Covenant Courtship (7) Subjection to the Head

“Being in subjection refers to the inner attitude of a wife’s heart, according to which she knows her husband to be in authority over her and freely wills it.” —Prof. David Engelsma

In the covenant marriage between Christ and the Church, He calls his bride to be in subjection to him. Christ is the faithful husband who alone knows how to love his wife and care for her as her head. The church on earth is constantly embroiled in the bitter struggle against sin and the wicked world. At times the church loses her strength and focus, falling away to the wiles of the devil. For this reason she must constantly subject herself to Christ her husband who will guide her through all her struggles until she reaches her heavenly home. The bride’s submission to her husband is a mark of her faithfulness and love for him.

I fear our age of higher education has severely damaged the covenant calling for women to be in subjection to their husbands. Our young men and women are taught in their schools that they stand on equal footing. Subjection to the man is perceived as a weakness or an ancient attempt to place the woman under bondage. The women must, as they are commonly taught, stamp their authority in all the spheres of life. In the institutions of learning, workplace and home they must excel better than the men. Only then can their true potential be achieved.

The Word of God speaks otherwise.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the Word of God alone teaches us where the true calling of a woman lies. A woman of God knows that her calling lies in the home, where she is to be a help-meet to her husband and the keeper of the home. She shuns the world’s ideas of feminism and wisely prepares herself for this cause. In all of her choices of studies, work and lifestyle she prepares to sacrifice her own private ambitions and to align her goals with her husband’s. This she knows is a noble and high calling. She knows this is a task so sacred that she will devote herself entirely to it.

I am often puzzled why our young women are so strongly desirous of higher education. It is, of course, not wrong to seek more knowledge to improve the cultivation of our minds. It is also not wrong to pursue higher levels of skills and proficiency to prepare for future work. But I must warn our young women to be extremely careful as they pursue higher education. I know the universities in Singapore demand a great deal out of their students. Obtaining that basic degree involves a lot of hard work and study throughout the four years. After all those years of hard labour, one naturally desires to reap the rewards. The great spiritual danger is that our young covenant women decide to put off marriage and childbirth to focus on their careers. Such talk, says Gertrude Hoeksema, is “borrowed from the world, and the philosophy behind it comes straight from hell” (Peaceable Fruit for the Nurturing of Covenant Youth).

As a covenant young woman engages in courtship, she has to prepare herself to be in subjection to her boyfriend, her husband-to-be. This is not always easy as she is an individual with a unique mind and will. Sinful pride and willfulness can often hinder her from surrendering her will to her boyfriend. It is my judgment that the devil uses the privileges of higher education to stir up sinful pride in our covenant young women. He shows them that they are academically and intellectually as able as the young men in the church, if not more. This pride has the powerful danger of preventing our young women from being in subjection in courtship and marriage. When our young women are unable to subject themselves to their husbands, their relationships will be drowned by chaos, bitterness and resentment.

For a covenant young woman to be in subjection means to acknowledge that God has placed another person in her life in authority over her. Her boyfriend and husband-to-be assumes leadership over her and decides for her. He becomes responsible for her. A woman who loves God submits to this cheerfully because she trusts God’s wisdom more than her own. Although the man that God entrusts to be her head is as sinful as she is, God is nevertheless pleased to do so. It is his divine prerogative for a covenant relationship and marriage to function in this manner. In this manner he will bless and keep his covenant children faithful to each other.

Subjection also implies the inner attitude and cultivation of the heart. When covenant courtship is engaged with a spiritual mindset, a covenant young woman experiences a wonderful change of character. She begins to lose her identity by assuming it with her husband-to-be. No longer does she retain her individual lifestyle and exercise her will as freely as an individual. Her very own name is assumed with her husband’s. This is where the transformation of becoming one flesh starts to take place. A godly woman knows this as God’s will for her. A meek and quiet spirit, which Scripture dictates is of great price in the sight of God, allows her to submit to this.

To be in subjection also means to give her life to the cause of the covenant home. The home is the place where she can achieve her true potential. God in his wisdom and power creatively fashioned the woman so that all her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual attributes are suited for her work in the home. There she functions as the guide of the household, being in subjection to her husband and nurturing her children in the fear of the Lord. There she fulfills the calling that God has given to her and where she will truly be blessed. No wonder the Scriptures teach that in childbearing she shall be saved.

Once again we need God’s grace to enable us to be in subjection, for we are by nature sinful and most prone to proud rebellion. A covenant relationship prospers when covenant women submit themselves cheerfully to their husbands. May the Lord teach us to submit to him so that we may submit ourselves to his covenant calling for us.