“Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife; also Christ is the head of the church. Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Let’s begin this very important study by defining the words that have a close association with one another. They are as follows:
Submit – to give in; surrender; to subject oneself to a process or a condition
Submission – an act of surrender; meekness
Submissiveness – compliance, humility, obedience
Although many people (especially Christians) have distorted Paul’s teachings on submission, we cannot get around it – he told wives to submit to their husbands.The fact that this teaching is unpopular is no reason to disregard it. According to the Bible, the man is the spiritual head of the family, and the wife must submit to his leadership.
How did man’s authority over the woman originate?
“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).The metaphor of the husband being the head of the wife is taken from the head of the natural body, being the seat of reason, of wisdom and knowledge; the fountain of sense and emotion, which is more excellent than the rest of the body. God has given man pre-eminence, and the right to direct and govern by creation; and in that original law, contain the words and command, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (KJV).
Whatever there is of uneasiness in this, it is the effect of sin coming into the world. Generally, too, man has (what he ought to have) a superiority in wisdom and knowledge. He is therefore the head, “even as Cnrist is head of the church.” There is a resemblance of Christ’s authority over the church in that superiority and headship which God has appointed to the husband. The apostle Paul adds, “And He is Saviour of the body.” Christ’s authority is exercised over the church for the saving of her from evil, and supplying her with everything good for her.
In like a manner, the husband serves as protector and comforter of his spouse, and therefore she should all the more cheerfully submit herself to him. So it follows, “Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, with cheerfulness and fidelity (faithfulness), with humility, so let wives be to their husbands in everything” – in everything meaning, which their authority justly and spiritually extends; in everything lawful and consistent with their duty to God.
The Duty of Husbands
The duty of husbands, on the other hand, is to love their wives; for without this, they would abuse their superiority and headship, and wives would, in effect, become a doormat. That is another reason why God created the woman from one of Adam’s ribs rather than from a bone in his foot. Thus, the woman was not created to be trampled upon or otherwise abused in any way by her “head ” – her husband; but to be loved, honoured, respected and cared for.
Submission is an often misused word: it does not mean becoming a doormat. Christ – at whose name “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” – submitted His will to the Father, and we honour Christ by following more willingly to obey His command to submit to others, especially in the area of wives being in submission and subjection to their husbands.
The Marriage Relationship
In a marriage relationship the wife is called upon to submit; for the wife, this means willingly following her husband’s leadership in Christ. For the husband it means loving, caring for his wife, and putting aside his own interests and respecting and honouring his wife. Submission is rarely a problem in homes where both spouses are in a strong relationship with Christ, and where each is concerned for the happiness and well-being of the other.
The union of husband and wife merges two persons in such a way that little can affect one without also affecting the other. Oneness in marriage does not mean losing your personality in the personality of the other. Indeed, it can mean caring for your spouse as you care for yourself, learning to anticipate one another’s needs, and helping your mate become all they can be.
The Creation Story
The creation story tells of God’s plan that husband and wife should be one. Jesus also referred to this plan (Matthew 19:4-6). Paul again stressed the commandment of submission of wives to husbands in Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as fitting to the Lord.” Eve, in eating the forbidden fruit, failed to consult with God, and to submit to her husband. Remember, God told her after she had violated His divine edict that her desire shall be to her husband. That meant that Adam was to become both her spiritual head and covering.
The love of Christ for the church is given as an example of the love that the husband should have for his wife.The greatness of His love for the church was evident in the giving of His life for it. As the church’s subjection to Christ is given to wives, so the love of Christ for the church is provided as a pattern for the husband.
The love which God requires from the husband on behalf of his wife more than make up for the submission that is required, and that demands from her and the commandment of subjection by the wife will be an abundant return for that love of the husband which God has provided for her.
Submitting to One Another
Ephesians 5:21 reads: “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” This verse has often confused well-meaning believers, who interpret the words to mean that the husband and wife must submit to one another. But this is not what this Scripture says or implies. It refers, rather, to the relationship of the body of Christ to one another.
There is mutual submission that Christians are instructed to have to one another; willingly bearing one another’s burdens; not putting their own interests above others in the family of God, nor being controlling over one another. Paul was an example of this true Christ-like character for he became all things to all men. We must be of a yielding and submissive spirit and ready to perform all the duties of the respective places and positions that God has placed us in the world and in the church (body of Christ).
In the fear of God, that is, so far as it is consistent with the fear of God, for His sake, and of a good conscience toward Him, and that may give proof that we truly fear Him. Where there is mutual condescension and submission, the duties and responsibilities of all those in Christ’s church will be better performed. Ephesians 5:22-31 speaks very clearly concerning the submission of wives to their husbands, which includes honouring and obeying the husbands, not submitting to one another as in the body of Christ.
It is my prayer that you will be blessed as you read, study and meditate on this lesson.