Jesus our example of a godly husband

Jesus our example of a godly husband

What is the godly way for a husband to treat his wife? Should he take authority over her and make decisions for her by going against her will? Many complementarians think that this is what the Bible tells the man to do and so we ask, what would Jesus do?

We know that Jesus is called the bridegroom of the church so we can learn from the way that Jesus acted towards his bride while he was here on earth. Let’s have a close look at the topic of decision making. Just before Jesus was to die, Jesus was with his disciples and he knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was going back to God.

John 13:4 (NET) he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.

John 13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

John 13:6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.”

John 13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!”

John 13:10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean…”

Notice in this passage that not only did Jesus take the position of a servant, but he did not force himself on the disciples to make their decision for them. Peter balked at having his feet washed and Jesus did not take authority over Peter. Instead, Jesus explained to him that it was necessary to allow Jesus to do this act of service in order to have a share with him. It was then that Peter made the decision to allow Jesus to do his work and to serve him.

So how does this illustrate how the bridegroom should treat his bride? It shows that although Jesus could have taken authority over the disciples, he did not do that. He allowed them to submit to his service. For the disciples submission was allowing the bridegroom to serve the bride and to give himself for his own body. There was no forced submission and the servant-hood of Jesus was not for the benefit of the groom, but for the benefit of the bride.

Why is this an example of God’s way? It is because if the bridegroom takes authority over his bride he violates her personhood. The submission that Jesus gave to the Father while he was here on the earth was an act of power not of weakness. It was an act of his own will not an act of one who had taken authority over him. Submission can be a godly example of power under control and it is the means to allow another person to serve you. Jesus does not violate our will but he woos us so that we will submit to his tender service. Taking authority over a person is forced submission and it is never advocated in the scriptures.

Any thoughts about why the husband is never granted the right to take authority over his wife?

35 thoughts on “Jesus our example of a godly husband

  1. The same is true of YHWH as husband to the Israelites. YHWH never forced his way or broke the tie or anything like that, even tho both the northern tribes and southern tribes were unfaithful, etc.

  2. “Any thoughts about why the husband is never granted the right to take authority over his wife?”

    Because there is only one authority now (except for government) for Christians and that is Jesus Christ?

  3. If Adam is any example, the man should be the last person to be given authority over anyone. 😉

    As for the writings of Paul, why would there have been need to give even more authority to husbands when it was taken for granted in that society? It was during a time when the way of the world and even Israel was for husbands to lord over their wives. Yet he only used the word for authority when he spoke of both husbands and wives regarding each other’s body, and when he tackled the issue of women having authority/power over their own heads in regards to head covering traditions. So he gave wives more authority than they had ever had before.

    Yet more importantly, neither Jesus nor Paul taught hierarchy among believers at all, and in fact taught against it explicitly. So rather than ask why husbands are not given authority over wives, we should ask why no believer is given authority over another believer in any capacity.

    And of course the answer is that Christianity is never supposed to be about authority and hierarchy, but service and love among equals. For Paul to ignore Jesus’ overturning of worldly authority and his own statements about mutual submission by making an exception in marriage alone would be utter nonsense and self-contradictory.

    What could possibly motivate people to want hierarchy in the church or the home– and even in the Trinity? Why do they always try to make a military or business model the assumed divine order, instead of friendship or family? How can it not be the sin of pride to want to lord over another believer?

  4. Good thoughts, guys. Here’s another one. Do you know what one of the differences between Adam and Jesus are regarding both of them being husbands? Adam knew the truth and said nothing to his wife to stop her from being deceived. But Jesus does the opposite. He let’s us (his bride) know if something is not true. He said:

    John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; …

    Jesus is the perfect example of a loving, kind and faithful husband who warns us about deception.

  5. Teknomom,

    “What could possibly motivate people to want hierarchy in the church or the home– and even in the Trinity? Why do they always try to make a military or business model the assumed divine order, instead of friendship or family? How can it not be the sin of pride to want to lord over another believer?”

    It seems to me that there are many even in the church who believe that the one who is the most important gets the privilege of “taking authority over” or “lording it over” others. But Jesus turned this notion upside down by saying that if one is seeking importance in the body of Christ one needs to seek for humility and servant-hood. The true leader gets under people and his/her lead is to lift people up and support them instead of a top-down leadership where the leader has people do his bidding and the people below him are serving him. Taking authority over others in the body of Christ is not God’s way but the way of the world.

  6. Teknomom, I could never understand it either. Why try and model something on a fallen earthly order that has failed the test of time? You’re observation is crack-on, the last thing we need is another “leader” to blaze our trail for us. God knows we’ve had too many of them already. Kings, governments, clerics and oligarchies all start out with the best of intentions, but they all slide into eventual corruption. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Jesus said “the kingdom of Heaven is within you…”

  7. That’s the fundamental problem underlying the gender debate, Greg. People just don’t get it, and never have. The Assembly was never meant to be another religion of performance, but a relationship to the God who stooped down to become one of us. We have Jesus’ statement you quoted, plus “not so among you”, plus “neither here nor in Jerusalem but in spirit and truth”. We have the believers in Acts just sharing their lives, and Paul blowing away the old hierarchies and legalities. We have not one hint of the establishment of a corporate structure, liturgy, relics, etc.

    And somehow, in spite of it all, for most of its history, Christianity has been nothing it should have been and everything it should not have been.

    The gender debate is only part of this overall issue of authority and domination, this need to “be like all the others” as ancient Israel did in demanding a human king. How it must grieve God to see most of his children despising the free gift he bought at a great price and trading it for “a pot of stew”. And even in the “out of church” movement, people still exclude women from these wonderful blessings and freedom.

    The comps must be confronted: is this a man-centered religion, or is it Christ-centered? Is it Masculinity or Christianity? An earthly kingdom or a heavenly/ spiritual kingdom?

  8. Jesus is simply the Man I want to be like. Both egalitarians and complementarians need to learn of Him. I just read an interview of J.I. Packer, eminent evangelical theologian, from Touchstone Magazine. His views of women in church leadership and in general are interesting:

    Women’s ordination is probably the single major bone of contention among traditionalist and Evangelical Anglicans. Where do you stand on that issue? Are you for or against it?

    JIP: I do not find the arguments to the effect that Scripture forbids the Church to make women presbyters compelling. While I, therefore, think the Church may do it, I think it is folly for the Church to do it.


    JIP: Scripture makes clear that God, having made the two sexes different, wants them to remain different. To turn the presbyterate, which in the New Testament is defined clearly as a man’s job, into a unisex role is a departure from that divine wisdom. I believe in women’s giftedness and ministry, but their ministry should be separately structured.

    Is this personal for you?

    JIP: I do not hold the church’s mistake here against any individual woman clergyman, but I make plain to anyone who asks that I accept women presbyters as such under protest. I think the Anglican Church ought not to have accepted women’s ordination to the presbyterate.

    In regards to the TNIV:

    What might be at risk in these new translations?

    JIP: What is jeopardized in these translations is the fact that, according to Scripture, masculinity entails leadership and femininity entails support. Patterns of cooperation between the sexes in which the man takes leadership responsibility are, on balance, healthier, because they are directly fitted to human nature in a way that a reversal of this pattern can never be.

    What is puzzling about Packer’s theology of gender is it’s lack of scriptural support for the clean cut “masculinity-lead” and “femininity-support” motif. Since when is being an elder of the church of God a “man’s job?” What about the female elders in 1 Timothy 5? Whatever happened to mothers instructing children, Deborah leading the army of the Lord into victory over Sisera and Jabin, Queen Esther being an instrument of salvation of her people, Priscilla instructing Apollos, Nympha leading the house church she help establish? This seems the a blatant disregard for the Scriptures to me? Any thoughts, Cheryl?

  9. I don’t want to change the subject here but what are the thoughts behind male domination (which has reaped a reinterpretation of the Trinity (!) of all things, the most important doctrine (!) leading to the rise of the anti-christ? I’ve heard of it before and it occured to me before I had read about such.


  10. Cheryl- not on topic, but I just wanted to drop by your blog to tell you that I haven’t forgotten about our conversation!!! I am starting to have opprotunity to be on the computer more these days and hope to get an email to you soon.


  11. pinklight,
    There will be much more on the Trinity as that is the subject I am working on for our next DVD.

    Good to hear from you! I look forward to continuing a conversation with you in your time.

  12. “What about the female elders in 1 Timothy 5?” Jason Oliver Evans

    Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how can one tell that there are mentioned female elders in 1 Tim 5?

    In His loving and strong Hand,
    yours in Christ,

  13. Martin,

    The root word “presbutero” can be translated either as an appointed Elder or simply an older person. Only context can tell us which is meant, and it isn’t always clear.

    In 1 Tim. 5 we see both male and female “presbutero” are mentioned, but context does not tip the scale either way. Even so, whatever is meant by the word for males is also meant for females, so it’s either speaking of male and female Elders, or of old men and old women.

    However, we do see in Ch. 4 verse 14 that a “group of elders” laid hands on Timothy to give him a gift of prophecy. This being only a few sentences before the other “elder” words would tend to lean the meaning toward that of an appointed position, not simply the aged.

    This same issue holds true in the letter to Titus. Paul specified that “elders” were to be appointed, and of course age cannot be appointed so it must mean positions of respect in the assembly. Then Paul goes on to talk about male and female “elders” in ch. 2. So here again we see “elders” defined as positions and then both male and female “elders” addressed.

    The point of all that being, whatever is true of male elders is also true of female elders; they all come from the same root word.

  14. JIP: Scripture makes clear that God, having made the two sexes different, wants them to remain different. To turn the presbyterate, which in the New Testament is defined clearly as a man’s job, into a unisex role is a departure from that divine wisdom. I believe in women’s giftedness and ministry, but their ministry should be separately structured.

    The fact that God made male and female different has nothing whatsoever to do serving God and His people in leadership ministries. Physical differences do not hinder God’s people from being used of the Holy Spirit to speak truth, give wise direction, or teach Biblical truths.

    I have an idea, but just to be certain, what Scriptures do you think make the case for the bishops and elders being male only?

  15. Jason,

    Your quote: “JIP: What is jeopardized in these translations is the fact that, according to Scripture, masculinity entails leadership and femininity entails support. Patterns of cooperation between the sexes in which the man takes leadership responsibility are, on balance, healthier, because they are directly fitted to human nature in a way that a reversal of this pattern can never be.”

    While we can see that the pattern of humanity since sin entered the world has been one of male domination, we simply do not see this instituted by God Himself. If it were, we would find that God would be guilty of contradicting himself. The pattern instead is one of giftedness and willing servanthood and both are signs of God’s leading not mankind’s leading. If God gifts a woman and then serves the body of Christ through her, who are we to tell God he cannot do this? Who are we to say that there is some unwritten “rule” that negates a woman being used in any position that may influence an adult male? The fact is that men and women are different and this fact reinforces the wisdom of having both men and women serve the body. Woman often give leadership/servanthood in more compassionate ways than many men do. Women balance out men just as men balance out women. True complementarity is balance. True complementarity is not exclusion of people due to their race, their gender or their social status. When we ignore true biblical complementarity we find ourselves in a human-centered program. God’s Spirit is best expressed through both His male and his female “sons” complementing, encouraging and supporting one another without prejudice.

  16. Yes, Cheryl!! Well explained!! 🙂 Male domination of the world over the centuries is a result of sin. In Genesis, when God gave the ‘curses’ to Eve about her husband ruling over her, he was foretelling, not condoning, the situation he knew would occur in the future.

  17. Ok, agree with you 100% that a husband is not told to make sure that his wife submits, or to make her to do so when she doesn’t. And I also agree with you that the picture of Christ to His church that we are given (and that husbands are to model) is one of servant leadership, not a domineering Lordship, but a Lordship marked by sacrifice.

    But this idea of servant leadership, and the fact that husbands aren’t commanded to make their wives submit doesn’t cancel out the fact that wives are told to submit. Not because their husbands are making them, not because it is the cultural system, but because it is how the Church responds to Christ and it is honoring to God. Ultimately it is a submission as to Him and unto to Him.

    So this post I think is a fantastic answer to those who would like to twist something beautiful and commanded by God into something completely different (making servant lorship into domineering lordship) but it certain doesn’t make the complementarian position null and void.

  18. Tiffany,

    The one thing that is added by complementarians that isn’t in the text is “leadership”. The husband is told to sacrifice for his wife and she is told to submit (to his sacrificial servanthood) but he is never told to lead his wife nor is she told that he is to be her leader. For some reason complementarians read in “leadership” when this is foreign to the text. Women don’t need a husband to “lead” them. They do need a husband to sacrifice for them. Never once does scripture ever position a husband in a leadership place over his wife. If this was the case then she would not be able to mature in Christ. As it is, the wife is given the responsibility to also mature in Christ without the need for a mediator between herself and her Lord. The husband can “lead” if he would like and a good thing for him would be to “lead” in humility and “lead” in servanthood. But the husband is not the “leader”. The ideal is the husband and wife working together as one, not one or the other “leading” the other. I still find it amazing that we so readily attach the position of “leader” to the husband when the scriptures never given him that place. Servant – yes; Leader – no.

  19. How is Christ the head of the church?
    How is the Church to submit to Christ?

    After we answer those questions then we have answered how wives are to act toward their husbands.

  20. Hi Tiffany,

    Thanks for such great questions. Christ is the head of the church in that he nourishes the body and is the agent of growth to the body.

    Eph 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
    Eph 5:30 because we are members of His body.

    Christ nourishes the church by providing this Word to us for our growth and he also provides gifts to the church for the edification of the body.

    How is the church to submit to Christ? The church is to accept the nourishment that Jesus gives to the body. The church is also to accept the sacrifice that Jesus has given to us. We are to submit to these things so that we can grow and mature and so we can have a full relationship with our Lord Jesus.

  21. Agreed 100%.

    I would add though that Christ has a will (desire, purpose) for his Church. That the church is to obey His word, to seek to carry out His desire (as expressed in Scripture) and to keep Him preemminent in all things. The church is to be in active relationship and communication with Christ in order to know Him more fully and to follow Him more completely.


  22. Tiffany,

    The church is certainly to be in an active communication with the husband of the church. Just as Jesus as husband and head is to be in active communication with us. We are to grow up into the head so that we can be one and work together as one body.

    However there are some things that Jesus is to us that does not fall under the category of “head” of the body but rather under the category of our “Master” and our “God”. As Jesus is our God, we are to obey him completely. We worship him and obey his commands as he is our God. He is also our High Priest and the Mediator between God and ourselves. He also gave himself as a payment for our sin. There are many things that Jesus is that a husband is not. We need to be able to separate what is the “head” duties to draw the body together and nourish the body and what is his “God” rights that demand service, worship and obedience. God does not replace the unique authority of Jesus as God in our lives as women, with a secondary level of godship.

    I do want to express my love for Jesus here as I believe that it is appropriate. I have given him my whole heart, my soul, my life and my complete trust. He is completely trustworthy and I serve and worship him as my Lord, my Savior and my God. I give him honor for the gifts that he has given me and I praise him that he allows me to serve him by serving the body of Christ. My desire is to bring Jesus honor and glory as much as I can by doing the work that he has called me to do but always acknowledging that the power, the strength and the endurance is not my own but it belongs to my Lord. Praise the Lord Jesus!

  23. Hi Tiffany, (and Cheryl…) (re #21)
    Great questions and discussion. thanks.
    Regarding the whole husband = Christ = head and wife = Church = Body… i think (apart from the whole ‘kephale’ meaning debate) that one of the biggest challenges is how ‘far’ do you take this metaphor? after all, we do need to remember that this is ‘just’ a metaphor. Yes, it’s a God-inspired one – but it’s just a metaphor – not a literal comparison on ‘all’ fronts. Is Paul saying the ‘husband’ is the ‘saviour’ of the ‘wife’? Few would argue so! Yet obviously Paul wants us to understand some similarities in the manner in which the Church/Christ and wife/husband are to relate to each other. What I’d like to ask you (as I ask myself too!) is what exactly is Paul (God’s!) ‘emphasis’ through the metaphor? I don’t believe that with metaphors like this that we are to ‘stretch it as far as we possibly can’ – but rather ask ourselves what is the critical point(s) being emphasised.
    I’ll be brave and suggest some thoughts first but I’d love to hear your thoughts too Tiffany.
    I believe that the metaphor is being used to emphasise the ‘unity’ of the husband and wife – just as the Church as the Body is to be unified with Christ. I don’t think (and pls do correct me if I am wrong cos I am still learning and studying all this stuff in a big way at the moment) that the other metaphorical uses of ‘kephale’ referring to Christ in relation to his church (Eph 1:22-23; 4:15-16; Col 1:18-19; 2:19); ever ‘emphasise’ his authority over his Church, but rather his unity and close relationship with Her and the way that Christ nourishes, supports (serves?) the Church. I love how Paul brings the focus of the metaphor back to God’s original pre-fall intent – that the man and woman be united and ‘one’ (Gen 2:24), even as Jesus does when he is asked about issues of divorce and marriage (Mt 19:4-6). In fact it seems to me that a key theme in Eph as a whole is ‘unity’ which lays the context for how we are to submit to one another – and specific examples that Paul uses for the husband and wife in Eph 5:21-33. Does Christ have authority over the Church? Yes. Of course he does – He is all-powerful. Yet I don’t see ‘kephale’ being used in Scripture to emphasise this authority or power over his Church/Bride.

    What do you think?

    How are we to submit to Christ? I believer absolutely and totally. His faithfulness and perfect sacrificial love for me inspires me to want to submit to him. If another Christian (who we are to submit to eph 5:21) or my husband (eph 5:22-24) was to ask me to do something contrary to Scripture I would not choose to submit to them (this is perhaps an over-simplification of what could be very complex issues!). But Jesus will never ask me to do anything contrary to Scripture. The wonderful thing about submission in this passage is it’s not demanded by the one we are submitting to – but offered by us to another. We ‘submit ourselves’ (middle voice of “huppotasso”).

    Do you think Christ has also submitted himself to the Church?
    what do you think?


    PS – I began writing this entry 24 hours ago but have had my three little girls keeping me so busy – so sorry if I am joining the discussion a bit late to be ‘in context’…and if it’s a bit of a mixed/ incomplete bag of thoughts!

  24. Oh dear, as usual, as a latecomer to this site, I am probably posting on an ancient blog trail, but here goes: in studying 1 Peter 3:1,2; when it says ‘Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands;….’ what does the word subjection mean here? When I looked it up in Strongs, I got the sense of rather heavy and absolute obedience, subservience, etc. Help! And while we are at it, the word ‘fear’-(while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear)-in Strongs, seems to imply just that-abject terror, etc. Is that what this is to mean?

    Thanks, so much, to those of you who are patient with newbies like me. I am beginning to think I need to quit my day job and go to seminary! So much to learn in order to be able to give an accurate and sound reason for what I believe is biblical on this matter.

  25. ” I am beginning to think I need to quit my day job and go to seminary!”

    That could most likely be the worst place to learn the scriptural truths of this issue! There are some very Patriarchal interpretations of this issue coming out of SBC and other seminaries these days. It seems our choices are very left wing or very patriarchal when it comes to seminaries.

    One of the best things today is all the resources at our fingertips that were reserved only for scholars years ago.

  26. Truthseeker,
    I agree with Lin that what we have in this day and age are biblical helps and resources at our fingertips that only the elite scholars used years ago. Many of these resources are free on the internet.

    Now regarding 1 Peter 3:1 – Peter tells wives to be submissive to their husbands in order to win them for the Lord if any of them are not believers. In verse 2 Peter defines what he means by submissive. A submissive attitude is one that shows a chaste and respectful behavior. Now while the word for respect can be interpreted as “fear” most translations either render it as “respect” for the husband – see the Amplified bible: “When they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him–to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband]. ” Or else they attribute the fear as towards God himself. i.e. (The bible in basic english) “When they see your holy behaviour in the fear of God.” or (MKJV) “having witnessed your chaste behavior in the fear of God.” I have no problem seeing it either way. We are to respect our husbands treating them as special, prize them, admire, adore and enjoy them. We are also to treat them with respect because of our fear (reverence) for God. 1 Peter 3:15 talks about our actions with a healthy reverence (fear) for God.

    1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope in you, with meekness and fear;

    While it is our responsibility to give our husbands the respect that they seem to need to flourish and to be their best, their responsibility is to love us unconditionally (as Christ loves the church) and by loving us this way they are supplying our emotional need.

    I know of no marriage advice anywhere whether from complementarian or egalitarian sources that advises women to “fear” their husband. It makes much more sense that the marriage bond is not to be of fear but of deep respect and careful attention to the things that meet his needs. It is easy to do such things if he is diligent to follow the biblical pattern of meeting our needs first. The man who truly loves his wife unconditionally will have a respectful “fan” on his side who will encourage him and treat him like no one else means more to her than her own spouse. I will talk more in a future post about what happens when the man overrules his wife’s will instead of loving her like Jesus loves the church.

  27. Lin, thank you. Your observation saves me a lot of time and money-mainly money!

    Cheryl, thanks for the illumination! That makes sense to me.

    On the subject of resources for study, would it work to add a link to this site that provides a listing useful resources for others beginning the research journey? I know some are scattered throughout the blog, and Cheryl, you emailed some to me as well. Books, online, etc.-any and all. Which is the most concise or helpful resource to use when trying to decipher grammar issues? I notice some of the explanations in the responses utilize a more detailed understanding of grammar to help clarify meaning. I don’t know Greek or Hebrew, so would welcome resources that are geared that direction if any are available. Thanks, again, for all you do!

  28. mutual submission

     I tried to explain it to one of my comp friends. His answer was:  Two people can’t submit.” end quote

     I don’t know if he realized it but he did Mutual Submission on his wedding day. His bride and him BOTh agreed to say I DO on that day and BOTH agreed to sign the marriage certifcate. Sound like Mutual Submission to me. I told his that unless you both mutual submit to one another then your raping your wife everytime you lay down with her! I gave him alot of food for throught!

  29. 1 Cor 7 is certainly mutual submission in the marriage bed.

    1Co 7:3


    The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

    1Co 7:4


    For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

  30. Hey!  I got ‘serve’ as the anti spam word; are you guys getting ‘lead’ as your word?!  🙂

    Seriously, Michael, thank you for the suggestions.  Much time has passed since my entry, and I have done a ton of reading and have been much blessed with the help and conversations of others who know more on this topic.  I will look up, though, the resources you mentioned that I haven’t yet examined.
    Most of all, at this juncture, I just wish there was one reliable easy-to-read bible translation that would rise to the top.  It would simplify the bookshelf, but it would also simplify the process of sharing with new believers.  As it is we have to make disclaimers on the major translations when making recommendations.  It appears that Ann Nyland (The Source) was on a good track until, unfortunately, she published her commentary for gays and lesbians.
    Meanwhile, I remain very grateful for the Scripture4all link and the many resources that are available that help clear up the confusion, not the least of which are your contributions and blog site, Cheryl!

  31. Truthseeker,
    Thank you for your kind words!  I too have appreciated when others have shared their resources with me and I am at your service as I pass on what I have received.  Glad to see that you have grown much in the past number of months.  I am thrilled to hear about that!

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