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Monday, August 30, 2010 | Comments (13)

Sin so often seeks to do two things—express itself and excuse itself. Here’s an example: we’ve heard those stories in which an unbelieving or disobedient husband makes life miserable for his Christian wife. We’ve also heard the world’s counsel to those women—“You deserve better than this! Leave the bum! God doesn’t expect you to submit to him! Take the kids and move out!” Can you hear the appeal to sin in those recommendations? Express yourself. Excuse yourself.

The world loves to lend advice to Christians under that kind of pressure. It whispers in their ear, “Escape—get away from all this.” Or worse, “Attack—fight for your rights.” Sadly, many Christian wives, often from desperation, take that advice, ignoring or else refusing to consult the Bible.

But what counsel does God give to women living with disobedient or unbelieving husbands? Does the Bible even address that subject? Absolutely. Join John MacArthur as he explains the power of godly submission in a difficult marriage . . .

Listen to this 9-minute clip:

Launch Player  |  Download  |  Full Sermon

First, listen to the sermon excerpt, then join the discussion in the comment thread. Before commenting, please note: this post is not referring to extreme abuse cases in which the life of the wife and children are in danger. In such cases, when a violence-prone husband becomes agitated and abusive, the wife should remove herself (and her children) from danger, by leaving the home, if necessary, and retreating to a secure place.


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#1  Posted by Johan Schmidt  |  Monday, August 30, 2010 at 6:52 PM

God made men in such a way that we CANNOT but love nurture, cherish and love our wives if they have a soft gentle spirit; and I don't mean a 'dead fish' type of wife without go - men also need a soul mate; a helper like God originally intended.

#2  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, August 30, 2010 at 8:24 PM

When I hear women say things like that about their husbands. It's sad that a woman would say such thing both in real life and on tv or movies. It's so catchy that women can follow what the tv says and they

do the same in real life. This blog is great to know these kind of stuff. Smiles.

#3  Posted by Andrea Ferro  |  Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Churches really need to step up and start teaching submission in the family! I want to be the wife God intends me to be and I am working on it, but never have I been to a church that preaches on this until I started going to the church I am attending now, although I believe they could be doing more. I feel so blessed to be able to listen to John MacArthur. As much as I know I am to be submissive to my husband, I still get all the worldly views stuck in my head. Not only being submissive but being a wife and mother that takes care of the home and family the way that is pleasing to the Lord. I absolutely love taking care of my home and family, but I still continue to let the world step in and confuse me sometimes! I love Gods plan and it is when I am doing what He says to do that I am in His will and that is when I know His joy and His peace. It's amazing when we just do what He says and not worry about what anyone thinks. We only need to please our Lord.

#4  Posted by Joni Russell  |  Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 11:37 AM

As a wife that does my best to submit to a husband that has often wandered from God's will, I find although it breaks my heart it strengthens my depending on God. This then makes submitting easier because I know God will take care of it. I have learned to thank God for a less than godly husband so I can grow in Him.

#5  Posted by Cathryn Meriwether  |  Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 2:22 PM

My husband was unsaved for the first 12 years of our 25 year marriage. I did submit to him as the head of our home, but very imperfectly and not always with a gentle spirit. God saved him anyway. He is such a transformed man it's really astonishing. Once, years ago, in a drunken tirade, he railed at me, "You should've married a PREACHER!" Now, whenever he fills-in for our pastor, he smiles at me, and I know exactly what he's thinking.

#6  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 7:41 PM

I think the very thing that leads to both parties involved (husbands and wives) not living up to God’s expectations (submission on the wife’s part, and headship on the man’s part) is partly due to our respective roles within the family structure.

What I mean by this, is, we know that parenting is a responsibility that requires a total commitment from sun up to sun down. Women typically have been the caregivers, the nurturers, and the ones to get up in the middle of the night with the children, because the man needs his sleep to get up early to go to work. NOW, I use the word "typically" here, I do realize that this is not true in every case, and more and more women work outside the home. But for the most part, women work from sun up to sun down because of the huge commitment to small children, and this does not stop once the children become teens. This scenario, leads to a woman never abdicating her responsibility when her husband comes home from work. Many people see this as a woman being too aggressive and dominant, BUT her ROLE demands that she be a caregiver, on going.

Her husband, on the other hand, CONTINUES to let her be the caregiver and disciplinarian, because he is usually too tired from working 40-50-60 hours a week to participate in any conflict or care that may be on going. Men have so little time to spend with their children because of their work schedules, that when they do find the time, they do not always want to be seen as the heavy-handed parent.

So this whole picture of family life, which is all too typical, appears to give women far too much control in the home and over the children (because she HAS to work from sun up to sin down, her role demands it), while it seems to appear that men abdicate their roles as the head of the family, because they just want to relax when they enter their home in the evening and have fun with their children.

I do not feel that all of this is intentional on the part of either parent.

What say any of you?

#7  Posted by Anastacia Sims  |  Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 9:08 AM

How does a wife submit to a husband that has refused to take any type of leadership role? Leaving all the responsibility to the wife.

#8  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM


That's a good question. Because of the limited information you gave, I'm going to give a generic answer from John MacArthur. He was asked that very question in a Q&A Session and his response is below. I hope it helps:

What should a Christian wife do if her husband fails to be the authority for her to submit to?

What if the husband isn't seeking to fulfill his role? What if he abdicates his position of leadership and leaves it to the wife to be the head of the home? It happens frequently, and especially in the realm of spiritual authority.

I once received a letter from a wife who wrote, "I've made a terrible mistake. I tried to be submissive to my husband, but he wouldn't take the leadership. Little by little I took it over, and now I'm dominating and he will never take the leadership. How do I get myself out of this mess?"

The answer is, go back to being submissive. Force the issue. If he doesn't give you leadership to submit to, submit to the things you think he would like. Put yourself in the proper biblical role, and stay out of his. Then encourage him, pray for him, and support him as head of your home in every way you can. Above all, refuse to take dominant leadership of the family. Be obedient to the biblical pattern. Make suggestions and steer him quietly when absolutely necessary, but leave gaps for him to step into.

First Peter 3:1-2 says, "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear." The word translated "submissive" there describes the function, not the essence, of the wife's role. In other words, while it is not saying that the wife's role is any less important than that of her husband, it is affirming that in the plan of God, she is the one to submit, and he is the one to take the headship.

Notice, too, that Peter says even if the husband is disobedient to the Word—whether he is a hostile Christ rejecter or a believer who simply fails to take the leadership—the wife's response should still be submission.

So the best way a wife can encourage a non-leading husband to take his role as head of the family is simply to submit to him, pursue her role with greater determination and respect for him, and pray that the effect of that will be to push him closer to fulfilling his role.

#10  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 6:06 PM

When godly woman summits to her husband no matter what. That woman is

is blessed by God.


Read God's Word and keep praying. Keep on doing so, that in time, He

will notice your positive attitude. He might realized the Lord is helping you out and drawing himself to the Lord Jesus, by God's love. Be a witness to him. God bless you.

#11  Posted by Lori Lux  |  Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 8:19 PM

I absolutely agree with Mr. MacArthur's commentary concerning what the scripture has to say regarding submissive wives. However, some of the comments concern me because just as this command is not based on the husband's behavior, the husband's command to love his wife is also unconditional.

#12  Posted by Andrea Ferro  |  Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8:02 AM

I love the comment from Cathryn. The Holy Spirit's ability to change us is incredible! Being able to trust God enough to go through a hard marriage, either a man or woman, and see His work change lives, is beautiful.

Lori, you are right, I think people are just commenting on this particular blog, which deals with the wife. A husband has a high command to love his wife as Christ loves the church, no matter how his wife behaves. I believe his job is tougher then ours because he is the leader of the home and so much responsiblity rest on his shoulders.

#13  Posted by Suzanne Radabaugh  |  Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8:26 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#14  Posted by Anastacia Sims  |  Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Suzanne, I love you and will be praying for you and your husbands salvation.