Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.
So much has been written on this subject, and so much has been misinterpreted. This is one of the ‘hard’ sayings of the Bible. If you will bear with me for just a few minutes, I think this might help. If you are still reading at this point, it’s because Holy Spirit wants to talk with you. The ride may be bumpy but when the Spirit is leading it is always beneficial.
The first step to understanding this verse is to examine the subject audience. In this case, it is WIVES. Not husbands, not children, not pastors or teachers. The Scripture is talking directly to wives.
The next step is to examine the verb: submit. Submit means to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another. So to submit is a voluntary action. The inclusion of the word ‘yourselves’ after the verb is reinforcement of the idea that the action is voluntary. No one is being bullied into this position of submission. It is voluntary on the part of wives. Confusion in the body of Christ often stems from the word ‘submit’ and the lack of knowledge and understanding of the original language and the translated word. Just to keep the record straight, ‘submit’ is a voluntary action, as opposed to ‘subject’ which is the act of subduing another. Look at it another way: using the same word in the same sentence, changes the acting party. “One who submits …” is one who is under authority, as opposed to “One who subjects…” is one who is in authority.
The last phrase to examine is the object of the submission. In this case, it is husbands. Wives are to voluntarily surrender to the authority of their husbands. It doesn’t say ‘husbands beat your wives into submission’ or ‘husbands lord it over your wives’. It says for the wife to voluntarily decide to follow the lead of her husband. Not someone else’s husband. Not their friends, neighbors, family members, church members or anyone else who may be a part of their marriage circle – to their husbands.
There are a number of issues that misinterpreting this Scripture has caused, not only to the Body of Christ but also to the testimony of Jesus Christ and that of professing believers. Take, for example, those who believe that this passage gives husbands the right to beat their wives into submission. How does that make Christianity different from Islam? Or what about those who use this verse to control (SUBJECT) their wives or the women in their congregations? Aren’t they simply being bullies? I would ask them this question: when was the last time God bullied you into doing anything?
NO, you cannot use Jonah as an example. Jonah was a prophet. In those days, a prophet who did not publish the prophecy God had given them was killed and Jonah knew that. He also knew that if he went to Nineveh and gave the prophecy, the people would repent. His problem was that he also knew Israel to be a stubborn and stiff-necked people who struggled when it came to repentance, and if Nineveh repented where Israel had not, it would make Israel (the people of GOD) look bad. So instead of bringing reproach on Israel and the name of God, Jonah refused to give the prophecy and tried to run away even though he knew God would kill him. It must be noted that God did try to kill Jonah but then relented and saved Jonah because God knew Jonah’s heart.
It is possible to find other verses in the Scripture to provide stand-alone support for the false doctrine of subjection of wives. However doing so refutes the Scripture as a whole and the entire character of God, who loves and is love – perfect love. Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Remember Abigail? She was a woman who voluntarily submitted herself to her husband who was, according to Scripture, a man with a bad disposition whose very name means ‘fool’. Yet Abigail also used wisdom and her act of obedience brought her great reward because she was following and honoring the King.
Ladies, God loves you and does not want you to be in subjection to cruel and abusive men. He has established a hierarchical structure with the husband as the head of the house but if the ‘head’ of the house is violent or abusive God is not demanding that you stay in that place. Instead God has made provision for wives to escape abusive situations. Protect yourselves. Protect your children. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
Husbands have a great responsibility and will answer to God for the way they treat their family. Women hold a special place in the heart of God and He dotes on His daughters. Think about the way a husband or father dotes upon their little girl. God’s devotion to His daughters so exceeds that, it is immeasurable. He wants us protected, nurtured, provisioned and loved, and He has provided a framework and directions to fulfill His purpose.
God expects the men in our lives to protect us. 1 Thessalonians 4 talks about how men are to act – not with lust, but with self-control. Men are not to defraud another person through sexual acts. If ever a man hurts a woman with sexuality, they are rejecting God. Another instance of God wanting women protected occurs in the Matthew 26:7-13 where the woman with the alabaster box of perfume anointed Jesus. Remember how the other men present became angry at her, but Jesus spoke up and defended her, protecting her from their anger. In a time and place where men considered a woman to be chattel, it was unheard of for a man to protect a woman. Yet, here was Jesus, doing just that. God’s command to husbands is to love their wives as Christ loves the church. A tall order, don’t you think?
Need some other examples of God thinking we’re special? John 20:1, a woman was first at the tomb. Matthew 28:8, a woman was the first to proclaim the resurrection. Luke 2:37, a woman was first to preach to the Jews. Acts 16:13, a woman was first to greet Christian missionaries in Europe. Acts 16:14, a woman was the first European convert. I could go on, but you get the drift.
God cherishes His daughters. God delights in our presence. God loathes disciplining His daughters – it breaks His heart to have to do it – so he places men between us to bear the brunt of our discipline and punishment. God has given us the role of wife, mother, daughter. Yet instead of taking advantage of the buffer zone, women abandon God-given roles. Men don’t have a buffer zone – we’re special. We’re loved, cherished, adored, pampered, coddled, and protected. So many of us have stepped out from under that covering – making demands and vows without our fathers’ or husbands’ guidance, or sometimes in direct opposition to their desires. We’ll be held accountable for those! I don’t know about you, but I like it better the other way. As long as my covering is making Godly decisions, I’m following him! Remember Abigail.
Now for the hard part: ladies, God wants us to submit – not for His sake, not for our husband’s or father’s sake, but for OUR OWN sake. You see, God holds men accountable for their wives’ and daughters’ decisions and actions, and for their well-being, and that PROTECTS women. Our husbands and fathers are our covering – a buffer of protection between us and the world AND God’s anger. Note that I said a buffer between us and God’s ANGER, not us and GOD. God wants intimate and loving relationship with us. He doesn’t want to discipline us unless He absolutely has to. How do I know that? His Word tells me that. Numbers 30:3 – A maid’s vow is her father’s responsibility. If he lets it stand, then he is responsible for the outcome. If he doesn’t, then it is of no effect. Numbers 30:2 talks about a man’s vow standing. A father or husband can nullify the vow, and the woman will be forgiven. Numbers 30:13-15 – A husband may establish or void a woman’s vow. If the husband holds his peace, then the vow is established. If he later rescinds the vow, then HE bears the woman’s sin.
Now, the woman’s liberation movement has twisted these scriptures to the point that they are unrecognizable. They say it means we are less than men, that we don’t have the same rights and privileges, and that we should. Hogwash! This scripture means that the father or husband are responsible for the woman. God will hold them accountable for their wives /daughters’ actions and their well-being. Through this, God has offered us protection from His wrath by placing fathers / husbands as covering for us. This same protection carries over into the New Testament. In Ephesians 5: 21-29, 33 – This scripture talks about submission – one to another. Once again, it has been perverted to make it seem like God esteems men over women, and we are less than they are. In point of fact, that is NOT what this scripture is saying. What it IS saying is that men are commanded to love, nurture, cherish and protect their wives as Christ loves and protects the church – how would you like to be held accountable for living up to that standard? Wives are commanded to respect their husbands – and how could you not when you look at this scripture and see that God expects the impossible of your poor husband? (A task he can only accomplish through God.) The husband is the head of the wife – this is an awesome responsibility. He’s responsible for her well-being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And if he isn’t doing his job, GOD will deal with him. You don’t want to be in the way. What a treasure to have – a GOD that loves you so much, he’s given you someone to take care of you. And He will hold that someone accountable, even for YOUR decisions. Stop and think about it, ladies. When was the last time God was harsh with you over anything? Have you deserved it? Probably. But he doesn’t do it.
And how are we supposed to treat our husbands and fathers? Do we talk down to them? Do we point out their faults and shortcomings to anyone who will listen? When they make a mistake, or miss God’s direction, do we browbeat them? I’d like to think we’ve grown beyond that, but I know that isn’t necessarily true. Jeremiah 31:22 – “ . . and a woman shall compass a man. ..” What does that mean? It means a woman shall protect a man. Need another example? How about the story of Nabal and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. Here, clearly, is the example of a Godly woman, protecting her husband. Nabal was about to pay for his foolishness with his life when his wife, Abigail, stepped in and protected him. She brought the offerings to the King, and she asked that Nabal’s iniquity be upon herself. She acknowledged the foolishness of her husband, and pleaded for forgiveness, not for Nabal, but for herself because she took the sin upon herself. What was the outcome? The King relented, and she and her household were saved. . . . at least, they were all saved except Nabal, who was slain by God, but not by the King. And what happened to Abigail? She received an upgrade. So ladies, the next time your husband / father does something really foolish, step up to the plate and become an Abigail – God will bless you for it.