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 savior of the body. ~ Ephesians 5:22-23
Paul never teaches the concept that women are to submit to men in general. It is always the husband that the woman is to submit to. However, there is a context to which this topic needs to be properly understood. Paul never teaches that a wife should submit to the abuse or unfaithfulness of a husband, and neither does any other New Testament writer.
Biblical submission is not a misogynistic thing. Rather, its purpose is to beautify the power of the gospel as we will see moving forward. In the biblical context (context is the key), a wife’s submission to her husband is to model the church’s submission to Christ. For that to happen, the husband has to model Christ’s love for the church in how he treats his wife. If this element is missing, there is no biblical context for women to be in submission.
The responsibility of the husband/wife relationship modeling the union of Christ and the church, falls on the man. If the husband fails to love his wife as Christ loves the church, while insisting that his wife be in biblical submission, he becomes a hypocrite and an abuser of God’s truth for his own selfish reasons.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. ~ Ephesians 5:24-32
Again, biblical submission is not about misogynistic behavior. It’s about the love of Christ that a man should have for his wife – a love that nourishes and cherishes his wife. Nowhere in scripture are women called to submit to sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. Yet, there are some within Christendom who promote such nonsense. If the truth of biblical submission were correctly understood by more men, we would have more men who become more Christlike from their marriage relationships.
In my next article on this topic we will examine Peter’s instructions for men and women in marriage, which is very similar to Paul’s instructions above.