I see a lot of Marriage Sites on the net that talk about biblical submission. I want you to know 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 out 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.
- 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 putting 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.
- 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.