Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Relationships Teach Submission to God

Episode Resources

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Leslie Basham: Author Bruce Ware reflects on the biblical command, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.”

Dr. Bruce Ware: That is a huge command. No husband has ever been able to fulfill that in the way in which Christ has loved the Church. It’s a standard that is so high and calls every husband constantly to reevaluate and improve.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Friday, April 13, 2018.

All week Nancy has been teaching through the True Woman Manifesto. It’s a document that describes the biblical basis for a True Woman Movement. Yesterday, Nancy described one of the points of the manifesto dealing with men’s roles and women’s roles in the home and church. So we’re taking a break from that teaching today, hearing from a guest who studied this topic carefully and is learning to live accordingly.

Nancy will introduce our guest.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, if you’ve been listening to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that our mission is to believe God for a movement of reformation and revival in the hearts of Christian women. We have kind of a two parallel tracks, two thrusts and emphases of this ministry.

One is, the mission of revival, and that has to do with our vertical relationship with the Lord and how that impacts every area of our lives, but we also talk a lot about biblical womanhood. Our ministry is to women, and we want to help women understand what God’s Word teaches about what it means to be a woman of God, what that looks like, and how we can fulfill God’s mission and calling for our lives as women.

In order to know what that is, we’ve got to be women of the Word. We need to understand what the ultimate authority, God’s Word, has to say about what it means to be a man or a woman, and how those two should interrelate with each other.

I’m delighted this week on Revive Our Hearts to have as our guest a man who is going to help us dive into God’s Word and get some greater understanding on some of those biblical issues and the teaching of biblical womanhood. Dr. Bruce Ware and his wife Jodi have been friends of mine for a long time. They’ve been prayer partners with Revive Our Hearts, supporters of the ministry, and encouragers. I’ve been so blessed by their friendship, but also by Dr. Ware’s teaching.

Dr. Ware is a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, having taught previously in a number of other seminaries. And he’s a man of the Word.

Bruce, I like to say that not only are you theologically savvy and sound, but you are doxological in your teaching because you believe that theology is not just intended to increase our head knowledge but to inflame our hearts and our devotion for Christ.

Dr. Ware: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: Thank you for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts. It’s really a delight to be with you in the studio today.

Dr. Ware: Thank you, Nancy. It is a great pleasure. Of course, I appreciate your ministry so very much, and thank you for inviting me to be a part of this.

Nancy: Well, you’ve been a cheerleader for us behind the scenes at Revive Our Hearts, and I’m so grateful for that. It’s been a great help and blessing to me to have men like you to whom I can look. I will sometimes email you a question and say, “I’m not sure about how this Scripture applies,” or “Am I handling this one correctly?” You’ve been so gracious over the years to provide counsel and instruction.

We want to talk today about this whole issue of what the Scripture has to say about manhood and womanhood. It’s an area where there’s a lot of confusion in our culture and even within our churches. We see a lot of differing opinions about the role of women and men today.

Dr. Ware: Yes, indeed. There is vast confusion on this, and our young people are not being helped much as they grow up in a culture that is already predisposed in a direction exactly opposite of what the Bible talks about. Then in many of their Christian contexts, they receive no help to see things differently.

Nancy: Isn’t that like the enemy, really, to steal from us the glory and the beauty of what God intended, going back to the Garden of Eden, really, just deceiving the woman and putting her in a role, a position that was not what God had in mind for her. We’ve seen the chaos that has resulted from that.

Dr. Ware: Yes.

Nancy: But we’re seeing similar chaos today in our marriages and in our churches when we don’t find and fulfill God’s place for our lives whether as men or as women.

Dr. Ware: Yes, indeed. Even in our churches, we see men who really do not understand what it is to be men, what it is to be a husband, what it is to be a leader, if they are in leadership at the church; and women who don’t understand their roles as women.

The whole notion of manhood and womanhood as the Bible talks about this is foreign even to so many Christian men and women. It results in really not knowing quite how to act toward one another, what each is supposed to be doing and not doing. There is confusion in the home and in the church and the lack of peace and structure and joy that God intends.

Nancy: It’s no wonder when, for the past couple of generations at least, in the very air we breathe in our culture, we’ve been told over and over and over again, “There are no differences between men and women,” except for the obvious physiological ones.

Dr. Ware: Right. Right.

Nancy: Yet we know according to God’s Word, which is, again, what we have to keep going back to, that there are differences. These are not something to be resisted or resented, but they’re precious and something to be cherished; that God’s way really does bring the kind of joy and peace you just talked about there.

Dr. Ware: Yes, that’s right. It’s a wonderful thing when you look at the Scripture to realize that God intended for men and women to understand that they are equal in their own humanity, in dignity and worth and value before God, both were created in the image of God. Yet God intended for the woman to be different from the man. There are these differences that matter in terms of how we function best.

It’s like anything—a pair of scissors or a lawn mower or an automobile—if you use it in a way that’s contrary to how it was designed, you’re going to harm it. That’s just as true with us as human beings. If we follow God’s design, we enter into the joy of the functioning of it, and if we go against God’s design, we harm ourselves and others in the process.

Nancy: So, let’s talk about God’s design, because I don’t want to assume that our listeners are necessarily acquainted with that. We’re far more influenced probably by the world’s way of thinking today than we are by the Scripture. You said the starting place is recognizing that God has created men and women equal in the sense of value and worth and yet that there are differences.

Dr. Ware: Yes.

Nancy: What are those differences, and how do we find those scripturally?

Dr. Ware: Well, it starts really in Genesis 1. The equality is stressed right at the very beginning when God says that He "created man in his own image and in the image of God He created them, male and female, he created them," Genesis 1:27. This is confirmed when you hear in Genesis 2 what the man says when the woman is brought to him, “[She] is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh” (v. 23). 

So in that statement you realize he is saying, “She is of the same bone as me, same flesh as me. She is commonly human as I am, and yet she is from me, so she is not the same as me, hence she will have a different name. Her name will be ishshah—woman, as his name was iysh—man."

So, while they are commonly human, they are intended by God to be different in their roles, and some of those roles are indicated even in the very beginning of Genesis that we can see, especially when we look back from the New Testament and see how Paul understood this.

So the fact, for example, that Adam was created first. You might think, Well, maybe God just created one or the other first, it didn’t matter which one, so that both of them would realize they need each other. That’s a sensible thing to imagine, but then we find out that Paul says that, in fact, God created the man first in order to indicate his headship in the relationship. So when he instructs in both 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 about roles of men and women in the church, he grounds that in the created order for it was man who was created first, not the woman.

Nancy: If you are in a place where you can get out your Bible and actually follow along with these texts, you will find that so helpful. You can go to ReviveOurHearts.com and follow along with the transcript. But better than the transcript, open your Bible. Become familiar with these passages that we are going to talk about in this series with Dr. Ware. Remember, Dr. Ware is not the authority; I'm not the authority; God's Word is the authority. That's what we need to base our understanding on.

Now, when you talk about headship, Dr. Ware, for some women that may conjure up an image of a man who is dictatorial, he’s cruel, he’s abusive, his word is law, there is no appeal. We’re getting emails from women who are in situations and marriages or other relationships where there is a reaction to men who are not reflecting the heart of Christ toward them as women. They hear the word headship, and this sounds onerous, it sounds repressive, but that’s really not God’s perspective on this concept.

Dr. Ware: Oh no. It’s such a perversion of what God intends that authority to bring about. For example, I’ll mention two passages:

Ephesians 5, at verse 25, Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Now, Christ is clearly head of the Church. That was made clear just in the verses earlier in that passage. So the woman, the wife, should submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. So Christ is the head of the Church, but how does Christ function as head, as authority over the Church? He does everything He can to bring about her good, her well-being.

Another beautiful passage that really does bring men up in terms of their understand of this is 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 7, where Peter instructs husbands, first of all, to "live with [their] wives in an understanding way . . . as with a weaker vessel" (paraphrased). So they are to be tender and considerate and understanding of them.

Nancy: It's no small challenge to live with a wife in an understanding way, I might add.

Dr. Ware: I agree.

Nancy: You’re growing in that, right?

Dr. Ware: I am growing just to live with a woman—I’m saying this as a man—in an understanding way is a challenge. We think differently; we feel differently; but those differences, of course, are meant to bring about great benefit for both of us.

But live with your wives in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel, and then he continues, and "grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life lest your prayer not be heard" (1 Peter 3:7, paraphrased).

So just hear this: If there are any men out there hearing this, men, you are to look at women, that’s all women, because they’re all created in the image of God as fully equal with you, so any notion of male superiority is absolutely rejected by the Bible. In fact, there is a male/female equality of importance, of value, of dignity, of worth before God. In a marriage this is so important for a husband to treat his wife in a way in which he respects her, he honors her, and his desire is for her good, her well-being, her growth in Christ.

Nancy: So what does his headship mean in that marriage and what doesn’t it mean?

Dr. Ware: Well, it does mean he does have authority. Of course, when Paul says in Ephesians 5 that wives should submit to their husbands in everything (and it does say that—a lot of women have chaffed at that, but here’s the reason) because how much is the Church supposed to submit to Christ in?

Nancy: In everything.

Dr. Ware: In everything. So, of course, there’s an implicit qualification that surely is there and that is there is no human authority, including a husband, who has the right to instruct someone under their authority to violate the will of God, to go against the will of God. So there may be situations where a wife must say, as being faithful to God, "no" to her husband when he is asking her or instructing her to sin.

Nancy: And yet, she can do that in a way that indicates there is an inclination in her heart that does want to be under, is willing to be under his headship.

Dr. Ware: Yes.

Nancy: So there are ways to say “no” and there are ways to say “no” and that becomes so important.

Dr. Ware: Yes. It’s a very good point. You would almost say “no” with a sense of regret in your heart that you have to do this, but you do have to in a case like that.

Nancy: So let’s just make that really clear. We’re not saying to women, and God is not saying to women, “If your husband is giving you direction to sin, to violate the Word of God, submission to His headship does not require that you sin against God.”

Dr. Ware: That’s right.

Nancy: God’s law is over that of the husband.

Dr. Ware: That’s right. God is the only one who has absolute authority over us. Except for those situations, then, a woman is to submit to her husband in those things, and by that show the world what the Church is like in relation to Christ. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of it, this demonstration of the Christ/Church relationship.

So the husband does have authority, but, again, he has that authority and is to use that authority for the well-being of his wife and family, not to order folks around, his wife around or his kids around, to be his servants, to get his way on things. But rather, he is to strategize and use his place of authority, his position in the home, to think carefully about how he can bless his family, what sorts of things he can do that would be of benefit to them.

Sometimes this may mean for husbands, rather than using their authority, to choose to be gone on outings with the boys for different things, and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. But there may be times where they use their authority to choose to be home for a family activity or to take their family out on a family hike or something like that and forego some pleasure that might have been their own for the sake of their family. That’s using their authority for the benefit of the wife and children.

Nancy: Isn’t that the heart of Christ who came to serve, to lay down His life?

Dr. Ware: Absolutely.

Nancy: That’s a high, a tall order for men to follow in that.

Dr. Ware: Yes.

Nancy: It reminds me that it’s important for us as women to be praying for the men to whom God has given that responsibility, that huge responsibility.

Dr. Ware: Yes, that’s right.

Nancy: To pray that God would give them grace and humility and wisdom to know how to fulfill that role well.

Dr. Ware: Yes, absolutely. When you think how much really does rest on the husbands, it is incumbent upon wives to support them in every way, including the way you just mentioned, Nancy, and that is to pray for them for the Lord to really fill them with wisdom. Even in 1 Peter 3, this is Peter’s instruction to women who are married to unsaved husbands.

Nancy: Yes.

Dr. Ware: And yet the language is the strongest in that section of Scripture than in anywhere else in the Scripture in terms of the submission of the wife to the husband. So you realize that God is saying, “Trust Me; trust Me. You do what I call you to do, and your life will be blessed, and you will be a blessing to your husband, even if he is not a believer.” Through that, perhaps, the Lord will bring him to faith.

Nancy: I want to flesh this out a little bit more and say—because we’ll get questions: “What does this look like? What about this? What about that?” Bruce, help us out. In your own marriage with Jodi, God has given you that responsibility to provide leadership, headship, for your wife and your family. What does that look like for you and Jodi? Does this mean that every big decision Bruce makes and every little decision you get to delegate? How does this work out? Are you the one giving all the direction? What does Jodi’s role become? Does she ever give input? What does that look like in your own marriage?

Dr. Ware: Yes. Well, I am blessed, as I know many husbands are. I am blessed with a wife who has a lot of wisdom herself. Honestly, I think this would be true of almost every husband, you would be a fool not to pay attention to the insight and the perspective and wisdom that your wife has.

I have benefitted many, many, many times. Our family has benefitted enormously from initiatives that Jodi has taken in thinking of ways our family can benefit in different activities. So I'm very glad to have input from her. But she knows, and I know, that when we have differences or perspectives that just don’t match, that ultimately I will need to be the one that makes the decision on what we do. Most often we agree. We end up seeing things the same way, and we go forward together.

In our marriage, one very notable decision was about a move to a different school where I believed the Lord wanted me to teach. It had been over a long period of time that the Lord had been indicating this, and yet it was a move that Jodi did not want to make. It was the hardest decision I’d made because I knew with complete confidence that Jodi was not wanting to do this. Of course, my heart is, I want to please her. I don’t want to do things that go against her or that she doesn’t like.

Nancy: Sure.

Dr. Ware: But I also knew this was the Lord’s will. So, I got down on my knees and signed the contract to this other school, put it in the mail, and prayed that the Lord would work in her heart, and He did. He did after I made the decision.

So I think sometimes you hear from people who hold this complementarian view. You hear things like this: “A husband and wife should never make a major decision unless both of them are in agreement.” Well, what that means in practice is: “Wives, submit to your husbands on all the easy things, but anything that’s really difficult, you don’t have to because you both have to be in agreement.”

No. It doesn’t work that way, and Jodi, to her credit, really, to the grace of God in her, she did not buck this decision or make me miserable because of it. She yielded to it, and within days, the Lord began changing her heart. It turned out that that move was tremendously blessed by God. There’s no question that God’s hand was in it.

Nancy: And she would say that today.

Dr. Ware: Yes, oh absolutely.

Nancy: And really, the freedom for her came not so much because her trust was in you, but her trust was in God.

Dr. Ware: That’s right.

Nancy: Knowing that God is big enough to change the heart of that man. I love that verse in Proverbs 21 that says "the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, and the Lord turns his heart as the rivers of water withersoever he will" (v. 1, paraphrased).

I’ve often said that the greatest evidence of how big I believe God is and how trustworthy I think God is is my willingness to come under God-ordained authority when I don’t agree with it.

Dr. Ware: Amen.

Nancy: To trust that God is big enough to change the heart of that king, I don’t mean that in an autocratic sense, but that leader, and God’s big enough to change our hearts as women . . . That’s where it sounds like, for a healthy marriage and a Christ-centered marriage, there needs to be this mutual commitment to Jesus Christ and to selflessness and to serving that then enables a husband to lead and a wife to follow that leadership in a way that brings glory to God.

Dr. Ware: Exactly. Very good.

Nancy: Now, Bruce, what we’ve been talking about here is radically counter-cultural.

Dr. Ware: Oh, is it ever, Nancy.

Nancy: I can just see for some people who are listening to Revive Our Hearts today, this is sounding like we are from another planet, and they’re wondering, Where in the world did you come from? This is so diametrically opposed to the way the world thinks and the way we’ve been conditioned to think today. It goes contrary to our natural bent and instinct, as God’s ways often do. His ways are so much higher and different than our own.

Dr. Ware: Right.

Nancy: Take us, again, Bruce, back to where we have to rest our hearts and our understanding and our lives, and that is to the Scripture.

Dr. Ware: Yes. It is an amazing, thing, Nancy. We do live in a culture that is far more prone to independence and resistance to authority, but, as sinners, human beings have always been this way. That is, there is a sense where we are just like our ancestors thousands of years ago. I think for that reason, you find every single New Testament passage that directs wives in their relationship, it includes submit. There are other things that are taught in some passages and not in other s. But the one common element that is in every text is that wives should submit to their husbands. There is a very simple reason why this is true, because the heart of a sinner—and that includes men—is one that wants his or her own way, not the way of God.

Nancy: We are born rebels.

Dr. Ware: We are. God has to tame our hearts, and one of the ways He does this is by putting us into authority/submission relationships where we yield to the good will of God and by that resist the wicked and sinful inclinations of our hearts.

Nancy: And, by the same token, the instruction God gives to men requires them to go against the natural bent of their sinful flesh.

Dr. Ware: Exactly. It isn’t authority for your own sake. It is authority for the benefit of your wife. Love your wives as Christ loved the Church. That is a huge command. No husband has ever been able to fulfill that in the way in which Christ has loved the Church. It’s a standard that is so high and calls every husband constantly to reevaluate and improve.

Leslie: Bruce Ware has been our guest. He’s been talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth about the roles of men and women and the impossibility of living out these roles without God’s help. Bruce will be right back.

You’ll find a lot of ideas Bruce and Nancy talked about today when you read the True Woman Manifesto. It’s a document outlining biblical womanhood. I hope you’ll get a copy at ReviveOurHearts.com and follow along next week when Nancy continues teaching through the manifesto.

Do you ever feel like you’re swimming upstream when you try to live out the truths you heard today? I want to invite you to get encouragement by joining with thousands of other women learning out to live out the beauty of the gospel in uniquely feminine ways.

Where can you do that? The True Woman '18 conference! The theme this year is, The Truth That Sets Us Free. Speakers like Nancy, Jackie Hill Perry, and Mary Kassian will explore the truth that sets you free in concise messages. And the drama group Acts of Renewal will drive those truths into your heart as you laugh and cry with them.

For more details on joining us September 27–29 in Indianapolis for True Woman '18, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can still get in on the lowest prices when you sign up by May 1. To get details by phone, call 1–800–569–5959. 

Bruce Ware says husbands need to care more about pleasing God rather than anyone else.

Dr. Ware: My responsibility is my own before the Lord to live out, by the power of the Spirit, what the Lord has called me to in this setting in which He’s put me.

Leslie: Bruce Ware comes back on Monday for Revive Our Hearts, and he’s also back to pray for us today.

Dr. Ware: Lord, thank You so very much for the institution of marriage that You have made, for providing husbands and wives and children. What a gift You have given in this, Lord. We pray, Father, for all those who are listening to this program that you will grant to the women in particular a deep desire, Lord, to know what Your Word teaches and to live it out knowing that this is Your good and wise design for them. You alone know best, Lord God. Help our listeners to believe that with all their hearts. We pray these things with confident expectation because we pray them in the name of the risen Savior Jesus, amen.

Nancy: Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you live out your God-given role for His glory. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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