Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.…
The unity of the Church, which Paul has in view, is to have its counterpart and model in the unity of the Christian household. The Church is only an enlarged family. Hence Church officers are to serve their apprenticeship in the matter of rule in the family. If they are not able to rule their own families well, they have no business to take office in the Church of God (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Of necessity, therefore, Christianity takes up the household and sanctifies it. The relation of Christianity to family life is most important. In the present section Paul takes up three relations and shows how love is to regulate them all.
I. THE RELATIONS OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES. (Vers 18, 19) Now, it is well known that women did not get justice under the ancient regime, and yet the apostle exhorts the wives to be in subjection to their husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Revised Version). Christianity has emphasized the passive virtues; it glorifies woman, therefore, by showing to the world how glorious a thing it is to be subject and even to suffer for love. Apparently this is to neglect "women's rights," but really it has secured them. It is in woman lovingly filling her station that she secures, not only her rights, but absolutely her reign. Husbands, again, are exhorted to give up all bitterness against their wives and to love them. Elsewhere he shows that the measure of the husband's love is to be the love of Christ for his Church; that is, a love which can be self sacrificing if need be, and which will be considerate at all times (Ephesians 5:22-33). In such a case, how harmonious family life proves! The stronger and the weaker natures are blended by love into one. Each has its sphere, and there need be no collision amid the responsibilities of love.
II. THE RELATIONS OF PARENTS TO CHILDREN. Here, again, the apostle appeals first to the weaker side. He wishes children to think how pleasing to the Father in heaven obedience is, and, as he has put their parents over them to be obeyed, the children should obey them in all things. There is to be strict obedience in all things to the natural authority. On the other hand, the fathers are exhorted not to provoke the children by their tyranny, lest the little ones be discouraged. Paul saw no such danger from the mother's rule. A mother comes with a tenderness and sympathy such as the harder nature of the father cannot always command. This exhortation to fathers is surely a great triumph for the mother.
III. THE RELATIONS OF MASTERS TO SLAVES. And here, again, Paul appeals first to the slaves. He does not encourage revolt, but the conquest which comes through loving obedience. Let the slave simply obey in the fear and love of God; let him do his work, not in a spirit of eye service as a pleaser of men, but in a spirit of conscientiousness as a slave of Christ, and he may rest assured of compensation from his Master in due season. This is liberty - the liberty of love, even though he is still nominally a slave. It is this Christian spirit which has made its mark and won the sympathy of the world, and issued in the emancipation of the slaves. Although Christianity apparently neglected the slaves, it has really been their deliverer. For what has it insisted on among the masters? On justice. Above them it has pointed out a heavenly Master, with whom there is no respect of persons, and who will do right by slave as well as by freeman, and give all their due. The gospel has contended for justice as between man and man, and the world is gradually coming to it. This freedom from respect of persons which characterizes God is a terror at once to the evil-doing slave and to the evil-doing master. If we could bring the world to this, men's wrongs would soon be righted. We are coming to it, blessed be God, steadily. The Christianized household is thus seen to be a unity. Husbands and wives are united in love's best bonds. Parents and children are united in beautiful authorities and subordinations. And masters and servants are united as subjects and servants of the one Master in heaven. It is the one God of love, who, as he overshadows all, unifies them in a life of love, which is the greatest witness he can have on earth. Let us see to it that the Christian spirit in all its beautiful and unifying power reigns in our households and fulfils within them the work of God. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.