Ephesians 5:21. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
First, let me point out that this verse comes set in the matrix of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Without that, we will not submit to one another’s needs. Why? Because we don’t want to! We are born with a nature to put ourselves first. Infants learn very quickly that if they cry at a certain pitch, with a certain fervency, someone will come and care for them. In their first year of life, most babies are the center. We spend the next 17 or so years trying to teach them they are NOT the center. We are selfish at heart. The idea of submission to anyone else is naturally repugnant. God is teaching us a different way here, and it starts with being filled up and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God.
Second, I want to point out that this verse is NOT discussing marriage. It is simply an admonition that we are to consider the needs of others before our own. Its application is universal, not limited to husbands and wives. Jesus has set the example. He submitted to the will of the Father. He submitted to the need of mankind for a Savior Who would open the way to sonship with the Father. His submission is clearly defined in I Peter 2:21-25. The submission of Jesus was complete.
I will have more to say on submission as we get into the verses about marriage. Submission is a beautiful thing. The world has tried to make it ugly, but when a marriage is set in the matrix of the filling of the Holy Spirit, there is just no comparison to marriage that is set in putting oneself first.
This entire passage, starting in verse eight, is a series of commands concerning how we are to live out our lives as believers. In the next several verses, Paul illustrates how it all works in biblical marriage, always keeping in mind that the setting is the filling of the Spirit.