific application of these principles to particular groups in regards to the role they are to fulfill in their relationships with others. This week we will examine the role of the wife,and in future weeks we will look at the role of the husband, the children, the parents, employees and employers.
Follow along as I read Colossians 3:18-4:1. 18 “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things,for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart. 22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who [merely] please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do,do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. 4:1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”
Let me begin this study by making some preliminary comments in preparation for examining what the Bible says about the role of the wife. I would like to both warn about improper application of this verse and avoid some cultural land mines if possible.
First, be careful about your response to each of these messages. Each one will be directed at a particular group, today it will be those who are wives,but those who are not part of that particular group also need to pay close attention so that you will understand the role of others and know how to encourage them in fulfilling it. Also be very careful about using this information to attack and criticize others. We are to seek to build one another up, not tear one another down. Those who are quick to criticize others will usually have a lot more about their own life that can be criticized.
Second, be aware that due to the prevalence of feminist thought in American culture that the subject of the role of the wife has become controversial even within the church. When I say feminist thought, I am not referring to just the radical views of the feminist extremists such as those in N.O.W. whose touchstone issues are abortion for any reason and lesbianism. I am referring to the general view of women and their roles that have come to be accepted by most Americans including professing Christians. You will know what I am talking about when you start feeling uncomfortable by what I will be saying this morning.
Third, be aware that many preachers are fearful of speaking on this issue because they do not want to risk the possible backlash. I heard of one preacher that even succumbed to the silly argument that he was not qualified to speak on issues concerning women because he was not a woman. If it was a matter of personal opinion that might be true, but is not a matter of opinion but of declaring what God has said. Everyone is obligated to bring their thoughts and opinions into alignment with what the Lord says about every subject He addresses. He is the sovereign creator and knows the truth even about women. My responsibility as a pastor is to faithfully explain what God has revealed in His word, and as much as I would like to avoid having any women here upset at me, I am much more concerned that I am true to what God has said.
Colossians 3:18 simply states, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” That command fits into the wider context of God’s commands concerning marriage, so before I discuss the idea of wives submitting to their husbands, I want to make sure you know God’s design for marriage, for the wife’s role must fit into that design.
Paul explains in Ephesians 5:31-32, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Verse 32 is a quote from Genesis 2:24 where God brings Adam and Eve together and institutes the first marriage. Verse 33 is an explanation of the purpose of marriage. Marriage is not so much about the individuals involved but about the glory of God. Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to the church. Your marriage is to bring glory to God.
This is the primary reason that the continuing talk about marriage being anything other than between a man and a woman is not only nonsense, but is evil. God is the one that instituted marriage, so only He can define it, and He did so when He created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and then gave her to him. In addition, since marriage is to glorify God as a picture of Christ and the Church, then anything other than a man and a woman is a perverse evil. Those promoting such perversions need to repent and turn from their sin to the forgiveness and freedom from sin that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in serious danger of the Lord turning away and leaving them condemned in their sin for eternity as explained in Romans 1:18-32.
Because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church there is always hope even for marriages that are in turmoil and in danger of breaking apart. God is much more interested in the marriage than anyone else for He has a larger and more important purpose for it.
Any two people that are willing to follow God’s design for marriage can have a wonderful and joyful relationship because that is always the side benefit of doing things God’s way. The marriage will still take a lot of work and there will be hard times, but God will use even those things to mold each one into what they are supposed to be. There will then be purpose and meaning in life because the reason for existence is being fulfilled.
There is no such thing as an irreconcilable marriage, just individuals that refuse to be reconcilable to God and their spouse. When a husband and wife will not follow God’s design, then the marriage will be at best a hollow shadow of what it could have been, but more often, the marriage will flounder into just two people living separate lives under the same roof or it will fail completely and break apart. While it only takes one spouse to destroy a marriage by a refusal to follow God’s design, there is good news for the spouse that does strive to follow God’s design for their life. They can still bring glory to the name of the Lord and be a blessing to others. We are told in 1 Corinthians 7:14 that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse.
Remember, marriage is more about the glory of God than it is about the two people that are married. The purpose of marriage has a divine objective. That objective can still be met, but ever since Adam’s fall every marriage starts out with a strike against it. If husband and wife each take a swing at marriage in their own wisdom and power they will strike out, but if Jesus Christ is the focus of the marriage and they let the Holy Spirit be the one that guides and empowers them, they will hit a home run.
The Role of the Wife
The institution of marriage begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:18-25 records, 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Someone called alongside to assist). 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought [them] to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky,and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man,and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, (Isha – female man) Because she was taken out of Man.”. 24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The scenario God used here set Adam up to know his lack of companionship and his need for someone who would be his compliment. God then made Eve from out of Adam’s rib. Paul comments on this in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 saying, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
That verse is repulsive to feminist thought and is the reason that Christian women who have been affected by feminism tend to think of Paul as a male chauvinist and not worth listening too. The truth is that Paul elevated the position of women for women in many of the ancient societies and in even within much of Jewish practice at that time were treated little better than farm animals. Paul emphasized a woman’s equal standing and worth before God in verses such as Galatians 3:28, but Paul also understood what God had said from the very beginning and made clear statements about the proper role God has given to women. Paul did not compromise on the truth and neither should we. God created the woman specifically to be the helpmeet, the perfect compliment, for the man.
If this truth that the woman was created for the man’s sake bothers you, then you have a two fold problem. First, you are in rebellion against what God has done, and second, you have also failed to understand the incredible importance of the role God has given to women. You have been deceived into the absurd lunacy of feminism that places premium value on those characteristics which are typically male rather than female. There is very little that is feminine in feminism. I have addressed this particular topic in the past in several of my Mother’s Day messages (See: The Incredible Worth of a Woman).
Eve had no problem with the role that God gave her, but that role became a curse when she and Adam fell into sin. Prior to that Adam and Eve were completely open with each other. The word, “naked,” in Genesis 2:25 means “without impediment” and is actually a mental concept. It is a lot more than just not having clothes on. The very same word is used in Genesis 3:1 to describe the serpent as “crafty.” Adam and Eve were not selfish. They were not sinful. They were completely open with each other and willingly served one another in the roles God had given them, but sin brought a curse upon them.
In Genesis 3:14-19 God places a curse on the serpent, Eve and Adam. The aspect of the curse on Eve at the end of verse 16 relates to our subject this morning. “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” While there is some controversy over the exact meaning of “desire” here, I believe the case is very strong for it to include the idea of wanting to control her husband, for the contrast to it is him “ruling over her.” Rather than being a compliment to one another, they were now in competition to one degree or another. Selfishness desires what it wants and demands from the other leading to conflict that easily becomes a power struggle in the marriage over the use of time and resources.
God’s design for marriage is against this curse of sin. It moves both the husband and wife back into their proper roles within which they again compliment one another rather than conflict with each other. Paul explains here Colossians 3 and in Ephesians 5 what is necessary for a husband and wife to live in this manner.
The Issue of Submission
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” The word translated “be subject” or “submit” (NKJV) here is uJpotavssw / hupotassÃ´. BDB/Thayers lexicon explains its meaning: “A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” With this understanding it is easy to see that the idea in this passage is a voluntary following and not a demanded obedience. To submit is to place yourself under another through the surrender of your will and rights to that other person.
Where can such a voluntary submission come from given the selfish and sinful nature all humans have and the specific curse women have upon them? It comes from the change that occurs when she becomes a Christian. In Ephesians 5 Paul deals with the same subject of the family and makes the same command concerning the wife, but gives more background and explanation for how to do it.
In Ephesians 5:15 Paul warns about the need to walk as wise men and understanding the will of the Lord in being filled with the Spirit. The context in the passage makes it clear that this means to be controlled by the Spirit since it is contrasted to being drunk with wine. Out of being filled with the Spirit comes a joyful and thankful attitude and being “subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). That is a command to all believers,not just the women. In the next verse Paul makes his statement about the role of the wife, but the verb is supplied from verse 21. A more literal translation of verses 21 & 22 would be, “be being submissive to one another in fear of Christ, the wives to their own husbands as to the Lord.” All Christians are to be subject to one another, but in the marriage the wife is in particular to take on that role in her relationship with her husband.
The ability of a woman to do this will be dependent on her relationship to God and being filled with the Spirit. In fact, this cannot be done without the Holy Spirit. Certainly there are cultures where the women are subservient and obedient to their husbands, but that is out of fear, not love. They are dependent on their husbands and fear losing their provider, their position in society, and even their children. The submission called for here is based on a love for Christ that is then extended to the husband willingly. She submits primarily for Jesus’ sake because it pleases Him and secondarily for her husband’s sake. The Christian woman needs to realize that her serving her husband as a godly wife is a major way in which she serves Christ, so it is a voluntary submission to him in the same way that she submits to Jesus Christ.
Paul states the reason for this submission in Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body.” The idea of the husband being the head is one of position of authority and responsibility, not one of superior to inferior. You may even have superior abilities and skills in many areas compared to your husband, but the question here is not one of ability and skill but of order and purpose. Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of every man, and man is the head of a woman. The headship of the man is not arbitrary, but follows the order of creation, as Paul points out in 1 Timothy 2:13. And it also follows the purpose of our creation as we have already pointed out from Genesis 2. The woman was created to be the compliment of the man, not the other way around.
In a few weeks we will see that God will hold your husband responsible for how he leads you in godliness, but God is going to hold you responsible for how you follow his lead in godliness. Wife, it is God’s will for you to demonstrate your trust of Christ in your submission to your husband which Paul says in verse 24 is to be in like manner to your submission to Christ – “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything.” The apostle Peter is even stronger in this than Paul. Turn to 1 Peter 3:1-6.
1 Peter 3 1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any [of them] are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 And let not your adornment be [merely] external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves,being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Certainly this is easier if your husband is a Christian man who lives out the principles of the Scriptures, but notice from verse 1 that your submission takes place even if your husband is disobedient to the Word, so you are to do this even if he is not living as he should or is not a Christian at all. No one says this is easy, in fact it is impossible unless you are filled with the Spirit. Yet, this passage says that the way to win your husband is through your “chaste and respectful behavior.” Your humble submission is what God will use to draw your husband to Himself.
Not let me quickly point out that this idea of submission does have limitations. Paul says here in our text in Colossians 3:18 that wives are to be subject to their husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Here then are some qualifiers to that submission.
First, your submission is primarily to God, then to your husband. You cannot submit to anything he may ask you to do that would violate any of God’s commandments. Ideally your husband would fulfill his role in helping you be holy and blameless, but there are many men that would lead you in the opposite direction. As Peter and John said before the Sanhedrin, “we must obey God rather than men.” The same must be true of you.
Second, submission does not mean you are to allow your husband to abuse you. In 1 Corinthians 7:10,11 Paul says, “. . . the wife should not leave her husband, but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband.” Separation is the Biblical alternative to an abusive marriage. That is the wake up call for the man to get his act together. I will add here that physically abusive men need some jail time for two reasons. 1) The God given role of government is to be an avenger of evil and it needs to carry out that role. 2) More importantly, the loving thing to do is make the person aware of the seriousness of their sin that they may repent and walk in holiness. A little jail time on earth to be shaken up to the need for salvation is much better than eternity in hell.
Third, submission does not mean that you have to coddle an unbelieving husband so they will not leave you. 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” You are to live a godly life with all humility and with all righteousness. If your spouse cannot stand to see Jesus Christ living in you, then you are free to let them leave. Just be sure it is righteousness of Christ in you that causes them to leave and not you driving them away by your own sinful manipulations. I remember a man asking me in all seriousness if God would approve him leaving his wife and going to live in the desert since Proverbs 21:19 says that is better to live in the desert than live with a contentious and vexing woman.
The Issue of Respect – Ephesians 5:33
Turning back to Ephesians 5 we find verses 25-33 all deal with the husband’s role. That gives you an idea of who gets the most instruction, but the very end of verse 33 has one more command to the ladies, “and let the wife see to it that she respect (or reverence – KJV) her husband.”
I believe few women really understand the importance of their influence on their husbands. Sure, there are a lot of jokes about her changing his wardrobe and manners into something more socially acceptable, but I am referring to accomplish anything significant in this life. The saying that behind every great man is a good woman is more than a cliche. It is a general truth. Remember that you were created to be his help meet, his companion that would enable him to function properly and accomplish something with his life. The Proverbs 31 woman enabled her husband to take a position of leadership in the community (Proverbs 31:23). For all their bravado, men are generally fearful and insecure. He may never admit it, but he wants and needs someone to believe in him and encouragement to succeed. God has given that role primarily to you wives. You treat him with respect and he will try to take on the world. If you belittle him, you will either lose him or watch him shrivel up into a shadow of what he is supposed to be.
You say there is much about your man that you do not respect? The scripture does not say he has to be perfect for you to respect him. Start in the areas you do respect him and then learn from there to treat him with respect.
Power to Succeed
What is the major reason that women struggle in submitting to and respecting their husbands? It is because their own walk with the Lord is lacking so they are not filled with the Spirit. This lack leads to very poor marriage choices resulting in difficult marriages. Those who are single need to be very careful about who you agree to marry. After marriage, the continued spiritual lack results in selfishness and pride and therefore resentment of being called to play what she thinks is second fiddle to her husband. Why should he get the glory? Why does he get to do all the important things? Why should he hold the reigns of power? Why do I have to do what he wants? etc. etc. That brings me back to my major point this morning.
If you are to fulfill your God given role as a godly wife you must be controlled by Holy Spirit first. You must see your life the way God sees it and learn to value what He does. We place too much importance on doing what we think is important rather than on being what God says is important. It is completely up to God what position he puts us in, what gifts He gives us and the extent to which those gifts are used. That is as true in the church as it is in the family (1 Corinthians 12). What God wants from us is simply humble service to Him from our hearts. The Lord values faithfulness, not “success” as the defined by the world. The importance of the position God has given to women is incredible and should never be underestimated by either men or women, so don’t you do that. (See: The Incredible Worth of a Woman). Do not be jealous of other people including your husband. You just be the most godly wife you can possibly be and know that it is pleasing in the Lord’s sight. Put off the vices of the old nature and put on the virtues of the new. Submit to God, fulfil your role and watch Him at work in your life and in the life of your husband.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “wife” is used. Discuss with your parents the role of a wife in marriage and how it can be carried out.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the immediate context of Paul’s commands in Colossians 3:18-21 concerning the roles in the family? Why should we be careful about criticizing another member of the family if they are not fulfilling their role well? What is the purpose of marriage according to Ephesians 5:31-32? What hope does this give to a struggling marriage? How does God define marriage? What conclusions can be made about efforts to define marriage in any other way? What is the role of the wife according to Genesis 2:18-25? What is your personal response to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 that the woman was created for the man’s sake? Explain the reasons for your response. Was Paul a male chauvinist? Explain Paul’s view of women. Why is the feminist movement an absurdity? What was the relationship like between Adam & Eve prior to their fall into sin? How was that relationship cursed after the fall? How does God’s design for marriage mitigate against that curse? What does it mean to “submit” in 1 Corinthians 3:18? How insight does Ephesians 5:15-22 give to the idea of submission and how it can be done? Ephesians 5:23 & 1 Corinthians 11:3 state that the man is the head of the woman – what does that mean, what is its basis,and why would it be wrong to consider it to be a position of a superior to an inferior? What makes it possible for a godly woman to fulfill the commands in 1 Peter 3:1-6? What limitations are there on a godly wife being submissive to her husband? Explain. What effect can a wife have on her husband’s success? What is respect and how can a woman show it to a husband who is not perfect? What is the source of power for a wife to succeed in her role? If you are a wife – how are you doing in fulfilling your role? What needs to change? How & when will you change it? If you are a husband, how is your wife doing in fulfilling her role? How can you help her to fulfill it? If you are single, what characteristics should you be looking for in a prospective spouse?
Sermon Notes – 2/27/2011
The Role of the Wife – Colossians 3:18
The Christian is radically changed by Christ, so we put off the old vices and put on new _____________
_________________ we do in word or deed is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus
The radical change of ___________must also be applied to fulfilling our God given roles in relationships
Be careful about your response to each of these messages – seek to ________________, not criticize
The prevalence of ____________thought has made Scriptural command controversial even in the church
Preachers don’t like to have people made at them, but they must declare God’s ___________nevertheless
Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to the church, it is to _____________________
__________ defines marriage as between a man and woman – so anything else is a perverse evil
No one cares about marriage more than ____________- so there is hope for any marriage
Even if one spouse fails, the other spouse can still glorify God by fulfilling their role in ______________
There is no better marriage than the one with __________at its center & both spouses living by the Spirit
The Role of the Wife
Paul __________the position of women – but he did not compromise the truth about their God given role
Feminists reject this for they are 1) in ________against God & 2) ignorant of a woman’s incredible worth
___________to the fall into sin, Adam & Eve were “without impediment” with each other – Genesis 2:25
The curse on Eve (Genesis 3:16) included her desire for her husband and him _____________ over her
______________ desire replaced complimentary selfless service
God’s design for marriage fights against this curse through complimentary _____for the husband & wife
Be subject / submit (uJpotavssw / hupotassÃ´) – a __________________ surrender of will to another
Eph. 5:15-30: Walk as wise men; be filled with the _______; be subject to one another, roles in marriage
All Christians are to ______to one another, but the wife has the particular responsibility to be submissive
This is a submission rising out of being filled with the Spirit and ______________Christ and her husband
Ephesians 5:23 – The husband is the head – a position of authority and responsibility, not _____________
1 Peter 3:1-6 – An ___________________ task without the Holy Spirit enabling you to do it.
Limitations on Submission – “as fitting in the Lord”
1) Submission is to God ____________, then your husband. You are not to follow a husband into sin
2) Submission does not mean allowing your husband to ___________ you – 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
3) Submission does not mean _________________ an unbelieving husband – 1 Corinthians 7:15
The Issue of Respect – Ephesians 5:33
Your husbands success will be greatly _______________ by your ability as a wife – Proverbs 31:23
He does not have to be perfect to show him _____________,start with the areas you do respect
Power to Succeed
Wives struggle with submission because of a __________in their own walk with the Lord
To the degree you are controlled by the Spirit you will be better able to ___________your role as a wife
God places you in the position He wants you to be in – your responsibility is to be _______________in it
The position of the wife is of ________________ value – do not underestimate it or diminish it
Live according to your new nature in Christ, and be the _______________ wife you can possibly be.
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