The WISDOM of SUBMISSION

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”


The Lord’s people are called to act with wisdom. It is His desire to teach us the right way to live to protect us from heartbreaking experiences and aimless wandering. Simply put, acting in wisdom is the application of His divine truth to our personal human experience.

Sometimes I think wives may need the Lord’s wisdom more than anyone due to the complexities and pressures of our many roles as helpmeet, mother, sister, friend, and citizen. Our strong need for some guiding insight may be why God depicts Wisdom as a woman in His Word. While I’m comforted that He accepted me in my weaknesses, it thrills me that He also has a blueprint for the woman into whom He intends to make me. I especially love the very apt description of one early Christian writer who says Wisdom is "radiant and unfading, easily discerned by those who love her, and found by those who seek her." 

For this blog entry, I would like to specifically consider, “What is the wisdom behind Lord’s desire for a believing wife to be submissive to her husband?”

Ephesians 5:24,32-33
But as the church is submissive to Christ, so wives must in every respect be submissive to their husbands . . . There is a great hidden meaning in this, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. Let each of you love his wife as much as himself, and let the wife revere her husband.

The Lord reveals that within their own marriages, wives are to enact the mystery of the marital union of Christ to His Bride, the Church. This is the path of wisdom that our God has set according to His holy will. Given the self-centered state of spouses in a modern marriage, the obedient fulfillment of our role as a submissive helpmeet would be a phenomenal testimony to His power.

The laying aside of the self for another can only be accomplished by following Him in complete trust and obedience. Can you imagine the impact the church would have on the world if she were actually living in a holy manner? Certainly, the impact would be even greater than when the Church does not conduct herself in a holy way.

In my local church, we have recently experienced the damage an unholy action such as marital unfaithfulness can cause. With horror, we read about our shame in the local newspapers, and we heard the mocking, despising reaction of the world over our pastor’s stumble. I mention this not to throw any rocks, but to illustrate that failure in our own marriages will have the very same negative impact on Christ’s reputation (His reputation, NOT His reality), among those who know us. The scale of the reverberating circles of destruction may not spread so widely for us, but they will certainly overtake and negatively buffet our children, our family, and our friends. A failure in a Christian marriage is the ultimate case of “the salt of the earth” losing its saltiness.

Because so much is at stake in a Christian's marriage for the Kingdom of God, wives need to ask, “What exactly is this holy submission supposed to look like?”

I Peter 3:1-2
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives - - when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

This I Peter passage opens with the word “likewise” - a sure signal that we have to look to the proceeding verses for further edification of what the Lord has in mind. Check out:

I Peter 2:18-19
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

And -

I Peter 2:21
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, He did not revile in turn. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.

Jesus trusted the Father and submitted to His will without complaint or balking. We see in the verses above that His response is to be the measure of a wife’s behavior, so if, despite the Lord’s example, you still don’t see a submissive role as an honorable one, let’s read on:

Philipians 2:5
Have this mind among yourselves in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death . . .

I Peter 1:12b:
It was revealed to the Prophets that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things into which angels long to look.

And finally -

I Cor. 11:10:
That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
(Note: It’s submission to authority, not what’s on her head, that is of interest to the angels.)

Women are privileged to model the submission of Christ to the Father. Through this, they display Him before the whole world and to unseen spiritual beings. Before this audience, men are to model His headship; women are to model His submission.

Having seen the pre-incarnate Christ in His glory, the angels were amazed as they observed His submission to the will of the Father through the taking of a human form, suffering, and dying for our sins. They continue to find this yielding of His glory and His humble submission an astounding event. It is a wonder of love they have difficulty grasping.

The whole plan of redemption is unfathomable to them because they were created to be servants to the Lord Most High, and therefore, their own state is fixed. They have no ability to conceive of themselves as other than they are - obedient. They always obey God because this is how He created them, and they find our human rebellion scandalous. Because they were created to be completely reliable, God has also imbued the angels with immense power. Miracles do not impress them. There isn’t a single miracle in the Bible, save one (our redemption through the resurrection), that wouldn’t be mere child’s play for them to accomplish. 

What does get angelic attention - the thing that causes them to shout God’s glory - is the sight of one of the daughters of Eve, brought to life from living-death through the Son’s submission to the Father, in her turn purposefully choosing to take up Christ’s attribute of submission within her own marriage. They know that only the power of God can quicken the dead to life, and only the power of God can quell our immense human pride. This is something the spiritual realm can appreciate as a bona fide miracle! (Remember, they have been watching life on earth from the beginning of creation, so they certainly understand who we are, how utterly dead we are, perhaps far better than we understand these things for ourselves.)

A wife’s submission to her husband is a testimony about the unsurpassable, selfless love of Christ which she displays not only to the world, but also to the entire spiritual universe. Women are highly FAVORED by God when He asks them to model this aspect of Christ's character.

Counter-intuitive as it may be to proud humanity, Christ’s submissiveness may be His most glorious trait. It is the one by which our salvation was accomplished. To despise it is shameful. If women will demand honor, this is their honor. 

If you have difficulty seeing the wisdom behind this truth, reflect on what Jesus had to say about the demonic spirit motivating Peter as he argued with Christ about going to the cross. Also, remember that the Lord has promised He will use a wife's submission redemptively. This may most notably be seen in the case of a wife whose husband is disobedient to the Word, but it will also be influential to many far beyond this.

Submission is the Lord’s wisdom for wives. The ultimate wisdom is obey His holy will.

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