Calvin on Wives Submitting to Their Husbands

I’m preaching through 1 Peter and decided to read Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians for the corresponding passage dealing with wives submitting to their husbands. I love reading commentaries from men of Calvin’s generation in helping me understand how the text has been viewed in history given that our culture is so completely inundated with the idolatry of the individual, also known as radical feminism.

I was going to use the following quote but decided that it was too controversial in nature. Heidi told me it was what we call a “parachute illustration.” That comes from a fellow pastor, Grover Gunn, who used an opening sermon illustration that was so horrifying in its description that, I didn’t hear the rest of his sermon. That illustration involved a man who was parachuting with a group of others and his job was to film everyone else. As they were descending, one after another pulled their chute and he continued to fall. After the last of the group opened his chute, the view from the camera became erratic, and it started spinning. The man who was filming the others, forget to put his shoot on before jumping out of the plane. He fell to his death. But alas, the camera survived and we have this horrible story to share with our congregations.

OK, if that doesn’t bother you, then Calvin’s quote will not bother you either. But it was so strong, I decided not to use it in my sermon on wives submitting to their husbands. Calvin is writing against women giving excuses for not submitting to their husbands. Peter, in his treatment, rules out the use of excuses in his passage.

Calvin writes:

“It is true that they will be so proud and arrogant to say, ‘Must my husband have authority over me?’ But in this she shows that she is unwilling for God to have any superiority over her, and that she would like to put under her foot God’s law… However, since there is no other remedy except that women have to humble themselves and to understand that the ruin and confusion of the whole human race came in on their side, so that we are all lost and cursed and banished from the kingdom of heaven—when women (I say) understand that all this came from Eve and the feminine sex there is no other way for them but to humble themselves and to bear patiently the subjection that God has laid upon them, which is nothing else but a warning to keep themselves lowly and modest.”[1]

I took it out of my sermon because it seemed to be a parachute illustration, in other words, it would detract from the larger message.



[1] John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, Banner of Truth, 569.