If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home…
– 1 Corinthians 14:35
Boy do we bristle and hiss at the Word of the Lord, don’t we?
In the present verse there are responsibilities for both husbands and wives; in this post we will be focusing on the husband’s responsibility, and specifically on some counsel applicable to husbands that we find in Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.
Before we can get to that, though, we need to move a mountain of objections into the sea.
(See also the companion post, You husbands in the same way…)
Those first century idiot women
We’ve heard that first century women were ignorant know-nothings who needed to learn from their husbands (and we gather that this was a shameful thing, a necessary evil at the time). Thus verses like the above simply don’t apply to today’s modern woman.
But doesn’t it strike us as odd that in the same generation when women were such idiots that they had to be hushed in church so that they wouldn’t disrupt the meeting with their ignorant questions (for so we’ve heard), women were of such a quality that Jesus received support from them, taught them, was ministered to by them, remarked on great acts of faith performed by them — to the extent that we even wonder aloud whether if the apostles had been women they might have remained true to their Lord at His trial instead of forsaking Him?
Brothers and sisters, we can’t have it both ways. If the instructions to women about silence and asking their husbands at home were cultural and not applicable to modern educated women, then we should expect to look at the women around Jesus (and others–Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla…) and see shameful ignorance and a spiritual quality far beneath today’s Christian woman. Brothers and sisters, this is not at all what we see.
We snort at Jonah, trying to run from the Word of the Lord–but here we are, trying to run from the Word of the Lord!
You can’t get there from here
Brothers, it is we, more than our wives, who need to repent; for the responsibility to be prepared to teach our wives the law of God rests with us, and we have been unwilling to do it.
But how is a husband who comes under conviction of his duty to teach his wife the law of God to go about doing so, when she is not used to it? She is used to having a chauffeur and a bedfellow and a (fellow) bread earner and a father of her children, and even a spouse, but certainly not a husband–who does he think he is, anyway?
The dilemma is similar to a situation in England in the 1600s — the Reformation was spreading all over Europe, and the pastors of Worcestershire County in England came under conviction from the Scriptures that they had been neglecting their duty to catechize and instruct their flocks personally, beyond the public preaching. But how to change, when the people were used to having a preacher only, not being pastored, and were likely to consider it arrogance and abuse of power?
Understanding one’s duty is a start, but it is not enough. Possessing the authority of one’s office is also not enough. Great patience, tenderness, and care are needed. Husbands, see Pastor Baxter’s words to overseers in the household of God and consider how his counsel applies to our duty to be ready and able to teach our wives in spiritual matters:
I am first to give you some directions for bringing your people to submit to this course of catechizing and instruction.
1. The chief means of all is this, for a minister so to conduct himself in the general course of his life and ministry, as to convince his people of his ability, sincerity, and unfeigned love to them. For if they take him to be ignorant, they will despise his teaching, and think themselves as wise as he; and if they think him self-seeking, or hypocritical, and one that doth not mean as he saith, they will suspect all he says and does for them, and will not regard him. Whereas, if they are convinced that he understandeth what he doth, and have high thoughts of his abilities, they will reverence him, and the more easily stoop to his advice; and when they are persuaded of his uprightness, they will the less suspect his motions; and when they perceive that he intendeth no private ends of his own, but merely their good, they will the more readily be persuaded by him.
–The Reformed Pastor, from a section titled The Duty Of Personal Catechizing And Instructing The Flock Particularly Recommended: Directions For This Duty
Brothers, the task is great, but for love of God and our precious wives we must give attention to this.