To properly address the topic of marriage, we should begin with its most foundational concept: Authority. This point shapes our entire view of marriage, even down to the minutest detail of what is acceptable and what is not. In light of the authority question, all other issues are secondary, standing upon or falling under the answer. First we must determine the nature of authority, then examine its application within marriage and over marriage itself.
WHAT IS AUTHORITY?
“AUTHORITY: Legal power, or a right to command or to act; as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power; rule; sway.” – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Authority, as with anything else, begins with Yahweh God. As Creator of the universe, its contents, and its laws, He is the sole owner of everything (Psalm 89:11). Thus, as Owner, he is King and Ruler. No other being has the right to simply do as they wish, as they are His property, functioning within and among the rest of His property. We are all answerable to the King, whether we recognize Him in that capacity or not.
The only other authority that exists can only be handed down expressly from God, and that authority is solely contained within the capacity of stewardship. God has never given away His Creator/Owner authority over any aspect of creation. It remains, and will ever remain, His and His alone. Thus, when He placed Adam to rule over the earth and subdue it, He was making Adam His steward, granting him secondary, and thus limited, authority over all His creation. Authority always implies ownership. Primary ownership is the position of ultimate authority, while secondary ownership is the position of caretaker or steward assigned by the primary owner. Authority can be handed down in limited quantities from the secondary, but only as long as it is in keeping with the will of the primary. Outside these parameters, no true authority exists. Authority always flows downward, never upward, ie, always from the ruler to the ruled, rather than from the ruled to the ruler.
Authority is not to be confused with power, though one with power may often be in a position of authority. I may have the power to take my neighbor’s property and claim it for my own, but I don’t have the authority to do so. Why? Because God has specifically forbidden covetousness and theft. I may have the power to kill someone simply because I don’t like them, but I don’t have the authority to do so. Why? Because God forbids murder.
As stewards over God’s creation, everything we “own” is in actuality given to us to care for in the capacity of a steward ministering to his Master’s property. Another word for “steward” is “husband”. Keep this point in mind as we continue.
A man’s life, finances, land, animals, and other property, as well as his wife and children, are the property of God, but granted to him to rule over as a steward. The ultimate authority comes from God, and the man’s stewardship authorizes him to lovingly care for and nurture that over which he has been placed. Abuse or misuse is an unauthorized expression of power, since he is abusing that which ultimately belongs to God and has been entrusted to his care.
Authority properly understood accomplishes two things: It maintains order and relegates duties, and it establishes roles within family and society. A man’s duty is to be a careful steward to his wife and children, submitting to God and striving to meet His expectations. A wife’s duty is to be a helpmeet to her husband, submitting to his rule and acting as his second in command. The child’s role is to submit to both his parents, since they work in unity to care for him and direct him.
One of the greatest departures from Biblical marriage is the abandonment of God’s vision of authority in regards to marriage, both within marriage and over marriage itself. Once we set this issue straight, we are well on our way to correcting the marriage question we face today.
AUTHORITY OVER MARRIAGE
Authority over marriage pertains to the power that institutes, defines, permits, and regulates marriage. This, to the Christian mind, should refer to the God of the Bible, Yahweh, who established marriage with Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 2:18-24). However, far too many Americans, Christian and otherwise, relegate that same authority to human government (hereafter referred to as the State).
In a typical Western scenario, marriage usually begins with a man meeting a woman. This woman may or may not be living at home, and may or may not be a virgin. In modern Western society, neither of these are necessarily an issue. The man and the woman date for a while, and then the man gets on one knee and proposes marriage to the woman. The suitor sometimes seeks the blessing of the woman’s father beforehand, but this is not always the case and is usually considered a mere formality whose answer has little or no bearing on whether the marriage proceeds or not. The couple then visit the nearest courthouse and obtain a marriage license from the State. A wedding date is set, and on that day family and friends gather for a ceremony in which the father “gives the bride away” (again considered a formality with little to no meaning). The couple exchange vows and rings and are then pronounced husband and wife by the officiant, who may be either a religious cleric or a State official (or, as is the case in a State-sanctioned 501(c)3 church, a hybrid of the two).
All this is considered standard fare in Western culture, and this is essentially what “traditional” marriage proponents are fighting to preserve. We have become so used to the gradual shift from Biblical marriage standards to Western marriage standards that most of us would miss one of the biggest problems with “traditional” marriage today.
The thing we tend to miss is that marriage is not a mere union of man and woman: It is a transfer of authority, under the authority of its author.
Did you notice the part in the above scenario in which the man and woman visit the courthouse to obtain a marriage license? Herein we find the couple’s recognition of who is, in their minds, the author and regulator of marriage: the State.
Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd Edition), defines “license” thus: “In the law of contracts. A permission, accorded by a competent authority, conferring the right to do some act which without such authorization would be illegal, or would be a trespass or a tort. … Also the written evidence of such permission.”
In other words, should the couple be married without the permission of the State, the State would not only consider the marriage invalid, but even illegal! Try driving a car, hunting, fishing, building, or running a restaurant without a license. What would happen? The State would quickly put an end to it and penalize you. Why? Because you didn’t acquire the necessary license, or permission, from the State.
God instituted, sanctioned, and blessed marriage in Genesis 2. Why should we go to the State for permission to do what He has authorized? The only thing a State marriage license represents is, not the validity of the marriage, but the author, regulator, and thus owner of that marriage. The issuer of the license (the State) seeks to take the place of Yahweh God on His throne of authority, while the applicants for the license make obeisance to the blasphemous State. Think about that!
How many Christian “conservatives” claiming to defend marriage give a moment’s thought to this terrible truth? Barely any. They are so busy fighting the sodomite claim to “the right to marry” that they forget that, framed on their walls or safely tucked in a security box is their recognition of the State’s self-appointed power to regulate marriage, even to the point of allowing sodomites to “marry”! Because the marriage argument begins with the question of who is the author and regulator of marriage, Christians must realize that in appealing to the State for permission to marry they in actuality are in rebellion against God, and thus have no footing in their fight for “traditional” marriage. Their claim to morality has little more validity than does that of the liberal “progressives”.
When God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, He didn’t have Moses apply for a license. He had Moses essentially tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go – or else.” Daniel didn’t apply for a license to pray to the one true God. He did it despite the empire’s decree against it. The apostles didn’t apply for preaching licenses in their travels. They preached the Word whether the local powers liked it or not.
Seeking permission from the State to do what God has authorized is to place human rule over the sovereignty of God. A Christian should have no part in such things. It is the embodiment of idolatry and the essence of socialism. Yes, socialism. A human government which issues marriage licenses and decrees who can and cannot marry is socialistic in nature. How many conservatives have considered that, do you think?
Apparently, very few.
In the recent 2015 events surrounding Kim Davis, county clerk of Rowan County in the state of Kentucky, conservatives have found a hero in the “traditional” marriage cause. Davis faced prison time and national outcry when she refused to issue state marriage licenses to sodomite couples. No doubt she believes herself to be in the right, but if conservatives truly understood the situation surrounding marriage licenses they’d have a different view. Davis issues marriage licenses (permission to do what God Himself has ordained) on behalf of the State – the very government that has decreed sodomite unions legal. While she may be right in maintaining that sodomite marriage is wrong, she herself contributes to the problem by issuing marriage licenses to heterosexual couples. As long as she continues this activity, she is recognizing the alleged authority of the State over the marriage institution and its power to regulate and define marriage as it sees fit. The stand taken by Davis and her supporters is very weak because they are only half-armed. They flail impotently while the liberal juggernaut pushes forward. Davis would be far more right in refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone and to enlighten people on the encroachment on marriage that the State has undertaken through licensing the institution.
If Western nations would change marriage back from a legal status to a Divine institution, the sodomite “marriage” battle would be won practically overnight, and the entire question would vanish as irrelevant. The Supreme Court decision of June 15, 2015 allowing sodomites to “marry” in all 50 states would become meaningless. Christian regulation of marriage under God’s Law would automatically preclude the involvement of the antichrist State and the participation of sexual deviants. As long as the State remains a regulator and definer of marriage in the eyes of men, the fight will rage on until at last the defenders of “traditional” marriage are dragged under the wheels of the homosexual freight train. A power that is allowed to proclaim sodomite unions as legitimate has the power to declare heterosexuality a form of deviancy. And it could very well come to that point if we don’t wrest that perceived power away and return it to the one true God.
AUTHORITY WITHIN MARRIAGE
In the above synopsis of the typical Western marital process, you may notice the perfunctory role the woman’s father plays. Everything about his input, from deciding whether his daughter even dates, to giving his blessing to the union, to giving his daughter away during the ceremony is considered little more than an incidental with no real importance. The tragedy in this lies in the West’s failure to remember that marriage is not a mere event that joins two people, but rather a transfer of authority.
Children are admonished in the Bible to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-2) and a father is to rule over his children with loving firmness, guiding them along life’s path (Ephesians 6:4). This honor which a daughter is told to give her father is the same honor which she is told to give her husband (Ephesians 5:24). While sons reach a mature age and surpass their time of submission to their fathers once they leave home, women never do. The women in a man’s household are his women, his responsibility, and they are expected by divine decree to submit to him as their master.
This authority of a father over his daughter can’t be legitimately taken without the permission of the father. Hence the importance of a father taking an active role in choosing a husband for his daughter and giving his blessing to their marriage. His authority is transferred to the husband by a direct act of assent, not on the part of the woman, but on the part of her father. This makes the giving away of the bride the most pivotal and important aspect of any wedding, no matter how formal or informal, though sadly most Western cultures have forgotten the significance. It has become just another pretty but meaningless ceremony to perform before we can get on to the vows and the kiss.
Unless the father specifically grants his daughter to the suitor, a legitimate transfer of authority has not taken place. Without that permission, the man marrying the woman has in effect stolen her from her father. Whether the woman is agreeable to the arrangement means nothing. Her submission belongs to her father until he gives her away in marriage, and to marry without that permission is outright rebellion. The father’s permission is an essential aspect to Biblical marriage, yet one all too often glossed over or altogether overlooked in Western culture today.
A woman’s rebelliousness against her father will almost certainly translate into rebelliousness against her husband. If she will not honor her father, how can she be expected to honor her husband? Biblically, a daughter’s time under her father’s care is training for becoming a wife – she learns to submit and obey, honoring his authority. When marriage comes, the only thing that changes is to whom she gives that same honor. In many ways, the authoritative role of a husband toward his wife is very similar to that of a father – to rule, protect, guide, and nurture.
When Eve was created, God designed her as a helper to her husband and given to him (Genesis 2:18-24). Man had been made to tend God’s creation as a steward, to rule over it and subdue it, and Woman was given to Man to tend (or husband) and rule as well. In fact, after the Fall, God decreed to Eve that “your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
A brief study of the Hebrew idiom “to have desire for” easily shows that it refers to a desire to rule over and control (see God’s warning to Cain in Genesis 4:7). God’s words to Eve established that deep within a woman’s heart would be a desire to overturn the established system of authority, to rebel against the stewardship of her husband and place herself over him. Today, it’s accepted as almost a matter of course that the husband kowtows to the desires of his wife, not vice versa. If she is angry with him, she sends him to sleep on the couch while she takes the bed, and keeps him there until she deigns to forgive him. She might withhold herself from him, using sex as blackmail to get what she wants. She might fight, manipulate, threaten, and rage, and the husband is expected to yield. Now, this is not to say that all women are like this, but sadly many women are, including in “conservative Christian” families.
This does not mean that a man should tyrannically control every miniscule aspect of what happens in the home: Every little word spoken, what is made for every meal, the color of the window curtains, etc. That would be exhausting for him and nerve-wracking for everyone else. A wife is her husband’s helpmeet, to remove a portion of the burden from him. Husbands should encourage their wives to blossom in freedom, nurturing them as a gardener nourishes a delicate flower. While developing her respect, a husband should also strive to engender love and joy between himself and his wife. If only from a practical viewpoint, order is much more easily maintained in a happy home filled with love. From the viewpoint of Biblical stewardship, a man who treats his wife well is being a faithful steward over what God has placed in his care (Ephesians 5:25-33, Colossians 3:19, I Peter 3:7). A husband should constantly strive to create a healthy, loving, happy environment for his wife, listening to her concerns and meeting her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Men should be the rulers and stewards of their homes, and wives should be helpmeets to their husbands, assisting gladly in his work, as God intended. Men should not rule with harshness, nor should women be sniveling weaklings. When we read about ideal husbands and wives in the Bible, we read of strong yet gentle men (Elkanah, Boaz, Joseph husband of Mary, etc) and confident, industrious women (the Proverbs 31 woman), happy in their roles and content with where God has placed them.
Authority within marriage is illustrated by Peter in I Peter 3:1 wherein he states, “Likewise, you wives, be subject to your husbands.” Likewise? This means he is comparing their submission to something he has just stated previously. So to understand the full meaning, we look at the previous chapter and find that the last 8 verses address servants! In other words, a wife should be submissive to her husband in the same manner as a servant to his master. Further, Peter also admonishes wives in I Peter 3:5-6 to be subject to their husbands just as Sarah was to Abraham, “calling him Lord”. Now personally I’d get a bit uncomfortable if my wife started calling me “Lord”, so I don’t hold her to it, but her attitude should reflect the ideal in Paul’s illustration. So should the attitudes of all married women toward their husbands.
Paul makes the order of authority clear when he says in I Corinthians 11:9 that man was not made for woman, but woman for the man. Woman, whether in the capacity of wife or daughter, is in a position of subjection because she was specifically made to be the assistant of the male who is placed over her. She can’t be of assistance in any capacity if she isn’t recognizing the authority of the one to whom she is to be a helpmeet. She is merely a rival, and two cannot occupy the same position of authority. Either she must yield to the man, or the man must yield to the woman. In God’s system, the man must hold authority, and the woman must do that for which she was created – assist.
It’s a generally recognized fact that Christ is the ruler and head of the church, and Paul uses that illustration to describe the relationship of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:23). Christ is the Leader, King, Ruler, Judge, Guide, and even Disciplinarian of His body, and the body submits to that rule as subjects. He is the Shepherd, they are the sheep. He is the Commander, they are His subordinates. He is the Master, they are the servants. He is the Husband, they are the wife. As long as the body submits to the Head, they are Christians in truth. When they do not submit, they are nothing more than rebels. The church cannot fulfill her role as wife to Christ unless it is submissive to the Law of her Husband. And Paul makes the likeness inescapably clear: As the church must submit to Christ, so a wife must submit to her husband in all things.
Today it’s an especially hard pill for most people to swallow. We’ve been bombarded with humanist/socialist propaganda to such an extent that the Biblical marriage hierarchy is considered extreme even among some of the most avid Christians. Our society labels it as “oppressive”, waving the flag of “women’s liberation” and “equality”. Now more than ever it takes courage on the part of both the husband and wife to stick to their roles as God expects. Courage is required to go against the current societal trends and face whatever backlash that will almost certainly come along. The husband needs courage to stand up, take his role seriously, and stick with it, and the wife needs courage to trust God and submit to her husband despite the cultural norms screaming at her to do the exact opposite. Doing what is right in a world that calls good evil and evil good will always require bravery. The man who rules as a loving caregiver and the wife who submits as a faithful helpmeet will be blessed in their marriage.
If “conservatives” really want to defeat the liberal attack on marriage then they must themselves cease from upending the divinely established order of authority over and within marriage, else they are as guilty as the Left of destroying God’s intention for the institution. Wives, return the authority to your husbands and submit to their rule. Husbands, submit to the role God has given you and rule with firmness and kindness over your households. It’s time to be men and take back what liberal philosophy has stolen from us. (Ephesians 5:22-33)