Domestic Subordination

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by Raymond Harris

Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 5.21, II Corinthians 11.3

Our second in a series of studies about subordination brings us to the home. When we look at American culture, the home has probably become the one repository of all the challenges facing our culture. Generally speaking, it seems that few homes have real structure, additionally children are empowered and permitted their own pursuits; the mother follows her own desires; and (if there is one) the father is more absentee than really involved in the life of his family. I am not naïve enough to believe that American culture ever had a perfect family unit, but the challenges facing American families today do seem much greater than those of generations gone by.

The challenges range from the actual construction of the family unit to the responsibilities each part should fulfill and from challenging the traditional understanding of the family to the complete breakdown of the unit to a non-functioning segment of culture. In short, many families today are trying to be a family without ever having experienced one or ever being taught what the Scriptures say the family really is. So when these families are faced with what the Scriptures describe as a family, many have their perceptions of families confronted.

So as we examine domestic subordination, let us begin by referencing I Corinthians 11.3. It is in this passage that we find spiritual order: God, Christ, male, female. From this verse we learn of God’s spiritual structure for the home and the church. From this we see that the male is not the supreme of his house, but third; he is supposed to be subordinate to God and to Christ. While I Corinthians 11 provides additional reasoning for this spiritual structure, Paul is upholding Genesis 3.16.

The Husband and Father
Ephesians 5.25 tells him to love his wife and be willing to die for her. Colossians 3.19 again tells him to love his wife and not be bitter against her. While a husband should not have to be encouraged to love his wife, he can sometimes forget to do so and not be willing to die for her, and possibly become bitter against her. As fathers, men sometimes do not always appropriately handle their children, and that is why Colossians 3.21 tells fathers not to provoke (meaning incite or induce) their children in any way that brings discouragement or disheartenment to the children.

The Wife and Mother
She is to spiritually subordinate herself to her husband according to Ephesians 5.22 and Colossians 3.18. She is also to love her husband and her children (Titus 2.4) and according to Proverbs 31 she is to be valuable to her home and trusted by her husband. While Ephesians and Colossians encourages the wife to subordinate herself to her husband, Paul is neither endorsing nor permitting male chauvinism, but is upholding God’s spiritual structure for the home.

The Children
According to Colossians 3.20 children are to listen to and conform to their parents’ teachings and rules. Deuteronomy 6.7 speaks of four specific times when the parents are to instruct their children; and Solomon has sound words of wisdom regarding parental correction in Proverbs 22.15 and 23.13.

The family is special and has many complex relationships, which are not addressed here. This lesson is designed to do only one thing – to give a description of domestic subordination, the hierarchical structure of the family unit. From the verses we examined, we can see that a family’s spiritual submissive order is to be: children to parents, wife to husband, husband to Christ. Interestingly enough, one’s understanding of and application of both the spiritual and domestic relationships provide the framework by which all other relationships are based. These relationships being – social, vocational, and congregational. As time permits, these last three will be examined.