What Does it Mean for the Wife to Submit to Her Husband?


The last few weeks at our church, I have been teaching from Titus 2, Ephesians 5:22-24, and Colossians 3:18-19. These verses teach the following:

Ephesians 5:22-24


“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”


Colossians 3:18-19


“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”


Titus 2:-3-5


“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”


Why Some Bristle at These Verses


Just mentioning these verses seems to evoke a negative reaction in some. However, let me give you a few reasons as to why this is the case:


Some have an Unbiblical View of these Biblical Verses


In other articles, I talk about what biblical headship actually means, and I accentuate that headship is 99% service and 1% decision making. However, some seem to assume that headship means that the husband lords over the wife. I do not find that to be the spirit of these teachings at all.

If you will notice, in Ephesians 5:24, Paul states:


“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”


I believe this is interesting because even though Christ is the head of the church, He is also a servant and friend to the church. If these aspects are not considered, then our focus on what headship means will be greatly skewed, especially in marriage.

Here are a few verses about Christ’s approach toward the church that should be considered and applied to the husband and wife relationship:

Philippians 2:5-7


“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”


John 15:13-15


“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”


Matthew 20:28


“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”


John 13:3-5


“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”


The Head of the church, Jesus Christ, clearly took on a role of servant-leader. His approach was not to simply lord over the church, but to procure the love of the church by first showing love to her. (I John 4:19 and John 13)


Omission on the Part of Pastors and Teachers


Years ago, Charles Finney stated that pastors and preachers are usually not unbiblical by what they say as much as what they do not say. And, I believe the same scenario is happening in our day.

There is a tremendous temptation for pastors to “play it safe” when it comes to preaching. In other words, a pastor can preach a month of Sundays on topics and passages with which very few people would take issue. But, those preachers are not being honest with themselves or their congregations if they are conveniently staying away from topics that may be somewhat controversial.

Lamentations 2:14 deals with this matter as it says:


“Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.”


I know the temptation to play it safe, but, as a teacher of the Word, I am not called to keep the ship afloat. My responsibility is to please the Father. Though I preach to the masses, I still have an Audience of One, God the Father.

When it comes to verses on headship, I do believe that pastors are often afraid of teaching on these verses. Maybe it is because they are afraid of women (this is a consideration), or it is possible that they do not know how to articulate the true meaning of these verses. However, these verses are just as inspired as John 3:16 or Ephesians 2:8-9. And, if pastors are going to be true to their calling, they should be careful of conveniently omitting their responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God.


Religious Abusers


Everyone has met religious abusers that use the Word of God as a form of control over people. Because of the presence of people as such in the world, some have thrown the baby out with the bath water and followed their own ways and feelings rather than the Word of God.

When it comes to the above mentioned verses, we all know men that have abused these teachings. However, this does not mean that we should refrain from following these biblical precepts.


A Lack of Faith in God


Some just cannot see that following the Word in every area will benefit them. However, when we pick and choose what we will obey and what we will ignore, we start playing God. And, anytime this occurs, we will limit what God can do in our lives.

When it comes to submission to the government, employers, husbands, parents, and each other, we must greatly exercise our faith as our flesh wants to convince ourselves that following our own paths will produce more happiness and peace than following God’s ways. However, I have found that, in the long run, following God’s ways always lead to far superior levels of joy and peace.


What Does it Mean to Submit to My Husband?


Now that I have cleared the air of a few unbiblical philosophies, let’s take a few moments to look at what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. Here is a short list that I will have to fully develop over the next few weeks in other writings:


The Wife Allows Her Husband to Lead in His Own Way


Different is not bad, it is just different, and, I have found that husbands almost always have a different way of accomplishing tasks than their wives.

When my wife and I set out to do a project, we always have a different way of arriving at our destination. Though she may head west, I go east. However, in the process of time, we usually end up arriving at the same place.

When tackling something together, there are times when a purely democratic decision will lead to a standstill or a watered-down decision at best. In these situations, someone will have to have to have the final say. In the spirit of Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and Titus 2, I believe the man should have the liberty to make the final decision.

Of course, a wise man will consult the opinion of his wife as the same Spirit that leads him is able to lead her. He will also be humble enough to admit when she has a better plan. But, if the two cannot agree on what I call judgment calls, then the man’s opinion should win out.

Furthermore, couples will find that this approach will fast-forward them through the learning curve of relationships. That is, following this pattern will allow them to avoid countless arguments that seem to have no end.

I see couples that will fight for weeks, months, and even years about where to move, financial decisions, what to purchase, et cetera. At some point, someone will have to pull the lever, and, from a biblical perspective, it should be the husband.


The Wife Refrains from Controlling through Manipulation


A wife can sometimes try to control a house by refraining from giving out too much information about events, plans, and wishes. This is a deceptive practice that could be a form of control for a woman.

Simply put, there should be a rule in every home: no secrets and no white lies.


The Wife Refrains from Emotional Mutiny


Through back-room conversations and bashing sessions about the man and his leadership, a woman can lead an emotional mutiny of sorts that will arise through the children and other family members and friends. This is another deceptive practice of the heart that should be avoided.


The Wife Offers Her Opinion in a Way that Allows the Man to Still Feel Like a Man


Though I will write more on this at a later time, I find that the Biblical model gives a husband and wife the most opportunity to satisfy their natural bents. In other words, when a woman shows respect to her man, she meets his deepest emotional need, respect. When a man loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he is meeting her deepest emotional need, unconditional love.

This is why when a society moves away from a Biblical model, the end result is rather distasteful as it hinders both the man and the woman from feeling the most satisfied.


The Woman Refrains from Hiding Things from Her Husband


Hiding financial expenditures, events, and little circumstances can be a form of control for the wife. These should be avoided as secrets between a husband and a wife cause a breach in emotional and mental intimacy. And, though secrets may never be found out, they are often felt in the subconscious by a lack of connectivity between their hearts.


The Wife Possesses a Spirit of Faith in Even His Judgment Calls


Judgment calls are the highest hurdle for followers to overcome. In other words, there are some decisions that leaders must make that do not have a clear cut answer. If followers are not in agreement, they will often find it difficult to submit to that decision.

However, I have found that a wise follower will submit to judgment calls and realize the that one leading is accountable for their decision.


The Wife Stays Away from Saying I Told You So


If a woman allows the man to lead, it is vital that she allow him to learn gracefully. If she is constantly saying, “I told you so.” or “You should have done it my way.”, then she is helping to create a pressurized atmosphere in her marriage. This is important because men typically make unwise decisions in settings where they are trying to disprove their wife’s skeptical outlook on the marriage.

If a man loses his business or his job, he will perform better at finding a new job or starting a new business if he feels his wife and his children are already believers in his success. But, if he is forced to operate in an atmosphere of doubt and skepticism, he will find it more difficult to succeed.

God has given us a home so that even if the rest of the world is against us, our spouses and our children are to be our biggest fans. Unfortunately, in some cases, the exact opposite it felt.


The Wife Submits to the Man She Has


Not every man will make a six figure income, be a great extrapolator of biblical truth, be great at working outside, be the all-American dad, be a Casanova, be an intellectual, or be good with his money. Either way, the man you married is the man that God has called you to be thankful for. And, being thankful for the man you have is probably the greatest mark of a submissive wife.

Some women seem to be waiting for their husband to become someone else before they submit to his leadership. The only problem with this is that if the tables were turned, then the man would probably be waiting a while before he started loving his wife as Christ loved the church. In other words, we are commanded to love and submit to the spouse we have instead of the spouse we want them to become.

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Posted in Advice for Women, Marriage Advice

13 comments on “What Does it Mean for the Wife to Submit to Her Husband?
  1. Julius Walker says:

    My wife don’t believe in his word as it is written too many people take his word and turn it around instead of taking a dictionary and looking out the meaning of each word that he spoke they always say he didn’t mean it that way he wrote what he meant he meant what was written and there people out there did not know want to take his word as it is written that’s where they feel he wrote it for a purpose for to be read and believed as it was written get back with me with your opinion when he said obey and be submissive that didn’t mean for the man to be abusive but he does stand accountable for his home it’s family and marriage

  2. Paul says:

    Christ and the Church as model of the husband-wife relationship of course signifies an asymmetry, the same asymmetry as can be seen in the instructions to husbands and to wives. All people claiming either equality or mutual submission are blind to this obvious asymmetry. And yes, submission DOES mean obedience, but wives voluntarily submit to their husband BECAUSE they want to OBEY God’s commands. Just as the Church is obedient to Christ and does His will. This is repeated in many texts, e.g 1John5 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments”, John 3 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”.

    Of course a wife’s obedience to her husband is never absolute, she should be more obedient to God. However, be aware you cannot ignore this command at will, you will be held accountable for God.

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