The Heart of Biblical Submission
February 21, 2021
Ephesians 5:22-24, AMP
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as [a service] to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church, Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives should be subject to their husbands in everything [respecting both their position as protector and their responsibility to God as head of the house].”
There is no doubt in my mind that I will likely receive a variety of comments and feedback concerning this article. Whenever this topic of brought up it would seem like it generates interested and garners some often passionate opinions. The structure of a home and family, as laid out by the Bible, is an image of the relationship and love that should exist between us and the Lord. So often however this structure is written off as old fashioned and out of touch. One of the main causes of this is the concept of submission, and particularly the instruction in the Bible for wives to be in submission to their husband.
We often think of submission in the sense of one person having power and authority over another person, and that person being required to obey the person who has the power and authority. This is not what true submission looks like. In fact, the moment that a person is forced, bribed or coerced into submission, then it is not actually submission, it is slavery. Submission is also not an indicator of value, worth, ability, authority, or power. We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus as He submitted to the will of His Father. The submission of Jesus never placed Him in a position in which He was less than the Father in anyway. We know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are entirely equal and there is no hierarchical relationship between them. Jesus willingly chose to submit to His Father and do what He asked Him to do. He did not do this because He had to or because He was afraid of the negative consequences of what would happen if He did not obey. His submission was an expression of His love for His Father and His desire to please Him and came as a result of Him freely choosing to do so.
I believe that this same motivation behind submission is true of the Body of Christ, His church, as well. We should not seek to submit to the will of Christ because of what we will gain from it or what we will lose if we do not. We should ultimately desire to submit to Him because we are so in love with Him that our desire is to do whatever we can to please Him. With this in mind, when my wife, out of her own free will makes the decision to submit to me, without any requirement or expectation from me, it is not ultimately me she is submitting to, it is the Lord.
The thing that I desire and hope for from my wife the most is that she will love the Lord with all her heart, mind, and soul; and love others as she loves herself. That would mean that she will love the Lord far more than she loves me and she will seek to submit to Him and obey Him in everything. If she does this, then I believe that she will submit to me, her husband, out of her own free will, as a result of her love for Christ first and also her love for me. What I can do to help in that is to lay my own life down for her, helping her in every way possible to grow in her relationship with the Lord and also by working in submission to the Lord in my own life and seeking to obey Him in everything (Ephesians 5:25-29).
So, what does it actually mean for a wife to submit to her husband? When we look at the relationship between Christ and His Church, the answer in that situation is very clear. We as the church, or the bride, are to in all things submit ourselves to Christ, the Bridegroom. We should seek Him in everything we do and every decision that we make and then when He gives us instruction, we are to simply obey Him. Think about it, would there ever be a scenario in which we should say, “No Jesus, I think you are wrong and I am right so I am going to do what I want to do.”
When we apply that to marriages, with the husband representing Christ and the wife representing the church, (as described in scripture) it is not quite as easy. Why is this? Jesus is perfect and sinless and makes literally perfect decisions. A husband on the other hand, is flawed and has a sinful nature and more often than not makes a total mess of things if he tries to do it on his own. And of course, a wife is in the same boat. They are two imperfect people trying to figure it out. Although my wife and I agree on many things, we also find that there are a lot of things that we disagree on. It is during these times that what we are talking about comes into play. Here is an example of how this plays out…..
There is a decision to be made, I feel one way about the decision and she feels another way. The first thing we try to remember to do is pray. We pray together for the Lord to show us what to do and if He gives us a direct answer, we go with it regardless of what we think. If not through we will talk and discuss the issue at hand and at the end my wife will (and I have never asked her to do this, but she does it out of submission to the Lord) say something along these lines “whatever you decide, I will support you because you are my head” (referencing how Christ is the head of the church and the church is to submit to Him as the head). That is the point of submission. She is willing to lay down her own will and desire and support my decision.
Now, I want to tell you that 99 times out of a 100, I will make the decision which is in alignment with what she thinks. The reason for that is this, I believe a husband’s wife should be his number one council and advisor and her opinion and feelings should take precedence over every other human being on the planet. So, a wise husband will not seek to tell his wife what to do or how to do it, he will seek to understand what she thinks needs to happen and how she thinks it should be done. Then with that council and input, he can make a wise decision.
I will leave you with you with this short story. I heard a pastor I enjoy listening to tell a story of a husband who was talking to God and telling Him how he was frustrated because whenever he was in a difficult situation, he could never seem to hear God’s voice telling him what to do. God replied telling the husband, “oh I was definitely giving you the answer, it’s just that my voice sounds an awful lot like your wife’s voice and you always ignore it!”