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Submission... Dumb or Divine?

respectful wife

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Ephesians 5:22–24, ESV


Submission can sound scary for many women. It may sound like a wrestling move that someone puts a killer death grip around someone’s neck until they tap out or murmur “Mercy.” I’m sure there are some ladies who read this and understandably so hate the idea of submission and can’t stand the word as well. For example, if you are in a marriage or have been in a marriage where the husband was harsh, domineering, or abusive, this word likely sends you into a state of shock. Or if you know of others in an abusive relationship, submission just doesn’t sound right. However, it’s important to trust that God’s words are always good, even if they are hard to accept in our particular situation. I would define a submission from a Biblical perspective as a divine calling for the wife to respect, support, and help her husband fulfill his role as a servant leader to provide and protect for the family.

As we look at the Bible and not the culture, we can see that there is a difference in word meanings. The idea of submission in culture has a negative connotation, where scripture paints it as a positive. As the wife submits to her husband, she is doing this “as to the LORD”; this is a divine calling. It’s not for just any woman, but specifically for a wife. It’s the special calling of a wife to do this.

To submit to one’s husband doesn’t mean that the wife is less valuable. Rather, we find in scripture the idea that the husband and wife are created by God as equal in their value yet different in roles, as stated in Genesis 1:27-28: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.” God’s blessing is on both the man and the woman. This couple is the first husband and wife on the planet. They were created male and female, both made in his image, which means they share in God’s moral attributes (i.e. that they are like God morally in that they can love, be kind, forgive, etc.). They are designed to reflect God’s love to the world around them, and they do it best as they work in harmony. Both are created with an intrinsic value to God as his creation, worthy of dignity, worth, and respect. However, God made man to work. Scripture tells us that God put him in the garden to work it (Genesis 2:15), and just a few verses later we read that he created a woman to help the man, because it’s wasn’t good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Where the world is confusing, the scripture brings clarity. While we have come to better understand that God is not playing favorites, valuing the man over the woman. We still need clarity on the idea of submission.

God’s word gives us a glimpse of submission existing even within the Trinity. A better way to refer to this might be subordination within the Trinity. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, the Apostle Paul seeks to help married couples understand their roles within the marriage, by saying, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Here we see that the Head of Christ is God the Father. In all four Gospels, we find Jesus, the second person in the Trinity submitting his will to the Father as well. In Mark 14:36, we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane about to go to the cross to die for the sins of the world.  He prays, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."  This gives us a sneak peek into this divine calling of submission: he submits his will to the Father, just as the wife is to submit to her husband as unto to the Lord as well.  And in John 15:26, we see the Holy Spirit operates in a subordinate role to Jesus and the Father. “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”

What can we gain from this? We can trust that if the principle of submission is good for God, it is good for us. In fact, we can see that divine order within the Trinity in many ways reflects a good order within marriage for husband and wives. As in the Trinity, all members are equally valued, yet they function with different roles.  If you were to study the roles within the Trinity, you would discover that the Father is the Planner, the Son is the Accomplisher, and the Holy Spirit is the Applier of salvation for all believers. Each is fully God, and equally divine, and yet there is one God. There is unity and diversity that exists, and this is reflected in the marriage as well. Both spouses are equally valued, yet they share different roles.

In closing, we can see that submission is truly a divine concept to help create and cultivate harmony and oneness within the context of marriage. It’s not dumb at all when a Christian wife does this. It’s a divine calling to respect, support, and help her husband fulfill his role as a servant leader to provide for and protect the family.