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Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Fifteen – One Long, Unmotivating List

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter 13Chapter 14

Chapter Fifteen is titled, “Honoring Christ – Key to the Wife’s Motivation.” This chapter is to help wives who find it difficult to submit, or are selfishly motivated, to understand the principles behind honoring Christ with our submission. How many principles does it take to motivate women into submission, you ask? Twenty.

I’m going to review this chapter a little differently. My full-time job is to make sure that our leave-of-absence benefits are administered correctly for thousands of employees. And, there’s nothing that motivates me more than process improvement! Why do something the hard way when you can work smarter and more efficiently? Let’s review Martha Peace’s “motivations” to see if there is any room for improvement. What are we waiting for? How many Christ-honoring statements from Peace do we need to get through? TWENTY! Statements from Martha Peace are (bolded), and my comments immediately follow.

#1 A wife should be grateful for what God has done for her.Jesus’ death on the cross is brought to our attention. Jesus did not die for wives to be submissive to their husbands. But, if you say “Lord Jesus Christ” while telling women how they should live, it makes it sound more authoritative.

Many things fall into proper perspective when a wife remembers what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for her.

This should be a tremendously motivating factor in becoming biblically submissive to your husband.

#2 A wife should look to the example of Christ’s submission to the Father.Is Peace suggesting that wives follow Christ’s example “even to the point of death?”

He (Christ) put Himself aside and obeyed the Father even to the “point of death” (Philippians 2:8). Following Christ’s example is a compelling motivation for you to be submissive to your husband.

#3 A wife should repent of any wrong thinking by renewing her mind with scripture.Godly wives should not indulge in the worldliness of working and pursuing a career, having your husband share responsibilities at home, or relying upon your husband for some happiness.

Many wives have been taken captive by worldly philosophy.

The solution is for you to bring your beliefs and values in line with Scripture.

#4 A wife’s true beauty and adornment comes from being submissive to her husband.Remember the time Jesus told wives they should be meek and quiet? Yeah, me neither. But somehow meek and quiet is Christ-honoring.

…a godly wife’s first concern is to adorn herself more with inward beauty. You do this by being submissive to your husband with the attitude of a “meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 2:3).

#5 Biblical submission shows love to God.Of course she had to include this because if a wife isn’t biblically submissive then she obviously doesn’t love God. And who wants to be known as one who doesn’t love God?

Biblical submission of a wife to her husband is a command from God to wives. Each time a wife is outwardly and inwardly submissive to her husband, she is showing love to God.

#6 Biblical submission is a way to show love to her husband.Of course she had to include this one too. Because who wants to be known as one who doesn’t love God and her husband?

When faced with a specific circumstance and struggling with not wanting to be submissive, it will help you if you think thoughts like, ‘Love doesn’t see its own (way) (1 Corinthians 13:5). I can show love to my husband by being submissive to him.’

If a wife’s biblical submission shows love to God and love to her husband, then I would expect #7 to say that it shows love to herself? Nope. You’re not gonna find a wife loving herself on this list.

#7 Biblical submission should be viewed through God’s sovereignty and goodness.Does God honor a wife’s decisions or does he only honor her husband’s decisions?

It will help motivate you when you think, ‘Lord, what do you have planned for me today? You are good, and You do all things well. Thank you for my husband’s answer.”

#8 God uses others to put pressure on a wife to be submissive. Yes, because this is a healthy way to get someone to conform to how you expect them to think and act. And, I love how she calls a confrontation a “wound.” Because accepting wounds from people is healthy too.

God sometimes uses loving confrontation by your husband, friend, or an older woman to help motivate you to be biblically submissive. If you receive their reproofs humbly, God will use them to help mold you into His character. Your responsibility is to humbly receive these ‘wounds’ as a good thing and admit when you are wrong.

#9 A wife should train herself to be biblically submissive. – Isn’t that what numbers 1-8 are all about? Too repetitive, so I’m not going to bother with a quote, except to say that she expects a wife to know immediately when she does not behave in a submissive manner and ask for forgiveness from God and her husband.

#10 A wife should learn the biblical dynamic of authority and rebellion.Similar in line with #5 except that we’re reminded that we are in rebellion against God if we don’t do exactly what he says. Literal interpretation of God’s word determines exactly what God says wives should do.

#11 A wife should seek truly biblical counsel from someone who will exhort and admonish her to be submissive. Repetitive of #8. I would remove from the list.

#12 A wife should humbly receive her husband’s biblical correction and reproof.Repetitive of #8. I would remove from the list.

#13 Study the character of God.Similar to #2. I would remove from the list.

#14 – A wife will honor God’s word by being submissive to her husband. Repetitive of #10. If you are reading God’s word to understanding authority, then there should be an understanding that you would honor God’s word. I would remove from the list.

#15 – A wife can be motivated to be submissive in the “big things” by being faithful in the “little things.” – The husband will be able to truly know if you are being a submissive wife if you do all the little things he asks? This sets the husband up for power in the relationship and potential abuse.

Your true heart and character is shown with small, seemingly unimportant things that your husband asks you to do or to not do. It is with the little things that your husband will likely know if you are really being submissive or not.

#16 Biblical submission is one way for a wife to be a “living sacrifice” for the Lord Jesus.Similar to #2. I would remove from the list.

#17 A wife should realize that being submissive is a fruit of her salvation.A fruit of what? No, no, no…being a submissive wife is not essential to your salvation in Jesus. This gets removed from the list due to its nonsense.

#18 A wife may be motivated by personal testimonies of women who are already submissive to their husbands.By all means, please use discernment. I ask again, who determines what is “biblically correct?” I don’t think Peace’s descriptions of wifely submission is “biblically correct” so that should be valid. Right? It is by all means, discerning.

In seeking these testimonies, be discerning about what the other person is telling you. Ask yourself, ‘Is this biblically correct?’ If it is, then be encouraged.

#19 Realize that sometimes she may be “suffering for righteousness.” Oh, all the suffering, and sinning, and repenting that goes on in a wife’s life. This is exactly like #2, but here Peace reinforces suffering for a purpose. Her overgeneralization at the beginning doesn’t help anyone who is in an abusive relationship. And again, God does not intend for wives to suffer at the hands of an abuser.

Most of the time when a wife suffers, she is not suffering for the Lord but because of her own rebellious, willful heart. However, it is possible to suffer because of her righteous responses. For example, if your thinking and actions are pleasing to the Lord and your husband continues to be selfish, etc., then your suffering will have purpose – it will be for the Lord’s sake.

Finally, we made it to the end. And it’s a potential “dead end,” if you know what I mean.

#20 A wife should remind herself of the potential grievous consequences of not being submissive.How did we end up here? The list started so lightly with love and God’s goodness and God’s authority. And now we’re left with “grievous consequences?”

Some of these consequences are personal embarrassment, loss of reward a the judgment seat of Christ, Divine discipline, church discipline, and/or disqualification of her husband from the office of elder or deacon.

God will do what he has to do to turn you from your rebellion to humble submission to your husband. Many times, those consequences are painful, embarrassing, and very difficult to endure.

Of everything on the list, I think #20 is the most concerning to me. Peace’s statement utilizes fear to convince a wife that she is to think and behave in a submissive way or dire “grievous consequences” will happen to her. Saying that God will punish as needed due to your rebellion is pure spiritual abuse.

As you can see above, my process improvements for this list took out seven statements due to repetitive use, and one due to nonsense . This takes our list down to twelve, which in my opinion it’s still too much. Let’s call the whole list nonsense!

23 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Fifteen – One Long, Unmotivating List”

  1. “Biblical” submission. I’m probably not the only one these days who reacts to the word Biblical being thrown in front of something. To me, it says something that I don’t have the time or care to demonstrate from the Bible, but I want to make it an unquestioned rule that you must follow and will throw in a few prooftexts to make you think I have done the due diligence.

    “Biblical” counseling
    “Biblical” grounds for divorce
    “Biblical” worldview

    Looking at Biblical submission, Jesus set an example of submission to the religious leaders. In an account repeated in three of the four gospels, the disciples were breaking the law by “threshing grain on the Sabbath”. The religious leaders challenged Jesus because he was allowing his disciples to break the law. Their civil law was interpreted from the OT.

    Jesus’s “submissive” response is… “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

    This is really applicable to marriage as well. Submission was made for man, not man for submission, and marriage was made for man, not man for marriage. Submission and marriage do not become some sort of unquestioned standard that every woman is beaten up against. The Sabbath was made for man to rest and worship, but God isn’t saying better to starve than to dare profane my Sabbath. In the same way, submission has its limits. Women aren’t told to give their husbands money so that they can go gamble. They aren’t told to submit to abusive husbands.

    I think even submission to God follows the same pattern: “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) – doesn’t this sound a lot like mutual submission? The role of the husband isn’t to do what’s best for himself, or to do what’s “best” for the family by making his wife and children sacrifice for his desires. Instead, the husband works to make the (godly) desires of his wife and children come true. That is so far removed from the concept of the “Biblical” husband/father, which is more like imposing his will on all.

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  2. How many principles does it take to motivate women into submission, you ask? Twenty.

    SO MANY!!! My favorite dumb comp contradiction is how women are supposedly naturally inclined towards all this stuff….followed by a whole lot of weird suggestions and shaming meant to keep them in line.

    4 A wife’s true beauty and adornment comes from being submissive to her husband.

    Yuck yuck yuck!!

    Your true heart and character is shown with small, seemingly unimportant things that your husband asks you to do or to not do. It is with the little things that your husband will likely know if you are really being submissive or not.
    Most of the time when a wife suffers, she is not suffering for the Lord but because of her own rebellious, willful heart.

    I continue to wonder how they expect women to stuff down any desires of their own, any wants, any feelings, and become robots wholeheartedly devoted to doing their husband/masters bidding. Everything about this is so so creepy, makes marriage sound like the absolute worst thing in the worst for women, and the ‘you might be disciplined in church or your husband might not get to be an elder/deacon, [because obviously you would never be in a church who would consider women for any role like that] is just the icing on top.

    Let’s call the whole thing off.

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  3. They aren’t told to submit to abusive husbands.

    Mark, I would say regardless of abuse or not, any submission=obedience formulation is going to be problematic.

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  4. #2 A wife should look to the example of Christ’s submission to the Father.
    Well, perhaps we all should, male and female. But this echoes a persisting heresy of the Trinity, that of Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS). This has been promoted by Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware and others, apparently as justification for the subordination of women. Because of damage to the Trinity there has been such a backlash from evangelical theologians, and the ESS crowd has backed off a bit, but the lesson of submission was well-learned by many. Here Martha Peace justifies the subordination of women with the (eternal) subordination of Christ to the Father. Is she even aware of the controversy among scholars? Dunno.

    #4 A wife’s true beauty and adornment comes from being submissive to her husband.
    Oh, can’t we avoid the middleman and say that her beauty and adornment come directly from God? Submission is not the source. It may be an example of humility, which is a form of beauty, but it’s not the source.

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  5. Mark said, “I’m probably not the only one these days who reacts to the word Biblical being thrown in front of something.”

    Mark, the list of Mark Dever’s “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” include the word “biblical” as if that settles the matter:
    Expositional preaching
    Biblical theology
    Biblical understanding of the Gospel
    Biblical understanding of conversion
    Biblical understanding of evangelism
    Biblical understanding of membership
    Biblical church discipline
    Promotion of Christian discipleship and growth
    Biblical understanding of church leadership

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  6. Kathi – – you don’t have to finish this ridiculous book if you don’t want to. I think I would have invited women over and used it to start a bonfire, frankly. The whole thing has been so obnoxious and devaluing of women.

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  7. Can I scream now? What Martha wrote more readily defines slavery, not God’s heart for marriage. My former husband loved to toss out the “you will submit” trump card. He made me feel worthless and bound by fear, not love.

    The man to whom I am now married has never once told me to submit to him, because he actually loves me, and we both want to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution to any disagreements we may have. I have never been made to feel less, never felt invisible or unloved or burdened as the result of some legalistic shame game.

    God loves genuine relationship, Jesus powerfully demonstrated what that looks like, and the Apostle Paul makes it clear that husbands are to love their wives as our Lord loves His bride, the church and gave Himself for us.

    By painful contrast, we have Martha’s shame-laden, legalistic tripe that reads like a cult handbook. And sadly, many churches actually but into this stuff.

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  8. The whole thing has been so obnoxious and devaluing of women.

    I keep getting Martha Peace flipped with Debbie Pearl in my head. They all seem the same.

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  9. They really do, Lea. They seem interchangeable. Except for the fact that Debbie Pearl is the hillbilly version 😉 (True story – we actually went to at least 2 parenting seminars put on by the Pearls. Yes, we were drinking that Koolaid.)

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  10. @CindyBurrell:

    Can I scream now? What Martha wrote more readily defines slavery, not God’s heart for marriage.

    But slavery is really great — as long as you’re Massa holding the Whip.

    Like that one neo-Nazi I encountered in my college days. Guess which race (Herrenvolk or Untermensch) he put himself into.

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  11. Julie Anne – I am committed! And, just when you think you’ve heard the same thing over and over up pops something new like “dire consequences” if you choose to not be a submissive wife. That really threw me off.

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  12. #15 – A wife can be motivated to be submissive in the “big things” by being faithful in the “little things.” – The husband will be able to truly know if you are being a submissive wife if you do all the little things he asks? This sets the husband up for power in the relationship and potential abuse.

    I wonder whether Peace had in mind this disturbing episode from her marriage, which she related a few years ago on her own blog, and on CBMW’s site. They later scrubbed it, likely due to very strong pushback from the public.

    http://marthapeacetew.blogspot.com/2016/02/soap-bubbles-submission.html

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  13. Kathi, “I would say regardless of abuse or not, any submission=obedience formulation is going to be problematic.”

    Agreed, the only uses of “obey” in the NT for human relationships are child/parent and slave/master. If submission was equal to obedience, then we would see the same word used, but instead, it is submit, which is not as strong. Evangelicals love to equivocate weaker words into stronger, or stronger into weaker to fit their purposes.

    re: ESS – this is another form of equivocation that results in heresy. The Nicene creed states that God the Son became incarnate and was made man. The understanding now is that Jesus has two natures. A divine nature and a human nature, even though he is one person. Whereas the Trinity have one nature in three persons. Where it becomes heresy is that “one nature” cannot have separate wills, and thus, one will cannot be subordinate to itself. Instead, we understand that Jesus has a divine will, in concert with the Trinity, and a human will that is subordinate to the divine.

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  14. @TED: Complementarian submission has to be justified by role or by natural superiority. The natural superiority argument continues to lose any weight, and so now they are beating the “role” drum. The problem with the role drum is that generally roles are based on choice. I can generally choose my major or my career, based on my abilities and gifts and desires, but for the comps somehow our “role” is assigned at birth and it is regardless of abilities, gifts and desires.

    That’s also why shame and guilt are the main tactics. I shouldn’t feel guilty or feel shame if I decide to be a writer or a musician or a politician. Yet, the comps cherry pick from verses to shame women. Prov. 31 shows a mostly stay-at-home mom. Sure. How many churches teach that husbands are “Biblically required” to hang out in the gates and be an elder? “Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.” (Prov. 31:23)

    So, the husband’s occupation in Prov 31 is to be taken allegorically, but the wife’s is to be taken literally? What kind of hermeneutic is that?

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  15. Prov. 31 shows a mostly stay-at-home mom.

    It is also sort of ridiculous to compare ‘occupations’ of 2k+ years ago to modern day. That lady was running her house, running her business basically. This was normal at the time? And she’s not the only woman in the bible, look at deborah. We see a lot of women with occupations or professions. They are always just picking and choosing.

    Women throughout history have always worked in some way, unless they weren’t rich enough not to. This buying and selling fields/servant having lady was probably rich.

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  16. @Mark:

    So, the husband’s occupation in Prov 31 is to be taken allegorically, but the wife’s is to be taken literally? What kind of hermeneutic is that?

    A “Heads I Win, Tails YOU LOSE” hermeneutic.

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  17. Ted listed the very first of the 9 Marx “Expositional preaching”.
    If I were a real pastor, I could preach a whole sermon exposing this concept as unbiblical. They just didn’t do it. Except maybe Ezra and his associates, one time when they stood upon (not behind) the only biblical pulpit ever.

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  18. @Serving Kids The article that Martha Peace wrote was so sad, tragic even, that she felt that she had to essentially accept her husband’s will as the will of God. It broke my heart.

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  19. OH, she’s the soap bubble lady????? Yikes.

    These women mostly have terrible husbands who don’t seem to be getting better (except maybe Lori, because she seems to be a mess all on her own).

    Anyways I don’t think they should be giving advice, since most of them should probably have left a long time ago. I can’t get over that Debbie Pearl honeymoon story. Awful!

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