Reverence in Marriage (Part 2)

June 29, 2011 at 9:05 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 12 Comments
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In Part 1 we discovered that the Greek word for the way wives are supposed to relate to their husbands is “phobos,” which is often translated as “fear,” although in Ephesians 5:33 it has been translated as “reverence.”

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. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33, emphasis added

The reason the translators chose “reverence” as the English word for “phobos,” instead of “fear,” is because “reverence” is greater than simple “respect,” but it keeps the “fear” of a wife for her husband out of the area which is supposed to be reserved for God only. Husbands need love from their wives, but they need reverence more than love because reverence makes it possible to lead in love. Remember, husbands are commanded to love as Christ loved. Without willing reverence from the wife, the husband would be commanded to be so loving that he would never command. Christ didn’t love the Church even though He had to give it commands; He loved us so much that He had to give us commands.

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 5:21-22

Notice that there is no general command for women to submit to men. Wives have a special duty of submission to their own husbands. Headship and submission are real, and they are not negated by Ephesians 5:21’s general command to be submissive toward others in our general attitude. In fact, you may be in a marriage where you have been extremely submissive, and it has, in large part, contributed to your husband being an overbearing jerk. Despite this, your continued submission and humility will often go a long way toward sweetening the marriage relationship when things begin to turn around.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:38-45

In a worst case scenario, your husband may be: (a) cold and indifferent like a stranger to you – in which case you are commanded to love your neighbor, which includes strangers; or (b) hateful and spiteful to you like your worst enemy – in which case you are commanded to love your enemy. God is in charge of justice. We leave the justice up to Him, and we are to show grace and mercy. Marriage may be the only place that some of us can truly learn the difficult virtue of Christ-honoring humility.



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  1. This is a great post.

    Sadly, there are many wives that are submissive to their husbands “unto the Lord”, and many professing Christian husbands who are never satisfied because they believe the word submission means “do exactly as I tell you with no discussion or opinion”. Many Christian wives endure a lot of hardship because of their reverence and submission, even to the point of their “professing” spouse accusing them of being condecending in their attitude.

    What these “professing Born-again” husbands don’t understand is that their pride and selfish, over-bearing attitudes are far from the example that Christ gave them. They also don’t understand that their sinful behaviors (or literal words) are the reason their marriages have been torn apart.

    As the Bible states “you reap what you sow”. Those that profess to love the Lord, and live a life of complete disobedience to His word are the ones who are now separated and/or divorced because they allowed their pride to over-rule God’s will.

    God’s judgment and justice is only beginning in their lives. My prayer is that the Lord heals their blindness and is merciful to them in His judgment.

    If these “professing” believers were truly following the Lord, they would have never allowed their marriages to get to the point of separation and divorce to begin with. I can’t imagine any woman that could hate (or want to be separated from) a husband that was truly loving her as Christ loves the church.

  2. Thank you, and I really appreciate your comments. Scripture does not give a pass to wives who refuse to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, and it certainly does not give a pass to husbands who refuse to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. I will join with you in praying that God will reveal and heal our failures in these areas.

    “I can’t imagine any woman that could hate (or want to be separated from) a husband that was truly loving her as Christ loves the church.”

    That IS difficult to imagine. But the Bible says that the human heart, apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Only God can know the depths of its wickedness. So, even though it is most likely the exception rather than the norm, there probably are wives out there who are responding their husbands’ Christ-like overtures of self-sacrificial love with cold indifference or hot hatred.

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