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Wives Submit to Your Husband as Is Fitting in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Wives Submit to Your Husband as Is Fitting in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24)

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“Wives submit to your husband as to the Lord,” is the primary command for wives found in Ephesians 5:22-24 (see also Colossians 3:18, and 1 Peter 3:1). What does, “Wives be subject to your own husbands” mean? Read or listen to this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way to find out!

Your Marriage God's Way: A Biblical Guide to a Christ-Centered Relationship
Your Marriage God's Way Workbook author Scott LaPierre

The text in this post is from Your Marriage God’s Way, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and workbook to strengthen marriages and exalt Christ.

Because we live in a fallen world—and because our fallenness resulted from Adam and Eve’s refusal to submit to God—ultimately, we are prone to resist submission, unbeliever and believer alike. Our culture views submission negatively. When we become Christians, we continue to struggle with submission because we’re called to submit in multiple ways that our flesh resists. Therefore, as you read this chapter, here are two key points that are vital to keep in mind:

  • The Bible speaks frequently of submission, so if you have a problem with it, you will have a problem with much of the Bible.
  • Submission—or having a submissive spirit—is spoken of positively in Scripture. If you do not want to be a submissive person, you will have a hard time following Christ.

Before we do more exploring about what the Bible says about submission in marriage, let’s talk about submission in other areas of life.

SUBMISSION IS NOT ONLY FOR WIVES

Often when we hear the word submission, the first thing that comes to mind is God’s command for wives to submit to their husbands. But wives are far from the only believers commanded to submit. In fact, every Christian is called to submit in a variety of ways. Later we will examine 1 Peter 3:1-6, which commands wives to submit to their husbands, but before Peter instructs wives, he first addresses submission in other relationships:

  • First Peter 2:13-17 commands believers to submit to government (see also Romans 13:1-7).
  • First Peter 2:18-25 commands slaves to submit to their masters; in our society, the equivalent is employees submitting to employers (see also Ephesians 6:5-8).
  • First Peter 5:5 commands congregations to submit to their elders (see also Hebrews 13:17).

In Ephesians 6:1, the apostle Paul commands children to submit to their parents (see also Colossians 3:20). He also instructs wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22, but one verse earlier, in Ephesians 5:21, he commands believers to submit “to one another in the fear of God.” This calls us to have a submissive spirit that is willing to give up rights and desires unity in the body of Christ. We see this described more clearly in Philippians 2:3-4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Our spiritual liberty is not only about freedom but about giving up—that is, submitting—our rights for others. If a brother or sister in Christ would be offended or stumble on account of exercising our liberties, we submit to that person by laying down our rights (Romans 14:14-23; 1 Corinthians 8:9- 13). Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Hebrews 12:14 reiterates, “Pursue peace with all people.” Establishing this peace, whether in the marriage union or any other relationship, involves submission. It involves making sacrifices in deference to others.

THE WAY WE SUBMIT IS AS IMPORTANT AS SUBMITTING

When I taught elementary school, I told students on the first day of class that the way in which they did what I asked was as important as doing what I asked. For example:

  • If I instructed a student to take out a book and the student slammed it defiantly on his desk, he would be in as much trouble as if he had not taken out the book at all.
  • If I told a student to push in her chair but she pushed it in with a bad attitude, she would be in as much trouble as if she had not pushed in the chair at all.

The way we submit—whether students to teachers, children to parents, congregations to elders, believers to government, employees to employers, believers to one another, or wives to husbands—is as important as submitting itself. If we submit with a bad attitude, we are not really submitting. We may think of submission as an outward action, but it starts with a right inward attitude. To put it simply: Submission is an issue of the heart.

It’s noteworthy that the New Testament Greek word translated “submit”— hypotasso—is a military term that means “to arrange (troop divisions) in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” This reminds me of a lesson I will never forget from my time in the Army. A superior officer asked those of us under his command, “What do you do with every command you receive?” We gave any number of answers:

  • “Make sure you know exactly what you are being asked to do.”
  • “Learn from the order.”
  • “Carry out the request as quickly as possible.”

Nobody had the response the officer was looking for. Finally, he said, “Take the order and make it your own.”

What he meant was that any time we were given a command, we should do it as though we wanted to do it. If a soldier moaned, groaned, rolled his eyes, complained, or argued with his commander when asked to do something, he would be considered insubordinate. To say the commander would frown upon his response is an understatement. Likewise, from a Christian perspective, we should recognize how much God frowns upon us when we submit with a poor attitude. This also applies to

  • students when they submit to their teachers
  • children when they submit to their parents
  • employees when they submit to their bosses
  • wives when they submit to their husbands

And this applies to husbands when they demonstrate their love for their wives. Will a wife feel blessed if her husband sighs and complains while changing a diaper or washing the dishes?

WIVES SUBMIT TO YOUR HUSBAND, BECAUSE YOU WANT TO OBEY THE BIBLE VERSUS THE WORLD

These days we often hear about the “redefinition” of marriage. Such discussions typically refer to marriage as being something other than the union of one man and one woman for life. But there is another way society has redefined marriage, and that is in relation to the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives. Consider this: Even non-Christian friends and neighbors have no issue discussing husbands loving their wives, but mention male headship or submission, and you can count on facing fierce opposition. Here is what self-proclaimed feminist Cath Elliot said about biblical womanhood:

Unfortunately, as in any movement for social change, there are those who remain resistant to their own [freedom]: a tiny minority of women who have been so indoctrinated by religious conditioning that they continue to see themselves as men’s subordinates…Biblical womanhood does exactly what it says it does: it sends women back to the dark ages. At the [True Woman] Conference, for example, the Christian sisters launched their new manifesto, inspiringly titled “The True Woman Manifesto,” where they resolved to cultivate “such virtues as purity, modesty, submission, meekness, and love” and where they affirmed their calling as women “to encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church.” It’s encouraging to see that only three thousand women have signed this terrible charter, but it’s also depressing to think that three thousand women think so little of themselves and their daughters that they’re prepared to endorse such illiberal, anti-woman nonsense.

Ms. Elliot’s perception of biblical submission is that it enslaves women and ruins their lives. She is not alone in thinking that way. This is the prevailing view of secular society regarding the biblical roles of husbands and wives.

In support of the biblical view of submission, Dr. Jay Adams, founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS), the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) (now known as ACBC, or the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors), and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), explained:

Submission does not remove freedom; it allows for it. When is the train freer? When it is bumping over the hillside off the track? Or when it is smoothly running along the track, confined or restricted, if you will, to the track? It is freer when it is where it ought to be, doing what it was intended to do…Freedom in God’s world never comes apart from structure. When one is free to live as God intended, he is truly free indeed. We hear much about women’s liberation today. I want you to be liberated. Here is the path of genuine liberation for a woman: submission. Submission allows her to run on the track; it allows her to make beautiful music in her home.1

Dr. Adams’s point, which is equally true for husbands, is that true freedom is experienced when we live in obedience to God. True freedom comes when we strive to be husbands and wives as God commanded rather than as society defines. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). This is why we need to embrace what Scripture says. Real freedom and joy—whether for young, old, male, female, single, or married— comes from embracing the Bible’s teachings. Disobedience always leads to frustration and bondage.

Whenever we read the Bible, we face two choices:

  • We can shape Scripture to fit our desires and beliefs.
  • We can allow Scripture to shape us and our thinking.

As Christians, we will undoubtedly say we want the latter, but the real difficulty is that we live in a world that strives to shape us. What’s wrong with being shaped by the world? Jesus said the devil is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). John said, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).

For this reason Paul instructed, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Paul alerted us to the fact the world desires to conform us, and he said that instead, we are to be transformed by letting our minds be renewed. If we were reading this verse for the first time, we would probably expect Paul to use the same word twice: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be conformed by the renewing of your mind,” or “Do not be transformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Instead, Paul used two different words, and if we understand them both, then we can understand the verse.

The Greek word translated “conformed” is syschematizo, which means “to conform one’s self to another’s pattern.” It’s related to the English word schematic because it’s describing the way society shapes us to follow its patterns. The Greek word translated “transformed” is metamorphoo, from which we get our English word metamorphosis. Picture a caterpillar bursting from its cocoon, transformed into a beautiful butterfly. This is what should occur with us: If we resist the world’s conforming influence, we can be transformed as our minds are renewed by God’s Word.

Allowing this transformation to happen can be difficult when we choose to disagree with what Scripture says. When our beliefs are challenged, it is at those moments that we must choose to submit to God’s Word instead of the world. Unless we think we are wiser than God, we can trust that He knows best. As you read this book, my hope is that you will make the decision to let the Bible transform your view of marriage. Otherwise, you will end up being conformed to the world’s ways of thinking. This is especially important when it comes to the matter of submission, a teaching that is firmly rejected by society and, sadly, even by some churches.

THE NEED FOR WIVES TO SUBMIT TO THEIR HUSBAND

An examination of basic leadership structures makes clear that submission is an important principle in every area of human interaction. No organization can be successful without authority or headship. Businesses have CEOs, sports teams have coaches, governments have presidents or prime ministers, and schools have principals.

Just as we recognize the need for a leader, or a head, we also recognize that there cannot be two heads. We do not see two head coaches, two presidents, two senior pilots, or two lead surgeons. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel flying on a plane in which two senior pilots are arguing over the flight plan. Imagine being operated on by two lead surgeons quarreling over the proper procedure. That is why we always see a head coach and an assistant coach, a president and a vice president, a pilot and a copilot, a principal and an assistant principal. The second-in-command is expected to submit to the authority of the leader, or head.

Because we recognize the wisdom of and need for orderly leadership in all other areas of life, we should recognize the wisdom of and need for the same in a marriage relationship and appreciate how clear God makes this point in Scripture. Consider the following:

  • In the New Testament, wives are instructed five times to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; 5:24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1). The repetition makes this one of the more common commands in God’s Word.
  • Every New Testament passage that discusses the marriage relationship commands wives to submit. In other words, there’s no discussion of marriage without discussing a wife’s submission. A wife’s role is inextricably linked to and contingent on her submission to her husband. God does not see wives’ relationships to their husbands separately from their submission to their husbands.
  • Despite all the New Testament verses we have looked at that instruct believers to submit toward various individuals—employers, elders, government, parents, husbands—it’s significant that there is no verse specifically instructing husbands to submit to their wives.

Because Ephesians 5:21 says to “[submit] to one another,” the passage is sometimes used to argue that husbands and wives should submit equally to each other. There are a few problems with that interpretation:

  • Ephesians 5:21 does not refer to the marriage relationship. Rather, it is talking about believers’ mutual responsibilities toward each other. Paul does not transition to the subject of marriage until verse 22, when he begins addressing wives directly.
  • As we saw earlier in chapter 6, at least two husbands—Adam and Ahab—were rebuked for submitting to their wives (Genesis 3:17; 1 Kings 21:25).
  • Paul cannot be teaching that husbands should submit to their wives because that would conflict with the instruction that immediately follows in verses 22 and 24 for wives to submit to their husbands, as well as similar instruction in Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:3-5, and 1 Peter 3:1.

Submission When a Wife Disagrees

One of the most common arguments I have heard from wives who don’t want to submit to their husband is, “I would submit to my husband if I agreed with him.” Can we see the problem with this logic? The command for a wife to submit to her husband is especially relevant when she disagrees because that is when she has the most trouble embracing her husband’s leadership. When a wife agrees with her husband, she has a much easier time submitting to him.

Perhaps a husband and wife have discussed a decision together, presented their ideas, shared their thoughts, and tried to come to an agreement. But they cannot. At this point, what do they do? How do they decide? Do they flip a coin or play rock-paper-scissors? Just as in all the other authority structures we have discussed, there is a clear answer that God has decreed: For the marriage to be able to move forward and maintain harmony, the husband has been designated to make the final decision.

When couples make a decision, a husband should do his best to hear his wife’s counsel and take her thoughts into consideration. In doing so, he fulfills his calling to love his wife. Yet these two points should be kept in mind:

  • Although it is ideal for a decision to be made only after a husband has given his wife ample time to share her thoughts and opinions, some situations might not allow for lengthy discussions. If, for whatever reason, time is limited and a presentation of both sides is not feasible, wives are still called to submit to their husbands.
  • As much as a husband should make every effort to hear his wife’s thoughts, a wife should not make every effort to exasperate her husband in the hopes that he will simply give up and give in.

As difficult as submission may be at times for the wife, she needs to remember this: If her husband is wrong, he will be held responsible for the outcome. The decision is on his shoulders. Her responsibility ends at submitting, not at making the final decision. Marriage counselor and author Wayne Mack explains it this way:

Submission means a wife sees herself as part of her husband’s team. She has ideas, opinions, desires, requests, and insights, and she lovingly makes them known. But she knows that in any good team someone must make the final decision. She knows the team members must support the team leader, his plans and decisions, or no progress will be made and confusion and frustration will result. Fifty-fifty marriages [where the husband leads half the time and the wife leads half the time] are an impossibility. They do not work. They cannot work. In marriage someone must be the final decision maker, and God has ordained that this should be the husband.2

Yes, submission is difficult. It is tough for husbands to lead spiritually, and it is tough for wives to submit. Wives should be encouraged and find submission easier by keeping two things in mind: First, a willingness to submit doesn’t necessarily mean supporting the idea. Instead, submission means supporting the man behind it. And second, when wives submit, they are doing it for their husband, but even more importantly, they are doing it for the Lord Himself: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). A wife submits to her husband because she wants to submit to Christ.

A Husband Can Make Submission Easier, but He Can Never Make It Easy

Earlier we discussed how a husband can make it easier for a wife to respect him, but making it easier to submit to him is a different issue. Generally, a wife has trouble respecting her husband if there is sin in his life, and she has trouble submitting to her husband if he is not a spiritual man. It is difficult for a wife to trust a man to lead when he doesn’t pray, read the Bible, isn’t involved in the church, or doesn’t have a heart for God. The reason should be obvious: If a husband isn’t fulfilling his spiritual callings, a wife will have little confidence in his ability to make the right decisions for the family.

A woman wants a man who is guided by the Lord. When a wife knows her husband is spending time regularly in prayer and in God’s Word, she will have a much easier time placing her life and the lives of her children in his hands. She will feel confident in his judgment and decisions. There are plenty of reasons for a husband to pray and read Scripture, and one of them is so that his wife can say, “I have concerns about the decision my husband is making, but I trust him because he is receptive to God’s will and he wants what the Lord wants. I know this because his spiritual life makes it obvious.” Being a man of prayer and of the Word is the greatest way for a husband to make his wife’s submission easier.

To bring some balance to this discussion, you will notice I said a man who fulfills his spiritual responsibilities makes submission easier rather than easy. It will always be difficult for wives to submit to their husbands. As we saw earlier, God told Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband” (Genesis 3:16). This refers to a desire for wives to control their husbands. It might help for a man to be loving and godly, but because of the curse, wives are going to struggle with submission regardless of whether their husbands are living a spiritually yielded life or not.

While a wife might insist that she would submit to her husband if only he were more like Christ, this is not a valid argument because Christ loves all wives perfectly, and they still fall short of submitting perfectly to Him. To tie this together: Husbands can make submission easier for their wives by being godly men, but as part of the curse, a wife will have times when she struggles with submitting even to the godliest man.

WHAT IS REVEALED ABOUT A WIFE WHO SUBMITS TO HER HUSBAND?

When a wife submits to her husband, it reveals she is discerning enough to reject worldly philosophies and cultural pitfalls that plague other women. Unlike them, she recognizes the wisdom of God’s design for marriage, and her faithfulness is a tremendous testimony: “[She is] obedient to [her] own husband, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5).

The wife who submits to her husband can have peace because she has put her life and marriage in God’s hands. Just as a willingness to submit to headship provides peace, harmony, and progress in businesses, organizations, and teams, so too do they provide the same in marriages. A wife who submits to her husband reveals her commitment to the health and joy of the relationship. Through her devotion to her husband, and most importantly to Scripture, she reveals her desire to have a marriage God’s way.

  1. Jay Adams, Christian Living in the Home (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1972), 74-75.
  2. Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1999), 14.

27 Responses

  1. Marriage is what people make it even though God gave us the blueprint sometimes it’s difficult. I think most women would love to submit if men would stop using their God given authority to abuse their wives rather physically, mentally, verbally ,or not even providing for them. I have witnessed men abusing their wife children that was not their own and no offense but if a man did that to my children I would leave him,because I don’t see him as a man of God. I see him as a man with deep rooted issues and need much inner healing and my children would not be the sacrifice for his pain. Submission can be beautiful when it’s applied the right way but if you are asking a woman to allow herself to be broken, shattered and disrespected all in the name of Submission I beg the differ. I have never in the history of the bible seen God or his Son disrespect a woman and I just feel like there are a lot of broken and wounded men out here that need much inner healing before they can lead a family and women before they get married should allow the Lord to heal their wounds. Wounded people will only destroy each other. I am not saying that they will be perfected before marriage but we as people are drowning in pain and sorrow due to a broken and fallen world and the only antidote is Christ. If we move from relationship to relationship and never allow a season to just be still and let the Lord heal us we will repeat it over and over again even in marriage and use God’s word of authority to destroy someone’s life. I call this perverted authority. Jesus you will know the tree by its fruit. I’m sorry but everyone that say Lord Lord is not who they appear to be. Wo.en need to pray and seek God before marriage because you will be subjecting your life to the authority of a man and God help you if he just goes to church but not learning how to be the church. Most men put great pleasure in the word submission but is not Love the greatest. If you don’t love your wife as God commanded you. If you don’t nuture her, cherish her. Honor her as the weaker vessel all you are going to reap is what you have sown, resentment, bitterness, anger, rage. You cannot reap a godly harvest in your marriage by carnal means it’s not going to happen. Love is far greater than submission because Love will produce submission. As a man soweth so shall he also reap. If you want submission from your wife sow love and respect. Women if you want to see your husband love you learn to respect your husband. It gives both ways. If we plant the right seeds we will get the right harvest.

    1. Annah,
      While I do agree that women have a much easier time submitting to a godly man, because submission involves not getting our way, it can still be difficult even when a husband is a wonderful spiritual leader. Hence the portion of the post about a husband making submission easier, but not being able to make it easy.

      You talked about some boundaries on submission. I hope you will look at this post I wrote dealing with that topic: Six Examples of What a Wife’s Biblical Submission Is NOT.

      Also, I know there are examples of what you’re talking about in terms of men abusing wives and misusing the authority God’s given them. But in marriage counseling and marriage conferences the most often complaint I hear from woman is that their husband will not lead. I don’t frequently hear women complaining about having to submit.

      You made a point that husbands will reap what they sow in marriage and I agree with that. I do think husbands tend to get the wives they prepare for themselves.

  2. I just finished watching the full series on YouTube and I’m struggling to find hope. I’ve become the nagging quarrelsome wife but I haven’t always been this way and the past 18 months I’ve really been working on it. My husband is a very worldly man who is overtaken by pride. He doesn’t apologize, and in fact blames me for choices he makes even when I submit to his way…. he completely denies it was his idea. He also does none of the things to show me love. He doesn’t value me and shows me little consideration or respect, and doesn’t support me with regards to the kids (or anything else). He despises me for not working outside of the house and does not want to be the provider, in any shape or form. Heck, I don’t even think he’s attracted to me, and it’s not because I’m not an attractive woman. There’s no intimacy and any touch I get is for his pleasure. I’m not allowed to give any input without him accusing me of nagging or trying to control him. I’ve joked in the past that I should just know my place and learn my opinions and thoughts are meaningless and burdensome. Probably not the best joke, but it’s my reality.

    He believes that Jesus died for our sins and uses that as approval to do whatever he wants. He actually caught the Q&A on the last video and interpreted your comment on hair & skirt length as you saying that we are to conform to the worldly culture. He believes the bible is a flawed book written by man and is not relevant to todays world.

    We’ve been married for 15 years (together for 18) and I see where I could have responded better at times but I don’t know how to joyfully submit when he leads our family away from God. The best I’m able to do is suffer in silence and cry myself to sleep every night. I pray often for God to soften his heart or make him divorce me (since the believer is supposed to stay). I’ve left a few times but ultimately cannot give up on Gods ability to repair our marriage. Things never change though and the more I submit and bite my tongue, the more embolden he becomes with worldly ways and the more depressed I become. Most days, I wish God would just call me home. This longsuffering has become more than I can bear.

    How can I joyfully submit when my soul is not at peace with his leadership? How can I be joyful at all when this is my lot in life? I’m not looking for perfection, I’m a very forgiving woman. But how do I forgive and trust when his pride and ego wont even allow him to acknowledge he’s hurting me, apologize, and ask for forgiveness?

    1. Leah,
      I sure appreciate your humility. Some women don’t recognize when they are nagging and quarrelsome. You also humbly acknowledged times you could have responded better over the years with him. I know this would be very difficult to do, but you should go to him and ask for his forgiveness for these things you’ve done wrong. This doesn’t mean that your husband hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s not approving or legitimizing his faults and failures. Instead, it’s doing two things. First, it’s taking ownership of your failures in the relationship. Nobody’s perfect so every spouse has faults we can own. Second, you’ll be allowing your husband to see Christ through you. If everything you’re saying is true it sounds like he’s not a Christian. What he needs more than anything is to be born again. First Peter 3:1-2 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” When your husband sees this humility and Christlikeness, these verses in Peter say this is what can win him to salvation.

      When you married him you entered a covenant with him, but even more importantly, with God himself. You committed to stay with your husband until death do you part, through good and bad. Sounds like there’s been a lot of bad, and I’m sorry to say this, but that is what you signed up for on your wedding day. A young mother in our church has been struggling with cancer. This is the terrible trial she must endure. Perhaps the terrible trial you must endure is remaining married to a difficult husband. Sometimes a woman can bring more glory to God in a painful, difficult marriage than in a wonderful, godly one.

      One important thing I would encourage you to keep in mind is that you’re not submitting to your husband. You’re submitting to Christ. You submit to your husband because you want to submit to Christ. You respect your husband because you want to obey Christ. It must be hard to see your husband do sinful things and show a disregard for Christ, you can still continue to honor Christ and serve him.

  3. I have a brain and will never live on my knees as a lesser being. Men are not smarter or wiser than women and they should be the partners of women not the overlords. If marriage has no mutual respect and love and women always have to take the role of servant, the marriage will fail.

    1. Hello Susan,
      Thank you for reading the post and commenting. If I understand your comment, you believe submission means wives are inferior to their husbands? Would you read this post, Five Things Submission Does Not Mean Wives, and let me know your thoughts?

      I agree with you that men are not smarter or wiser than women, and I agree they should be partners and not overlords. First Peter 3:7 says men and women are joint heirs in Christ. I also agree with you that if marriage has no mutual respect and love than women often have to take the role of a servant. And I agree that the marriage would fail.

      Husbands are commanded to be to their wives what Christ is to the church (Ephesians 5:25). And Christ said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). This means husbands are to love their wives with a sacrificial love.

  4. Very early on in our marriage (of 15 years) my husband told me that I had to get rid of my cat I had for years before we got engaged. I refused but this crushed me and was my introduction to the concept that he was “the leader” which meant he would always have the upper hand and get what he wants while I would live in pain and depravation. Because we had only been married for a short time and I was already pregnant and felt trapped. I was reluctant to leave but would have if I needed to. It was only by the grace of God that I stayed. Right out of the gate I knew I couldn’t trust him and this badly damaged our marriage and relationship. To this day, even though I’ve tried to forgive him for his callousness we’ve never had the closeness or intimacy I always wanted in a marriage. And I will never completely trust him because I know what he’s capable of doing. Even though he knew I had this cat, he told me to get rid of her because it’s what he wanted. And he waiting until after I moved across the country and gave up my job to be with him to spring this on me. After that, I had planned to leave him when the kids turned 18 because of this and other things he did to me in the name of “being in charge”. Life with him wasn’t unbearable so I stayed, but planned to leave. I must say God is powerful and showed me another side of him. We have to kids who both love animals like me and our younger daughter begged him for a dog since she knew what one was. We got her one for her birthday after we begged him but soon after, he tried to get rid of her. I listened to him and he said he didn’t like “it” and he thought “it” would wreck the house and now he had to figure out what to do with “it” when he wanted to go on vacation. I wasn’t going to let him do to our daughter what he wanted to do to me. He again invoked the “I’m in charge and you’re not” crap. I told him no. I didn’t tell him this, but if he wanted to get rid of the dog I would go with her. He agreed to get her – it’s not like I came home with her on my own. I braced for the retaliation. But something else happened. He accepted the dog. It saved our marriage. I later told him that I have never felt more loved than when he accepted the dog that our daughters and I love. It made me not want to leave and to work things out with him. My life and marriage are better. But they’re better because I DIDN’T submit to the unreasonable and mean request of my otherwise nice husband. I have two daughters and I will tell them stay the heck away from men who think like this. They want to control you. They want to have their way and do what they want. They don’t love you. Any man who loves you doesn’t need you under him. It’s no way to live and it’s not what God wants for marriage. I could never believe in a God that created me as a one of his creatures to be at the mercy of someone who doesn’t care if or how much I suffer. That’s not God’s plan for marriage or for women.

    1. Hello Anne,
      I’ve heard many stories like this with wives telling me how terrible their husband is, or husbands telling me how terrible their wife is. The thing I always wonder is, “If your spouse is as terrible as you describe, why did you marry him/her?”
      You even repeatedly said things revealing he was like this on your wedding day: “very early on…married for a short time,” meaning he didn’t become this person after decades, through trauma or abuse. Again, I have to wonder why you married him?

      You said:

      I could never believe in a God that created me as a one of his creatures to be at the mercy of someone who doesn’t care if or how much I suffer.

      You’re the one who walked down the aisle and said, “I do.” The Bible says we should hear both sides before coming to a conclusion, so I have no idea if your husband is as terrible as you describe, but let’s say he is. It was your choice to spend your life with him. Why are you upset with God?

      Your horror story is that he made you get rid of a cat? You acknowledge that you never forgave him, which makes you sound like a bitter woman. You can’t move on from this? You said you planned to leave him when your kids turned 18, which shows your unfaithfulness both to your husband and to God.

      If I understand, you made sure a dog came into the home even though your husband didn’t want one? I’m not sure how this makes you any different than him. Everything you criticized him for is true of you. You forced your will and got what you wanted. You decided to stay, and felt loved, because you overpowered your husband and got your way?

      God is the author of marriage. He knows what provides for healthy, joyful relationships. Unless we think we’re wiser than God, we should strive to obey what He says.

      You have twisted submission and applied many things to it that God doesn’t apply: “have the upper hand and get what he wants…have their way and do what they want…need you under him.” This is not what submission means. I don’t want to repeat the post I wrote – which I’m wondering if you even read, because your understanding is so contrary to the true – but submission is in place for when husbands and wives disagree. The responsibility to make the decision, so the relationship can move forward, rests on the husband’s shoulders.

      I think the real question is, do you believe the Bible? If so, then what do you do with all the commands for wives to submit to their husbands?

  5. Such a good point that if we are in agreement then the need to submit is not really there. There are so many times in my walk with Christ I fight His will and needed to realize it was never about me fighting but me submitting instead.

    1. Hi Kristi,
      Although the post is about wives submitting to their husbands, it definitely applies to our relationships with Christ too. Like I said to Mary earlier, there are lots of relationships that require submission, definitely including our submission to the Lord.

  6. I believe the word `submission` has gotten a bum wrap over the year’s. In today’s culture of `me first`, submission means weakness, silence, you are of no worth. This is sad. That’s completely not what scriptures tell us.

    Submission means; you are implying you feel your husband is worthy of being your leader. By failing in this you imply to him, he’s not worthy of leadership, that he is not of worth. It does not mean he’s never wrong, he never makes mistakes, you have nothing to say .
    It means you don’t always get your way. It means to not belittle, nag, usurp his authority on a decision or matter to do it your way. It means not to be ungrateful, impatient, thoughtless, prideful and selfish.

    As wives to recognize our dissatisfaction with our husband stems from a self-righteous attitude, by our attitude we are actually saying that we are a better person than our husband.

    We are failing to reverence, respect and love our husband as God commanded is really a sin against our husband and against God. Our individual husbands are a person of God’s design, not our design. We are of worth, but we are required to reverence our husband. Eph 5:33 Ampl. “And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband-that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

    Submit does not mean to blindly follow without expressing your thoughts and opinion, or to ask questions.

    1. Hi Mary,
      As usual, wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

      The Bible speaks of the need for submission in a number of relationships:
      • 1 Peter 2:13–17 commands believers to submit to government (also Romans 13:1–7).
      • 1 Peter 2:18–25 commands slaves to submit to their masters; in our society this would translate as employees’ submitting to employers (also Ephesians 6:5–8).
      • 1 Peter 5:5 commands congregations to submit to their elders (also Hebrews 13:17).
      • Ephesians 6:1, Paul commands children to submit to their parents (also Colossians 3:20).

      I suspect people who have a problem with submission will have a problem with much of Scripture.

      1. Hi Scott, I thought my comment was already very long, so, I left out employers, employees, parents, children, friends. Eph 5:21 “Submitting yourselves to one an other in the fear of God.” Each should have the humility and ability to yield her or his, own way to the way of another for the sake of harmony. (Seed v Luke 9:23)That’s another subject! Ha!

        1. Hi Mary,
          Right. My reply wasn’t meant to sound at all disagreeable to your quote (if that’s how it sounded). I thought you made a great point about submission getting “a bum wrap.” I was trying to piggyback off that by making the point that people who have a problem with submission will have a problem with Scripture, since Scripture speaks so highly and frequently about submission.

        2. Hahaha, Scott I didn’t think it was disagreeable at all. Yes, your right there are many scriptures in regards to submission dealing with our multifaceted lives. Why, submission could be a book in itself! 🙂

  7. I have to admit, I’m having a hard time with this one. I “submit” to my husband, but I’m going to nitpick here, and just say that I dislike the word “submit” because its connotations are lacking the actual message needed to fully understand what God was trying to do when He gave us the guidelines of marriage. My husband is certainly the “head” and I follow his leadership, but that doesn’t always end up well for some women. Blind submission can be evil. I grew up watching this verse being played out in a very perverse way of intentional and consistent abuse. I think the reason why so many women become defensive is because of that particular word — submission. I would hope that mutual respect in a marriage initiates ACTIVE listening and results in compromise and understanding when there is a disagreement. It really does leave the responsibility on the man to lead in the most Christ-like way by always seeking to do what God tells him and not take advantage of his role. Anyway, it’s a delicate subject, and I always find it to be one mostly discussed by men. Your insight is basic in terms of only “decision making” in the marriage. I don’t think that’s the entirety of “submitting” to one’s husband. I don’t know. I don’t want to argue or sound like I don’t agree because that’s not the case entirely. I just don’t know that this message covers enough of the details to alleviate any doubts for a woman who is questioning her ability, need, or want to “submit.” It almost seems like your analogies are parallel to that as well. A co-pilot and pilot are still piloting together, and there are times when the copilot is in control to aid the pilot. When it comes down to simply “decision making” the pilot has a say so, but you see, there is an agreement already put in place, “do whatever is best for the passengers.” Essentially, they don’t have a disagreement to work out. I guess this post is really just about individual roles working together. I wish when this topic was discussed it wasn’t such a “put my foot down” kind of matter of fact tone, and more of a “let’s discuss specific roles in marriages as it pertains to mutual love and respect.”

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for reading and providing your honest thoughts.

      A few things. You said:

      I’m going to nitpick here, and just say that I dislike the word “submit” because its connotations are lacking the actual message needed to fully understand what God was trying to do when He gave us the guidelines of marriage.

      I use the word submit, because that’s the word Scripture repeatedly uses and I don’t think we should shrink back from being scriptural, we shouldn’t apologize for what Scripture says, etc. The command for wives to submit to their husbands is repeated five times in the New Testament making it one of the clearest and most common commands in all of Scripture. So my first question would be, what do you think about these commands? When you say, “I am having a hard time with this one,” would it be more accurate to say you have a hard time with God’s command? Hope that doesn’t sound too straightforward, but I’m not sure how to make it softer.

      Yes, “blind submission” can cause problems. I agree. I actually have a section in my book called, “What Submission Does not Mean…” where I outline times wives don’t need to submit (submitting to abuse, sin, etc).

      You also said:

      I grew up watching this verse being played out in a very perverse way of intentional and consistent abuse. I think the reason why so many women become defensive is because of that particular word — submission.

      I’m very sorry that you saw God’s command “perverted” and that it has encouraged you to reject the command completely, but I might invite you to reconsider what you were seeing isn’t what God commanded. I don’t think God says, “Okay, you can ignore what I said because you saw it misrepresented.”

      Also, the question is never, “Will this make people defensive?” If that’s our standard, then say goodbye to verses about hell, repentance, homosexuality, and everything else that makes people defensive.

      Regarding some points you made in the second half of your comment, I largely agree! If you look at the title of the post though, it says, “Why are wives commanded to submit?” I was trying to answer that question. Sure, I could’ve answered other questions – like those you’re wishing I would’ve addressed – but that would’ve went outside the scope of what was asked.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I have heard it explained that if the wife goes over the headship of her husband and vetos a decision and it ends up turning out poorly, then it falls on her shoulders and she has to carry the weight. God’s intention was for the husband to do the heavy lifting on his shoulders and bear the weight of the decisions that are made. It is a good thing for a wife to let her husband carry that weight. She has other things to carry. This jogged my memory to that explanation. Thanks!

  9. This is a great post. I’ve seen so many women get upset over the verses that command us to be submissive because they think, falsely, that God wants them to be a doormat! This is a wonderful explanation.

    1. Hi Kay,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, submission definitely doesn’t mean wives are doormats. I elaborate on the point in my book, and briefly tried to make the point in the post, but submission takes place when husbands and wives can’t agree after the husband has heard his wife’s thoughts.

  10. I am a submissive wife for some of the reason you listed. My husband has a different opinion on my role in our home. Nice to see other Christian families perspecties and a glimpse into dynamics.

    1. Hi De,
      Thanks for sharing.

      Would you be comfortable sharing the other reasons you obey God’s commands to be a submissive wife? You said the post touched on some of the reasons; I’d like to hear the others. Thanks!

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