What Does The Bible Say About Submission In Marriage?
Ephesians 5 has often been used as a bat or scripture that is “lorded” over sincere women of God (Proverbs 31) and is often used to attempt to “force” them in to submission or demand they obey. This passage does not teach what those who use it to dominate, oppress and attempt to control claim it does. Often culture, tradition or conditioning supersedes what is written in scripture.
All aspects of the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1:26-28, through to 1 Cor. 7:3-4; 11:11, and Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5 teaches roles of male & female.
Ephesians 5:23, 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.
We as a society have been conditioned to believe that the designation of being the “head” of something or someone implies superiority, control of, dominance and oppression. The original Greek text uses the word “head” as a source or origin. An example is the source or head of a river is the origin of the river.
Another example is: And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Genesis 2 21-23
God created woman out of Man. Man was the source or origin God used to create woman.
The controlling organ in the human body is the heart, not the head. The head serves the heart and the body. Ephesians 1:22-23, shows that feet is authority and head is nurture. Christ is the Head of us. To be the “head” means to be a servant. In Ephesians 5, headship is self-sacrificing love, it does not rule and does not act in a selfish, self righteous, demanding, ruling or oppressive manner.
Scripture teaches that husbands and wives have very different roles. Wives are commanded to submit, obey and respect, while husbands are commanded to love and serve. Wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Peter 3:3-6
This sounds like foreign countries where husbands are allowed to beat their wives or do whatever they think is necessary to keep them in line, demanding their wives please them as they force them to obey. Culture and conditioning has deceived men and women who believe this to be truth.
If a husband loves his wife as Christ Loves the church, is willing to lay down his life for her, cherishes her, protects, provides for and serves her, a true woman of God would gladly, with great joy, submit to and call her husband “lord”, as Sara called Abraham. She would be so loved, protected and secure, she would serve him with her whole heart as unto the Lord with great joy.
Sadly, in the many years I have lived, I have only met a handful of men who love their wives as Christ Loves the Church. When I met these couples, the joy of the Lord radiated out of the spirits of the couple. They truly are one in the palm of the Hand of God, one in spirit, bonded together spiritually. They were both fully known and fully loved. It is a blessing and encouragement to see and meet couples who are living according to the Word of God.
God has commanded each spouse to do their part, and He will hold each spouse accountable. Husbands and wives who abuse their spouses' love will suffer consequences. The Bible does not teach “mutual submission” but it does teach that each person will give an account to God for what they did or did not do.
Wives are to submit, obey, and respect their husbands as the head over them as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23-24). Husbands, are commanded to love and serve their wives as Christ loved and served the church:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Eph 5:25
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Eph 5:28.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Col 3:19
Husband's are not to be frustrated, angry, bitter, resentful, demanding, demeaning or abusive towards their wives. They are to be kind, gentle, nurturing and protective in their words and actions.
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet 3:7
As the leader, the husband is held by God to a stricter standard. They are expected to serve their wives which is more difficult than submission. The wife is only commanded by God to submit to and obey her husband. The husband is commanded to be proactive, to serve his wife, meet her needs, to love her, cherish her, give of himself to her. This is a much harder task than submission and obedience. The wife only has to do what is asked. The husband is required by God to seek out what his wife needs and meet those needs as Christ did for the Church.
It is not the man's position to focus on whether or not the woman is submitting and obeying him. It is not his position to identify fault, or demand change. The man's focus is on letting God make him into the husband God wants him to be. The leader and representative of Christ in the home. The man is the priest of the home. It is his role to serve, love, lead, teach, pray for, pray with and minister to his wife and family.
The man's responsibility is to serve his wife, whether or not she submits and chooses to obey him. Christ served man and woman when they did not submit to Him and didn't deserve His Love. Christ died for man and woman even though they were in rebellion against Him. The man has been asked by God to pick up his cross and follow Christ in His suffering.
As the man focuses on letting God make him in to the husband God wants him to be, the wife focuses on letting God make her into the kind of wife and help meet that God wants her to be. As she submits to God, and seeks His will over her own, she will naturally begin to submit to her husband as she seeks to honor God through her submission. The man seeks to honor God through serving his wife.
Be aware of anyone who teaches wives to submit and obey their husbands without teaching the husbands to serve their wives. This is doctrine of man, not scripture.
God expects more from men than women. Men are to be leaders who obey God even better than their wives and be an example of Christ's leadership to their wives. Scripture commands husbands to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ laid down His Life for the church. Just as Christ washed the feet of His Disciples, men are to wash the feet of their wives. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.
Being the head of the household is a huge responsibility. It is not sitting around expecting the wife to wait on or serve, but rather leading is taking an active helping role in the relationship. It means doing things you hate to do simply because you love your wife. The leader is the servant in the home.
When both husband and wife put Jesus Christ first in all aspects of their lives, everything falls in to place. The wife willingly submits and obeys and the husband serves, provides and protects. It is God's Plan for relationships.
Women need to be loved and cherished, and men need to be respected. As the husband serves his wife, she in turn submits to him – not because she has to, but because she wants to. As the wife submits to her husband and she sees that he is cherishing her, affirming her, and serving her in response to the respect that she is giving him - without grief – but with great joy. Then, both spouses receive a precious gift from God.