Biblical Submission

The text for our consideration this week is Ephesians 5:22–27: 

“[22] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] 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. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 

[25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. “

I teach on this passage in adult instruction classes. Married couples reacted in such a way that it has become a recognizable pattern.   

The pattern starts with wives in the class reacting negatively to verses 22-24. Meanwhile, the husbands would start to jokingly approve of the verse, at times repeating aloud verse 22. 

The pattern continues as I present verses 25-27. I ask the men exactly how Christ loved the church. It doesn’t take long for one of the husbands to say, in so many words: “So, wives have to submit to husbands. But we as husbands have to painfully suffer and die for our wives.” At that point, I smile and nod. The wives have their turn to approve of the passage, again often repeating the verses aloud. 

I think American culture contributes towards making this a difficult passage for married couples. Raised in a culture that protects the rights of individuals, submission is a foreign concept. In fact, submission is usually seen as negative. In America, submission implies one is being forced or coerced to do something against his or her will. 

For this reason, the pattern ends with studying the immediate context of the passage. Ephesians 5:21 calls us to submit to one another out of “reverence for Christ.”

Jesus willingly submitted to the plan for our salvation. It required Jesus to sacrifice more than we can even imagine. Out of respect for the one who submitted for our sakes, we submit to one another. We willingly accept the roles God has established for us in marriage. As we fulfill our roles in support of one another, our marriages grow and flourish.

That is exactly what I send the married couples home to discuss. 

(This devotion was written for the congregations of the Ohio District- LCMS.)

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