Ephesians 5:22. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
First, go back and read verses 18-21. Realize the important principle here is the filling of the Spirit, which is gained by obedience to God’s Word. Verse 21 teaches us the importance of submitting ourselves to each other, placing the needs of others above our own. Verse 22 is the beginning of a passage about how the Holy Spirit influences a godly, Christ-centered marriage. It is not a separate topic from what has gone before. The submission of wives cannot be taught as a stand-alone, although I’ve heard many preachers do so. I used to wonder why it made my hackles rise when an evangelist who shall remain unnamed roared from the pulpit, “You WIVES need to GET IN LINE!” SUBMIT to your husbands, or you will never enjoy the blessing of God.”
Now, why would that make me resist? I believe the Bible is true, and I’ve tried to follow the directive to be in submission to my husband’s headship. Well, one day I figured it out. It’s because that truth was being preached outside the setting of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and it was used as a club to beat us with, ot control us and force us to “get in line,” whatever that means.
That’s not the picture that Paul is creating in this passage. Not even close.
I heard a definition of submission at my oldest son’s wedding that I love. “Submission is to choose–CHOOSE!–to arranges oneself under someone else’s authority.”
Now, that’s a principle I can live with. I can choose to do that, and be happy and content in doing so. Why? Because I’m not being hollered at and forced into doing something that is completely against my nature. I am choosing, because I want to be obedient to God’s Word, to accept the headship of my godly husband, whose love makes it pretty easy for me to enjoy the position of privilege and protection that God has assigned to wives.
It is not a burden to be born in martyrdom and suffering. It is a blessing that allows me to flourish and grow in safety, and to find the peace of fulfilling God’s purpose for wives. But it has to be motivated by the filling of the Spirit; that is, by obedience to His Word and His will.
And notice, also, that we are to submit to our own husbands. I don’t have to be submissive to your husband! You don’t have to be submissive to mine. Of course, there are other men in my life who are in positions of spiritual or civic leadership to whom I owe respect. But marital submission is very special and unique, and is for only the husband and his wife to practice and enjoy.
Finally, we are to do it as unto the Lord. Wives, our choosing to arrange ourselves under out husband’s authority is to be done to clarify the picture of Christ as the Bridegroom, and the Church as His bride. We are to submit to our own husbands as we submit to the Lord.
Hang on, there’s lots more. I love this passage, and went through it just yesterday with a couple in my office who are struggling to repair their marriage after an affair. It was such a sheer pleasure to see understanding dawn for both of them as we stepped word by word through this passage. It was healing. It was educational. It was sweet to see them look at each other with new understanding. Because they both want God’s will, I am sure their marriage will be restored and stronger than it ever has been before.
Do it God’s way, and great things begin to happen.