“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22, NASB95)
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22, ESV)
This command of Ephesians 5:22 is the first of several which grow out of the example of Christ and general command of the previous verse. In verse 21 we read that every believer is to “… be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB95) We find as a precedent of any particular act or attitude of “subjection” a general subjection that we are all to have toward one another. In fact, this command of 21 leads to the implied words in verse 22. Some translations will either indicate by italics or by margin note that a word is added to the text or may not be found in some manuscripts. Verse 22 is an example of such a verse, where “be subject” or “submit” is not found in the text but is added for clarity. It might more accurately read, “Wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” But such a statement clearly begs the question of what “to” is referring to, and a look at the texts clearly points back to the subjection or submission referred to in verse 21 which all believers are to exercise toward one another.
The foundational principle is “submission” which is a humble act of coming under or giving one’s control to another. The Greek word translated “subject” in verse 21 is hupotasso [Strongs #5293], which is a compound of hupo meaning under and tasso meaning to appoint, ordain, set or order. It has the meaning of setting in order under, arranging under, or subordinating. It does not mean that one is more or less than another, but that one is placed under the authority or will of another. And, according to Scripture this is how we are to regard each other and specifically in verse 22, how wives are to be toward their own husbands.
Note also that this positional arrangement is in relation to the husband and the wife. It is a singularly private one that is shared between a couple bound in marriage, and not a general one in relation to all husbands and wives combined. The roots of this command go back to Genesis 3:16 after the Fall, where we read, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”” (Genesis 3:16, ESV) In this judgment from God there is found both the directive and the struggle. That word for “desire” in the next chapter of Genesis is used to refer to a struggle for authority or mastery, and the word “rule” reminds us of how imperfectly at times authority can be utilized. Because of the sin of man and the subsequent judgment, husbands and wives are going to struggle to determine who “wears the pants in the family.” But in Christ, this struggle is brought into a new framework. We will see in the next verses that the husband is to love his wife and give himself for her just as Christ did the church, and here in verse 22 we read that the wife out of submission to Christ is to submit herself to the authority or headship of her husband.
These may not be popular concepts in our culture, but it does not change the fact that it is God’s intended order. Sin is what makes this relationship rough and hard to swallow. But Christ demonstrated for us the better way. In Philippians 2:1-11 we read,
“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1–11, NASB95)
God’s ideal is that the husband and wife as one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2:24) will function with oneness of spirit submitted to the Spirit of God and according to the oneness of God. Jesus has always been God with the Father and the Spirit. He has never been any more or less God. Yet He emptied himself by taking on the form of a bond-servant to humbly do the will of the Father. These words “emptied” and “humbled” say a lot about our Lord. When it is all about us we become full of ourselves. Jesus showed us that for us He did the exact opposite and freely gave of Himself out of Their great love according to the will of the Father for us. And, in the end He was the one who was glorified for doing so such that one day “EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Reading ahead in the next verses, we see that the role of the husband is to so empty himself for his wife in order that she is then presented back as precious, spotless and full of splendor. This is the WOW part of God’s plan. The reality is that we all struggle with it. Husbands fail in their role and wives in theirs. It is misapplied and misused in our world. Sometimes rule is harsh and unloving, and sometimes submission is non-existent. But this is not God’s plan for the husband and the wife, and it is not God’s plan for His children as we all relate to one another.
Before closing it up, there are other passages dealing with this same issue in Scripture. Another one of them is found in 1 Peter 3:1-6 where we read, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:1–6, ESV)
What we see in these verses is the impact of a godly wife on her husband and her house. Notice again that it begins by pointing backwards to chapter 2, and this backwards once again is to the character and example of our Lord. In this instance it was to His response to ridicule and persecution. He took our sins upon Himself for our forgiveness, and in the example of 1 Peter 3 and the godly wife we see that even when the husband is not following after the Lord or is disobedient in some way that she remains strong in Christ and entrusts her husband to Him to do an incredible work. In these verses we see that this is more than a visible response, but is one that comes from deep inside and flows into every area of her life as she places herself under or submits to our Lord to do His great work in and through her. And in doing this we once again see how she is then honored by God and those who follow after her.
I have been incredibly blessed to have such a woman as my wife!!!
I have been incredibly blessed to have such a woman as my wife!!!