Biblical Womanhood Part Six:
Good and Obedient to Their Own Husbands
By Jan Kopfstein
Tonight, we come to our last study in this series on biblical womanhood. We will be considering the last two virtues listed in Titus 2: . . . that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:4-5
“Good” or “goodness” is used many times in our Bibles as a very important quality for our lives. Goodness is one of those fruits produced in us by the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians chapter five. “Good” is the word used in our KJV Bibles while many other translations use the word “kind.” Matthew Henry describes good as kind, helpful charitable, as Dorcas was “full of good works.” I believe goodness is implicit in the Greek word for “kind” in this passage.
Jerry Bridges explains that “while kindness and goodness can often be used interchangeably, kindness is the sincere desire for the happiness of others and goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness.” Sometimes it is easier to exhibit the quality of goodness and kindness outside the home—Dorcas was an example of this—but tonight I want to focus on those qualities displayed within our homes, especially to our husbands and children, remembering that in ourselves we can do nothing; we must seek God’s strength.
Remember our definition of kindness is a sincere desire for my husband’s and children’s happiness. Three sins that obstruct this godly desire, anger, bitterness, and judging, hinder kindness.
Do you ever get angry in your home? Where does that anger come from? Matt. 15:18 tells us that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” What causes us to quarrel and fight? James 4:1-2a explains that we desire and don’t have. What do I want that I am not getting? Peace and quiet? Convenience and ease? A clean and orderly house? Appreciation and recognition? Whatever it is, we have to realize that it comes from wanting our way.
The answer—found in James 4:6-10—is to humble ourselves and submit to God. Humility.
As wives and mothers we especially have to guard against the sin of bitterness. Our feelings can easily be hurt and it can grow into bitterness. How do we know if we are bitter? We replay an episode over and over in our minds. We wallow in self-pity; we withhold affection. This sin will definitely affect our ability to submit to our own husbands. We deal with bitterness by cherishing the fact that we are forgiven. Eph. 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness . . . be put away from you . . . be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Judging is the third sin that kills kindness. It’s looking for the worst in others. Sinful judging can wreak havoc with the desire for our husband’s and children’s happiness. “Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.” I Cor 13:7. Love suffers long and is kind.
There is a Family Circus cartoon with this picture: three children are at the foot of their parents’ bed watching them sleep. The caption underneath reads: “They look so sweet and peaceful when they are asleep. You wonder how they could ever yell at us during the day.”
Because of our sinful natures we will be unkind at times to our husbands and children. We shouldn’t ever make excuses for ourselves: sin is sin. Confess it to God and ask forgiveness from your family.
Now let’s look at goodness: that activity calculated to advance the happiness of others.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves . . . with good works. I Tim 2:9-10 These verses speak about how women should adorn themselves, not with costly array but with good works. I Tim 5:9 talks about receiving a widow into the care of the church if she has a reputation for “good works.” What are we known for? Remember that a reputation for goodness should begin at home. There are many areas of goodness we can pursue and I am going to name just a few.
Prayer for our husbands and children—what a good work! Never neglect it!
Listening—the mother is that person that everyone wants to talk to. Be a good listener. Ever hear this? “Now Mom, just let me explain!”
Encouraging—Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad. Prov. 12:25. We should be on the lookout for areas in which we can praise our husbands and children. Encouragement will strengthen their souls and provoke them to godliness.
John Bunyan wrote, “Whatever good thing you do for Him, if done according to the Word, is laid up for you a treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before men.” God is watching and God is rewarding. What greater incentive could there be to advance our families’ happiness? Finally, a quote from Grace Gems: “No goodness or kindness outside the home will atone for lacking care at home.”
Now we come to the last of our feminine virtues: the one we have all been eager to get to: the beauty of submitting to our own husbands.
Most of you are familiar with our role of obedience. Ladies, this is a heart issue. A child is told to sit down. He remains standing. He is told again. Finally, he sits, but in his heart he is still standing—you can see it on his face! Obeying outwardly but fighting inwardly is not obedience or submission. I am convinced that understanding and obeying this principle of submission brings great benefit to our marriages and tremendous honor to the gospel. Obeying or submitting means to voluntarily place oneself under.
Let’s begin in Gen 1:27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. They are created equal in value and dignity, in worth and importance. We said in our first study that male and female were created equal but with different functions. We used the Trinity as our example: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal, but have different roles.
This principle of equal in value but different in function was in place at Creation. This principle is restated in the New Testament in many places: Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; I Pet. 3:1-5. In all of these passages the function of the wife is to submit.
The ultimate goal for headship and submission in marriage is to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. The husband reflects Christ’s sacrificial love by loving his wife, and giving himself for her. The wife is to reflect the Church’s joyful submission to Christ by following her husband’s leadership.
Scripture is clear. So why do we have such a hard time with submission? In Gen 3:16 we read: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. The form and context of the word “desire” actually give a negative connotation to the meaning: an urge to manipulate or control.
Because of the curse, we have this sinful tendency to want our own way and to resist our husband’s authority over us. If Adam hadn’t sinned the man would always rule with love and we would obey without a struggle; we would be that perfect ezer (helper).
I want us to look at one of the most replete passages on this topic of obedience and submission, I Peter 3:1-6. In verse one we read, Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands . . . The requirement to submit comes straight from God. We are answerable to God for our obedience to Him and to our husbands. In addition, our submission is to our own husbands.
Being in subjection is an honorable role and calls forth the full measure of our energy and ability, as well as godly character. John Piper presents wifely submission as “the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership.” God has given us each gifts to use in supporting our husbands. We are to contribute ideas, suggestions, offer wisdom and insight, pray, and encourage. When we do all this in humility we not only help our husbands to lead but we also fulfill our duty to submit.
Katharina Luther had an interesting way of helping her husband Martin. On one occasion, Luther was depressed and refused to be encouraged. Katie put on mourning attire, and when Luther asked, “Who died?” she responded, “The way you were acting I thought God had died.” By her clever confrontation Luther was confronted with his sin and renewed his trust in God. Be careful ladies: sometimes friction can come into our homes when we want to help—as ezers—but they don’t really want our “help.” We have to be wise. Sometimes not helping them is helping them.
Are there exceptions? What about a husband who is unsaved or who is not walking rightly? Unless a moral issue is at stake, submission is a must. . . . if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [conduct] of the wives I Pet. 3:1b. Elizabeth George wrote, “Our submission to our husbands whether or not he is a Christian, whether or not he is obeying God, preaches a lovelier and more powerful sermon than our mouth ever could.”
In I Pet 3:2, we see the attitude of our submissive conduct: it is to be chaste conversation, which is to say, respectful and pure. In verse six Sarah called Abraham “lord.” The implication is that we are to show respect to our husbands. Eph. 5:33 says “let the wife see that she reverence [respect] her husband.” Respect means to revere or to treat as special. Do we respect our husbands with our words? Tone of voice? Countenance, body language? Do we ever shrug our shoulders or sigh in a way that conveys disrespect?
Carolyn Mahaney, in her book Feminine Appeal, talks about an ancient beauty secret. It isn’t expensive, there is no daily regimen to follow, and it is 100% effective for any woman who has ever tried it. In I Pet 3:5 we find that holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves—make themselves beautiful—by submitting to their husbands. Not only can submission bring an unbelieving husband to Christ: it can make us beautiful.
Of course this beauty isn’t all physical, but ladies—when we are walking in submission it shows. We radiate peace and calm within. Our countenance shows it. This inward beauty is precious in God’s sight. I Pet 3:4: “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” What a wonderful thought.
Now we come to the “nitty gritty”—where the rubber meets the road—our husbands make a decision, and we don’t agree! Maybe it just isn’t our preference . . . we have a better idea. Perhaps we fear the consequence. How do we submit now? We read in I Pet. 3:5 that the holy women of the past “trusted in God.” It is the same for us today. Our ability to submit always comes from resolute trust in God. We aren’t told to trust in our own husband’s judgment—they are sinners, as are we. They will make mistakes.
God wants us to trust in Him. Submission, in its simplest form, is trust in God. Jerry Bridges wrote, “God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you, and His will is always directed to our good.” The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Am I prepared to trust God to lead my husband to lead me?” That is the real issue.
But what is our part? Do we do nothing and follow blindly when we feel a decision is wrong? Part of trusting God is prayer on our part. “If my husband is wrong, show him.” Or, “Help me to do my part and submit.” I am convinced that prayer changes things. In my years of marriage I have seen my husband completely change on an issue—180 degrees! But I have also seen him right and me wrong.
Praying for myself to follow, and God to lead him—and not me—results in a peaceful home and ladies, never say, “I told you so”! Of course, a discussion is never wrong; a wise husband will listen, if the wife comes across in the right way, but in the end our husbands are accountable to God for their decisions. Ladies, we are accountable to God for our submission. We are submitting not just to our husbands but to the sovereign power of our Lord God.
Now we meet Sarah, our role model of submission. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. I Pet. 3:6. Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” Was Sarah’s life always that of submission? Were there consequences of not being in submission?
God had promised Sarah a son. But as Sarah approached the age of 75, she took matters into her own hands. Abandoning her trust in God, she gave Hagar to Abraham who bore him Ishmael. We see the dire consequences of that action still: the Arab-Israeli conflict.
So Sarah wasn’t the perfect picture of submission, and we can all identify with such failures. But in I Pet. 3:3-6 we see God’s grace to Sarah, which speaks to us of grace in our own lives of failures. Peter singles out Sarah as an example of submission. By the time she gave birth to Isaac 15 years later, God had performed a great work of grace in her life. Her faith had become strong and she is one of only two women mentioned in the great hall of faith, Hebrews eleven. God has great blessings for us as we submit to Him by submitting to our own husbands.
To summarize our study of biblical womanhood: “The true woman is one whose redeemed character is being shaped and driven by God’s Word. She is a reflection of God’s glory.”—Susan Hunt.
Dear sisters, as you run this race before you, remember that this race and every obstacle in the way have been marked out for you by a Sovereign God. (see Hebrews 12:1-3) Throw off every doubt, fear, anger, and bitterness: every sin that weighs you down. Throw off the impulse to control your situation. Look to Jesus; fix your eyes on Him; meditate on Him and His goodness to you. So you will not lose heart but continue with patience.
Let us have grace, whereby we may serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Heb 12:28). As we fulfill the responsibility of biblical womanhood as described in Titus 2, of loving our husbands, loving our children, being discrete (self-controlled) and chaste (pure, modest), as we are keepers at home, are kind and good, and as we live in obedience to our own husbands, remembering that all of these qualities commend the gospel to all around: “that the word of God be not blasphemed”—“that in all things showing thyself a pattern of good works”—“that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”