How feminism, broken homes, new age parenting and the multitude of other cultural home structures go against God’s plan for a healthy family unit.
Submission has become a dirty word in today’s cultural climate. As with many things, when we take a word or concept out of biblical context and view it through a cultural lens, we pervert the true meaning. This is the case with the word submission. When we hear the word submission, many of us think of things like being a doormat or the slavery of the early years of this country. In church life, we typically go to the scriptures which tell wives to submit to their husbands. However, there is so much more to biblical submission than just wives submitting to their husbands.
To begin, we must understand and believe in the core principles of the Gospel message; that we are created by God, created for God, and accountable to God. We must also have a belief and an understanding that the holy scriptures are inerrant and profitable for teaching. If you reject these fundamental principles, then there will be no foundation for the truths in which I will be discussing and the family design that I will be breaking down.
To fully understand and appreciate God’s design of the family unit we need to go all the way back to Genesis and take a look at creation. “In the beginning” as many of us can remember from our childhood Sunday school classes God created all things. He created them one by one, he reviews His work and finds that it is “Good.” In Genesis 1:26-31 we find ourselves in the midst of the sixth day of creation:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This will be food for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth – everything having the breath of life in it – I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed.
We have just witnessed the first of the three principles we discussed earlier, that God created us. We also see the bibles first depictions of submission and dominance, as God gives man, whom He created, dominance over all the living elements of His creation. Digging a little deeper we can see that in this creation the Holy Trinity is already being introduced when the Father says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” Even the Godhead has roles of dominance and submission which we will discuss later in this article.
Skipping ahead a little we witness the very moment of the first temptation of sin and the fall of man. Eve is persuaded by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit and also feeds it to her husband, Adam. I believe that two things are often overlooked here. First is that Adam is present while Eve is being tempted as scripture reads, “…she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it…” and he did nothing to stop her.
Second, we see God directly holding Adam accountable for both his and his wife’s sin. Genesis 3:9 “So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” It is important to note that God did not need to ask any of the questions that He did in Genesis 3 because He already, being omniscient, knew the answers. I believe it is important to recognize that God first approaches Adam not Eve regarding this first act of disobedience even though it was she who initiated the act that led to the fall of humanity. This begins to build the case that scripture dictates the wife is to submit to the husband as well as to God because the husband is accountable to God for not only himself but also his wife and children. God further clarifies Adams authority over Eve in Genesis 3:16: “He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children with painful effort. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” Looking ahead into the New Testament in the book of Ephesians Paul touches heavily on the roles of wives and husbands. Paul begins in chapter 5 verse 22 as follows: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.”
Before we go any further, I want to point out that it is what Paul says next that disassembles the cultural misinterpretation of submission. In verse 25 Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides care for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”
Paul also pens these words to the church of Corinth, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” To relate the submission of a wife to her husband as being a doormat we would then have to relate the submission of man to Christ as such and even the relationship between Christ and God in this very same way. Going back to Paul’s description in Ephesians we see a deep and unconditional love being described as Jesus submits to God for His love of humanity and as husbands, we are told to have this same love for our wives and wives are told to have this same submissive attitude toward their husbands. To recap before moving forward, so far scripture has laid out that wives are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to submit to Christ. And Christ submits to God.
So what about a husband who does not love her as Christ loves the church? Is she released from this biblical submission? I believe we find that very answer in Peters first Epistle. In chapter 3 Peter writes, “In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.” Our culture has created this attitude and false belief that respect must be earned which often leads us down a very dangerous and slippery slope especially when it comes to our family life. Divorces become acceptable, children’s bad behavior justified, and a husband’s duties and responsibilities to his family become unnecessary. This all becomes possible when we focus on what we think we are deserving of rather than the reality which is that we all deserve hell and everything we receive above that is by the grace of God. Now I feel I need to clarify that these things are not unforgivable as Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. However, we do need to recognize that these things are sin and stand in opposition of God's will.
Just as wives are to submit to their husband scripture also tells us that children are to submit to their parents. From the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, “Honor your father and mother…” to the book of Ephesians in the New Testament where Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.” God is clear that children are to submit to their parents and not the other way around. In today’s cultural climate we see an epidemic where children are running households rather than parents. This new age parenting style where not only is it appropriate but necessary to give your children free rein over their decisions. Where their privacy is a right and punishment is non-existent and where their feelings are held as the utmost of importance more so than their safety or future. Where raising happy children is the goal rather than godly children who are taught to serve the Lord. Many parents, even those in the church, are more concerned with being their child’s friend than their parent. We also see a cultural belief that has crept into the church that the child is the most important part of the family. This is not biblical, and many marriages crumble because the emphasis is placed upon the children rather than the marriage.
When we look at the biblical model of submission, we can clearly see that when you break a link in the chain of submission devastating effects can occur. If Jesus had not submitted to the Father, humanity would be doomed and in similar, although much less severe, fashion if we do not submit according to scriptural models our family units are also set up for failure. Fatherless and/or motherless homes, same-sex parents, wife dominant households and children run homes are all examples of deviations from the biblical model that God has set forth for a healthy family unit. Does this mean that God cannot work in these situations, absolutely not! I grew up with divorced parents one of whom was married three times the other seven, my grandparents also played a huge role in my upbringing, even living with them for a couple of years. However, children who grow up in a biblically modeled home, that is one man and one woman in a monogamous union with a dominant God-fearing father and a nurturing and submissive mother, have far fewer obstacles in life and a much healthier upbringing.
In conclusion, submission is simply an act of obedience and reverence to God and not the bad word society would like you to think. We must not allow the world to form our views on the things which belong to God. While unpopular in today’s cultural climate we must stand firm in scriptural doctrine. We must remember it is God whom we are accountable to and not the world. We as the church focus on so many things that Jesus would say belong to Caesar yet the things that are His we allow the world to dictate our decisions and beliefs.
In The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine, A.W. Tozer wrote, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”
Is this not true of the church, or a family unit as well? If each member is devoted to drawing closer to God will they not be unified amongst themselves? Through the proper execution of the biblical chain of submission, we are aligning ourselves to God thus bringing ourselves closer together simultaneously.