Note from the moderator:  The following is an excerpt from an email discussion that a dear Christian woman and I had awhile back regarding the Biblical command given to wives to “submit to their husbands” (Eph. 5:22-24).  Our discussion was centered on the true meaning of submission and the institution of marriage and what it spiritually pictures.  I thought that Sharing The Way subscribers would benefit from reading it.  Also included is a response to a young Christian wife who was pregnant with her first child at the time, and who was struggling with concerns about her husband’s leadership.
Her husband, Dan (not his real name), was feeling that the Lord was wanting him to quit his job and to re-locate the family to another state during the final months of her pregnancy which was causing her great concern and anxiety.  (All the names have been changed and permission to publish the following email responses were obtained.)

Greetings Karen,
It is interesting that the subject matter in which you have written me is on the true meaning of “submission in marriage”.  This is the very subject that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about lately.  It seems that we all have misunderstood it!  The churches as a whole don’t understand it.  The elders don’t understand it.  Husbands and wives don’t get it.  And everyone is so busy pointing fingers at everyone else without themselves first looking in the “mirror of Christ” to see if they are indeed measuring up to His commands or not.  Husbands are arrogantly and self-righteously proclaiming, “Submit woman!”, while their wives are shouting back, “You love me first, and then I’ll respect you!”  Neither party is obeying God’s commands or fulfilling His will.  We, as a society, don’t understand what marriage pictures or represents.  And sadly, for the most part, neither do we Christians.  It is truly as God said, “Marriage is a great mystery!  But it is a mystery about Christ and the church!” (Eph. 5:31-32).

Thankfully though, just as He promised, in these end times, the mysteries are beginning to be explained and revealed to us.  For He prophesied that “all things would be restored and knowledge would be increased” (Mark 9:12; Dan. 12:4).  And that He would restore to us the years that “the cankerworm and the famine” have spiritually taken from us (Joel 2:25-29; Amos 8:11-12; 9:11-15).  In other words, He is beginning to reveal to us the truth about the things that were hidden in Him and by Him long ago.  Because unto us it is given to know the “mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10).  That is why He is beginning to pour out His Holy Spirit upon His servants both male and female in these last days (Acts 2:16-18).  So that by His Spirit we may all know the “mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints – to them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.1:26-27).  The full image of Christ being formed in us is both male and female.  Afterall, both were made in the image of Christ.  For it is written, “So God created man in His own image.  In the image of God He created him.  Male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).  They were created equal.  Both of them in the image of God.  And when they were to come together as “one” (both in body and in spirit) they were to reflect the fullness of Christ.  The union of these two created beings was to be a physical reflection and demonstration of a spiritual reality – that is, the full image of Christ with all of His attributes (both male and female).  For we are not complete without the other.  As the Scriptures say, “Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord” (I Cor. 11:11).  And again it says, “It is not good [or of God] that man should be alone.  I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).

Notice that women were not made subject unto their husbands until sin entered in (Gen. 3:16).  This was not meant so much to be a “punishment”, as it was meant to be spiritually symbolic or “prophetic”.  It was given to demonstrate the central necessary role that Jesus Christ was to perform in order to raise-up children unto God the Father.  That is why part of this pronouncement and/or “punishment” given to the woman here included the following words:  “I will greatly mulitply your sorrow and your conception.  In pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire (or will) shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).  When sin entered into the world, it then became necessary that Jesus, being equal with God, had to empty Himself (lower Himself), and submit His will to the Father’s in order that many children might be born into the Kingdom and Family of God (Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 2:9-17).  God already knew this.  It was His plan all along.  For it says, that Jesus Christ was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).  And “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).  That is why He made them both male and female from the beginning.  It was for the purpose of revealing His whole divine nature to all creation through us and in us, as well as to teach us that without Him we do not, and cannot, have life.

All of creation is merely a physical manifestation or reflection of a spiritual reality.  As the Apostle Paul writes, “What may be known of God is evident among them [all of mankind], for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and divine nature, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).  Paul goes on to later explain that the whole creation itself was then made subject to futility, in anticipation and expectation of the glorious revealing of the children of God – the “new creations in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17).  That is — the new individuals that now reflect the full and complete image of Christ in them.  That is why it says that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).  God, here in these passages, is calling things that “are not yet, as though they were”, as He so often does in the Scriptures (Rom. 4:17).  God expects us to have all of His Godly attributes as He reveals them to us through these different “roles” that we play here on earth at this present time.  We are to be both leaders and followers.  We are to be masters and servants.  We are to be fathers and sons.  Mothers and daughters. Husbands and wives. Slaves and freemen (I Cor.7:22).  For Christ was both a master and a servant.  He was both a head and a body.  And yes, He was both submissive and authoritative.  He was, and is, all and in all, just as the Scripture say:  “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:9-11).

The “role of the wife” is just that  – a role!  Just as David had to play a “subservient role” to the king – the Lord’s anointed.  It didn’t matter whether King Saul was being righteous toward David or not.  David knew that he would never be justified before God to ever rebel against King Saul or try to usurp his God-given position and authority.  Instead, David remained guiltless before God as he played out his “subservient role” faithfully and blamelessly.  God was testing him and trying him to see whether or not David feared Him and would obey His commandments in faith no matter what the cost.  Because David knew that all authority and positions of authority came from God (Rom. 13:1-2).  In due time then, God judged and removed that “unrighteous ruler” [Saul] and gave the faithful servant [David] his master’s position and authority.  Doesn’t it warn that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first” (Matt. 19:30)?  And that whosoever has been faithful over little, will be faithful over much and made ruler over much.  For it says, “Well done, good servant!  Because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).  I tell you the truth, the days are coming that the “unrighteous ruling husbands” are going to be judged and removed by God and cast into outer darkness, and their righteous wives are going to be given positions of rulership over them in His Kingdom!  This is all just “a training and testing ground” down here right now.  That is what Paul meant by this world “being made subject to futility” at this present time (Rom. 8:20).  It’s a training exercise!  And we will all be judged according to our works (Rev. 20:12-13).  For “each one of us will give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).  While we were put in these different roles here on earth, did we reflect Christ’s attributes in everything and in every position?  When we were children, did we honor and obey our parents?  When we were fathers and mothers, did we love and nurture our children?  What did we do with the authority that God gave us?  Did we abuse or neglect our children and our wives?  Husbands, did you love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it?  Wives did you willingly and trustingly submit (or yield) your will to your husband’s, as Christ also submitted His will to the Father’s in perfect trust?  Slaves (employees) did we serve our masters (employers) as though we were serving Christ?  Not with eyeservice or as men-pleasers, but with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart as to the Lord, and not to men? (Eph. 6:5-7). These are the kinds of things that God is going to judge us all by – the roles that He gave us!

I realize that I haven’t quite lived up to all of these roles that I have to answer for, but I am trying.  I am “a work-in-progress” too, as is everybody.  But that is why I am so thankful that I have the Holy Spirit to help me, to correct me, to teach me, and to lead me into all truth.  Afterall, that is why it was given (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7-15; I John 2:27).  To change my current fleshly carnal nature into His perfect loving nature.  That is why it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).  The Holy Spirit is the mind and spirit of Jesus (I Cor. 2:10-16; Rom. 8:5-11).

To help further explain what the Holy Spirit has been showing me lately regarding this “submissive role” in Christ, I wanted to include a recent letter (below) that the Holy Spirit gave to me to give to a young wife when she wrote me recently regarding some frustrations she was having with her husband.  As the Holy Spirit gave this to me to give to her, it began to open my eyes to things that I have never seen or heard before.  I didn’t get these things from anyone or from any book or from any church (that is, through “flesh and blood”).  But rather, like Paul, I too, was given it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ through His Spirit (Gal. 1:12).

You’ll notice that I have already touched on some of these same themes above.

Hi Susan,
Thanks for your response and for sharing with me your thoughts and frustrations.  Believe it or not, I can totally identify with you and with Dan. Teresa and I have had to endure and overcome similar situations over the past ten years – ever since God started talking to me.  I am not going to lie and tell you that it has been easy.  But I can assure you that the struggle has been well worth it.  As the Scripture says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  It is exactly through “these struggles” that we learn the mind of God and we learn how to deal with things as He does.  Just as Jesus Christ has both sides of our nature in Him (both male and female), we need to learn to reflect both sides of Him in us. Let me explain. It says that God created us, both male and female, in His image (Gen. 1:27). That is, both male and female reflect Him. However, without each other, we are of ourselves incomplete.  That is why God says, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him … and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24).  The New Testament says that this husband/wife relationship that God instituted here in Genesis pictures Christ and His people (Church) becoming one – a new creation (Eph.5:30-32; II Cor. 5:17).

Notice that you, as the wife, picture the Bride (God’s people or the Church) in the relationship.  Dan, as the husband, pictures Christ in the relationship.  But notice, what did Jesus do, being the greater one in the relationship?  Did He serve Himself?  No!  He served His wife, and gave Himself (sacrificed Himself) for her.  Notice: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  And again, it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).  Dan, as the husband, and in the role of Jesus Christ, needs to lower Himself, and serve you his wife.  Just as Jesus lowered Himself for us (His Bride), and sacrificed His superior position to tend to the delicate needs of His wife. This is what is meant by Peter’s statement to the husbands: “Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7).

The phrase “weaker vessel” does not refer to the wife’s lack of physical strength.  But rather, it refers to the “subordinate role” that she is playing out here in the spiritual parallel that marriage pictures.  That is why the wives are told to submit (yield) to their husbands in everything, as if they are submitting to the Lord.  “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…Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:22-24).

Jesus became like us humanly, and we are called to be like Him spiritually. Notice these Scriptures:  “Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery [a rip-off or being cheated], being equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7).  And again, it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  Jesus came in the likeness of “sinful flesh” for us, and we in turn, must become like Him spiritually, walking in the Spirit, and not in the flesh (Rom. 8:3-5).  The relationship that you and Dan share must exemplify and demonstrate this relationship.  That is how Christ lives in you and witnesses to the world.  Each of us individually,  and collectively, must exemplify Christ and His Bride.  Let me explain. Each of us as a believer, whether male or female, married or single, must reflect Christ in all that we do!  Jesus is both a leader and a follower. He is a Lord and a servant.  He is a Lion and a Lamb.  He is a Parent and a Son.  He is a Head and a Body.  And He created each of us in the same roles  so that we might learn how to act, react and interact with each other in a Godly manner in every situation.  This is how we learn to live in the Kingdom of God or in the Heavenly Realm.  This is what is meant by “walking and living in the Spirit” (Rom.8:1-17).

Notice how each of us play out a number of roles in our lives which teach us to be both leaders and followers:  We were born as children to parents. And then we get to be parents ourselves.  We are sometimes masters (employers and managers), and sometimes we are servants (employees).  Sometimes we are the administers of the law (policeman, judges, teachers), and sometimes we are the subjects and recipients of that law. We are both given authority over others, and in subjection to other’s authority.  This is the way that God has created us  (in these roles) to teach us how to live and deal in the Godly plane, and to begin to  identify with His thoughts and His ways.  Notice how the Scriptures testify to this:  “Imitate me [Paul], just as I imitate Christ… For I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor.11:3).

In other words, husbands are the heads (leaders) of their wives, but they are also the body (subjects) of Christ.  Even though Christ is the head of every man, He, Himself, is subject to the Father.  Women/Mothers are heads of their children, and in some cases, leaders of other women also (Titus 2:3-5). Women are not inferior to men.  They were created equal to men.  They are simply fulfilling a God-given role that God has given them at this time (during this age of the flesh) to help us properly understand the role of submission and “sacrificial yielding” for the sake of children being born into the Kingdom of God.  This is the same role that Jesus played when He, being equal to God, emptied Himself of His superior nature to come down and take on the form of a servant in order that many children might be born into  the Kingdom of God through Him – that is, through the sufferings of His body. That is why, when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, the woman’s punishment was that she now was going to be made subject to her husband and through much travail and suffering would bring forth children unto her husband. God was demonstrating here that because of sin, it was necessary to enact and institute His plan of “salvation through Jesus Christ” in order that many sons and daughters might be born into the family of God.  Therefore, Jesus came in due time, offered Himself up and yielded Himself (symbolic of the role of the woman), and was willing to bear the pain in His body, to make it possible that we might be born into the Kingdom of God, in order that many children would be born unto the Father.  Herein Christ portrayed the role of the woman.  Christ also portrayed the role of the man and husband in that He became the “second Adam” and initiated spiritual life in us (I Cor.15:45-50; Rom. 5:14-17), so that we could now be His offspring  growing up inside the womb of His Bride – the Church.

In these illustrations, both sides of God are demonstrated – both roles, male and female. These “roles” only pertain to this life (this world).  In the Kingdom of God, there is neither male nor female (Luke 20:34-36).  When men and women were originally created in the Garden of Eden, they were created equal. They were both made in the image of God.  It wasn’t until sin  entered in, that the roles of “master” husband and “subservient” wife were instituted in  order to demonstrate to us the nature of God, and how God being love is both Master and Servant of all.

Having said this, I can’t specifically say how you and Dan should deal with this current situation between the two of you.  Except to say, that I think the two of you should continue to seek God and His wisdom, and ask yourselves (not each other) ‘Am I fulfilling the God-given role that He has placed me in?’  Dan should ask himself, ‘Am I showing the same kind of self-sacrificing love and understanding, and patience that Jesus has shown me as my Husband?  Am I giving my bride the same patience and space that the Lord gives me?  Christ dwells with us in understanding and patience, giving honor unto us as the weaker vessel, am I doing the same toward my wife?’ Susan, you should be asking yourself, ‘Am I perfectly trusting the leadership and direction of my husband?  Am I letting him lead me, and although I may not have a perfect understanding of what’s going on inside of his head, I nonetheless am trusting that Christ is his head, and is leading him and guiding him in what’s best for this family?’  Remember, Sarah wasn’t hearing from God, but Abraham was.  She trusted that God was truly leading Abraham, and she willingly and obediently followed him (see I Peter 3:1-6). Like Abraham, God is leading Dan as his head too, and Dan doesn’t necessarily understand where he is going either.  But it is not for you to hinder or oppose that.  Your job is to support him in his quest to follow God, to love him and your children, and to learn from your husband ( I Tim. 2:9-15; I Cor. 14:34-35; Titus 2:1-5).

God will bless you greatly, Susan.  He knows your heart.  He loves you. Remember, these struggles are for a purpose.  They build Jesus Christ in you and also in Dan.  One day, you will look back and see how Christ has been formed in you.  Not by your doing, but by His.  For to this end, we were all created – the man first and then the woman (I Tim. 2:13; Gal. 4:19; Rom. 8:28-30).  God loves us, and His ears are open unto our cries.  Don’t worry about these things.  Relax and trust God.  This is a trying enough time for you now with the pregnancy and all.  You should only be concerned about the things that make for a quiet and peaceful home for your children, and let Dan worry about how the family is provided for.  That is his responsibility as the husband.  That is the responsibility that God charged Adam with, not Eve.  You’re right, Eve had enough to worry about in bearing children. Where they were going to live or not live is what God charged Joseph with, not Mary or the baby Jesus.  Notice, “Now when they (the wise men) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word” (Matt. 2:13).  God will lead Dan according to what He wants you both to do and where He wants you both to live.  Don’t worry about it.  Have the same attitude and approach that Ruth had toward her mother-in-law (her superior) when they weren’t sure where to go: “Urge me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you.  For wherever you go, I will go.  And wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.  The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).  God will give you many healthy children, Susan, if you so desire.  For He loves you greatly.  And He hears your prayers.

Share these things with Dan if and when you want to.  He is confused too, and could use a clearer perspective in his dealings with you.  I know he is struggling too, and it doesn’t sound like he is handling it too righteously, but rather, as you said, self-righteously.  I, for one, know that I too have made (and still do make) a lot of mistakes in dealing with Teresa as I try to hear God and follow His leading, and in turn, lead my wife.  But this is how we both learn and grow.

God be with you, Susan.  And thanks for writing me.  I hope this helps.

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