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Are you married? And, if so, do you ever wonder about or struggle with what God means when He states, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22)? As a new Christian and a wife—I did! Then I remembered a visual aid God had given me while growing up. When I was a child I visited a museum that had the stuffed head of a goat—only it had two heads. It was freakish, abnormal, and ugly. And so is a marriage with two heads.

God, the perfect artist and creator, designed marriage to be beautiful, natural, and functional. And He did it by giving it a single head—the husband. And the wife’s assignment? Follow her husband’s leadership and submit “as to the Lord.” Be his teammate, his willing partner is God’s plan. And don’t forget to pour on the encouragement!

~Elizabeth George in “A Single Head

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I’m afraid that some of the most biblically knowledgeable women in the church can also be the most intimidating. We’re blessed to have so many Bible study opportunities for women. But if our knowledge makes us unteachable or difficult to live with, we’re missing the point.

I think some men feel like they need to go to seminary and get an advanced theological degree to be the kind of spiritual leaders their wives say they want. My guess is that these wives may not have a teachable, humble spirit.

For sure, take every opportunity you have to learn God’s Word. But remember what the apostle Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Unteachable

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God must be first in marriage for it to be lived to His glory. However, putting God first in marriage is not easy. Husbands can easily place their leadership of the household as primary, wives can easily do the same with their care of the house, and each spouse can easily put each other before God. These are but a few examples of things that can become idols if God is not kept first in marriage. 

To put God first in our marriages, we must recognize its place. Marriage is secondary and temporary, and God is primary and infinite. Therefore our marriages should always point back to God. To do this, we must submit ourselves to God every day. While all of Scripture helps us to learn our duties and responsibilities, Scripture specifically gives us the magnificent example of Christ and His bride.

In Ephesians 5:22–24 husbands are instructed to lead their wives as Christ leads the church, and wives are instructed to support their husbands as the church supports Christ. What a weighty example to follow! Now reflect upon the fact that it was Christ who was perfect — blameless, with no need to apologize, and yet it was Christ who laid down His life out of love for His bride and obedience to His Father (5:25). 

May we be humbled by Christ’s example and make every effort to live it. May that be true of our marriages as well as our Christian life.

~John Cobb in “Marriage to Glorify God

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It’s usually wise to avoid extremes. This is definitely true in marriage. The book of Ephesians says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Notice what you don’t see here—aggressiveness on the one hand and passivity on the other. The husband has the responsibility to provide loving, humble, leadership. On the one hand, he’s not to be harsh or domineering. At the other extreme, he’s not to be passive or lazy.

The wife is called to give active, intelligent, joyful submission to her husband’s leadership. Like her husband, she also needs to avoid aggression, domineering, or belittling. But she also avoids passivity. She’s not a robot who never speaks up, never participates in the decision-making process, and never challenges her husband if he’s wrong.

Do you tend to lean toward either aggressiveness or passivity? What can you do to move toward balance?

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “A Balanced Marriage

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I really do believe that every experience, if offered to Jesus, is our gateway to joy. The experience may be taking care of a sick grandfather or taking care of the child who is perhaps going to be lame for life, washing the dishes, and, of course, every now and then the dishwasher or stove or something else goes on the blink. You just want to throw your hands up and think, “How did I ever get into this mess?”

There’s something about laundry and godliness, the willingness to do the humble, ordinary thing, which needs to be done. Why shouldn’t it be done by me?

The older I get, the more I appreciate the privilege of having laundry to do, dishes to wash, houses to clean. If we could only realize that all of these which are incumbent upon us and required, when they’re offered to Jesus, they really are transformed. There’s something totally transforming about it.

When you think of that little Mary—I always think of her as being somewhere between 12 and 14 years old—she didn’t have any quibble. She said, “Behold, I’m the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it happen as you say, or be it done to me according to thy Word.”

In modern English, “Anything You say, Lord, here I am. Do anything You want with me.”

~Elisabeth Elliot in “Immersed in God’s Word

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To be a slave of Jesus Christ is to be under His authority. To be a slave means that we look to Him for direction.

Lord, what do You want me to do with my life? How do You want me to use my time? You see, the bondslave, the bondservant, the doulos, exists to fulfill the will and the wishes of his master.

And as we recognize ourselves as bondservants, bondslaves of Jesus Christ, we’re saying “I can’t set the agenda for my life.” The question isn’t what’s on my to-do list for today, the question is, “Lord, what do You want me to get done today?”

And that means that continuously I have to be surrendering my to-do list to the Lord. My to-do list is always longer than what can be done in a day anyway, and frequently the Lord arranges to have interruptions in my day that I had not planned.

It’s easy to become resentful of those until I stop and realize, “Wait a minute, I’m not the one setting the agenda here. I want to know what His agenda is for my day, for my life.”

Those of you who are mothers, you get all kinds of those interruptions. It is hard to plan your day because your schedule is being uprooted and challenged. If you remember that you are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you exist to fulfill His agenda, His wishes, His purpose, then you can respond to those interruptions because the question is not, “Am I doing what I want to do.” The question is, “Am I doing what He has called me to do?”

When I’m called upon to serve, I’m really just getting a chance to fulfill the very purpose for which I was created. So I ought to say, “Thank You, Lord, for this privilege of being Your servant and serving Your people.”

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Is Your Surrender Complete?”

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The Genesis account shows clearly who was made first, and what God’s purpose was in creating Eve.

She was meant to be a helper. So far as I can see, this is not in the least demeaning–for her or for any of us who follow the Master. It is a privilege and a vocation. Much resentment has arisen in women’s minds because of the suggestion…that one’s position defines one’s worth, a grossly secular view. Ought not Jesus’ position (born in a cattle shed, raised in poverty, rejected by those to whom He came, then acting the part of the household slave when He washed the disciples’ feet, and, at last, forsaken by His nearest friends, bound and imprisoned and flogged and finally nailed to a cross) prove to us beyond any least doubt that there is no such equation?

Was His worth impaired by these humiliations? He told His followers that whoever is chief is meant to be the servant of all. Why should we who have the high and holy calling of being His servants, ever protest for equality in the sacred realms of marriage, home, and the church? These are not political arenas, for here a much higher law than the civil one is in operation, the law of love…

God forbid that we Christians should introduce politics into marriage or the church. A glad surrender to the divine order is like a dance–one leads, one follows, each by his or her obedience freeing the other to do what God assigns. There is harmony then, true liberation, and peace. I know. I’ve tried it both ways [my way more often than I like to remember], and only God’s way works.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality

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One of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ contemporaries wrote a preface to the collected works of Jonathan Edwards. In the preface he gives a lengthy description of what Jonathan Edwards’ wife, Sarah, was like. I think it’s a perfect picture of this kind of woman [Proverbs 31:23] who is supporting her husband from her role at home. He says:

In the midst of these complicated labors [and he’s talking about the time when the revival was going on, and life was very, very busy for Jonathan Edwards], as well as at all times, he found at home one who was in every sense a helpmeet for him…

She rendered everything in the family agreeable and pleasant, considering it her greatest glory, and that wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting her husband’s usefulness and happiness.

Did you catch that? She considered it her best means of bringing glory to God and fulfilling God’s purpose for her life in her generation by promoting her husband’s spiritual usefulness and happiness! She knew if she could create a climate in the home where her husband was encouraged to become spiritually mature and fruitful and to be used by God, then she would have been the helper suitable to him.

Now, your husband may not be a Jonathan Edwards, and let me just say, few men are. You don’t have to live with Jonathan Edwards. We respect him from this vantage point of history. That’s easy—to look at another man, your pastor, a counselor, a great Christian leader, and say, “Yeah, I could be a godly woman if I was married to that man.”

You’re not married to that man, and only that man’s wife knows what it’s like to be married to that man. You see him when he’s on the platform, when he’s in front of everyone else, and he’s at his spiritual peak. She lives with him and knows that he, like every other man, has his faults, his failures, his weaknesses, and she has to accommodate with those. She has to live with those just like you have to accommodate and live with your husband’s weaknesses.

So don’t be going and thinking the grass is greener on the other side. God has given you exactly the husband that He knows He wants you to help, and God fashioned you to be the helper suitable to that man, not to someone else’s man—but to your husband.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “A Praiseworthy Wife

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In my twenties, whenever I blew out my birthday candles, I wished for the same thing: I wanted to respect my husband more. I had read it in the Bible, which instructs each husband to “love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy any consistency on this point. While the candle smoke wafted upward, I sat back, crossed my arms, and waited for Tom to do something that I could fully respect.

What was wrong? I thought I needed Tom to inspire me to take the action of respect. Instead, I needed to obey God and take the first step toward respect. It has been said that it is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting. We would be wise to adopt Nike’s motto and “Just do it!”

We live on a small farm, and the term “pecking order” has taken on new meaning for me since we added chickens to our stock. We observed that the dominant chickens chose a chicken to chase and peck. Every time she went near the feeder, they chased her all over the coop—keeping her from the food she needed for survival.

It didn’t take long to determine which chicken was at the bottom of the pecking order. It was the one with missing feathers and patches of puffy, bloody skin. When one of our chickens looked like this, it was only a matter of time before we found her dead on the floor of the coop.

Ever hear the term “hen-pecked husband”? A hen-pecked husband is usually at the bottom of the pecking order in the home. When you emasculate your husband to this condition, you reduce him to a state that is no longer respectable. You have become your own worst enemy because you truly want a respectable husband. Once again, you thought you were helping elevate your husband to higher and higher levels of manhood, but, in reality, you were diminishing him. His place is now at the bottom of the pecking order of your home, and he isn’t able to get what he needs for survival: respect.

~Sandy Ralya in “Encouraging Romance From Your Husband

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As indicated in Ephesians 5:22, God wants wives to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” Out of love and reverence for Christ, a wife should respect and cooperate with her husband as he seeks to lead their family in service to God. As his helper, she should be as diligent about seeing to his needs as he should be to hers. This help and cooperation should be done wholeheartedly and without grumbling, just as it would be given to Christ himself. Thus, rather than suppressing her gifts and talents, a wife should be using them to their fullest, for the benefit of God, her husband, and her children. Doing so will not only bring her personal fulfillment; normally, it will also encourage her husband to love, praise, and serve her more diligently as well (see Prov. 31:10-31).

There are many situations where a husband is selfish, unreasonable, and hypocritical. This alone does not release a wife from her responsibility to respect and submit to him. One of the Bible’s most explicit teachings on respect for authority occurs in Matthew 23:1-3, which says:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

This passage warns us not to confuse position with personality. Even if we do not care for the way someone in authority behaves, that alone does not justify disobedience. (Imagine throwing a traffic ticket back in the face of a rude policeman – you would soon be answering to an even higher authority!) When God places people in a position of authority, He expects us to obey them unless there is a valid reason not to do so.

~Ken Sande in “Love and Respect in Marriage

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It says in Colossians 3:18, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” This is fitting, this is appropriate, this is proper, this is right before the Lord. It is not a cultural preference, it is a spiritual command. “Fitting,” by the way, is a word that has significance. For example, in the little letter to Philemon and verse 8 it refers to something that is legally binding. Thus it is here indicative of a commandment from God…

There is a limit, by the way, to what is fitting in this role of submission. It does not mean that a woman submits to her own husband in that which dishonors God. You remember, don’t you, in Acts how the apostles said when commanded not to preach, we must obey God and not men. If that comes to that, you have to choose to obey God. I think of Vashti in the book of Esther, the first wife of the king. The king came to her and asked her to dance a lewd dance before a drunken crowd and she refused and rightly so…rightly so.

But in the created order and in the proper design of God, it is legally binding by the commandment of the Almighty Himself that a wife be in submission to her husband. It is fitting, Paul says, before the Lord. His leadership is given by God and she is to recognize that and in a humble spirit of loving submission come under that leadership.

~John MacArthur in “God’s Pattern for Wives, Part 1

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