What does wife’s submission to her husband mean according to Eph. 5:21-33 and other related scriptural passages?
Should a wife submit to her husband at all times? What if he is unreasonable? What if he beats her? These are crucial questions that need to find their answers in God’s Word, which is the authority in our lives. We will refer to above-mentioned Bible text to find our answers.
v. 22-24 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
“Aha”, some men may say, “my wife has to obey me in everything I ask from her! The Bible tells me so.”
Is this correct?
If it were, it would contradict what the apostle Paul wrote in verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” A mutual submission is encouraged from both husband and wife!
Submission (Greek hupotasso) refers here to respect (see verse 33, which uses the Greek phobeo “The wife must respect her husband.” NIV).
The term does not connote obedience. The term “obey” (Greek hupakouo) is used in Ephesians 6:1 and refers to children/parents relationship in sharp contrast with the term “submit” referring to wife/husband relationships. In fact the term “obey” never occurs in the Scriptures with respect to wives, though it does with respect to children and slaves. There is greater equality between wives and husbands than between children and parents, which our society seems to confuse sometimes.
In other words, the submission of wives towards their husbands does not place the husband in the place of Jesus Christ, but rather shows that a wife submits to her husband (meaning she respects her husband) as an act of submission to Jesus Christ.
The marriage relationship was designed to be a mirror of what the church relationship is supposed to be towards Jesus Christ.
Does Jesus order us to do unreasonable things? Never! Does Jesus abase us whenever He wants? Never! Does Jesus beat us up if He feels like it! Never!
In fact, husbands, if you want total submission from your wives because of this Jesus/church reference, you better be ready to die for your wife, as this is what Jesus did for the church! Jesus loved us so much that He carried our sins and died in our stead. So husbands you have to love your wives the same unselfish and self-denying way as Jesus loved His church!
Isn’t this what verse 21 is talking about? “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
This is confirmed in v. 25-33 of Ephesians 5 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” NIV
This is confirmed in Col 3:18-19 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” NIV
Husbands, have you abused or neglected your wife from time to time? Wives, have you disrespected your husbands from time to time? Have you both neglected to submit to one another? It is still not too late. Today is a new day. Don’t wait until tomorrow, as tomorrow never comes. You can make a difference, especially if you accept Jesus’ help with this. Don’t reject this precious relationship. It can be restored with the power of our Lord. Accept Him in your life right now by answering the Saviour’s Call and accept His help to make your marriage make a difference in this world. Don’t be another casualty. You can be victorious in this, if you make the right choice.
Illustration: A long time ago, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law’s habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.
Days passed days, and weeks passed weeks. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish.
All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing the poor husband great distress.
Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law’s bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it. Li-Li went to see her father’s good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all.
Mr. Huang thought for awhile, and finally said, Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.
Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.”
Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs. He told Li-Li, “You can’t use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I have given you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body.”
“Every other day prepare some pork or chicken and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. Don’t argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”
Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.
Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother.
After six months had passed, the whole household had changed. Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn’t had an argument in six months with her mother-in-law, who now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.
The mother-in-law’s attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter. Li-Li’s husband was very happy to see what was happening.
One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again. She said, “Dear Mr. Huang, please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law! She’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”
Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there’s nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. All of the herbs I gave you were simply to improve her health.”
“The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”
Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.
Submission does not mean that the wife is inferior to her spouse. In God’s eyes the man and woman are equal. (Gal. 3:28). It also does not mean that the wife is a slave to her husband.
It is an act of obedience to Christ. A submissive woman is showing love for Christ and for her husband. Christ said: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), and one of His commandments to the wives is: “Wives, submit to your husbands…” (Eph. 5:22)
It is a lifestyle that the wife should fulfill in every place, at all times, and in every aspect. The only exception would be a situation in which her spouse asks her to do things that are against the will of God.
Submission is an act of respect towards one’s husband and the Lord. It is following the law of the Lord. With all the women’s lib and equality rubbish, too many have gotten away from the correct instruction the Lord has laid out for us.
By submitting to one’s husband, it doesn’t mean that you are lower than he, or that you can’t think for yourself or that you are second rate. It’s simply the way the Lord made it. He created woman FOR man, not the other way around. Woman is man’s helper! The man is not to treat the woman as a slave by any means. He is to respect her and praise her as well.
But YES, whether it is liked or not in this day and age, woman is to yield to the instruction or decisions of her husband, UNLESS it is against the word of the Lord.
The question about the wives submitting to their husbands is a good one. Prayerfully, the Holy Spirit will bring forth revelation knowledge to us about this matter.
Ephesians 5:22-24 says: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
I Peter 3:1-2 says: Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
Colossians 3:18 says: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
These scriptures mean that the wife is to be submissive to her own husband as unto the Lord. A wife cannot say that she is submitted to God if she is mean and disrespectful to her husband. The way a wife submits to her own husband is a strong indication of how she submits to God. If she treats her husband mean and disrespectful, chances are that she is treating God the same way.
Someone may ask: “Should I still submit to my husband if I am saved and he is not”? Again, this is a very good question.
I Corinthians 7:13-14 says: And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
I know that this scripture reference is talking about divorce. However, This scripture does say that the unbelieving (unsaved) husband is sanctified by the believing (saved) wife. The husband is watching the lifestyle of the wife who says that she is a Christian. It could be in everyday affairs such as: having a positive attitude, preparing dinner, getting the children off to school, etc. I am not saying that the husband should not be involved in the daily affairs of the house. However, if the unsaved husband sees his wife serving God and effectively managing her home, then he will be won over by her lifestyle.
Submitting to the husband does not mean that the wife is a slave. Neither does it give the husband the right or the power to dominate his wife. The truth of the matter is that the husband must submit himself to God. This is why the Bible teaches the husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Submitting to the husband means to follow his leadership as he follows the leadership of Christ. The opinions, thoughts and feeling of the wife are equally important as the husband’s. The husband and wife should share, discuss and pray about everything, leaving the final decision to husband as he is led by the Holy Spirit.
Hopefully, this has shed some light on the subject of the wives submitting to her husband.
The other day me wife was bemoaning the fact that we have never clearly divided up the house chores. We have been married 9 years and she thinks I do not do enough. There’s more to the story, but in order to keep my marriage going I will stick to the point.
Well, I did what Dr Dobson says a man is foolish not to do and I sat down with her to solve the problem. The idea is to ask her advice – to get her input – not just give an ultimatum. So, I asked her to help me list all those things we need to do. Laundry. Cooking. Dishes. Sweeping. Mopping. Then I asked her to volunteer for what she wanted to do. Nothing happened. She did not want to pick anything.
At this point, I could have thrown a tantrum and said hurtful things, but I am a solution oriented kind of guy, so I went to my office (cave) to think about it. My equitable solution was: she dirties the dishes and then I clean them. She washes the clothes and I dry them. She mops the hard floors and I vacuum the carpeted ones. She cleans the bathroom mirror and sink and I scrub the tub and the toilet. It all seemed fair to me.
The next problem was the when. So I wrote out a Monday through Sunday schedule that would make it hardly seem like work at all. We would just do one load of laundry a day, etc. This was Sunday, therefore we could start on Monday. Nothing happened on Monday. Well, here’s a chance for servant leadership. So, I decided on towels. “Honey is it ok to set the washer on cold/cold for towels?” She said yes. I washed and dried. Tuesday. She cooked and I did the dishes. I washed and dried whites that day. Wednesday. I came home and the washer was running.
It took 9 years to take my advice to pace out the laundry and it will take 9 more before she will let me do the laundry. I am guessing we will be in our 70’s before she trusts my love for her enough to take my advice on the first offering. My final point is this: if we do not submit to each other then we will have to meet our own needs and if there is not a leader and a follower the couple will not make much progress.