Are Wives in Submission to Their Husbands Inferior?

Are Wives in Submission to Their Husbands Inferior?

A woman asked John Piper this question and I thought I would take a stab at it since it is what I teach.

“Hello Pastor John, my name is Jennifer and I live on Long Island. I have a question about complementarianism. It is something I have struggled with for a long time, and it is something I need to have worked out before even considering a relationship or marriage in the future. I know the Bible clearly states that men and women are equal in their standing before God as far as salvation. But in other areas of life I still struggle with feelings of inferiority, because of certain comparisons used in the Bible.

For example, regarding submission, the Bible says that the servant is not greater than his master, and wives are called to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. However, servants are not equal to their masters, and the church is not equal in worth to Christ. In almost every area of life, those in positions of authority are considered more valuable than those under that authority. Just like the President is more valued than the secret service men, and in businesses, managers are more valued than the workers under them, and throughout history women have always been treated as less valuable than men. In light of these things, I greatly struggle with feeling inferior in worth to men. Is there something that you might be able to see that I am missing, as I read through Scripture? Thank you.”

When people ask you about something in the Bible, always take it in context. When she mentioned “the servant is not greater than his master” she was assuming that this meant that “servants are not equal to their masters” but what did Jesus actually mean by this statement? Let’s find out in the Word what He meant. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20) All Jesus was saying here is that because they persecuted Him, they will persecute all who believe and follow Him. We are not greater than Jesus and can’t assume just because they persecuted Him, we won’t be persecuted. So in fact, we are equal to Jesus in how we will be treated!

So many take verses out of context to prove their points as valid when in fact, they prove no such thing. Then she mentions “wives are called to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.” She took this to mean that “those in positions of authority are considered more valuable than those under that authority.” Is this what the Bible says?

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:25-29).

Do these verses support her statement that “those who are under the authority of another are inferior”? Not one bit! In fact, she has been listening to the lies of feminism instead of allowing the Word of God to dwell in her richly because then she would know that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.

Are children inferior to their parents because their parents are in authority over them? No! They are just as valued but there always needs to be an authority structure in every single institution on the earth, including marriage, or else chaos will surely reign.

Lastly, she asked, “throughout history women have always been treated as less valuable than men. In light of these things…” Jesus is the one who came to bring value to women, not feminists. They have devalued women because they have made them feel like in order to have value, they need to become men and do what men do instead of finding joy, purpose, and value in who they are in Christ and all the blessings and promises from the Lord and the value of being at home with their children and as a help meet to their husband. In the eyes of God, this has great value because women are raising the next generation and those who don’t have children or aren’t married can do many things that women should learn to do: nurture and care for others. Then when and if they get married, they will be well prepared to nurture and care for their husband and children.

20 thoughts on “Are Wives in Submission to Their Husbands Inferior?

  1. ” Even when these women begin to feel that something’s not
    right, they are still scared to face their inner, God-given “womanly”
    longings….and buck the feministic-ally- minded culture.”

    One thing that still amazes me, even before I began trying to learn what God says about being a helpmeet, there was this “knowing” that my husband was the one in charge in our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t submit or anything, I just kind of knew deep down in my heart that was how it was supposed to be. I’ll never forget the day I was in for one of my yearly woman checkups. My female doctor asked if I wanted any more children, I told her that I wouldn’t mind having more, but my husband didn’t really want anymore. She then advised me to stop taking my birth control but not tell him and act like it was an accident. Needless to say, I was shocked that someone who was married would be that deceiving and manipulative. That was the last time I seen her. At the time, I had no clue what my role as a wife and helpmeet was, but it stirred me up so much that you would want me to lie to my husband. So, even though I haven’t always “known” or even wanted to know my God-given role, it was there, deep down a longing and desire to follow my husband. I am so glad I finally found the book by Debi Pearl and that opened my eyes to what a real woman is!

  2. I grew up seeing two generations of women flagrantly refusing to submit, and the effects on their marriages was disastrous. No unity, no sweet companionship, but a very them (men)vs. us (women) mentality. And both men were god-fearing, good men… who could never to anything right in their wives’ eyes. That just made me all the more ready to respect and submit to my husband when the time came. Why not stop the generations of sin?! What’s presented in the Bible is such a gracious, complementing, honoring, and beautiful thing. Submission is only hard because we don’t wish to be humble, or held accountable, or willing to put someone else’s wishes above ourselves. Pride and selfishness, to be exact. And sometimes a husband is not perfect (well, never until heaven). Submission is not about feeling good about my place in life, but it’s about my obedience to God. Am I willing to throw it all in and do what he has commanded me to do, being obedient and reaping his rewards (husband’s praise and children calling her blessed). Or am I hardened and disobedient, wreaking havoc around me. Are there hard days? Yes. And yes. And yes. Then, I wrestle with God and His Word, until I’m back in submission, ultimately asking Him to teach me to love and submit better.
    But, do you know how amazing it is to trust in our Creator. That taking a submissive role/a servant’s role (because the greatest of these will be the least and least will be the greatest) opens up a peace that can’t be explained. That quiet, knowingness that I am doing God’s will is priceless. It’s taken years for it to be as easy as breathing, and it will continue to take years for me to master it. Have I seen the blessings? Most certainly. My husband regularly tells me he couldn’t live without me and my kids tell me I’m the best mom ever. So even when I’m asking my honey what he wants to eat this week and making my menu around his likes, or when I ask him if there’s anything I can do for him today, or when I make sure I pass all decisions through him because that’s what he’s asked me to do, none of this is unreasonable. And it’s not about him ‘winning’ or me ‘winning’, or me feeling oppressed (and I don’t, ever. Isn’t that amazing). It’s obedience to God. I know I’m doing His work and being a submissive servant. And it is so good.

    1. RS, that is one of the most beautiful writings I have ever heard on this topic. You have found Jesus and you love Him with your obedience (“If you love me keep My commandments.”). You are that rare jewel in a wife that Proverbs speaks of. My face aches joyously from the big grin you have put on it showing Scripture ALIVE.

      Blessings to you for your faithfulness and to Lori for hers in proclaiming Him!

    2. RS,
      That is so beautiful. While reading it I became overwhelmed with emotion and it brought tears to my eyes. Your family is so blessed that you are choosing to follow Christ “all in”.

  3. I contacted my church about doing a study on wives submitting to their husbands. The lady in charge of women’s ministry said the commitee will discuss it at their meeting in a couple of weeks. She said they might consider doing a short study(whatever that means) on the subject. She said she’ll get back to me. I will keep you updated.

    1. I sure hope she wants you to because the church I tried teaching it I found out very quickly that it was not allowed. An elder called Ken and told him that I wasn’t supposed to talk to women on their property about this subject.

  4. ” Even when these women begin to feel that something’s not
    right, they are still scared to face their inner, God-given “womanly”
    longings….and buck the feministic-ally- minded culture.”

    One thing that still amazes me, even before I began trying to learn what God says about being a helpmeet, there was this “knowing” that my husband was the one in charge in our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t submit or anything, I just kind of knew deep down in my heart that was how it was supposed to be. I’ll never forget the day I was in for one of my yearly woman checkups. My female doctor asked if I wanted any more children, I told her that I wouldn’t mind having more, but my husband didn’t really want anymore. She then advised me to stop taking my birth control but not tell him and act like it was an accident. Needless to say, I was shocked that someone who was married would be that deceiving and manipulative. That was the last time I seen her. At the time, I had no clue what my role as a wife and helpmeet was, but it stirred me up so much that you would want me to lie to my husband. So, even though I haven’t always “known” or even wanted to know my God-given role, it was there, deep down a longing and desire to follow my husband. I am so glad I finally found the book by Debi Pearl and that opened my eyes to what a real woman is!

    1. Yes, life is much better living in submission to our husbands rather than in rebellion to their leadership. I know because I have done both and doing it my way caused strife and doing it God’s way has brought many blessings.

  5. Headship and submission was not created to cause anything but beauty. In my opinion feminists have caused the issue because they want woman to believe submission means woman are less and powerless. Which is completely false. My wife is free to do the things she wants and spend what she wants as long as it doesn’t bring harm to our family. But the problem is every decision I make not only gets challenged it gets argued in front of the kids. And why is that? Because she believes that’s her RIGHT!!! Submission is not a dirty word. It’s a beautiful word. Again the problem women (Christian wives) are not being taught even in church true submission. They are taught wishy washy submission. My wife is NOT my child; she is to be my HELP meet. Which does not in anyway put me on some pedestal as a superior being. It simply puts me and other Christian husbands as the head in the marriage and in the family. If you have issues with this as I tell my wife (whom is a Christian) then she has to take this up with God. After all, Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for us and deserves the ultimate respect love and honor we can bestow on him. Again submission is intended to be beautiful not a dirty word as feminists would have you believe

  6. Just to add as I see it and this isn’t to offend anyone but it’s simple. Today’s Christians want a softer version of biblical truth to fit their worldly lifestyle. Lots will says, “Yes, I believe in God and I am saved.” Just want a soft and cuddly version of what it looks like.

  7. Is it strange that I have never thought of it as submission? I watched my mom, who watched her mom, and that is just how it worked. All three of us married men who respect and love us and think that we truly were God’s gift to them.

    No one ever talked about it in terms of submission, it was more about respect and love and caring, which is, realistically, what submission is, I suppose. It’s just interesting to me. I’m 45, married 22 years, my dad died at 62, just shy of their 40th anniversary, my mom’s mom died at 54. My mom and her dad never remarried. They both were so in love with their first spouses, they used their retirement years to take care of grandchildren and volunteer.

    It has been 9 years since my dad died and my mom always wears her wedding ring or a ring I gave her with both of their birthstones in it (because she feels her wedding ring is too fragile to wear sometimes).

    Sorry, that probably was off topic, but this topic is interesting to me because so many people I know are shocked that my husband and I have been together since I was 16 and so many of them are many times divorced. When they tell me their reasons, I just keep asking, didn’t you discuss things BEFORE you were married and why are you so selfish?

    It’s just so sad…

  8. I don’t think she was trying to take verses as you stated “out of context to prove their points as valid when in fact they prove no such thing.” I think she is just trying to understand the verses much more clearly. Sometimes it makes me not want to ask questions about such verses because I don’t want to feel judged as you said trying to make the verses to my liking, I am simply trying to understand them better so I can apply them better to my life, when in fact I’m trying to understand them better and asking people who have studied the bible much longer than I have. That is what I truly see from her question.

    1. What I was trying to get across, Riley, is that she had “struggled with this for a long time” since I am sure they were arguments she kept hearing why submission makes women inferior. Instead of struggling for so long, if she had gone to the verses and read them in context (which is very simple to do as I did) she would have easily seen that her struggling was done in vain.

      1. I don’t think when I struggle with verses they are always out of vain. I am also not her so I couldn’t tell you if hers was done out of vain, but I can relate to her. I will admit to having done it before, as I’m sure we all have at least once in our lifetime. (though I’m sure some won’t admit.)

        But my point being, I am not so sure reading verses in context is as simple as you state, what comes simple to you might not come as simple to others, that’s why we are always learning..

        But if we are following passages ‘simply’ do we truly follow every passage ‘simply’ as it is written?

        For example should Leviticus 24:20
        “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.” should we follow this passage literally also?

        Thank you for taking the time to listen to my questions and have conversation about these topics, it truly helps me grow as I’m sure it has helped you grow.

        1. No, because Leviticus is part of the Law which we are no longer under, thankfully, because we died with Christ who died to the Law so that we could be freed from it and its condemnation (since no man could fulfill it except for Christ). He nailed it to the tree and now we live under grace. All of our sins have been forgiven and we are new creatures in Christ!

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