Everyone Submits to Someone

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Leslie Basham: Let’s say your spouse refuses to embrace God’s design for them. Dr. Bruce Ware says you still need to embrace God’s design for you.

Dr. Bruce Ware: So my responsibility in my marriage is not my wife. My responsibility in my church is not the elder, the pastor. My responsibility is my own before the Lord.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for Monday, April 16, 2018.

Everyone, both men and women, are called to submit to someone. We’ll find out why as we continue to explore the True Woman Manifesto. Last week Nancy told us about one of the affirmations of that Manifesto.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It says that we affirm that men and women are both created in the image of God. No controversy so far. And are equal in value and dignity. So far so good. But here’s where the rub comes. We affirm that they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church.

Leslie: We’re taking a break from Nancy’s teaching to hear from a biblical scholar who has thought a lot about manhood and womanhood. Nancy . . .

Nancy: Well, I have no doubt that we will be getting a lot of email in response to the series we’re airing this week, and that’s a good thing. Thank you for writing to us and sharing with us how God is using this ministry in your life. But also questions that you have, illustrations out of your own life as God is working in these areas in your life. We love to hear that.

We don’t even mind people writing and saying "I disagree." What we want to do in this ministry is keep pointing people back to the Word of God. That’s our authority. We’re talking with Dr. Bruce Ware this week about biblical manhood and womanhood in particular. Dr. Ware is a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Thank you, Dr. Ware, for joining us this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Dr. Ware: You are very welcome, Nancy. It’s a great pleasure to be with you.

Nancy: Let me just say to our listeners that one of the commitments I made years ago is a commitment that I would have male theological review of each of my books before they came out. Dr. Ware, you’ve been so kind to provide that on a number of those books.

I can remember on Lies Women Believe, for example, going back and forth on some issues. You were saying, “I wouldn’t say it that way.” I’m saying, “Please help me understand why not.” But that has been a great service and a real protection to me and to this ministry. Many of our listeners have benefited from the input and counsel and instruction that you have given to me in relation to those books. So thank you on their behalf as well.

Dr. Ware: You’re very welcome, Nancy. It was an easy task with your writing because it was so good and it was a great, great pleasure to read it and honestly to do just a little bit of tweaking here and there. I did also admire you for wanting to do that. I thought that was just a wonderful thing to seek counsel from other people, and it was a pleasure to help with that.

Nancy: Well, you and your wife, Jodi, who has become a dear friend of mine over the years as well, have been such an important part of this ministry. I want to thank you for being willing to help us dig into the Word of God this week and understand better what God’s Word teaches as it relates to our role as women in particular.

That teaching of the Scripture goes so contrary to the way of the world. It’s as politically incorrect a subject as we could probably talk about on this broadcast, but we’re not shying away from those things because we know that God’s ways are right. Every word of God is true, and it is the means to peace and joy.

Now we started yesterday; you took us into Genesis chapters 1 and 2. I want to just again encourage our listeners, if you’re in a place where you can stop and pull out your Bible and follow along, you will get so much more out of this discussion. Again, it’s not what Dr. Ware thinks. It’s not what Nancy DeMoss thinks. It’s what God has told us is true.

In our last program, we talked about this term of headship, and you reminded us according to God’s Word that God has given to men the primary responsibility in the home and in the church to lead and to feed their families spiritually. Yet I know that there are those who would say that this whole concept of male headship in the home and in the church didn’t come until after Adam and Eve sinned and therefore they would say in a redeemed world these things no longer apply.

True or not?

Dr. Ware: Yes, there are many, many who see it just that way. In fact, this is what makes this issue in particular such a difficult one for Christian people who differ to talk about in cordial ways because the difference could not be more striking.

In the complementarian view, the view that I hold and you hold, Nancy, the view that holds that men and women are created equal in essence but different in roles. In that complementarian view, it’s very clear that the Bible teaches that God created men and women equal in their essence but different in roles.

Then when sin came in, sin distorted both of the roles of men and women—men in their leadership, women in their submission. Sin is manifested both in men and women. But then in redemption in Christ, there is power and grace to bring back what God intended in the first place. So wives can submit to their husbands as they ought and husbands can love their wives as Christ loved the church.

In the egalitarian position, which is the position that holds there is no distinction between men and women in terms of their roles that God intends them to have, they hold instead that in creation God did not intend any role distinctions but because of sin, that’s where they come in. That is, male headship, if you want to call it that, is simply the result of sin. But then in Christ we can be restored and we submit mutually to one another but there is no longer any headship.

So we have exactly opposite views of the way in which God intends male and female to function in these two different positions in the church.

Nancy: I know that one verse that those of the egalitarian persuasion would use to make this point comes from Galatians chapter 3, verse 28. Help us out with that verse.

Dr. Ware: Yes, in fact they call this their magna carta of the women’s movement from the Bible. Paul says there’s no distinction between Jew or Gentile, between slave or free, and between male and female. That all are one in Christ. They see that to mean that any distinction we held in terms of male authority was the result of sin and it needs to be put down now that we are in Christ.

Nancy: So help us understand that verse as you see it in the context of Scripture. What does it mean?

Dr. Ware: It’s a beautiful verse that says that both men and women, both Jews and Gentiles, both slave and free, all people who have come to Christ receive all of the benefits of Christ. So my wife Jodi and I share together equally in the inheritance of all the riches of Christ. There’s no distinction between male or female in terms of the benefits of the atoning work of Christ in her life and mine. And same for Jew and Gentiles; same for slave and free.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t differences in other respects. So the other passages in the New Testament that talk about roles of men and women in fact are also true. So on the one hand it’s true that men and women are equal in the sense of being equal recipients of all the benefits of Christ. But there still is a difference in terms of how God made them and their responsibilities and those are worked out differently in the home with male headship manifest.

Nancy: Now sin did really complicate things, no question about that.

Dr. Ware: It did, yes.

Nancy: And distorted the God-created differences and roles between men and women. We see that so clearly in Genesis chapter 3, which is where we read about the Fall. There’s a key verse there that I wish you’d help us unpack. As God comes and speaks to the man and the woman after the Fall, and to the serpent as well, help us understand what that has to do with biblical roles for men and women.

Let me encourage our listeners to turn to Genesis chapter 3, and we’re looking beginning in verse . . . what, about 14 or 15 there?

Dr. Ware: Yes, right. Well, it’s an amazing statement that God makes after sin has occurred. Of course, you’ll remember that the serpent came to the woman, approached the woman, and I believe that was deliberate. I believe that the serpent was subverting the very authority structure that God had put in place by deliberately coming to the woman. The man did not step up to the plate as he should have.

Nonetheless, the woman took the fruit, ate of it, gave it to the man, he ate of it. So here we have now sin for the first time in the human race. As a result God cursed, as you know, the serpent and the woman and the man. The curse to the woman in particular is a very interesting statement. In verse 16 you can tell that it’s getting directly at her own role as a woman and the way God had made her to be a mother and child bearer.

So in verse 16, “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children” (NASB). Now this last phrase has been the subject of so much discussion. The end of verse 16 reads, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Many egalitarians hold that this verse indicates that authority and submission happened here, that is because of sin the husband has authority and will rule over his wife; and because of sin, she will have an attitude of subjugation. She will feel that she needs to be under his authority, but in fact that’s only because of sin. In Christ that’s removed.

Nancy: That’s what the egalitarians would say, meaning therefore that it was not God’s created intention from the beginning that there should be these different roles. But you’re saying that’s not accurate.

Dr. Ware: That’s right. This is a vast misunderstanding of what this verse is saying. When Moses, the author here, says to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” it helps a lot to look in chapter 4. If you have your Bibles, you can look there yourselves at verse 7. The very same phrase, identical in Hebrew, the same phrase is used where God tells Cain who is about to kill his brother Abel that "sin is crouching at the door." This is Genesis 4:7, and "its desire is for you, but you must rule over it," or master it.

It’s identical in Hebrew to the phrases in 3:16. Well, at 4:7, it’s very clear what this means. It’s desire for you means sin wants to make you do what it wants you to do, and in response to that you’re going to have to exert your authority. You’re going to have to say "no" to sin in that.

Well, if you take that understanding back to 3:16, what God is telling the woman is, you will have something happen in you because of sin that hasn’t happened before. That is, there will be a desire to have your way instead of yielding to your husband’s way.

This hasn’t happened before. You have not been a sinner before. But now your sinful heart will want to go your own way. Now because your husband has never faced this before, what he will have to do is rule over you. That is, he’ll have to exert his authority when that authority is challenged.

Now of course, that sin that afflicts the woman in wanting her way, that sin afflicts the husband, too. So when his authority is challenged, husbands can respond, or men in general can respond, in one of two ways. They can respond with overbearing authority. We would call that abuse or cruelty that would be done to others.

Or much more common, yet it doesn’t make the front pages of the papers, is he would respond by saying, “Okay dear, whatever you want dear,” and simply become a passive, yielding husband who does not see his own responsibility in leadership in the home as a significant thing. He simply acquiesces to anything that the wife would like to do.

So in either way the rightful authority, the kind of leadership that a husband ought to have is violated because of sin within his own heart, either to become overbearing or to become passive and acquiescing.

Nancy: This is so very practical. This is not just theological gymnastics here because we are getting emails day after day from women who listen to this program who are baring their hearts about issues in their marriages and the issues with their husbands really tend to fall into one of these two categories. Either he is overbearing, domineering, controlling, rude, or violent. Or he won't do anything. He just sits there, or he’s not there. Passivity.

We hear from women whose hearts are broken and are asking what does God want me to do in responding to either of these two extremes? Really both of these extremes in men are the result of what took place there in Genesis chapter 3, with Eve saying, "I’ll have it my way," and the man saying, "Go ahead."

Dr. Ware: Yes, absolutely. When you see that, you realize what a radical statement it is in Ephesians 5 that we talked about in the last program, that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. So they have authority but they don’t use it in ways that are abusive or overbearing or for their own personal benefit, per se. But rather they do use their authority though. They understand they will give an account before God in ways that their wives will not for the health and well-being of their homes. So they exert their authority, but they do it in ways that will benefit their wife and their children.

Nancy: It’s interesting that in Ephesians 5, and we touched on this in the last program, God calls redeemed men and women to respond in ways that go against the grain of their natural, sinful flesh. The husband who is going to be tempted to either be simply aggressive or simply passive is called to love and lead, things that he has to engage. That’s a challenge to his natural flesh.

And the woman whose drive is to control and rule over her husband is told that she is to reverence and submit to her husband. So either way we have to be filled with the Spirit and willing to say "no" to our natural sinful flesh.

Dr. Ware: Excellent point. That is so true. It really makes you realize that if this is going to work, it requires the power of the Spirit, a regenerate life, the work of the power of the Word that convinces hearts and minds of people to redirect really all of their inclinations and attitudes in a direction that is not only contrary to the culture, but contrary to their own sinful flesh.

Nancy: And that’s where we’re always saying to women, and God would say to men as well, you know what God is calling for is a lifestyle that says, “Yes, Lord.”

Dr. Ware: Amen.

Nancy: Yes, Lord. Have Your way, Lord, in my life. Ultimately I find, Bruce, in my own life that the issue isn’t really any human authority. The issue is the submission of my heart to God’s authority. When that is settled, when I’m saying "yes" to the Lord, then it doesn’t become so threatening or onerous for me to be willing to come under God-ordained human authority.

Dr. Ware: Yes. Right. Of course it’s true, Nancy, that this same issue is every bit as much relevant for every man who may be listening to this program because all of us in some sphere or another are under the authority of others. All of us under the authority of the government. Most of us work and are under the authority of employers. So we find ourselves in positions where we should obey the authority of others. Our sinful natures buck and resist that at every turn.

I am convinced that the theme song of hell has been written already, and it’s encapsulated in the phrase, “I did it my way.” Of course, here is the call of grace. No, do it God’s way. But this requires a tremendous work of the Spirit in our hearts to help us to see the beauty and the goodness as well as the rightness of in fact yielding to the ways of the Lord. To become a slave of righteousness, as Paul talks about in Romans, chapter 6, is truly to enter into freedom.

Nancy: The wonderful thing too is that our obedience doesn’t hinge on the obedience of others. Now obviously they’re interrelated, but as a child of God and a woman of God, I can choose the way of submission to God and God-ordained authority regardless of what others around me do. Regardless of whether men are doing their part well. This is true for men as well. They can step up to the plate and fulfill their God-ordained responsibility.

I think a lot of times we wait for the other person and say, “Well, if only my husband would get his act together, or if only the men in the church would get their act together, then I could be the woman God wants me to be.” But there’s such power in being the first one to go to the cross, deny the sinful flesh, and say "yes" to the Lord. The obedience of either partner in a marriage can be that which God uses to provoke the brokenness and the obedience of the other.

Dr. Ware: Yes, that is such an important point. It really does make things clear, doesn’t it? So my responsibility in my marriage is not my wife. My responsibility in my church is not the elder, the pastor. 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 has put me.

One thing that helps with that is it helps us not to shift blame. Instead, we accept responsibility for our own roles and lives before God and that becomes primary rather than always looking at somebody else and thinking what they ought to be doing.

Nancy: Speak, if you would, a word of encouragement to the wife who says, “I want to be the woman God wants me to be, but I’m not getting the healthy encouragement, the leadership that I need from my husband.”

Dr. Ware: Well a couple things that come to my mind, one is resources that are available that can be an encouragement, as this program is. There are so many books and mp3s. You can download sermons and conferences that can be a tremendous encouragement and stimulation and growth—both in terms of coming to know God better which is ultimately the thing we all need most. We need to see how great and powerful and wise He is. Then our problems take on right perspective. God is bigger and greater than all of these things. But also practical help that can be brought to them through these resources.

The other thing that comes to my mind is the power of prayer. It's one of your heart's longings for people to experience more fully the power of prayer and to take seriously that fact that as God’s people humble themselves before Him and bring their requests to the throne of grace, He hears and responds, and never to give up on that. Keep praying for God to be at work in situations.

In the end, we are not responsible for the changes that will take place in another person. We pray and ask God to do it. Our responsibility is simply to be faithful in our praying and in our living until the Lord calls us to be with Himself.

Nancy: I love that phrase you just said remembering that God is at work. I’m thinking of something I heard John Piper say in a message years ago, and it stuck with me. He said in every circumstance and situation of your life God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know. Our perspective is so finite, so limited to the here and the now.

Sometimes that involves pain. Sometimes that involves pain. We are sinners living with sinners. We've not been glorified or sanctified. Sanctification sometimes involves being stretched and challenged beyond what we think we can bear. But God gives grace for the moment as we trust that He is at work. We believe, Lord, You have a bigger picture here, something You are painting in my life, in the life of my family, in the lives of others who are watching. That’s where again you come back to trusting that God is bigger. God is greater. God is at work. Not to minimize the challenge or the difficulty but to say that God is even able to take the failures and the wrongs of others and cause that ultimately to bring glory to God as He is able to do that which we cannot do in a situation.

Leslie: Real life can be tough. Which means living out biblical truth can be complicated. But by His grace, we can still learn to be exactly the men and the women God created us to be. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Dr. Bruce Ware have been discussing a biblical definition of masculinity and femininity. Nancy will be right back.

Today’s conversation is part of a series on the True Woman Manifesto. Nancy has been teaching through this statement of beliefs here on Revive Our Hearts. We’d like to help you articulate what you really believe about God’s creation, the value of life, singleness, marriage, and gender. You can explore all these topics when you go through the study “A 30-Day Journey Through the True Woman Manifesto.”

The way this Bible study works is pretty simple. You’ll read a statement from the manifesto, then look up a series of Scripture passages we provide to learn more about that statement. Then you record your observations in the booklet. I hope that during the Manifesto series you’ll explore God’s Word for yourself and build a strong foundation for what you believe.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, we’d like to send you the booklet, "A 30-Day Journey Through the True Woman Manifesto" along with another pamphlet that includes the complete Manifesto text. Ask for these resources when you call 1–800–569–5959 with a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

The church is filled with energetic, talented women who are eager to proclaim the gospel. Is it biblically permissible for these women to become senior pastors or elders in the church? Dr. Bruce Ware discusses this topic tomorrow. Now Nancy’s back to close our time.

Nancy: I know that over these last few moments we’ve been speaking to some people who are just so wounded, so wishing that things were different, feel so trapped in their life circumstance. I’d like us to just take a moment to pray and ask God to minister grace to you in your situation, whatever that may be right now.

Lord, we confess that we have not lived out well Your calling for our lives as women. I want to thank You that You are a redeeming God who is in the process of making all things new and that You have not left us to wallow in our fallenness, but You have through Christ and His work on the cross provided hope.

Lord, we pray that you would restore and renew marriages by Your grace. By the power of Your Holy Spirit come and do that which is humanly impossible. In the meantime, would You give perseverance and would you cause even the sufferings of this present time to produce in Your children that faith that is tried and tested and pure as gold for Your glory. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you know your Bible better. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

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