In Colossians 3, Paul begins by specifying the primary responsibility that the wife is to focus on in marriage.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18)
The word “submit” means “to place or arrange under,” to place one’s self in subjection to the authority of another. In the case of wives, to their own husbands. This does not teach that all women are to be in subjection to all men, or that the wife is to be subject to all men, but that each wife is to submit to her own husband. This is not a popular teaching today, and would not be considered “politically correct.” Many people think these ideas are archaic, hopelessly out of date. It is assumed that this teaching relegates women (wives) to a position inferior to that of men (husbands). While this might be the opinion of some people in this world, this was never God’s intention.
For instance, some are offended by God’s use of the word “helper” or “help meet” (KJV) in Genesis 2:18 to describe what the woman would be for Adam, but there is nothing in this word that indicates a subservient role for women (wives). In fact, God uses this same word numerous times in the Old Testament to describe Himself as a “help” for His people Israel (cf. Psalm 33:20, Psalm 115:10-11). The word “helper” is not the role of a servant but of one who provides help or assistance in areas where another has need. In other words, the wife, as a helper, provides what is needed to complete her husband.
Men and women are different, in spite of what some social and political forces today would have us believe. God created men and women this way, with pronounced differences physically, socially, emotionally, and, in some ways, even mentally. Because of their differences, most men and women need someone to help make them complete, so God instituted marriage to bring a husband and wife together to live as one.
Since men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, it makes perfect sense for God to give husbands and wives different roles and responsibilities in the marriage relationship. Loving, successful marriages occur when both the husband and wife acknowledge their respective roles, as set down by God in His Word, and are obedient to God in fulfilling their unique responsibilities. The wife’s role is laid out by God in Genesis 3:16, after Adam and Eve sinned against God. God spoke these words to Eve:
“… Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
The position of authority in marriage was given by God to the husband. He was to “rule” or have dominion over the wife. He was not to be a dictator or a taskmaster, but was to have the responsibility of leadership in the home.
Paul compares the relationship of the wife to her husband with that of the church to Christ.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:22-24)
When a wife submits to her own husband, she is to do so “as to the Lord.” His role as head of the family is a God-given role, so when the wife submits to her husband, she is, in effect, submitting to the Lord and to His will and purpose for her marriage and home.
The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the Head of the church. This is what God declares to be His order and arrangement. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, in the same manner wives are to be subject to their own husbands “in everything.” When a wife submits to her own husband, she demonstrates her reverence and respect for God (Eph. 5:21). In Colossians 3:18, Paul describes such submission as being “fitting in the Lord.” The word “fitting” speaks of one’s due response or duty. The wife’s duty to her husband, and more importantly her duty to God, is to submit to her own husband.
Since the husband is the head, does this imply a lesser position for the wife? Not at all! Women and wives are very special and very valuable to God. The apostle Peter spoke of this in his first letter to the Jews of the dispersion.
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1-5)
Peter also stressed the importance of a wife being submissive to her own husband, even a husband who is not obedient to the Word. This may refer to an unbelieving husband or to a believing husband who is not being obedient to the Word in regard to his walk. Peter speaks of the impact a wife’s submission can have on such a disobedient husband. Her chaste (pure) conduct accompanied by her fear of God can be used of God to win her husband to the Lord.
Most women today, including many Christian women, put too much emphasis on their outward appearance: arranging their hair, adorning themselves with fine jewelry, or wearing fashionable clothes. While these things are not necessarily wrong in themselves, the Lord is more interested in “the hidden person of the heart.” Real beauty is that which is incorruptible; beauty that is found in a “gentle and quiet spirit.”
The word “gentle” is also translated “meek.” A meek spirit is one that maintains an attitude toward God which accepts His dealings with us as good and therefore rests in Him and His strength. This meekness is seen in kind and gentle dealings with others, even those who treat us with malice or hostility. Meekness is the opposite of selfishness or self-assertiveness. The word “quiet” means one who is tranquil; one who does not cause disturbances, but seeks to be at peace with others (Rom. 12:18). Peter states that this type of gentle and quiet spirit is “very precious in the sight of God.” The word “precious” literally means “of great price,” thus implying something of great value; something worthy of great honor; something that is held to be very dear. Women (wives) who possess this type of beautiful spirit are of great value in God’s eyes.
Wives and mothers play a vital role in the Christian home. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul instructs Titus to teach things which are proper for sound doctrine. He is to instruct the older women to be “teachers of good things.” In particular, they are to teach the younger women the following:
“That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:4-5)
Older women are to “admonish” the younger women. The word “admonish” means to instruct them to be sober minded, to keep themselves under control. The word also carries the idea of carrying out their duties to God; duties which center on their home and family. A wife’s duties begin with love; love toward her husband and toward her children. Wives are to be discreet (of sound mind), to be chaste (morally and ethically pure), to be homemakers. The word “homemaker” does not refer to a good housekeeper who always maintain an immaculate home, but to one who “keeps” or “guards” the home and family. The King James Version translates this word as “keepers at home.” In our society today, there are an increasing number of attacks against God’s view of home and family as set down in His Word. The wife’s role as “keeper” of the home is clearly an important responsibility. When she takes this responsibility seriously, does that which is good, and is submissive to her husband as head of the family, her actions stand as a solid testimony “that the Word of God may not be blasphemed (spoken against).”
What about husbands? You might expect their prime responsibility to be: “husbands, rule well over your wives,” but this is not what God’s Word teaches.