The Duties of Wives
Ephesians 5:22-24
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.…

In enforcing relative duties the apostle reminds us that religion takes hold of all possible conditions and callings of men. Religion is the great formative grace for men. We are set in a curiously various scheme of relations, in which the two principles of union and subjection are beautifully blended. The three relations in which these principles are seen in operation are peculiar to family life. The wife is first mentioned, then the children, then the servants. Religion rounds out the life of the family in a lovely completeness. Consider -

I. THE DUTIES OF WIVES. They are all summed up in the one word - subjection. It is singular that the apostle does not command the wife to love her husband as the husband is commanded to love his wife. Her love is commanded elsewhere (Titus 2:4), but not here. It has been observed that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow and direct our instincts. The husband is to be the head; yet he is not commanded to govern; but he is commanded to love, as the means of securing subjection or submission on the part of the wife. She, again, loves more naturally and more passionately than man; her love is no subject of command, it is taken for granted; and the apostle commands her to obey and honor her husband as the best expression of this love. Jeremy Taylor says, "He rules her by authority, she rules him by love; she ought by all means to please him, and he must by no means displease her." Her great duty, then, is subjection. Let us see what it involves.

1. It is not servitude. It is not like the obedience of servants to masters, nor even like that of children to parents. It is a submission that recognizes the husband's rule as just, tender, and wise.

2. It is a wise and loving obedience. Wives are "to be obedient to their own husbands" (Titus 2:5). Sarah is quoted by another apostle as an example of this obedience (1 Peter 3:1-6). It was necessary to emphasize this duty at a time when Christianity gave woman a new position of dignity and privilege, and when there might have been a temptation on the part of Christian wives who had unbelieving husbands to assert an authority over them inconsistent with the original institution of marriage. There is to be no dual authority in the family. The gospel made them both "heirs together of the grace of life," as it made "both male and female one in Christ," yet, even in religious or ecclesiastical matters, she was not to usurp authority over the man, but "to be in silence" (1 Timothy 2:12).

3. It is an obedience within limits, though the wives are enjoined to be subject to their husbands "in everything," that is, in everything within the due sphere of a husband's authority, for they are not to obey him in anything contrary to God and his Law. They are to obey God rather than man.

4. It is an obedience fashioned in its conditions and spirit upon the subjection of the Church to Christ. "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." This implies that the wife's obedience is not to be forced or feigned, but springing naturally out of her affection to her husband, her dependence upon him, and her recognition of the just grounds of his superiority.

5. It implies fear, or reverence. "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband" (ver. 33), not despising him in her heart, as Michal despised David (2 Samuel 6:16), but, like Sarah, calling her husband "lord" (1 Peter 3:6). The chaste conversation of the wife is to be "coupled with fear" to assert its own power.


1. The husband's recognized headship in the original institution of marriage. "The head of the woman is the man" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Her obedience, therefore, while a religious duty, has its foundation in nature.

(1) The man was first formed. "Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:13).

(2) The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man (1 Corinthians 11:9).

(3) The woman was first in transgression. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Timothy 2:14).

(4) The woman is the "glory of the man," but "the man is the image and glory of God" (1 Corinthians 11:7).

2. Her dependent position. As the "weaker vessel," she needs protection, while he far excels her in those qualities which entitle to command. Yet his superiority in these respects is consistent with his inferiority to the woman in gentleness, patience, sympathy, love, delicacy of sentiment.

3. The fitness of things. She is "to be subject to her own husband." This expressive phrase points to the closeness, exclusiveness, and specialty of the relationship. It is thus a great mischief to unsex woman by denying or disregarding the superiority of man.

4. The similarity of the relation to that between the Church and Christ. "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." As Christ is the Source of authority and direction to the Church, as he exercises both with meekness and gentleness, so is the husband to the wife. She is bound, therefore, to give him the obedience the Church gives to Christ, limited, of course, by the nature of the relation and the authority of God. She is not to identify her husband's claims with Christ, as if her Savior could supersede or weaken the just authority of her husband over her. A religious wife loves and honors her husband all the more from the very intenseness of her love to Christ. Her very obedience, too, fashioned upon the obedience of the Church to Christ, becomes tributary to her influence over her husband. Christianity has lifted woman to a high place, but without unsexing her. The old pagan writer, Libanius, might well exclaim, "Oh what women these Christians have!" - T.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

WEB: Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Relative Duties
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