Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good for the Goose-Good for the Gander

16 Redeeming __ time because the days evil are 17 because of this not ye foolish but understand what the will of the Lord 18 And not to become intoxicated with wine during which is dissipation but be you filled in spirit 19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and songs spiritual singing and striking strings the heart of you to Lord 20 expressing thanks always for things in name of Lord of us Jesus Christ to God even Father 21 subject to each other in fear of anointed 22 the wives __ to own husbands as to Lord 23 for husband is head of wife as also __ Christ head of church himself savior of the body 24 therefore as the church is subject to Christ so also the wives __husbands in everything.
~Ephesians 5:16-24 Interlinear

Wayne Grudem states “Submission (of wives) acknowledges an authority that is not totally mutual,” and says submission “always implies a relationship of submission to authority.” (Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood).

If submission “always implies a relationship of submission to authority, then Eph 5:21 where we all are told to be subject to one another, would mean that husbands are to submit to the authority of their wives. If submission always implies a relationship to an authority, wouldn’t it be a rather obvious twisting of scripture to claim that it only means submission/authority when wives are told to be subject to their husbands, and never when husbands are told to be subject to others, including their wives?

Notice that Grudem and others get the idea of husband authority from the instructions to wives, not from instructions to husbands. Grudem says “husbands are never told to submit to their wives” and “it is very significant that the New Testament authors never explicitly tell husbands to submit to their wives.” (Italics are Grudem’s)

Yet husbands are told to submit in verse 21, along with everyone else. It appears Grudem is claiming that Eph 5:21 does not apply to husbands. If it does not apply to husbands, to whom is Paul writing in v 21? To wives only? Wives are to submit one to another? I wonder why Paul didn’t spell that out. Are husbands exempt from the rest of Ephesians, too?

Grudem also inserts the word “leadership” and “authority” into the instructions for husbands, yet that instruction is never in the scripture. Again, he says that submission IMPLIES there is an authority to submit to.

If Grudem and his friends can interpret scripture based on what they claim is implied, and on passages that are not written to them, then women can use the same rules. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

So according to these rules, it is obvious that we have not been interpreting Ephesians 5:25-31 correctly. We are SUPPOSED to insert implications, and use this passage to define the role of wives.

“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 loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

The instruction to husbands to love their wives sacrificially, even as Christ loved the church sacrificially, carries huge implications for wives. First, Jesus left the comforts of home and came to this cruel world. He suffered cold, heat, an itchy straw or hay bed, hunger, and a multitude of other human conditions that He never experienced in His Heavenly home. This implies husbands are to give up their cushy chairs, their remote controls, and all their other creature comforts for the purpose of providing those comforts for their wives. (Jesus made Himself a little lower than the angels in order to bring us to His level and make us joint heirs with Him. We are now heirs to His exceedingly-better-than-palatial home, if we believe in Him and accept his gift of life provided to us through His death and resurrection, and accept Him as Lord of our lives.) Jesus also laid aside his right to rulership, and became a baby and a child who was subject to his parents. He did all this to serve His church, His bride. This implies that husbands should give up all their own desires, their own comforts, to serve their wives.

If we follow the if-then logic of complementarians, we will conclude that if husbands are the servants of their wives, as Jesus was servant of the church, then wives must be the masters of the husbands. The husbands are to lay aside every “right” of rulership that they may think they have, and instead be servants to their wives, each subject to the wife (or wives) he serves. This implies that wives are the authority over their husbands, for how else will husbands know how to serve their wives? Do not masters direct their servants and tell them what to do? In the same way, wives are to command the day-to-day and moment-by-moment activities of their husbands, and husbands are to continually sacrifice their own desires for their wives, just like slaves lay aside their wants in order to obey their masters.

But that is not all. Even as Jesus nourished his church through words of affirmation and through acts of healing, so also are husbands to build up their wives through praising them and affirming the ruler-role of their wives. Husbands are to joyfully follow the leading of their wives. Indeed, Proverbs 31:28 gives us an example of this. “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Strongs # 1984 says praiseth means “a prim. root; To be clear…to shine; hence to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave…” So the husband doesn’t just quietly praise her to her face. He raves about her, he boasts about her. He makes a show about her—so much so that he appears to be clamorously foolish. And notice that none of Proverbs 31 is about how beautiful she is. Instead, it’s all about her leadership. And THAT leadership is what the husband is praising her for.

How does she lead? She buys a field, she provides for her servant girls as well as for her own children, she goes on business trips, she dresses her family in beautiful clothing, fit for princesses and princes. She is indeed master and ruler of her house and family, and her husband brags on her. In other words, the implication is that he submits joyfully to her leadership. He doesn’t complain that she goes on business trips, nor that she buys fields. Nor does he make any attempt to rule her; he submits to her leadership.

Think this is far-fetched? Consider I Timothy 5:14. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” The word “guide” has been translated incorrectly. Strongs #3616 says “guide” means “to be the head of (ie: rule) a family.” The number given for “house” is also 3616. Therefore, I Tim. 5:14 should read “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, rule the family, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

The one verse, (I Tim 3:4) about husbands ruling their house, is about bishop/husbands ruling their children, not their wives. “(A bishop) that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.”

In other words, there is actually more scriptural support for wives to be the authority over or to lead the husbands, than there is for husbands to take the lead/authority role over their wives. This is especially so, if one uses passages written to the spouse to discover one’s own God-mandated role and uses the “add in implications” rule.

So if Grudem is right that submission always implies relation to authority, then Eph 5:25-31 does indeed indicate that Eph 5:21 is also telling husbands to more than submit to their wives. Husbands are to lay down their will and their very lives for their wives. This is not just in the event of a physical attack from an outside source; this is a daily attitude of servitude that is completed through action day after day for the duration of the marriage. Instead of thinking “What do I want my wife to do for me?” a husband is to think “What does my wife want and what do I need to do to provide it for her?” If there is any leadership at all for husbands, it is to lead in servanthood and in self-sacrifice for their wives. If there is any final decision-making authority given to husbands, it is to sacrifice their own preferences and comforts to serve their wives.

The leadership and authority taught by complementarians demands compliance and forced joyful submission from wives. But the biblical way is for wives to submit to the love and sacrifice of their husbands, not to the demands or expectations of their husbands. When husbands sacrifice for their wives, when they prefer their wives’ preferences above their own, they are loving themselves. When they genuinely rave about their wives, encouraging them and building them up, helping them reach for their goals instead of suppressing them, when they genuinely listen and care and do everything within their power to help their wives and meet their needs for love, respect, & etc, the natural response of the wives will be joyful submission.

We have been led to believe that submission for wives is to comply to that which they would rather not. But scriptures point to the great reversal—that submission for wives is to submit to the loving self-sacrifice of their husbands. To submit to the self-sacrifice of another requires humility and love. In short, both the loving self-sacrifice of husbands and the humility and love required of wives to be able to accept the self-sacrifice of their husbands are foundational to Christian maturity.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge," a novel about a wife who discovers traditional marriage advice doesn't always work. See


  1. Hi Waneta, hey this was on women's space [rad fem, secular but she puts out awesome essays], and I thought I'd pass it on, because it IS good and I think deserves attention,



  2. Great post, Jane. Lundy Bancroft is on target. I had the privilege to hear what a male was thinking before he was old enough to know that he needed to withhold that information. However, it took me awhile to realize my husband had the same type of thoughts. But once I figured that out, I still had a hard time believing anyone could actually be that awful. After all, I had been taught to give others the benefit of the doubt. But when I read Lundy's book, it authenticated what I already knew, and I could use it with confidence when I facilitated a men's batterers education group.

  3. Hi Waneta Dawn,

    Great blog post! Spinning it around like that just shows how clearly absurd the Grudem position is. Can you imagine how insulting men would find it if this (reverse complementarianism) was preached in church? Yet they wonder why women have a problem with their (complementarians')skewed theology.

    Isn't it wonderful that God doesn't demand one-sided submission but instead mutual loving service! I am so glad to be the child of a God like that.

    In truth,

  4. "Can you imagine how insulting men would find it if this (reverse complementarianism) was preached in church?"

    Great observation. I don't think men would stand for it. They'd leave any church that taught such a doctrine. Yet women have put up with such spinning for centuries.

    I, too, am so glad God does not demand a one-sided submission from either gender. Yet, so many Christian men have been refusing to yield to their wives or serve them. A (4 min?) video link "What's wrong with men?" from Charis's fb site offers insight into the problem.

    It is high time Christian men mature into the loving servants to their wives that God has called them to be.