22 Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Reflection On This Scripture
Submission in Greek is hypotasso. It is made up of two words – hypo and tasso. Hypo means under and tasso means to put in order, ordain, assign, or appoint. Thus hypotasso essentially means to arrange under, to subordinate, and to put in subjection.
I know this definition sounds archaic, demeaning and irrelevant. My goal is to show you what biblical submission is and isn’t, and I’m afraid that a large spectrum of the church has avoided teaching what biblical submission is and demonstrating it’s beauty. This section on wives and husbands in Ephesians 5:22-33 has been handled poorly at times by the church. It is my hope and prayer that my contribution in the next five devotionals will dispel the lies and glorify precious truths to be applied in our marriages today. Namely that marriage is a momentary covenant on earth that is to mirror the eternal covenant between Christ and His church, that our marriages should be a display of God’s glory, and what mirroring His glory in our marriages looks like in a culture where roles of headship and submission have been muddled.
Submission is one side of the equation in marriage that acknowledges God’s order in roles for marriages. Many have trouble hearing the word submission, but this should not be the case. To submit to a husband does not imply that the wife is inferior, because both husband and wife are made in God’s image. Men and women are equal in worth but distinct in identity roles. Sin did not create headship and submission. In fact, sin ruined headship and submission. Sin makes the husband want to dominate his wife and makes the woman want independence apart from her husband. Both headship and submission were affected by the fall and both require redeeming in every marriage today.
Paul does not leave wives with a command for the sake of telling them what to do. He tells them they are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Their devotion to Jesus should be a picture of their devotion to their husbands. Paul then gives the reason for this: the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Verses 25-27 express Christ’s love for the church for which He laid down His life, giving implications to the servant-like headship the husband is supposed to demonstrate to his wife. Paul then tells the wives that as the church submit themselves to Christ, so they should submit in everything to their husbands. This means every area of their life should be under her husband. Just as Christ does not want His bride keeping areas of her life outside of Him, He does not want wives to have areas of their life outside of their husband. A husband needs to do everything necessary to make sure his
wife knows she can come to him to share anything that is in her heart. Having every area of her life open and under her husband is crucial to having a solid, strong marriage. After all, Genesis 2:24 says that husband and wife are one flesh. God sees marriages as one flesh, not two autonomous individuals who happen to be roommates. As wives submit every area of their life to their husbands, much will be achieved by the two as they work together as one. Submitting to husbands will bring about blessings just as submitting to Christ does, and she should submit to her husband because she seeks to honor her Lord Jesus, above all. Some women might think that submitting to their husbands means they have to do everything he says, but that is not so. Acts 5:29 is clear in stating we are to obey God rather than men. So if your husband wants you to sin or be an accomplice of sin, you are to remind your husband who your Lord is.
A wife’s most crucial form of womanhood is not submission to her husband but submission to Christ. Therefore, her hope is ultimately in Christ, not her husband. A wife who knows and applies a robust theology in her life will submit to God’s sovereignty and be fearless. She knows that suffering will surely come knocking at her door (1 Peter 3:14) and will have to ultimately entrust her life to the Savior (1 Peter 4:19). A strong and mature woman in the Lord will not focus on her external appearance (1 Peter 3:5). Thus in submitting to God she will have an inner peace in her soul that will enable her to willingly submit to her husband.
Because the word submission can bring negative connotations to a woman who is married or to single women who plan and hope to be married one day, let’s clarify what submission is and what it isn’t. John Piper gives us a very helpful definition of what submission is. He says, “Submission is the divine calling to a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” So the wife is very much engaged in her marriage and in the life of her husband; assisting, giving input, expressing concerns, influencing him and helping him be a better leader.
Submission is not agreeing with everything your husband says or does. Husbands are like Jesus, but not Jesus. Submission is not putting away your critical thinking, thoughts, input, ideas and influence. You can openly talk to your husband about your concerns and help him make decisions. Submission is not avoiding confronting your husband with ways he does not reflect Christ. It is our job to lovingly confront our spouse and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to change them. The best thing you can do for your husband is pray for him and for Jesus to daily and continually transform his heart to lead you and your family. Submission is not putting the husband’s will over Christ’s. Husbands are imperfect, but Christ is perfect. Submission is not getting your spiritual nourishment primarily from the husband. You are a daughter of God. You should also pray, study the word and disciple your children. Submission is not coerced or brought about by fear. Husbands are not to be domineering over their wives because Christ is not domineering over his church.
Before the husbands reading this devotional stop nodding their heads with a resounding “Amen,” they need to admit that they are not perfect and they are not Jesus. Let your wives know that they can tell you anything you will listen carefully and attentively without judging them. Understand that you are being sanctified and welcome God’s discipline over your life as He molds you into a leader that loves his wife as Christ loves the church. Shepherd your wife and point her to Christ. Lead her by the hand and take her to Jesus. Do not coerce, manipulate, threaten or instill fear on your wife, for Christ does not do that to you.
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