The Lord has blessed our church with many ladies who have an earnest desire to please him. (And I want to say as pastor how much I appreciate their talent and industry in Christ's service!) Several of our ladies have been going through the very profitable volume entitled The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. From what I hear, it has been a challenging and encouraging read. However, last Friday at the ladies Bible study some ladies raised questions about the propriety of the way Mrs. Peace described a wife's role in relationship to her husband. I appreciate the careful reading and the effort to "test everything" and to "hold fast what is good." In that spirit, I want to offer the following thoughts in order to help us all grow in our ability to live out the rich relationship that is godly, covenant marriage.
Before I begin, let me post here the relevant quotes from the book which raised questions. You will understand these best if you have read the entire chapter, so if you haven't done that, please take time to do so. These are all taken from chapter six, "A Wife's Understanding of Her Role."
"The Apostle Paul is making reference [in 1 Cor 11:7-9] to God's original intent. Man is to glorify God and woman is to glorify the man" (p. 49).
"So, just as Christ glorified the Father by doing the Father's 'work,' you are to glorify your husband by doing the husband's 'work.' Your role is to glorify your husband. You were created for him" (p. 51).
"[T]he wife's role is a model of the church's relationship to Christ. Therefore, you should submit to your husband's authority and use your energies to glorify him" (p. 53).
"Christ/the husband cherishes, sacrifices for, nourishes, and loves the church/wife. On the other hand, the church/wife is to submit to and glorify her Christ/husband" (p. 53).
"Basically, we have said that the wife's role is to glorify and submit to her husband. She was created to fulfill her role as 'helper' for her husband" (p. 54).
Now, I must hasten to add that the ladies were not questioning that this teaching was essentially correct. Some simply wondered if it was appropriate to speak of "glorifying" one's husband. Is this giving to a man what should be reserved for God alone?
First of all, I want to note that the ladies are on to something important here. God is unique and is not to be confused in any way with his creation. He is worthy of glory in an absolute and ultimate way, and no human being can share in his glory (Isa 42:8). Yet I would maintain that Mrs. Peace is correct in her use of the term "glorify" because she is using it in a biblical way.
Note the definition of the terms "glory" and "glorify" in the New Testament. They refer to magnificence, greatness, enhancing someone's reputation, praising them, honoring them, etc., and they are used of people as well as of God (Luke 14:10; Rom 2:10; 9:4; 1 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:20). Of course, we recognize that the glory of humans is like grass (1 Peter 1:24); it is not equal to God's either in quantity or quality. It is only a reflection of God's glory. Yet, although we do not normally speak this way in everyday conversation, there is nothing inherently wrong with "glorifying" another human being. Every time we praise our children for doing something right, we are glorifying them. Every time we hold a rally for troops returning from Iraq, we are glorifying them. Every time we clap our hands for the USAFA football team, we are glorifying them. We all recognize that we are not "deifying" our children, soldiers, or football players. We are simply responding to something they have accomplished with a recognition of honor and praise.
This response is actually a profoundly important aspect of our lives as Christians. In John 17, Jesus Christ's high priestly prayer incorporates a "theology" of glory in relationships. He prayed that the Father would glorify him so that he could glorify the Father (17:2). He speaks of how he glorified the Father by accomplishing the work that the Father gave him to do (17:4) and asks the Father to glorify him in his own presence with the glory he had before the world existed (17:5). He goes on to say that he is glorified in those people who are his (17:10), and he prays in vv. 21-23 "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one, I im them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me" (ESV).
As we mirror the relationships modelled for us in the Trinity, we will glorify one another. Just as Jesus and the Father glorify one another, and even share that glory with us as we are united to them (v. 22), so we should glorify one another in our relationships. Theologian John Frame says it this way, "...the concept of mutual glorification suggests an important way in which Christians can be like the members of the Trinity: we, too, are called to defer to one another in this way, to glorify one another, to be disposable to one anther's purposes - that is, to love one another as God loved us."
If this is true in all of our relationships in the body of Christ, how much more is it true in our husband-wife relationships. Mrs. Peace has done an excellent job of presenting the biblical evidence for why a wife should glorify her husband. Though this language may sound strange to our ears, it actually points us to our participation in the life of the Triune God, exemplified in our marriage relationships.