The Role of the Wife in Family Worship
Read Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”
What does Paul mean when he states that wives are to be subject to her husband? It naturally follows that if the husband is to be the leader of the home, the wife is to follow his leadership. But why? To understand this exhortation, we need to put it into the context of God’s ultimate purpose of marriage, that the unity and intrinsic oneness within marriage would reflect the triune God and the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Marriage is not a social construct; it is ultimately spiritual, where the relationship between husband and wife becomes a reflection of the God’s image. The word “one” used to describe the husband and wife relationship in Genesis 2:24 is the same word used to describe the intrinsic unity of the triune God in Genesis 6:4. Marriage is to be a reflection of the community, fellowship, and oneness existing within the Trinity.
Nevertheless, while there is unity and equality within the Trinity, there is also functional subordination. Christ willingly and voluntarily submits to the authority of the Father (1 Cor. 15:28, see also John 6:38; 14:31). So also, the submission of the wife to the husband is not to be forced but is her voluntary response as an expression of her obedience to Christ (i.e. ‘as to the Lord). This does not imply any inferiority just as Christ’s obedience to the Father does not imply any inferiority in his position. Rather her submission is functional subordination for the purpose of supporting his role as the spiritual leader. By doing so the husband and wife become a reflection of the inherent nature that exists within the Trinity where there is both equality and submission. It becomes an act of worship. In her submission she becomes a reflection of Christ and the humility and submission of Christ to the Father.
This is further illustrated by the focus on spiritual leadership. As the husband provides spiritual and pastoral leadership in the home, she is to support him. The importance of this is given in the statement “as to the Lord” and then in the following analogy that compares her submission to the submission the church has for Christ. Just as our submission to Christ is a response to his redemptive work on the cross, so her submission to her husband is a response to his pursuit of righteousness for the family.
As the wife becomes a reflection of Christ in her attitude in the home, she impacts the family for the spiritual growth of both her husband and her children (2 Corinthians 7:13-14). This is even true if her husband is an unbeliever who is not a spiritual leader in the home. While he fails to properly reflect the Father, her continual reflection of Christ becomes a witness to her husband of the reality of the Godhead and can influence her husband and family and draw them to the redemptive work of Christ.
This takes us back to the heart of worship: Worship is not what just what we do on Sunday, it is how we live throughout the week. Worship is living our life in full obedience in order to fully reflect God and his nature. Just as we bring praise to God for his righteousness when we live righteously, so also, in the family, we reflect the Triune nature of God and the relationship the Father has with the Son in the way we relate to our spouse. The way we thrive within marriage during times of adversity is by focusing upon God’s design for marriage; to be a reflection of Him and his triune nature to the world.