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Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:3, says that there is “neither bond [slave] nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). Distinctions of sex, class, or race are not found among those who are “in Christ”; nevertheless, in the different sexes, classes, and races all have their peculiar contributions to make to each other and to society by virtue of their differing qualities.
But the scriptures add, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives…For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Peter 3:15,6).
Every community must, for purposes of organization and existence, have a head. Even in our free age of insistence on men and women being equal, the man who does not assume the leadership of his family in love is regarded with contempt by men and women alike. This principle of submission is permanent, but its specific application may vary from age to age according to custom and social consciousness (1 Cor. 11:3, 7–9; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12; Titus 2:5).
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
The scriptures ascribe to women a position of subordination in relation to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1–6). The ethics of Christian relationships within the family are clear when once it is seen that difference and subordination do not in any sense imply inferiority. The submission is asked of the wife is of the kind that can be given only between equals, not a servile obedience, but a voluntary submission in the respects where the man was qualified by his Maker to be head (Genesis 3:16).
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18). The wife should see in her relation to her husband a reflection, or illustration, of her relation to Christ.
As Christ is the “savior of the body,” the church, so the husband should be the protector and sustainer of his wife and family. No question of inferiority or of headship ever arises in a family where the husband shows the same goal for the welfare of his wife that Christ shows for His church. The husband will properly provide for the wife’s temporal support (1 Timothy 5:8); he will do everything possible to assure her happiness (1 Corinthians 7:33); he will give her every honor (1 Peter 3:7).
In His service,