A Woman Should Disobey Her Husband for the Gospel

The Bible tells wives in Ephesians 5:24 to be subject to their husbands “in everything”. So what is a Christian wife to do if her husband commands her not to speak of the Gospel to her children? Does God want her to obey that command?

My inspiration for this article came from a comment I recently received from a woman calling herself Alice. She had been talking about how her husband had left the Christian faith and she worried about her children:

“BGR, my husband is not requiring me to abandon my faith or church, so I do not need to do anything. I really do believe if I keep my mouth shut, God will lead him home. If he wants me to accompany him to religious services at a Buddhist temple, I will, but I do worry about the children. I do not contradict him in front of them, but I am worried because he is very vocal about his disdain for Christianity.

They are in Catholic school and he does not want them to move, but his point of view is in direct contradiction of what they are learning and I don’t know what to do. I don’t tell them privately that their father is wrong, that seems like the height of disrespect toward my husband, but I also don’t want my children thinking Christianity is wrong. I also know it is not my place to teach my husband anything spiritually, so I mostly try and steer conversations away from religion. Politics is always a good foil!”

There are three separate issues here that this Christian wife is faced with.  How does a Christian woman evangelize her unbelieving husband?  How does she evangelize her children? And should she attend the temple of false god with him? First let’s tackle how she evangelizes her husband.

Wives Should Win Their Husbands With Their Behavior, Not Their Words

The Apostle Peter wrote the following to wives whose husbands are disobedient to the Word of God (this covers both unbelieving husbands and professing Christian husbands who are disobedient):

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

So the Scriptures make clear that wives are not to try and win their husbands by preaching the Gospel at them but instead they are to win them by their subjection, and their pure and respectful behavior toward their husbands.

A key phrase that many people miss in I Peter 3:1 is the word “Likewise”.  What this means is the Apostle Peter is referring to another group he was just talking about.  In the previous chapter just before speaking to wives Peter speaks to slaves where he says something very similar:

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward.”

I Peter 2:18

Peter was telling slaves or servants to set the example of Christ with their master’s even if their masters were cruel and made them suffer.  The point was that by setting the example of Christ they may win some of their masters by their behavior.

Is Peter saying wives are identical to slaves? No.  But what he is saying is that “likewise” or in the same way he had just told slaves be in subjection to their masters, even masters who mistreated them and caused them to suffer, so too wives are to use this approach with their husbands to try to win them to Christ.

Let’s bring this back to Alice now.   Alice is exactly right in keeping her “mouth shut” with her husband.   She needs to win him by her subjection and reverent (fearful respect) behavior. But what about her children?

God Sent A Woman Behind Her Husband’s Back

While her husband is allowing them to stay in Catholic school, he is directly contradicting everything they learn about the Christian faith. And Alice worries that she cannot go behind her husband’s back to them their father is wrong.  So what should she do? What if she did go behind his back and he found out and forbid her from sharing the truth of the Gospel with her children? How should a Christian woman in Alice’s position handle this situation?

The answer to this question can be found in two passages of the Scriptures.  The first is found in New Testament in the book of Acts.  The Apostles had been imprisoned by the Jewish High Priest for going around preaching the Gospel but the Angel of the Lord came by night and freed them and total them to continue preaching the Gospel.  The High Priests have them captured again and brought before them where the following conversation took place:

“27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.“

Acts 5:27-30

So we see here that when our earthly authority commands us to not speak the Gospel we have a higher authority in God which compels us to.  Some may argue – “Well these were men and not wives”.  There is absolutely no reason this same principle would not apply to a woman or a wife as well.

Sometimes even a wife must go against her husband for the sake of God or to save the lives of her family members from her husband’s evil actions.  For an example of this we will look to an Old Testament woman named Abigail.

In I Samuel chapter 25 we read of a man named Nabal who has a wife named Abigail. The Bible tells us he was an evil man. David and his men were in need of food and water so he sent some men to ask for help from Nabal.  Nabal rudely turned David’s men away refusing to help and asked who David thought he was to ask for such help.

David hears of this and rally’s 400 of his men to go and kill Nabal and all the men of his house.  Abigail hears of the evil her husband had done and the impending death that that was coming for all the men of her household at the hands of David and his men.

She tells the servants to get food together to go to meet David and his men.  In I Samuel 25:19 we read “But she told not her husband Nabal”.  She literally secretly went behind his back to do what was right to save her family.

She met David and told him her husband was wrong and she was going to make amends for her husband’s evil actions.  David tells her in I Samuel 25:32 – “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me”.

This was not mistake, or some sin on the part of Abigail that she needed to confess later.  God wanted her to act against her husband’s evil to save the men of her house from certain death due to her husband’s evil ways.

Again let’s bring this back to Alice and her children.  While she should remain silent directly toward her husband as I Peter 3:1-2 indicates the situation is different with her children.  Why is it different? The reason is that her children are not her authority. Notice in I Peter 2 and I Peter 3 Peter is speaking to how we speak and act toward those above us.  He tells slaves or servants to win their masters with their behavior and he says the same of wives toward their husbands.

But did this mean a slave or servant could not and should not share the Gospel with a fellow servant? Absolutely not! They have a God given obligation to do so.  In the same way a Christian mother has an obligation to share the Gospel with those who are her equals or and especially with her children who are under her care.

What about attending the Temple of a False god?

Alice made the following statement about attending a Buddhist temple with her husband:

“If he wants me to accompany him to religious services at a Buddhist temple, I will”

But this is what the Scriptures tell us:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-17

It is one thing if your husband wants you to attend a different Christian denomination then you have been.  Perhaps you were Presbyterian and he converts to Baptist.  Then you should follow him to the Baptist church.  Or maybe you were Baptist and he converts to Presbyterian, then should follow him to the Presbyterian church.

And while I know some will disagree with me – if you were Protestant and your husband converts to Catholicism you should follow him to the Catholic Church.  Why? Then answer is found in the following Scripture passage:

“1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

I John 4:1-3

All churches have some doctrinal errors and some churches have more doctrinal errors than others.  But a Christian teacher and a Christian church is defined by one thing.  Those who confess and preach that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior and God in the flesh are Christian churches and those who deny any part of this are not.  Period.

We can and will have strong disagreements between Christian Churches.  But we need to be very careful of ever saying someone, or a church that believes Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior and God in the flesh and died for our sins on the cross cannot be called a Christian  or a Christian church.

Conclusion

Christian wives have clear direction on how to handle an unsaved husband and father to their children.  In regard to him they should place themselves in subjection to their husband and try to win their husband not with words, but with their pure and reverent behavior.  But in regard to their children or others they may come in contact with they should follow the Abigail example of going behind their husband’s back to do what God has commanded.

They should share the Gospel with others and most importantly their children.

Abigail acknowledged her husband was wrong in a particular area, and so too a Christian mother can maintain the respect for the children’s father but at the same time teach them the godly principle that we must always “obey God rather than men”.  If anyone tells us not to tell others the Gospel, we can and must disobey such a command because God is our higher authority.

Also in following this same principle of obeying “God rather than men” I do not think a woman in Alice’s situation should attend a Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or other non-Christian house of worship.   The Scriptures are clear when they state And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?…Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

It is one thing if a woman’s unbelieving husband wants to live with her in peace.  The Bible tells us she should in I Corinthians 7:13 where it states And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

But she cannot go against her Lord whether it be in sharing her faith with others including her children or in attending the temple of idols.  The Scriptures are clear that we must love Christ more than our family and for a Christian wife that would include her husband:

36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:36-38

Lastly – I want to stress that this kind of situation where a wife must go behind her husband’s back as Abigail did should be the rarity.  This should be for a life and death situation and not just for any disagreement.  And the Gospel is a life and death situation.  Your children’s eternal life hangs in the balance.

13 thoughts on “A Woman Should Disobey Her Husband for the Gospel

  1. BGR, thank you for the article. I thought going to a Buddhist temple would be ok, because I certainly do not follow that religion and it would make my husband happy. So, to me, it is like going to a movie he likes but I don’t.

    As to the children, I am just telling them my beliefs (in front of my husband, who contradicts me, but does not object to my speaking of them) and explaining that “Daddy does not see it the same way.” The biggest problem is my husband telling them that “Mommy is a sucker.”. So, I think they are getting the message of the Gospel, both from school and from me, but they are also getting the message that Christianity is for “suckers.” I understand that he is trying to protect them, but it still makes me sad.

  2. @Alice,

    If your children are old enough to evaluate philosophical arguments, maybe you can start introducing them to different modern Christian philosophers and apologists. I’ve always found William Lane Craig’s arguments for the reasonableness of the Christian faith to be particularly eloquent and persuasive. N.T. Wright is also pretty good. You may not agree with every one of their theological positions, but if the point is to defend the reasonableness and integrity of belief in Christ to your children, then they might be a good place to start.

  3. @Alice, you need to only discuss Biblical truths with your kids. There is no reason to turn it into, “well, daddy believes this, but mommy believes that.” Instead, say, “the Bible says this, or the Catechism says that.”

    I believe a lot of men who left Catholicism “because of the scandals” were actually unbelievers to begin with looking for an excuse to get out.

    @BGR, the difficulties with Catholicism is that they believe it is a mortal sin to leave the Church, so a wife should not submit to her husband and attend a Baptist church. Rather, she should submit to God and remain Catholic. I am surprised Alice would attend a Buddhist temple with her husband when it would be on pain of mortal sin and she would not be eligible to partake of the Eucharist. That’s a big deal, even if you, BGR, don’t believe in that doctrine. When you become a confirmed Catholic, it is a covenant relationship, so leaving is akin to adultery and divorce. You are basically telling her it is ok to commit adultery and divorce her Church to submit to her husband.

    Now, in Protestantism, that isn’t an issue. We can more freely church bounce without pain of mortal sin. Our church membership is more of a socio-political stance than an actual covenant.

  4. @Alex, I have 6 children, the youngest are 9 and 11, so they are not quite ready for philosophers. One book I really liked was “Catholic Thinkers in the Clear” by William Herr. It is pretty heavy reading, though.

    @livingblurredlines, it’s not that easy, unfortunately. When my kids come home and ask questions or want to talk about what they learned in religion class, when I answer or try to clarify stuff for them, my husband will comment ‘That’s stupid” or “that doesn’t matter”. I need to address that in a way that is not disrespectful to him and “Daddy sees it differently” is the best way I can come up with. I would welcome advice on how to handle it otherwise. BTW, Catholics are not prohibited from attending services of a different religion. I am free to attend a Jewish wedding, for example. Since I do not embrace the Buddhist religion, attending Buddhist ceremonies is not a sin for me. If I were accepting their point of view, it would be a problem, but attending as a “spectator” is perfectly acceptable.

  5. @livingburredlines, sorry for the second reply, but I don’t think I was clear. If my husband wanted us to go to a Baptist church, as long as I still go to Mass on Sundays and don’t change my theology, there would be no sin.

  6. bgr, I think there is a typo in the article where you meant to say that a wife/mom has authority over her children, but it says not. It is possible you meant it that way. The way I look at it is that husband has authority over wife and children, wife has a lesser authority over children, but she still has authority over them, it just doesn’t usurp her husband’s authority over her and them.
    When the bible talks about a wife winning her husband without words, I think that is without argument or strife. I don’t think that means she needs to not share with him what she thinks or feels unless he tells her not to. I am making this distinction because I think the tone of the scripture isn’t “don’t talk to your husband”, but rather “you are not in a place to argue with your husband about this”. If he is open to listening, and she can speak to him while yet being in complete submission to him, then I think that is okay.
    In this situation Alice, be very thankful that your husband is okay with you speaking about God with your children. Honestly, this makes it much easier. I agree that this is a situation where you have to obey God, but at the same time God tells you to submit to your husband in everything. So, keep telling them what is important and have faith in God that He will deliver them. More so, pray for this daily. Pray for your husband. Do not underestimate the power of appealing to Him in faith. Do all that is within your hands to show your husband the goodness of God in your heart and actions.
    If he allows you to speak about these things to him without getting angry, be sure to not to defend what you know he has issues with in the Catholic church, but defend the Lord instead. “Dear, I know the catholic church has serious issues right now, but that doesn’t change that God is still on His throne.” “, but that doesn’t change what Jesus has done” “, but God is still good even if people fail.”. This is a “do what you can” situation. Do what you can while still submitting and staying inside his authority. Create the best goodwill with him that you can. Earn his trust by showing him your good deeds. There is a reason why the bible instructs this, even if it is not a quick solution.

  7. @BGR, on your first 2 points they seem rock solid but I am not completely convinced that your position on the 3rd point is as strong.

    It seems to me that what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 6, was that some of the new Christians were actually worshiping God but also continuing with their old habits of worshiping idols at the same time. In that case, the instruction to “come out” from worshiping idols was more emphasis on “worshiping” the idols.

    The first thought that I had when you identified the issue of “And should she attend the temple of false god with him? ” was that of the example of Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:4 “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” Paul goes on to say that eating of that food is not an issue, unless it causes a weaker brother to stumble.

    We know that there is no such thing as a god called Buddha. To me, it would seem that as long as she did not go to the Buddhist temple to “worship” but only as a spectator, then what harm is it? I guess that bad company corrupts good morals but I don’t know where the line is drawn here. Sarah obeyed Abraham when he instructed her to lie (TWICE!) and God protected her (and praised her) in honoring and obeying her husband (even though it is a sin to lie).

    I am not completely convinced of my argument either but I thought I would toss it out there as food for thought.

  8. @Alice, you can humbly and respectfully,ask your husband in private to not say those things as it could confuse the children. When you had your kiddos baptized, you promised Before the Church and God to raise them Catholic. They can be raised Catholic and still free-thinkers, but “that’s stupid” is toxic and disrespectful and he needs to stop. You are not asking him to cease his thoughts and opinions, but he can do so more healthfully amd productively.

    Pray the Holy Cloak Novena for St. Joseph’s covering and protection.

  9. @Anm1, yes you’re right and I am indeed thankful. My husband certainly has plenty of reason to be disgusted with the RCC and I would never dream of arguing with him about it. I try and tell him that the Church is run by imperfect men, but I still want to follow what the Lord says. Unfortunately, he is “done with organized religion” and I think he is done with God, too. I am hoping that the Lord will lead him back and that I can, maybe, by my behavior, show him that the Lord is, in fact, “the Way the Truth and the Life”.

    @livingblurredlines I have told my husband that it really hurts my feelings when he says those things, and he is sweetly sensitive to that. At the moment, I think his anger is such that he says these things in reaction. I am trying to be very careful when I teach the children, the biggest problem is my husband believes that by teaching them the Lord’s way I am teaching them to get stepped on by everyone else. I completely see his point, but from my perspective, being stepped on doesn’t matter. We do what God calls us to do and trust He will take care of the rest. My husband no longer trusts that God will take care of the rest, so that is where the problems come in. I will definitely pray the Holy Cloak Novena, thank you.

  10. Trey,

    Your Statement:

    “It seems to me that what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 6, was that some of the new Christians were actually worshiping God but also continuing with their old habits of worshiping idols at the same time. In that case, the instruction to “come out” from worshiping idols was more emphasis on “worshiping” the idols.”

    Thanks for your respectful disagreement on point 3. In 1 Corinthians 8:4 what Paul is talking about is they would offer meat on altars to pagan gods in their temples then take that meat out to market place and sell it. So he was saying, don’t ask where the meat came from and it does not matter if it was sacrificed to an idol or not. It is just meat. And all idols are false anyway because there is only one God.

    But eating meat that was sacrificed in pagan temple and then brought to market to be sold along side other meat, and going to a pagan temple to a worship service is two very different things. I keep hearing people say “but I am not worshiping so it is ok”. But what do the Scriptures say:

    “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

    As believers we know that our bodies are the temple of the living God and the Holy Spirit indwells us. So when you go into a Buddhist temple or Islamic Mosque you are bringing the temple of God with the Holy Spirit into a pagan temple.

    This passage from I Corinthians 6:14-18 is foundational for Christians. It under-girds the Christian doctrine of separation. This provides the foundation for why Christians cannot knowingly enter into marriage with unbelievers and even why Christians should not be intimate friends with unbelievers.

    “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

    Notice in the above passage – Paul is not focusing on worshiping idols – he is talking about fellowship. What fellowship, what communion does the light have with the darkness?

    Again I realize we may agree to disagree on this point, and I thank you for your respectful disagreement.

  11. I just want to give some added clarification to something I said earlier:

    “This provides the foundation for why Christians cannot knowingly enter into marriage with unbelievers and even why Christians should not be intimate friends with unbelievers.”

    I have had many casual friendships with unbelievers over the years. Mostly they were with coworkers and sometimes with my neighbors. I am not saying this is wrong. Jesus sat with with unbelievers – but he did this to evangelize them. His most intimate relationships were with true believers. If you are going to dinner with an unbelieving neighbor or going to a family event they invite you to – then go. That is fine. But as Christians we must realize that the underlying purpose in any relationship we have with unbelievers is to bring them to Christ. When our purpose in that relationship is only to have fun and enjoy their company rather than to seek to evangelize them then we go astray.

  12. Thank you for this post. I am not in this situation, but I often wonder what I would do if I were. I also was wondering if you had any posts on the passage in 1 Corinthians 14 about women keeping silent in church and asking their husbands at home rather than inquiring at church. This passage always kind of stumped me, because no one seems to follow it, and the only church denomination that I’ve been in a service that kind of structures their service like this was Plymouth Brethern (where there’s no “sermon”, but the men of the church who have something to say will stand up and say their piece in turn, the women don’t speak, and many cover their heads.). The way the average evangelical service is held is nothing like is described in this passage, and only the pastors and people up front say anything. Also, about women inquiring—would it not be appropriate for me to ask the pastor what he meant by something after the service, but wait til I’m home to ask my husband what he thought? That seems counter intuitive to me! I would love more clarification on this passage, as in all my years of Christian school and Bible college I’ve never really learned the interpretation of it!

  13. I will put it this way; you know you will be honoring God by following His word, so I would say it IS best to ask your husband at home like the word says. It gives your husband an opportunity to teach and shows him respect.

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