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Submission in Marriage

Ephesians 5:22-24

“Submission is faith by another name.”

Everyone is under authority and Christians are commanded to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. This passage is speaking specifically about a wife’s submission to her husband. (Next week, we will deal with husbands!)

First it must be understood that authority does not mean tyranny. Christ-like authority is servant leadership. It is not self-seeking but selflessly serves the one it loves. It must also be said that submission does not mean inferiority. Women are not less intelligent, less capable or less important to God than men.

Christian submission is an expression of our faith in God. It is a humble recognition of God’s wise and loving providential order. The first independence movement was Adam and Even in the garden, and it was not a good thing! God’s commands are for our happiness and safety. Marriage, as God has ordered it, honors God, builds society, and blesses those who submit.

Wives must submit to their own husbands—not to every man. A woman is called to submit to the man who should love her more than anyone else on the planet, the man who is called to serve, nurture, and lay down his life for her. The wife must acknowledge, follow and respect the headship of her husband. This should be a voluntary, joyful yielding to the leadership and decisions of God’s delegated authority. No nagging. No undermining. No manipulating, fighting and complaining!

Wives are told to submit to their husbands “As to the Lord.” The Lord has asked you to submit to your husband, and as you do so, you are serving God. Notice that Paul is appealing directly to the wives. Husbands are never told to force subjugation upon their wives. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. The husband’s leadership should be like that of Christ—it should liberate, exalt, and fulfill his wife, make her radiant, nurture, bless and benefit her.

Headship means to have authority over, to provide for, nurture and protect. Headship in marriage is given to the man, and his headship is to mirror Christ’s headship over the Church. It is not to be used as an excuse to get what he wants, but is to be exercised for the good of his wife. And as the Church listens to the Word of Christ and does it, so the wife should listen to her husband and do what he says.

What is the extent of a wife’s submission to her husband? Paul says, “In everything.” This is the rule, but there are exceptions. A husband’s authority is not absolute. Christ’s authority qualifies a husband’s authority. A wife must not submit to her husband in anything that goes against the commands of Christ. She must not follow her husband into sin or away from the Lord. But when his decision isn’t right or he is being pig-headed or selfish? Yes, she should submit—with qualifications: A wife should never submit to abuse, neglect, or sin. If the husband is abusing his leadership in this way, it is time to call in others to help.

Christian wives are called to submit to, honor and support their husband’s leadership. Most decisions can be made mutually. The wife should be fully heard and completely understood before a decision is made, but the final decision is the responsibility of the husband.

Future wives, you are not ready for marriage until you are submitting to Christ. It will take the Spirit of God within you to enable you to submit properly in marriage. And you should be very careful who you choose to marry. If you don’t see self-sacrificing leadership and the fruit of the Spirit in your man, and you don’t see him submitting to the authority of those over him, he is not ready for marriage! He must be a good follower before he can be a good leader. Choose wisely the man to whom you will submit.

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