Tag Archives: the husband's authority

Must Wives Obey Their Husbands Even When They’re Acting Outside Their Scope of Authority?

A little over a week ago, Pastor Tom Buck posted the following Tweets:

I’m going to assume that Tom Buck has had to interact with Christians who propose we ought to obey our government even when it oversteps the authority granted to it by the scriptures. This is what he’s rebutting when he says that it would be disastrous to apply such a standard to the requirement for wives to submit to their husbands. I also assume that the Christians he is dealing with are specifically using Romans 12:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-25 in their arguments with him. Notice also that Tom Buck rhetorically claims that his wife would not be required to submit to his command to wear a red dress every Tuesday. From his perspective, such a command is outside the scope of his authority. That’s what makes it tyrannical. He would be trying to exert control where he has no biblical right to do so.

Let’s take one of the scriptures that Tom Buck made reference to in his first Tweet; 1 Peter 2. Specifically, let’s examine verses 18-20:

1 Peter 2:18 (ESV): Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Peter grants that the servants reading his letter may have a master who is unjust. They will suffer sorrow at their masters’ hands, to the point of being beaten. To act in an unjust manner is obviously sinful, and an unjust master would clearly be acting outside the scope of authority that the scriptures give him. In fact, we even have laws in the Old Testament to protect a slave who is unjustly harmed by his master:

Exodus 21:20-21: “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

Exod. 21:26-27: “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

It’s clear that the Bible forbids masters from mistreating their slaves. A master who would demand his slave put up with such mistreatment is therefore acting outside the scope of his authority. However, it’s also clear from 1 Peter 2 that slaves are still, in Tom Buck’s words, “required to submit” to such evil masters in spite of that. If we were to re-word Tom Buck’s question like this:

Would my slave be required to “submit” to me beating him even though he doesn’t deserve it?

The answer would be a definitive yes. His obligation to submit doesn’t end with his master’s scope of authority. In fact, it stretches beyond that. Does his master have the right to demand such submission? No. But, is that slave still required to submit to him anyway? Yes, because God requires it.

So, let’s revisit Tom Buck’s original question. He rhetorically argued that his wife isn’t required to submit to him if he issues an order that falls outside his scope of authority. For him, his wife’s dressing habits are one of those things he can’t assume authority over. I don’t know why he thinks that, but let’s grant him that and ask: Does he have the biblical right to impose such demands upon his wife? No. But, does God require that his wife obey those demands? Yes.

A complimentarian would likely demand to be shown a text that grants to husbands the specific authority to govern their wives’ dressing habits. I would respond by saying you’re missing the point. If a slave wrote back to Peter and quoted Exodus 21 to him, Peter would still tell him to obey and respect his unjust master. This is directly relevant to wives, because after Peter finished instructing the slaves in chapter 2, he turns to wives and orders them to treat their sinful husbands in the same way.

1 Peter 3:1: Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,

The “likewise” ties the manner in which wives should “be subject” to their husbands to the manner in which servants ought to “be subject” to their unjust masters. While Tom Buck rhetorically argues that his wife shouldn’t have to submit to his dress-code, Peter is telling wives to go way beyond that. Never mind wearing red on Tuesdays- you need to obey your husband even if he beats you unjustly!

Would that be tyrannical? Yes. Would it be unjust? Yes. Would it be, in Tom Buck’s language, “disastrous”? Yes; And in spite of all of that, wives are still required to submit to it. It’s definitely a difficult truth to accept, even for genuine born-again Christian women, but this is the mandate God has given to them.

I could end my response here, but, if you’re a complimentarian reader and you’ve made it this far, but you still would like an explicit text relevant to the clothing issue, I’m happy to say I have one, and I’m glad to give it to you. I’d like you to notice something about 1 Peter 3:1-6:

1 Peter 3:1: Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? Tom Buck just happened to use a hypothetical example of clothing as one of those situations where his wife is not “required to submit” to him. And yet, the apostle Peter went out of his way to tell Christian wives to disregard concerns about their clothing in favor of being obedient to their husbands! For a wife to cling on to her preferred manner of dressing herself against her husband’s wishes would be to directly disobey this command. Tom’s question may have been rhetorical, but the scriptural answer is not. If a husband tells his wife to wear red dresses on Tuesdays, then that’s exactly what she should do.