“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:18-19)
In Colossians 3:18-4:1, under the ESV heading “Rules for Christian Households,” Paul uses these phrases: “in the Lord…this pleases the Lord…fearing the Lord…as to the Lord…from the Lord…serving the Lord Christ.” The apostle is explicitly calling on Christians to have a counter-cultural mindset that leads to godly character in their homes. As we have seen in earlier devotions on marriage, believers view marriage differently from the world. Husbands are the spiritual heads and loving leaders of their families; wives are encouragers and helpers, created by God to support their husbands.
There are several biblical reasons for marriage in God’s Word, including raising children to create families and communities of faith (Genesis 1:28), life-long companionship (Genesis 2:20-23), and mutual sanctification while satisfying physical needs in an exclusive relationship (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Husbands and wives also have the benefit of learning how to relate to each other biblically, working out issues and disagreements with someone they love intimately. These distinct roles do not exclude equality; differing functions within the marriage actually lead to less competition, more appreciation, and greater unity. Practicing these roles leads to a greater understanding of God’s three persons, each with his own role in salvation.
In marriage, a personal connection with unique gender distinctiveness is vital. The ESV Study Bible notes, “There was a tendency in the Roman world for men to rage bitterly against their wives and mistreat them. Because of their greater strength and louder voices, men in their sinful natures are prone to use harsh words, threats, unkindness, and even physical violence to intimidate their wives. There is no room for even a hint of this in a Christian home; instead, men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).” (1)
In “Good Faith” the authors state, “Following Jesus radically redefines the ideas by which good faith Christians live. Our relationship with our Creator is reflected in our words and actions. Our faith demands that we adopt a way of life that honors our King. In some cases, we have to get weird. This isn’t easy. Who wants to be the odd man out, right?…Merely by faithfully following Christ, we will stand in opposition to a culture that demands our fidelity…It seems sometimes that it might be easier to go along and get along. But deep in our bones we know that following Jesus requires more.” (2) The authors go on to warn against assimilating into the world’s ways of life.
Now John Gill will weigh in on the issue. ““It is also a ‘decent’ and becoming thing for wives to be subject to their husbands; for as it is giving honour to them, it is a real ornament to themselves, and is one of those good works which women professing godliness should adorn themselves with; and makes more comely and beautiful than broidered hair; gold, pearls, or costly array, yea, than their natural favour and beauty: it is what is fitting ‘in the Lord,’… and is to be observed by all those that are ‘in’ him, that profess to be new creatures, converted persons, that so the word of God be not blasphemed, and the enemy have no occasion to reproach.” (3)
One of my married friends told me, “I learn something new about marriage every day.” Wouldn’t it be good if we all held this viewpoint, realizing that as we grow wiser in our gender-specific roles the more we will appreciate and love God’s Word on the subject?
- ESV Study Bible Notes on Colossians 3:19.
- Kinnaman, David and Lyons, Gabe, “Good Faith,” (Chapter 8), Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2016
- Gill, John, Commentary on Colossians 3:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/colossians-3.html