The Husband’s Call to Love Is A Call to Rule

Are men never commanded to lead their wives in the Bible? This is the recent conclusion that Cane Caldo has come to.  Cane Caldo has been a warrior against Christian feminism for many years. But recently he has come to the belief that he fell into a trap in response to Christian feminist arguments on this subject and that he now realizes he was “fundamentally wrong” in telling men that the Bible calls them to lead their wives.

In his article entitled “CoE V: I Am Not Called to “Lead” in the Bible” Caldo states:

“Our age’s focus on a husband’s leadership is a clever redirect away from the Biblical command for wives to submit and obey. Every instance of Biblical instruction to husbands and wives say the same thing: Wives submit to and obey your husbands. Husbands love and care for your wives. That’s the instruction in 1 Peter 3, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3; in every instance where the Christian home life is addressed

I’ve written many posts and comments about a husband leading his wife, and I was fundamentally wrong. Over the years it has come to be that the liberal progressives proclaim the right thing for the wrong reasons and the traditionalists fight back with nonsense, and I fell into it also. Christian Feminists (both overt and those undeclared and unwitting) are quick to point out that it is a wife’s duty to obey and not a husbands right to force her to submit. Traditionalists have tried to fight this by demanding husbands lead better, and by stealing the glory of obedient women for themselves; such as when a man says his wife follows him because of his good leadership.

And all of it–the progressive tactics and the traditionalist response–is meant to tangle us up so that a wife’s temptation to rebel and abandon is never the topic of discussion; so that no one says, “Wives, obey your husbands.”

 

Building on what Caldo said here, Darlock on his blog wrote in his article “Headship Sleight of Hand” the following comments:

“When I first read this it was obvious that Cane is right.  But I initially struggled to put all of the pieces together.  Scripture says the husband is the head of the wife.  We can then deduce from this that if he is the head, then he has an obligation to lead.  The Bible doesn’t state that husbands have this obligation, the husband’s stated obligation is to love his wife, and the wife’s stated obligation is to submit to her husband.  But leaders clearly have an obligation to lead.  The specific nature of this obligation is another question, but the basic deduction is solid.  However, modern Christians don’t stop there.  Next they turn the deduction around and run it backwards:

If the husband leads, he will be the head.

The reversed deduction is then substituted for the plain meaning of Scripture.  This is a masterful sleight of hand. From here, submission is likewise reworked:

If the husband leads well, the wife will submit.”

 

Darlock then displays a nice graphic which basically shows this progression:

The husband is the head; the wife is to submit to him becomes leaders have an obligation to lead.

Leaders have an obligation to lead becomes if the husband leads, he will be the head.

If the husbands leads he will be head becomes if the husband leads well, the wife will submit.

I Understand Where Caldo and Darlock Are Coming From

Let me first say that while Caldo, Darlock and I would have some disagreements in various areas we are all three would agree on the need to fight against the scourge of feminism and specifically Christian feminism in the churches.  In this regard I consider both these men brothers in arms and I have respect for their work.

And I can see where they are coming from on this topic.  Darlock painted the Christian feminist twisting of headship perfectly and showed how they arrive at their false conclusion that a wife only needs to submit to her husband if he leads well.

Caldo also was absolutely right when he about a husband’s call to love his wife being unconditional where he states “Likewise, a husband cannot be thwarted from loving his wife. Even if she does not obey him that is no bar to his God-given ability to love and care her despite her wickedness. If he loves and cares for her, and she refuses to obey he is clean. He did not fail to lead.”

Amen Caldo, Amen.

The Call to Love is a Call to Rule

Caldo points out that in every instance of the Scriptures where the husband wife relationship is addressed (1 Peter 3, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3) that we find the formula of “Wives submit to and obey your husbands. Husbands love and care for your wives”.  And again, he is right in this regard.

But what he and Darlock are failing to see is what kind of love husbands are called to?

Each and every time the Bible calls husbands to love their wives it uses the word “Agape” in the Greek.  This is a love which originates in the will is not based on emotion or affection as “Phileo” love is.  Men are not supposed to base their love for their wife on their affection for her at any given moment, but on the basis that God has given them a duty to their love their wives.

But this agape love that a husband is called to have toward his wife is not just any agape love.  It is NOT the same type of agape love that we are to have toward our fellow church members, or even our children.  It is specifically defined for us in Ephesians chapter 5:25 when the Apostle Paul writes “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church…”.

The key word in that sentence is the tiny word “AS”.  This tells us what kind of agape love husbands are to have toward their wives.  The model for the love of a husband toward his wife is found in looking at how Christ loves his Church.

So, in this critical passage of the Scriptures Paul goes on to show us what is entailed in the agape love a husband toward his wife:

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”

Ephesians 5:25-29 (KJV)

So here are key attributes of how Christ loves his Church that are given to husbands as a model in how God requires them to love their wives in Ephesians chapter 5:

  1. The call to love one’s wife is a call to sacrifice one’s self for one’s wife.
  2. The call to love one’s wife is a call to wash one’s wife, to wash her spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God.
  3. The call to love one’s wife is a call to provide for(nourish) her physical needs.
  4. The call to love one’s wife is a call to protect(cherish) her.

It must be pointed out that the first two attributes in this list are tightly coupled together as the last two items in this list are tightly coupled together.

Christian feminists love that husbands are called to “give themselves up” for their wives as Christ did his Church.  Myriads of Christian feminist books and blogs have built false doctrines around the phrase “and gave himself for it”.  Basically, they twist this phrase into saying Christian men should give up any desires or ambitions they have in a life long quest to make their wives happy.

But what they fail to do is realize that God describes WHY Christ gave himself up.  It was to wash the spiritual blemishes, spots and wrinkles of his wife, the Church, to make her holy, not happy.

In fact, in the book of Acts we find out more about why Christ “gave himself up” for the Church”:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Acts 20:28 (KJV)

Christ did not “gave himself up” to appease or make happy his bride, the Church, but rather to purchase her with his own blood so he could then wash her and make her the glorious bride he intended her to be to him.

Now one of the mistakes that Caldeo makes that a lot of people make on both sides of this issue is that he confines the definition of the role a husband to “where the Christian home life is addressed”.  That is an exegetical mistake.  When Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives “as Christ also loved the church” this tells we can look to any part of the Scriptures where Christ is interacting with his church or churches to understand how a husband’s love and interactions are to be with his wife.

To that end let’s now look to the book of Revelation.  Here we find Christ rebuking and threatening to discipline(chasten) six of his seven churches for disobedience in various areas.  At the conclusion of his rebukes and threats to chasten his churches he makes the following statement:

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

This passage is directed to his churches.  This is a depiction of Christ’s love for his Bride.  Therefore, it is absolutely correct to say that the call for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved his Church is a call for husbands to rebuke and discipline their wives.  Christ was literally washing his wife with the Word of God in the previous passages in Revelation just as he implores men to love their wives by washing them with the Word in Ephesians 5:26-27.

This washing with the Word, this rebuking and chastening of one’s wife as Christ did is his Church is in fact a call to rule one’s wife.  Only a person in a ruler can discipline someone or attempt to modify their behavior by imposing punishments for bad behavior.

The Bible even says that a man is to be “one that ruleth well his own house”:

“4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)… 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.”

I Timothy 3:4-5 & 11 (KJV)

This passage above clearly states that God expects men to rule well their own homes and if a man cannot rule well his own house how can he rule the church of God?  The wives are mentioned separately below.  Some have wrongly inferred that only because the children are mentioned in the first part that wives are free of a husband’s rule and he has no responsibility to rule over them.  This would make absolutely no sense.  Are wives not part of a husband’s home? Are there people in the church that are not under the rulership of church elders? Such an interpretation is absurd to say the least.

Therefore, we can rightly conclude based on Ephesians 5:25-27, I Timothy 3:4-5 & 11 and Revelation 3:19 that the husband’s call to love his wife which is recognized by both Caldo and Darlock is also a call to rule one’s wife.

What is the Difference Between a Leader and A Ruler?

In my original version of this article I only used the word “leader” because I was trying to use the language Caledo and others were using.  But I have explained on this blog many times that there are different types of leaders.

There are leaders who people voluntarily follow who have no authority or disciplinary power over those they lead.   Then there are leaders who have authority over others and with that authority comes disciplinary powers.   A leader with authority and disciplinary powers over those under them is a ruler.

Another way to convey this truth is that while all rulers are leaders, not all leaders are rulers.

A ruler does not simply offer guidance, but they actually institute rules for those under their authority and use discipline for the breaking of those rules.  In some cases rulers actually own those under their authority as well and this is how the Bible presents the husband wife relationship where the husband is called the “baal” or master/owner of the wife throughout the Old Testament.   See my article “Is Christian marriage a master – servant relationship?” for more on this subject.

Conclusion

I want to return to Darlock’s process of where he thinks Christian feminism has added to God’s Word:

This first statement is absolutely Biblically true:

The husband is the head; the wife is to submit to him becomes leaders have an obligation to lead.

The husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to submit to him.  It is both IMPLIED in the husband being the head of his wife and EXPLICIT in a husband’s call to love his wife as Christ loves his Church, to wash her with the Word of God and chasten her that he is called to rule her.

But Darlock’s next statements is where feminism adds to the Word of God:

Leaders have an obligation to lead becomes if the husband leads, he will be the head.

If the husbands leads he will be head becomes if the husband leads well, the wife will submit.

Christian husbands absolutely have an obligation to lead their wives as Christ lead’s his Church.  However, those Christians who say a husband’s headship is contingent on his follow through of his duty to lead are in direct contradiction to what the Scriptures say about the basis for a husband’s headship.  The husband is the head of his wife whether he is rules as Christ does his church or utterly fails to model Christ’s leadership of his church.   This is the explicit teaching of the Word of God:

 “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” – I Peter 3:1-2 (KJV)

So, unless a husband tells his wife to sin (Acts 5:29) she must obey him in ALL he commands her to do. The passage above leaves no gray area.  And no, it is not just talking about submission to non-Christian husbands who are disobedient. Later in this same conversation the Apostle Peter says the following of this kind of submission from wives toward their husbands:

“5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” – I Peter 3:5-6 (KJV)

Was Abraham a believer? You bet he was.  So, this means whether a woman’s husband is a believer or non-believer even if he is living a life that is disobedient to the Word of God and even if he utterly failing to love his wife and lead his wife as Christ does his church wives ARE TO SUBMIT.  Period.

16 thoughts on “The Husband’s Call to Love Is A Call to Rule

  1. old-fashioned-man,

    Your point was well taken and I agree so I modified the title and article content for this situation. I have addressed elsewhere on this blog that their are different kinds of leaders, those with authority to set rules and the power to discipline those under them for breaking those rules and those leaders who have no authority but people voluntarily follow their guidance.

    I have updated this with a section on the difference. As I said here in the updated version – all rulers are leaders, but all leaders not necessarily rulers. The Bible makes the husband the ruler/master/owner of the wife.

  2. Honestly Wayne – I did not read much of the comments on either Darlock’s or Caldo’s sites. I purposefully do that when I read posts(don’t read the comments) as I like to form my own thoughts on the subject before hearing others. But I probably will go back and read the comments and offer my own.

  3. “No one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nurturing and cherishing it, according as Christ also the church” Eph. 5:29

    Nurturing and cherishing have spiritual meaning.
    Christ’s example in this is more than caring for our physical bodies, of comforting us emotionally. In cross references, “nurturing” is used to describe discipline and admonition, and “cherishing” is used to describe the gentle preaching of the gospel.

    “And fathers, do not be vexing your children, but be nurturing them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4

    “But we became gentle in your midst, as a nurse should be cherishing her own children.” 1 Th. 2:7

  4. When my husband loves me well I absolutely melt into submission. I laugh that when we have great sex I have such a desire to cook for him! Lol!! I strive to always be a respectful, honoring wife, but it comes so easy and naturally and second nature when he loves me well.

  5. @livinginblurredlines
    You seemed well thought out in your comments. What’s your best advice on dealing with situations where you don’t feel compelled to comply? Perhaps there are times you do not agree with what your husband deems you are allowed to do and what he deems you are not allowed to do. Situations like this are increasingly difficult, at least for me. Have you ever struggled with this?

  6. @SunnyD, have I ever struggled with this?! Yes! Pretty much every day. He isn’t an easy man to live with, but he isn’t impossible. More incorrigible.

    99 times out of 100 I am able to just grit my teeth and bear it. I trust in God to control the situation. But, there are sometimes times I know my husband is acting incorrectly and I have to go beyond his headship. One time our toddler broke a bone. Hubby insisted he was faking it, ok, and I was just being overdramatic. After watching our child struggle I took him to the doctor. Sure enough, the bone was broken. Another time I went into labor prematurely, and he was sure I just peed my pants and was wasting his time and being overdramatic. 8 hours later, our preemie was in my arms. But, all the times I went over his head on matters I should have submitted to, even though I thought I knew better, it was a disaster. The car I insisted on having that he didn’t want me to have turned out to be a lemon, for example. The next time he bought me a car without consulting me at all and it turned out to be an awesome vehicle.

  7. @livinginblurredlines Thank you, I feel a bit better knowing I’m not the only one struggling. I have a difficult time deciding which areas I can/should go above his requests. I was adopted and I have been searching for my father, originally my husband supported my efforts to locate my father’s family. After I uncovered information about my father, my husband has completely changed his stance and has attempted to put a grinding halt on all my research efforts. I feel it’s my right, so I’ve been secretly searching anyway. I have a hard time believing that it’s biblically legitimate for a husband to keep his wife from certain members in her family. I don’t feel bad for searching, but I feel bad for having to be untruthful about it. I’m feeling conflicted. Since my situation is so unique I’m not sure where it falls on biblical terms.

  8. @sunny,

    I think that livingblurredlines has presented a good method for determining if a husband’s command is sinful and if it isn’t. In two of the cases where she went against him, he was ignoring a threat to her safety and the safety of her children. She did the right thing in those cases. Even if it had turned out that her son didn’t have a broken bone or that she wasn’t going into labor, she was still right to seek medical attention. After all, she had no way of knowing if her judgment was right or wrong without seeking medical attention, and the cost of ignoring her judgment was far higher if she turned out to be right than if she turned out to be wrong.

    Anyway, if you don’t mind me asking, what did you find out about your biological father’s family, and has your husband explained why that discovery made him stop supporting your efforts to track them down? There’s a good reason that I’m asking these questions, and I’ll explain why below.

    Now, biblically speaking, the spouse comes before the parents.

    As Psalm 45:10-11 says, “Listen, O daughter, observe and incline your ear/Forget your people and your father’s house/and the king will desire your beauty/bow to him, for he is your lord.” Contextually, this passage is primarily talking about a daughter of a noble or royal house who marries a foreign king and has to leave her family behind for the marriage. In order to be a good wife in this case, she will have to embrace her husband’s home and people and not let her former ties interfere with her new position as wife and queen. Most daughters, especially nowadays, will not have to take such an extreme route to be loyal to their husbands, but their husbands are still to come before their parents

    Other passages make it even clearer that the spouse comes before the parents. As Mark 10:7-9 tells us, “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    Now, this does not mean that husbands and wives are called to stop honoring their parents upon marriage. As Proverbs 1:8-9 says,” Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction/and do not forsake your mother’s teaching./They are a garland to grace your head/and a chain to adorn your neck.” I also don’t remember the commandment to “honor your father and mother” having an expiration date included. But in context, we must take this verse to mean that a wife starts submitting to her husband and stop submitting to her parents, even if she still pays them respect and honor as her parents. It also means that husbands should put their wives before their parents (all else being equal) and are called to defend their wives if they have parents who treat her unjustly or try to sabotage the marriage.

    Basically, in a perfect world, a husband and a wife would commit to one another in marriage and maintain good relationships with their parents as well. Even in our imperfect world, this is still how things most often go. As such, in most cases, a wife would still be required to follow her husband’s dictates on her relationship with her parents, but his attempts to keep her from her family would be a sign that he is being unjust and controlling. There would be an exception, of course, if the husband were isolating his wife from her parents so that he could physically harm her without their interference, and I would advise parents to be wary of a son-in-law who severed their relationship with their daughter and keep an eye on the situation. I would also advise the wife to seek out other avenues of support and guidance from the church and friends.

    But sometimes there are parents who treat their children or the children-in-law badly. There are even parents who are a danger to their adult children. In this case, a husband is not, in my opinion, acting unjustly if he limits his wife’s contact with her parents. Nor would a wife be unjustified in counseling her husband to limit his contact with his parents or for limiting her own contact with them. Those men and women have their spouses’ best interests at heart and are trying to protect the marital home.

    So, what I would ask is if your husband is supportive of your relationship with your adoptive parents, with your church, and with at least some friends. I would also ask if he’s expressed concerned about how your biological parents will treat you or even about them being a danger to you. If he doesn’t want you to have a familial or friendly relationship with anyone else, he’s most likely the one being unjust, and you may want to tread carefully, even though you have to obey. If he’s only concerned about your biological parents and has only become concerned after he’s learn more about them, though, his concerns may be justified. (And given that he was initially happy to help you research your biological family, I suspect that he wants you to have a relationship with family but doesn’t trust your biological family.) What you should do is ask him why he doesn’t want you to find your family rather than continuing to search for them behind his back. Don’t assume that your judgment is better than his, especially without even considering why he’s made the judgment that he has. Finally, even if he is potentially dangerous to you, I would not recommend provoking him by going behind his back or relying on people whom you’ve never met before to help you. If you fear for your safety, talk to someone whom you know and trust. If you don’t fear for your safety, seek to understand his decision and stop deceiving him.

  9. @Alex Thank you for the insightful comment, I appreciate you taking the time to write all that out for me. I will answer your questions and hopefully this fills in some of the gaps. My husband for the most part supports my relationships with most of my friends/family. There are a few people in my life who he has deemed “a bad influence” but that’s maybe 1 in 10 people. My husband is controlling at times, but he is not abusive and we love each other very much.

    My adoption was open so biological mother and I were lucky to have had a great relationship. Before her passing (a couple years ago in my mid 20’s) I was able to get some answers about my father. I used that information to find him. I found that my father is deceased, he was killed only a couple months before my mother passed away. In all honesty my father was convicted of a violent crime several years prior. I won’t say publicly what that crime was, but it was a shocking one for me to read. After confronting my adoptive mother about my findings she admitted to me that she had known about this for close to a year. She also admitted to telling my husband and adoptive dad about the details of my bio father without even consulting me. In ways I do not blame them for doing this, but it isn’t their place-it’s mine. My father is gone I’m clearly not putting myself in danger by looking for a relationship with him. I just want to piece together a part of him outside of him criminal charges. More importantly, he had children prior to me and my husband doesn’t want me to look for them, even though they were also adopted and had nothing to do with my dad. Most people don’t understand how lucky they are to have a good relationship with their siblings and father and that’s really a such a shame. I get so frustrated when people my age just throw away a relationship with their family, they have no idea what kind of blessing it is and they just take it all for granted.

  10. @Sunny,

    Thanks for answering. I asked a lot of questions and tried to avoid assuming one way or another because I didn’t know all of the details. It doesn’t sound like your husband is engaging in abusive or even overly controlling behavior, and I see where he is coming from. He may not be worried about your safety, but he may be worried about how finding out more unsettling details about your father will affect you mentally and emotionally. He might also be worried that some of your siblings are like your father or otherwise unstable and that having a relationship with them will cause you more emotional pain in the future. However, I also understand your perspective in wanting to get to know your biological siblings, and it doesn’t sound like doing so would be dangerous since they are only connected to your father by blood. Honestly, this situation sounds very complicated. Biblically, you ultimately have to honor your husband’s decision. This also sounds like a situation where you can speak to him more about it, attempt to understand his decision, and better explain your perspective. He may change his mind, or you may come to agree with him.

  11. @Alex, I don’t think talking to him about it is going to change anything. We’ve already gotten into arguments about it, which is why my last resort was to just keep pursuing it anyway with little regard for his input. Finding a way to make peace with his decision will be extremely difficult. It’s easy to adhere to rules when you agree with them but far harder when you don’t. I’ve had so much encouragement from friends telling me to locate my family anyway, but in the end I just feel guilty. Generally if I’m feeling guilt there’s a reason for it, which is why I thought I’d reach out and get a non-bias opinion.

  12. Sunny, here is a non-biased opinion.
    Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

    The bible instructs you to submit to (obey) your husband in EVERYTHING, just as you would submit to and obey Jesus Christ Himself if he were living in the house with you! This is an easy one. If your husband says to drop the matter and stop searching for your family, then stop it. Going behind his back, doing what he has told you not to do and lying to him about it are SIN.

    If you only submit to your husband when you agree with him, it’s not really submitting is it?

    These friends who are encouraging you to go against your husband ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS!!! You feel guilty for a reason, it is the Holy Spirit inside of you letting you know that you are grieving the Lord with your sinful actions. Repent sister!

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