Submission: It’s Not What You Think
Ephesians 5:21-24 (ESV)
...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
What other relationship is marriage symbolic of? Why then, should wives submit to their husbands?
Submission. It’s treated like a dirty word in our culture. People just do not like to hear that they have to submit to anyone. They don’t like the idea of anyone having any kind of authority over them. And yet, Paul is saying that out of reverence to Christ, we are to submit to one another. What does this mean?
First and foremost, it means that all Christians are to submit to Christ as the authority over all of us. We are to revere, or deeply respect, that God has placed Him as the head of His church. As members of His church, we humbly subject ourselves to the rule of Christ.
Second, we submit to each other. Notice that the foundation of submission is not that any one Christian is greater than another. We pattern this behavior after Jesus Christ Himself who is our Lord and yet, He humbly served others in His ministry. He is God and yet He became man. He even stooped to the lowly level of a foot washer.
Ultimately, He humbled Himself to the point of dying for us on a Roman cross. He was mocked, scorned, and humiliated. All for our sake. He who was greater became less. Given this, we are called to defer to each other. In Philippians, Paul said, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Third, knowing that we are all to submit to each other, Paul specifically mentions that women are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. Note that not all women are to submit to all men. But in a godly marriage, God has ordained men as the leaders of their households. The reason that Paul gives for this is that marriage is symbolic of the relationship between Christ and His church.
In Scripture, the church is even called “the Bride of Christ.” But remember, even though wives are called to submit to their husband’s leadership, Paul first told all believers to submit to each other. So, a godly marriage is made up of a husband with a leadership role, yes. But husband and wife should first submit to Christ and then both should consider the other as more important than themselves.
Next week, we’ll look more closely at what it means for husbands to be the leader of their wives and households. Spoiler alert: Christ-like submission isn’t what the world thinks it is and Christ-like leadership isn’t either.
Jesus, thank You for showing us what it means to humbly submit to each other in love and service. Help me to count others as more important than myself. Just as You considered me to be worthy of the sacrifice You made on my behalf. Amen.