Did I get your attention? Over the years I’ve worked with couples who truly get themselves into trouble because of several important verses in the Bible. This is why I do not recommend picking out verses in the Bible and using them carte blanche, especially if you’re just trying to “win” an argument with your spouse. It is important to always get the context of any verse before we apply it to our lives, ensuring the integrity of God’s word.

So what verses am I talking about here? The two verses are from Ephesians 5:22-23 - the infamous "submission verses":

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.”

Throughout the years of Christiandom, these two verses have caused a lot of heartache for marriages - especially when husbands use the verses as their “magical trump card” to get their way in an argument or disagreement with their wives. These husbands, while appearing to be faithful to the Bible, are really using these two verses to further their own selfish desires.

But did you know there is something important, even Biblical, you must learn about these verses? Ephesians 5:21 puts these two verses in context, and comes just before the infamous pair. The problem is that those who abuse Ephesians 5:22-23 rarely read the verse placed literally right before them:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

What does this verse mean to you? I’ve discovered that it means we are to serve each other, like Christ serves the church, and that no one person can rule the marriage, but rather, both parties in the marriage need to be serving and submitting to each other. This simple concept could be a radical departure for some Christian marriages.

Who's in Charge?

Some might disagree with the idea that there is no ruler of the marriage, claiming two of equal stature would create an eternal tug-of-war between husband and wife. So if husbands do not have a “magical trump card” in their marriage, then how are they supposed to act? Let’s take a look at the bigger picture, and this time we’ll read Ephesians 5:21-28 from The Message:

“Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church - a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor - since they're already 'one' in marriage.”

What an entirely different picture of marriage here! In essence husbands, you are to love your wife like Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He gave His life for the church, ultimately modeling the behavior of being a servant. There’s a statement I like to share at my live events or Marriage Restoration Intensives that truly slam-dunks this point, and I always share this in fun. But when you think about how many wives truly struggle with the idea of submitting to their husbands, especially the wives who’ve been taken advantage of from the two Ephesians verses, I like to say to them, “Who would have a problem submitting to a dead guy?”  Of course there’s a smile on my face but it makes the point quite clear. Who would struggle submitting to a person who has totally submitted themselves to Christ’s example of being a servant, someone who truly “dies to himself” in order to be a better servant to his family?