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The Godly Woman

Mrs. Martha Montgomery in her series on “The Godly Woman” gives us a helpful comparison of three related terms.

When the woman was in her unfallen state God appointed her to be subordinate to the man (Gen. 2:18). This was a matter of rank and did not imply any inferiority. It was an honorable position.

So we see, first, a woman is a subordinate.

  • This is a matter of rank.
  • It is by God’s appointment.

After the woman had sinned, in her fallen state, God imposed subjection on her (Gen. 3:16).

So second, a woman is in subjection.

  • This is the matter of her husband’s rule.
  • It is imposed by God.

In the New Testament the wife is enjoined to come into submission (Eph. 5:22-24) to her husband.

Third, a woman is to be submissive.

  • This is a matter of inner attitude.
  • It is to be voluntarily assumed.

The inner attitude is toward the subordination appointed and the subjection imposed in Genesis.

In extrabiblical Greek it was primarily a military term that denoted a rank under another. Literally the verb means to arrange or to rank under.” The word implies a rank subordinate to one who is in authority, to whom obedience and respect are due.

It does not imply an inferiority of person but only subordination in rank. As a person you will be no more inferior to your husband, than the citizen is to his government or Christ is to God. Yet the citizen is subordinate in rank to the governor. Christ in His humanity was subordinate to God the Father. You are to assume volitionally and voluntarily a rank or office under your husband in the administration of your home and family.

It does not justify suppression by your husband but does imply obedience to your husband. Submission does not stifle your leadership, creativity, and initiative as a wife. You may well wonder if it implies that you will make no decisions, offer no argument, participate in no discussions. Absolutely not. What a vanilla wife you would be! What kind of a helper is this? It is not only your right but also your responsibility to function as a partner in this partnership. Every Christian husband should consult his wife as his closest advisor and make decisions with her interests in view. Often responsibilities will be delegated to you requiring important decisions that must be made by you. And yet, when your husband makes decisions, you are responsible to obey. That is submission.

Some of us know wives who do obey but are not truly submissive. A third implication in our New Testament word is that of respect for your husband in his position and for his decisions. A wife who obeys without respect is not in submission. You are to “reverence” (“fear,” Eph. 5:33, same word as in v. 21) your husband. The church’s reverence for Christ is your pattern. You may not agree with the decision in his position as head. The mother who enforces her husband’s rules or disciplines, but lets her children know she does not agree, is not respecting her husband before her children. Such lack of respect is most often seen the use of the tongue. Beware!

William J. McRae, Preparing for Your Marriage, (Zondervan Publ. House; Grand Rapids, MI, 1980), pp. 119-120

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