When Should A Wife Not Submit to Her Christian Husband?

Subscriber Question:

Message: Hi Michael,

I just finished listening to "Partial Obedience is Not Obedience". Outstanding!

I have a question. How would you counsel me with respect to my husband? People acknowledge both of us as prophetic. There are times, however, when we disagree, and he wants to strong-arm me into getting on board with what he believes he has heard.

In the past - we are going on our eighth year of marriage - I would immediately obey because I thought that my obedience was the submissive - and therefore right - thing to do. Over time and mistakes, however, I have been inclined to dig my heels in. (Some mistakes have had serious consequences.)

As my husband's wife, what is the right thing for me to do?

Michael’s Answer:

Greetings Sister.  This is a great question you have asked and I’m blessed you are asking this. The Scripture says, “Wives submit to your husbands, “as to the Lord.” (Eph 5:22), “in everything” (Eph 5:24), or "as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18). 

Even though Eph 5:24 says, “everything”, this does not actually mean all things. It means everything that can be done in accordance with being a god fearing believer. In other words, she cannot obey her husband in something which would contradict obeying the Lord.  Is there a clear contradiction of God's word in what he is leading you to submit to him in?  Sister, the best example of how dangerous submitting to a husband in “everything” could be, is found right here in Acts 5:1-11, when Sapphira submitted to Ananias.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
— Acts 5:1-11

A modern day extreme example of this would be a man who forces his wife to help him cheat his taxes or to watch pornography.  No one with good understanding would ever counsel the wife to submit to her husband in these because she cannot do that, "as to the Lord".  We know that Christ would never ask you do these things, so you would not be submitting "as to the Lord" and therefore could be sinning against the Lord. 

Obviously from there the examples become less extreme, but this shows that at some point the husband crosses a line of either sound doctrine, or righteousness, and the wife should not submit to her husband in these. 

A less extreme example. Let’s say a wife is forced to go to what she knows is a false teacher and partake in the activities of a false teaching and false spirit...like these crazy Charismatics who end up rolling on the floor, barking like dogs, slithering like a snake, praising God for the “glory” clouds in the sanctuary, false signs and wonders, etc.  Or, let’s say the husband tells his wife that the Lord told Him to do something like “Buy a new sports car” which completely contradicts the Spirit and Word of Jesus Christ.

There are many false spirits at work, so be on your guard and carefully watch for things that contradict the Spirit or life and character of Jesus Christ. Take the things your husband is saying “God is telling him” and carefully measure them against the known character and Spirit of the Word and Christ. A false spirit will always reveal it’s hand to the cautious discerner. Remember my Ted Haggard example in my autobiography?

Once a wife discerns an error, that means the husband is deceived and God our Father would not demand the wife to submit to the deceived husband in his deception.   

Now, regarding your issue, whatever it is, let me recommend that you seek the Lord and His word in depth about this and ask Him to make it clear to you how you should respond.  Make sure your heart’s motive is to please the Lord, and not just rebellion, and I trust the Lord will give you insight into this. God bless you sister!

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
— Phiippians 1:9-11