Does a wife have to submit to her husband?

Question: "Does a wife have to submit to her husband?"

This is a very important issue in regard to marriage and also in everyday life. God designed the act of submission in Genesis. Even before sin entered the world, there was still the principle of headship (1 Timothy 2:13). Adam was created first, and Eve was created to be a "helper" for Adam. At the same time, in the beginning, since there was no sin, there was no authority for man to obey except God’s authority. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and then authority was needed. Therefore, God established the authority needed to enforce the laws of the land and also to provide us with the protection we need. First, we need to submit to God, which is the only way we can truly obey Him (James 1:21 and James 4:7). In 1 Corinthians 11:2-3, we find that the husband is to submit to Christ as Christ did to God. Then the verse says that the wife should follow his example and submit to her husband. Other verses about Christ submitting to God are found in Matthew 26:39 and John 5:30.

Submission is a natural response to loving leadership. When a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25-33), then submission is a natural response from a wife to her husband. The Greek word translated submit (Hupotasso) is the continuing form of the verb. This means that to submit to God, our leaders, and our husband is not a one-time decision. It is a continual attitude of our minds, which becomes a pattern of behavior. The submission talked about in Ephesians 5 is not talking about one-sided subjection by a believer to a selfish-domineering person. Biblical submission is designed to be between two Spirit-filled believers who are mutually yielded to each other and to God. Submission is a two-way street. Submission is a position of honor and completeness. When a wife is loved as Christ loves the church, submission is not difficult. Ephesians 5:24 says, “just as the church submits itself to Christ.” This verse is saying that the wife is to submit to her husband in everything that is right and lawful. Therefore, the wife is under no obligation to disobey the law or neglect her relationship to God.

The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. The “submit” in Ephesians 5:21 is the same word as in 5:22. Believers are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Verses 19-21 are all results of being filled with the Holy Spirit (5:18). Spirit-filled believers are to be worshipful (5:19), thankful (5:20), and submissive (5:21). Paul then follows his line of thought on Spirit-filled living and applies it to husbands and wives in verses 22-33.

Recommended Resource: A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

Related Topics:

What does the Bible say about interracial marriage?

Is it right for a Christian to date or marry a non-Christian?

How often should a married couple have sex?

What does the Bible say about feminism? Should a Christian be a feminist?

What should be done if a husband and wife disagree on tithing / how much to give?

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Does a wife have to submit to her husband?