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. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, .” – Ephesians 5:22-25.   

Has there ever been a more misunderstood, more disliked or more divisive word than submission? Yet Paul says, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Whatever the word submit means, it’s something Paul thinks every Christian can and should do. 

In Paul’s day, a wife had no legal rights. Husbands also had the financial advantages and virtually all the education.  It is easy to guess what happened in this environment. The man lorded over the woman, controlled her and used her to make his life easier. It is also easy to see the woman bristling in that type of environment and resisting and rebelling as best she could.

But Paul offers a solution to the power struggles that result in so many relationships. It’s called submission. He says, in effect, in life, when you’re in a place of less authority and power, don’t resist and resent and rebel. Out of reverence for Christ, respect and honor and work hard at pleasing the other person. And when you’re in a place of more power, don’t lord it over the other person. Don’t use them to make your life easier. Instead, use your power and influence to benefit them.

Submission means I voluntarily limit what I might do naturally in this relationship in order to benefit you. If I have more power, instead of doing what I might do naturally and use that power to make my life easier, out of reverence for Christ, I’ll use my power instead to serve you. I’ll give up even my life in order to benefit you. Submission also means that if I have less power, instead of doing what I might do naturally and fight you every step of the way, I’m going to show you respect and honor.

We need to remember that submission is personal. Submission is a doctrine you apply to yourself. Notice Paul doesn’t say, “husbands, tell your wife to submit”—or, “wives, tell your husband to step up and be the spiritual head of the home.” Instead, he speaks to each person and asks each to work on his or her own attitude. We also need to remember that submission is mutual. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does submission imply inferiority? Why/why not?
  2. What is one thing you can do to improve the way you use your power, influence, and resources on behalf of your spouse, your children, your parents or your friends?
  3. Read John 13:1-5. How is Jesus demonstrating the principle of mutual submission in these verses? And how can you apply it in your life?
  4. What is one obstacle to practicing mutual submission? How can you overcome that obstacle?