09 February, 2006

How to Rule Over Your Wife With an Iron Fist

"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. " -Ephesians 5.28

Any fool can get married.

About half of them can stay married.

Some of those understand the requirements of scripture in how a man is to respond to his wife.

Even the Christian Church there is a huge problem with the proper understanding of how a husband is to respond to his wife in a Biblical manner. Men know that they are the heads over their wives. Often they will be more than willing to wield that title and to use that title to usurp his wife and her person. Often, especially in conservative (Reformed and Evangelical) churches, men will use this biblical title to oppress, enslave, and even harm their wives. Men can and do take this biblical idea and use it as a way to lift up their own sinful desires and to use their wives as one more way to get their own sinful desires fulfilled.

We, as husbands, need to learn how to respond to our wives in a biblical manner. There is more to Ephesians chapter five than husbands ruling and wives submitting. When a husband has a biblical understanding of himself and his own sinful desires he will be much more careful in his headship; making sure that he is desiring God's will and not his own will.

"The real cause of failure, ultimately, in marriage is always self, and the various manifestations of self. Of course that is the cause of trouble everywhere and in every realm. Self and selfishness are the greatest disrupting forces in the world. All the major problems confronting the world, whether you look at the matter from the standpoint of nations and statesmen, or from the stand point of industry and social conditions, or from any other standpoint- all of these troubles ultimately come back to self, 'my rights', to 'what I want', and to 'who is he?' or 'who is she'? Self with its horrid manifestations, always leads to trouble, because of its two 'selves' come into opposition there is bound to be a clash. Self always wants everything for it-self."
-Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit: in Marriage, Home, & Work, 1973


Andrew Duggan said...

The husband gives the orders and the wife obeys. The husband says "shut up" and the wife is obliged to remain silent until commanded otherwise. She should speak only when spoken to. He says "jump", and she jumps. She does not ask “how high”, but silently prays with head covered as she leaps that God would help her to be obedient and jump exactly as high as her lord required. Sickness is no excuse. If the husband requires of his wife some service, she must rise and serve him. Inability does not erase responsibility. She must not cry. Crying is never more than an attempt at manipulation. Some sins in themselves or by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others, but the most heinous sin is for a woman to be disobedient or insufficiently submissive to her husband.

A man may divorce his wife, but only if she is guilty of fornication. The wife of a fornicator, however, must remain with him as long as he is willing to have her. Further, she needs to repent of her sins – after all, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones says in the quote you gave, the fault lies in her self.

The man is the head of the woman. His will is God's will to her, for God made him her head. Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” No man comes to the Father, except through Jesus Christ. No woman comes to Christ but by her husband, or if she be too unruly that no man will have her, then only by her father or by the man appointed by her session to be her head in loco parentis.

Yes, men must be careful to look at their own sinfulness when considering how they respond to their wives that it be in a biblical manner. They must not let their sloth impede their duty to squash their wives' wanton rebellion. Imagine the burden of the poor guy that not only must be head of his own wife, but also the head of one or more, perish-the-thought, widows, or even worse, old maids?

That is how it is in the many parts of the the reformed churches including the OPC.

If your post is serious, it sounds like Eli's words to his sons, “Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear”. Maybe you are joking?

Ellie said...

One of the biggest predicaments as a wife is the "submissive" aspect. There can be difficulty when the wife has greater wisdom and IQ than the husband. The husband may make very poor decisions that impact the family safety and finances. If the husband is not living the Christian life you have even more to manage. I have found myself being corrected by my husband for submitting when I knew it was not the best decision. Like, "Why didn't you say something?" For some guys you just need to submit and pay the price praying that they will get the wisdom to include you in future decision making.This has recently paid off for me but it took many years to get here. Yes, he finally knows I'm a wise woman!!!!!

DJP said...

Nate and Andrew -- so, on your planet, most women live in fear of their husbands, anticipating their every wish, and most men rule with an iron fist? Interesting.

Ellie -- thanks for sharing that. Of course, there are more options than silently submitting on the one hand, and verbally utterly demolishing and emasculating, on the other. Even in that context, Proverbs 25:15 comes to mind. Your husband sounds like a blessed man, given the heart you express.

Nate said...

I thought that this was clear in the post, but let me restate a few things:

-Some Christian men rule with an iron fist under the guise of headship and submission.
-This is a sinful way to rule your home (and it is manipulative).
-Husbands need to keep their own sinful desires (Greek: epithemias) in check and make sure that they are leading in a biblical way.
-I am not promoting iron fist rule: I think that it is sinful.
-I do not think that the wife has to obey when it violates God's law or conscience.

DJP- thanks for visiting! The answer to your weighted question is no. In my world men rule the home washing their wives with the word in an attempt to reflect the loving leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ to his beloved.

Does this help and or clarify?

Lydia said...

Is Andrew serious? I did not catch any sarcasm...I will assume that he is joking unless corrected, and if so, I will respond again later.

Ellie- You make a good point. Some wives are much more wise and prone to making better decisions. BUT, God still has given the husband as the head. The wife does not have to sit back and smile at a terrible decision. She can offer her suggestions on what she may think would be best and then allow the husband to make the final decision. It is harder even when the husband is not a believer, but they are to be submitted to still in all things lawful (i.e., if he forbids you to go to church, you do not have to submit to that...).

Nate- Thanks for the post. I see a lot of focus on WOMEN and how they should behave (*wink*) towards their husband. When really the equal problem is that MEN are not doing as they should be, but they, rather, are sitting back and allowing women to teach in the churches and take on many positions that the men should be doing. If men were to do their part, then women would not have to do it for them. :)

Thanks for attempting to consistently wash me with the Word.

Ellie said...

I'm definitly refreshed once again with the great dialogue.Blessings all around!!!!!

Rachel said...

Hear, hear! Good post, Nate. My husband is a Godly man who is very concered about treating me in a Biblical manner. He does an excellent job of leading and loving, and there is no sign of an iron fist. My reading of Ephesians 5 shows a quick mention of headship/leading/ruling and much, much more mention is made of loving.

I think it is important for women to know what a Godly husband looks like. This is not so that we can look for where our husbands fall short, but so that we can recognize, appreciate, and encourage them when/where they approach the Biblical standard.

Andrew Duggan said...


Thank you for stating:
-I do not think that the wife has to obey when it violates God's law or conscience.

That's an important point that never seems to be said on this topic, especially regarding conscience.


Yes, I am serious. While its unlikely you will find many men, if any, who would say that the most heinous sin is for a wife to be disobedient, by their actions it's clear that is their functional belief.

As for the the rest of it, that is pretty much how it goes. All through the prophets, the O.T. Jews are faulted for their oppression of widows, the fatherless and strangers. Not be outdone, the modern reformed Christians, have moved beyond those pedestrian sins, and oppress their very own wives and children, and do so in the name of God, as head of the wife and family.

To these men when you say "rule with an iron fist", they say "amen" at least in their heart. When you say “beware your sinful desires”, they think, “yes, I am too soft, and it is sinful. Not with an iron fist, but of high carbon steel my fist should be unto them.” Just like Rehoboam's response to a discussion of taxes, they get it wrong.

It's a problem, and a far bigger one, I fear, than anyone would be willing to admit.

The church's response? That has been to tell wives to repent of their rebellion and to remind them to be careful when speaking to their husbands, and to be obedient and therefore godly wives.

Marc Driesenga said...

We conservative Protestant males seem to be quick to throw out heady words like "iron-fist" and "submission" and "authority" and "headship." We tend to relish these terms of power.

But shame on the man who does not approach this weighty calling with fear and trembling. If you consider the Biblical example given (Christ and the church), I would tend to think a husband's first reaction would be humbleness, his own obedience and severe love (love like this world has not seen for sometime), and honor for one's wife. Face it men, more often than not, our lives are more precious to us than those of our wives. We would rather be a tyrannt than a lover.

Rather, first think of your own slavery to Christ and the price with which you were purchased. From that should flow such a fierce and passionate and initmate even sexual love for a wife that it completely confounds unbelievers (and unfortunately also many Christians.)

gretchenjohnson said...

My husband pistol whips me when I get out of line! PTL.