Biblical Submission: There is More than You Think!

I see a lot of Marriage Sites on the net that talk about biblical submission.  I want you to shooesknow that I believe in the concept and the practice of biblical submission, I think it is the best way for a family to function. However, in most of what I see about biblical submission, I do not see what I believe the Bible really teaches about biblical submission.  I would like to look at this passage and explain what I think most people miss when it comes to the concept of biblical submission.

Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands – Eph. 5:21-24 (Verses 25-33 will follow) [New Living Translation]

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

Some Observations about this Passage:

  • Note: This command is for the wives, it is calling for wives to do this.  It does not say, Husbands, make your wife submit.
    • If a wife will not submit, it is ultimately between her and the Lord.
    • Husbands may suggest this is what his wife should do, but he should never try to force her.
  • Ladies, when you submit to your husband, it should be out of your love for the Lord, out of your desire to please God.  Yes, it will probably please your husband, but is ultimately part of your relationship and trust in the Lord that causes you to do this.
  • Notice that there is a certain amount of mutual submission involved here.  However, V. 21 is a general statement and V. 22 is a specific statement and in good interpretation, general statements are modified and refined by specific statements.  In other words, although there is a certain amount of mutual submission, there is greater degree put on the wives than the husbands. (Ladies, please stay with me on this one, read to the end before you get annoyed with me.)

Now for the Part that Seems to Get Skipped:

Eph. 5:25-33 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Some Observations about this Passage:

  • This passage is written to husband, it tells then what they should do.  Notice through 111589385_2FlwNCje_cout the passage, it tells the husband to love his wife in a sacrificial way.
  • V. 25 – Love your wife as Christ loved the church – How did Jesus ultimately show His love the church? He died to establish it. – Wow, are most husbands doing that?
  • V. 28 – Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. – Again, are husbands really loving their wife as much as they love them self?
  • In reality, what God is commanding the husband to do is to love their wife more than he loves himself.
  • Anytime a husband uses the concept of submission to treat his wife in an unloving way, he is wrong.
  • A husband must put his wife’s needs above his own needs.

Some Conclusions:

  • Anytime that a wife is not submitting to her husband, the husband needs to first ask himself, “Am I loving my wife as Christ loved the church?” If husband answers, “No.” then he needs to work on his part and not worry about her part.
  • Look how this all works together: When a man loves his wife so much that he is truly couple-talkingputting her needs above his own needs, then she would have not have to worry about submitting to him because the husband would never do anything to harm his wife.
  • A husband cannot really love his wife if he does not do the following:
    • Talk to his wife, see what she thinks of each and every situation going on which effects the family.
    • He must put her needs above his own needs and do, not what he wants, but what is best for his wife and family.
  • Husbands also need to be reminded, that the position that they are placed in is not really that of a privilege, but more of a responsibility.

Final thoughts:

  • This passage is one of the most miss-used, abused, and misunderstood passages in the Bible:
    • It has been miss-used by men (in the church) to put women in a second class status.
    • It has been used by feminists and others to show that Christianity is unjust and even invalid.
  • If the church will teach the truth of this passage and the totality of this passage instead of just part of it, it will become a passage that does create conflict (or at least as much conflict) and instead creates harmony and closeness.  While it might not solve all problems people have with this passage, it will go along way towards understanding what God really desires in marriage.
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27 thoughts on “Biblical Submission: There is More than You Think!

  1. Pingback: My Tank Is Empty | Rock His World

  2. It seems too many people, male and female, read the Cliff Notes version of these scriptures when disputing their duty as to submission.

    • I am afraid that people often read into things what they want to read into things. We often ignore what makes us uncomfortable and remember what give us an advantage. I hope that I don’t do that in my own life, it is easier to see that happen in other people’s lives than in our own!

      • Not accusing anyone, more wondering about myself as much as anything. I am afraid that we can all have myopia. Knowing we may have it helps, but it is not a cure.

      • Just messin’ with you. It’s so annoying that these WP reply boxes don;t allow for italics and I have to upper case stuff instead. Your remark is reminiscent of my wife and I having “discussions” with our teen daughter years ago. We would say, “but you just said” and she would say, “No, I didn’t.” My wife and I would look at each other in amazed befuddlement. But I NEVER do that…much. 😀

      • I hear you. It happens around our house a lot. Sometimes when my wife are talking, one of us will say something and then deny it and the kids jump in and say, “Dad (or Mom) you did just say that.” It is funny.

  3. Hi. Great post! The one area I have great difficulty in applying this passage is during serious conflict. Exhibiting a Christlike character without ‘fighting back’, especially when things get demeaning and belittling. The passage I keep referring to for strength is 1Cor. 13, but I do have a niggling fear that I run the risk of being a doormat in an attempt to be like Christ. Do I just keep loving and ignoring my own pain (as Christ did on the cross), or is there another way of dealing with these situations? What example does that set to my son and daughter. I have yet to experience an acknowledgement of my point of view as valid in a conflict situation and I fear that my loving my wife in the face of unreasonableness and irrational disdain and sarcasm may just encourage her to use it to get her way. She is not the manipulative type, and has a very negative perception of any rational discussion around a conflict situation due to her mother using this as a tool simply to force her into submission as a girl. How do you see headship/submission working out in conflict situations? Does one wait for the storm to pass and then try to address it, or simply pray about it and leave it in the Lord’s hands?

    • Wow, you ask a great question and someone much smarter than me. My initial thought is that when ever you can, take as much time as you can in dealing with this conflict. If you can get her to calm down and deal with things when they are not heated it will help. Emotions often over-take us and create bad situations for us. The sad fact is that this is going to take a lot of time to fix. I hope that if she can see that you are really loving and doing what is best for the family in your decision making that she will start to make changes.

      Ultimately, we can only do what we can do, which includes prayer, and leave it up to God to work on her heart. It will take time, but the rewards can be awesome!

    • Understanding that this could be a complex situation with no cookie-cutter answers, let me just add this thought. Bathe it all in prayer (that is priority). OK, First note, Christ took the pain of the cross and didn’t fight back, because the cross was God’s will. Remember the statement from Matt. 26:53, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” However, Christ was not such a pushover when he braided the cord and cleansed the temple. He was again following the will of the Father! AMEN! As husband and head, you are to be the carrier of the vision as well, knowing the will of the Father. Also as husband and head, seek to understand, listen deeply (these are all headship jobs), and carefully lead the conflict from a face-to-face posture to a shoulder-to-shoulder posture where TOGETHER you are “One flesh” traveling toward the resolution. A resolution that is good for the whole… marriage and family….. according to the Will of the Father.

      In addition… I hope I understand correctly, that her past has proven that rational discussion is a ploy to get her to submit, while also the other gets their own way in the situation and becomes a win-lose. If I am correct on this, then NOW the discussion has to prove beneficial to her as well as the whole and result win-win. Headship and submission in Ephesians is WIN-WIN!
      I hope that makes since.
      Sorry that was long.. Hope it helps! Blessings! -Joey

  4. I agree here as well. Let me throw out something in addition to what you said here. What if God is just not giving rules or mandates to husband and wife here in Ephesians in order to live a healthy marriage, but additionally He is revealing one of the greatest (if not the greatest) need of husband (to be respected or submitted to) and similarly one of the greatest needs of wife (to be loved)? And the need for it to be stated here as a mandate is because of our natural tendency towards selfishness? (sorry, didn’t mean to say that word… LAUGHS!).. Just food for thought!
    This thought has stirred in me since reading Dr. Larry Crabb’s Men & Women. Got to give him credit here…

    • I think that is true. I heard a podcast a couple of weeks ago that said something similar. The speaker claimed (and I think he is right, although I have not double checked it yet) that God never tells the women to love their husband. His conclusion was because that it is in their nature to love, but they are told to respect because that is something that they have trouble with and something that men need and crave. (I appreciate those going through “The Respect Dare”) Men are told to love their wife, because again it is in part her need and something that many of us naturally have to over-come.

      I have been reading Dr. Crabb on and off since he went by Lawrence. 🙂 He is a worth reading!

  5. I think there there is a lot of truth here but I think it is also a little reactionary to what people have taught too often. I like that you point out that a husband doesn’t need love only if the wife submits, but the opposite is true as well. The wife doesn’t need to wait for the husband to love to be a submissive wife. Neither of these commands are “if than” clauses. Men are to love regardless and women are to submit regardless. Now this is not in a less than manner or meaning to be abused but more of a respect him sort of way.

    I think you are right though too often I hear people talk and it is only on one side or the other of this passage it is rare that I have heard it talked about equally and I think that is what needs to happen.

    • True, we need to do our part even if the other does not do his or her part. However, this works best and most completely when both work together. Also with leadership comes responsibility, husbands are accountable to God for how they lead their family. That is a pretty sobering thought for me.

  6. Thank you!! So many don’t understand that there are two parts to the submission verses. I have (with God’s help) been working on submitting more to my husband, and as I do I have noticed that he is leading better and is more willing to help me when I need it. When we do it God’s way it works so much better!!

  7. Having been a husband at one time, I totally agree with all of this. The hard part(as I experienced in my previous marriage) is when the wife doesn’t submit and it pretty much drains the husband of everything. I suppose that is an issue between both parties and the Lord separately, but it was definitely hard for me the first time. I pray all the time for God to grant me a second chance to do these things and apply His teachings all over again.

    • I know it is hard to live it out, even when both people are trying to do it right. It is a lot harder when one or both of the people involved are only doing it halfheartedly. Until we become mature Christians, we often let selfishness creep in. The only advice I can give is to keep trying. To keep doing what is right and trust God to do his part in it also. If you spouses heart needs to change, that is His job, trust Him.

    • Thanks for the support! What I find interesting, is that I see a lot of people talking about Biblical Submission on different Christian Marriage Blogs, but I only hear them talk about the women’s role, not the men’s responsibility.

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