man in suit with the caption wives submit...as unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

Manuscript Release No. 1544
Relation of Husbands and Wives
Article written by: Ellen G. White
(Note: Underlined words have been supplied)

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:22-27

The Lord would have the wife render respect unto her husband, but always as it is fit in the Lord. In the character of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, we have an illustration of womanhood after the order of Christ, while her husband illustrates what a man may become who yields himself to the control of Satan. When David was a fugitive from the face of Saul, he had camped near the possessions of Nabal and had protected the flocks and the shepherds of this man from all depredation while in Carmel.  {21MR 213.1}

In a time of need David sent messengers to Nabal with a courteous message, asking for food for himself and his men, and Nabal answered with insolence, returning evil for good, and refusing to share his abundance with his neighbors. No message could have been more respectful than that which David sent to this man, but Nabal accused David and his men falsely in order to justify himself in his selfishness, and represented David and his followers as runaway slaves. When the messenger returned with this insolent taunt, David’s indignation was aroused, and he determined to have speedy revenge.  {21MR 213.2}

One of the young men in the employ of Nabal, fearing that evil results would follow Nabal’s insolence, came and stated the case to Nabal’s wife, knowing that she had a different spirit from her husband, and was a woman of great discretion. He set forth the true character of Nabal as he presented the difficulties to her, saying, “Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him” [1 Samuel 25:17].  {21MR 213.3}

Abigail saw that something must be done to avert the result of Nabal’s fault, and that she must take the responsibility of acting immediately without the counsel of her husband. She knew that it would be useless to speak to him, for he would only receive her proposition with abuse and contempt. He would remind her that he was the lord of his household, that she was his wife and therefore in subjection to him, and must do as he should dictate.  {21MR 213.4}

She knew that the evil message must be counteracted immediately, and, without his consent, she gathered together such stores as she thought best to conciliate the wrath of David, for she knew he was determined to avenge himself for the insult he had received. She knew also that Nabal was so set and determined in his way that he would never consent to receive her counsel or act upon her plan. She herself brought to David the things that Nabal had refused to give, and bound herself to David’s cause for his own good. Abigail’s course in this matter was one that God approved, and the circumstance revealed in her a noble spirit and character.  {21MR 213.5}

In the most taunting manner Nabal had sent the insulting message to David, accusing him of being a runaway slave. Abigail met David with respect, showing him honor and deference, and pleaded her cause eloquently and successfully. While not excusing her husband’s insolence, she still pleaded for his life. She also revealed the fact that she was not only a discreet woman, but a godly woman, acquainted with the works and ways of God in David. She stated her firm faith in the fact that David was the anointed of the Lord and that his life was in her hands with God, but she did not hide the humiliating evidence that Nabal was, as his name indicated, a man of folly, who treated all with the same insolent selfishness with which he had treated David.  {21MR 214.1}

Abigail’s manner and conciliatory gifts softened the spirit of David. He declared that it had been his intention to destroy Nabal and his household, but that now he would refrain from vengeance, for he believed that she had been sent by the Lord to prevent him from doing so great an evil. He promised that her request should be ever remembered, even when he should sit as ruler over Israel, and he would never seek retaliation for the insult of Nabal.  {21MR 214.2}

Although Nabal had refused the needy company of David and his men, yet that very night he made an extravagant feast for himself and his riotous friends, and indulged in eating and drinking till he sunk in drunken stupor. The next day after the effects of his drunken debauch had somewhat passed away, his wife told him of how near he had been to death, and of how the calamity had been averted. As he listened, he realized what a course of evil would have resulted but for Abigail’s discretion, and terror filled his heart. Palsied with horror, he sat down and never recovered from the shock.  {21MR 214.3}

From this history, we can see that there are circumstances under which it is proper for a woman to act promptly and independently, moving with decision in the way she knows to be the way of the Lord. The wife is to stand by the side of the husband as his equal, sharing all the responsibilities of life, rendering due respect to him who has selected her for his lifelong companion.  {21MR 214.4}

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He [referring to Christ], is the Saviour of the body,” or church. Christ’s rule is one of wisdom and love, and when husbands fulfill their obligations to their wives, they will use their authority with the same tenderness as Christ uses toward the church. When the Spirit of Christ controls the husband, the wife’s subjection will only result in rest and benefit, for he will require from her only that which will result in good, and in the same way that Christ requires submission from the church.  {21MR 215.1}

The Lord Jesus does not rule His church like a taskmaster. He said to His followers, [John 15:15-17, 12-14, quoted]. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”  {21MR 215.2}

Husbands should be careful, attentive, constant, faithful, and compassionate. They should manifest love and sympathy. If they fulfill the words of Christ their love will not be of a base, earthly, sensual character, that will lead to the destruction of their own bodies, and bring upon their wives debility and disease. They will not indulge in the gratification of base passions, while ringing in the ears of their wives that they must be subject to the husband in everything.  {21MR 215.3}

When the husband has the nobility of character, purity of heart, elevation of mind, that every true Christian must possess, it will be made manifest in the marriage relation. If he has the mind of Christ he will not be a destroyer of the body, but will be full of tender love, seeking to reach the highest standard in Christ. He will seek to keep his wife in health and courage. He will strive to speak words of comfort, to create an atmosphere of peace in the home circle.  {21MR 215.4}

If the husband is tyrannical, exacting, critical of the actions of his wife, he cannot hold her respect and affection, and the marriage relation will become odious to her. She will not love her husband, because he does not try to make himself loveable. The Lord Jesus has not been correctly represented in His relation to the church by many husbands in their relation to their wives, for they do not keep the way of the Lord. They declare that their wives must be subject to them in everything.  {21MR 215.5}

But it was not the design of God that the husband should have control, as head of the house, when he himself does not submit to Christ. He must be under the rule of Christ that he may represent the relation of Christ to the church. If he is a coarse, rough, boisterous, egotistical, harsh, and overbearing man, let him never utter the word that the husband is the head of the wife, and that she must submit to him in everything; for he is not the Lord, he is not the husband in the true significance of the term.  {21MR 215.6}

If the wife should have the same mold of character as her husband, woe be to the children; the whole family would be a blot upon the earth. Instead of being a house-band, to bind the family together into the unity that is symbolized by the unity of Christ and the church, he will break every tie of affection, and the members of the family will be scattered, filled with bitterness and hatred one toward another.  {21MR 216.1}

Husbands should study the Pattern, and seek to know what is meant by the symbol presented in Ephesians, the relation Christ sustains to the church. The husband is to be as a Saviour in his family. Will he stand in his noble, God-given manhood, ever seeking to uplift his wife and children? Will he breathe about him a pure, sweet atmosphere? Will he not as assiduously cultivate the love of Jesus, making it an abiding principle in his home, as he will assert his claims to authority? Let every husband and father study to understand the words of Christ, not in a one-sided manner, merely dwelling upon the subjection of the wife to her husband, but in the light of the cross of Calvary study as to his own position in the family circle.  {21MR 216.2}

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” Jesus gave Himself up to die upon the cross in order that He might cleanse and keep us from all sin and pollution by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Let husbands devote some time to the study of the Word of God, receiving that word which convinces of sin, and let them become doers of the command of their Lord.  {21MR 216.3}

The Bible says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: being born again, not of corruptible, but of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” [1 Peter 1:22, 23].  {21MR 216.4}

Let those who stand as husbands study the words of Christ, not to find out how complete must be the subjection of the wife, but how he may have the mind of Christ, and become purified, refined, and fit to be the lord of his household. All wicked passions must be overcome, and the love which Christ has exercised toward His church must be symbolized in the family circle. Husbands who are husbands in deed and in truth will do those things which make for peace. The fruit of Christian love will be seen in the courtesy, in the holy, tender affection that is manifested in the home.  {21MR 216.5}

They will comfort and encourage, sympathizing with wives and children in times of sorrow. They will seek to keep their minds peaceful, elevated, and uplifted, that they may be perfect in character. How opposite from the course which Christ has marked out, is the course of those who open the battlefield of Satan within their homes, provoking their wives and children to wrath by the manifestation of a narrow, contemptible, Nabal-like spirit. When a man is domineering, it causes his wife to wish that she had never entered the marriage relation, but when married life is what it should be, it is a representation of the life in heaven.  {21MR 217.1}

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” Thus it is that the wife is represented in her union with her husband. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” How could there be unhappy families if all were doers of the Word and not hearers only? The Lord does not require that which is impossible, but all are to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and those who do this will honor their Redeemer in their married life.  {21MR 217.2}

The two who unite their interest in life will have distinct characteristics and individual responsibilities. Each one will have his or her work, but women are not to be valued by the amount of work they can do, as are beasts of burden. The wife is to grace the family circle as a wife and companion to a wise husband. At every step she should inquire, “Is this the standard of true womanhood?” and, “How shall I make my influence Christlike in my home?” The husband should let his wife know that he appreciates her work.  {21MR 217.3}

When children are born to parents who have practical godliness, they will not be troubled as to how to educate them to meet the world’s standard, but their question will be, “How shall we order the education of our children to please the Lord?” They will search the living oracles that they may understand the way of the Lord and lead their children to Christ. They will teach them the precepts of Christ and train them to be workers together with God, saying, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” This polishing work especially devolves upon the mother, and this is true missionary work.  {21MR 217.4}

The first work essential to be done is in the home circle. Those who do not have a disposition to deny self, to humble self, to be yielding and submissive, even as a little child, are not in sympathy with Christ and do not know Him by an experimental knowledge. In answer to the question, Who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus called a little child unto Him, and said,

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:3-6

The first work to be done in a Christian home is to see that the Spirit of Christ abides there, that every member of the household may be able to take his cross and follow where Jesus leads the way.–Ms 17, 1891.