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Submit, Woman!

What does real submission in marriage look like?
| Nov 4, 2014 | 5 comments |

Due to attempting National Novel Writing Month again this year, during November I’ll be digging into my own blog’s archives for articles of interest. This particular one I wrote in July of 2013. Consider this article in light of how Christian fictional works portray the husband and wife relationship, often based upon flawed theology.


The new woman--wash dayYou already know what Scripture verses I’m going to discuss, don’t you? My recent guest post, “Have You Committed Adultery Lately,” at Mike Duran’s blog, “Decompose,” inspired me from the comments to address this subject: the infamous Eph. 5:22-24 passage:

Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. (ASV)

Using this Scripture passage, abuse, adultery, ill-treatment, as well as lesser sins and crimes have been excused, justified, and ignored if a woman was the victim. If only she would have submitted like St. Paul demanded, she wouldn’t be a victim of these crimes, the reasoning goes.

With the authority of Scripture behind them, Christian husbands, even pastors and religious counselors, have enabled sinful lifestyles at the expense of their victims and God’s justice.

So are the above verses to be taken as many interpret them? Even feminist, intent on battling a male-dominated culture, interpret them in this manner and label St. Paul a misogynist.

It is my contention that these verses are taken out of context, and perverted into teaching an attitude that is 180 degrees opposite what St. Paul meant. Allow me to make my case.

First, we must understand the general context and message St. Paul is conveying to us. This is established at the beginning of the chapter:

Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell. (Eph 5:1-2 ASV)

Love. St. Paul is attempting in the verses that follow, to give practical examples of what walking in love in imitation of Christ looks like. Any interpretation, therefore, that does not flow from love, violates this context and is not the message St. Paul sent. It is not God’s Word to take a verse out of context and proclaim it as truth. You are, by definition, a false prophet.

If you don’t concede the point, then I quote to you the following Scripture, which by your method of interpretation, you are required to do: “…you would even go beyond circumcision.” (Gal 5:12 ASV)

Second, let’s take a look at the immediate context:

…subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:21 ASV)

Memo to religious leaders: St. Paul is talking about how everyone, male and female, subject themselves to each other! He isn’t singling out one group over another. His intent is to show how each group, and he goes through several, subject themselves to one another. Even those in authority over others.

Mutual submission is how we “walk in love” in our daily lives. It is the opposite of pride, of “don’t tell me what to do” attitude, of lording it over each other. Any interpretation that violates the context of mutual submission is a false teaching of the evil one. Not worth the words wasted on it.

St. Paul therefore excludes any teaching that a woman should put up with abuse from her husband. He excludes using these verses to justify adultery or other sins. Neither of those is submitting to one’s spouse. Neither is walking in love. Neither is imitating Christ.

So what is the context? Simply, this is what walking in love through submission to each other looks like.

Wives, you show your love, your respect for your husband by submitting to his leadership. Obey him.

Husbands, you show your love and respect for your wife by submitting to her needs. Obey her.

“What?” you may ask. “It doesn’t say that to the husbands!” It most certainly does. It specifically says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it…” (Eph 5:25 ASV) What did Jesus say?

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mat 20:25-28 ASV)

To be an imitator of Christ, to walk in love as Christ did, requires a husband to become a servant to his wife. You are not married to her to be ministered to, but to minister to her! If you fail to do this, you are not loving your wives as Christ loved the Church. To act as a lord over your wife is in direct conflict with what Jesus taught.

St. Paul clearly intended that a husband and wife submit to each other in love. If one or both fail to do this, the relationship doesn’t work and is not following Biblical principles for marriage.

Likewise, it should be clear that any type of teaching from these verses that a woman should submit to abuse, excuse adultery, or live in a hostile environment because she should submit to her husband is not only using these verses out of context, but is using them to excuse and justify sin. A sin in and of itself that Jesus equates as a “brood of vipers.”

My advice? Don’t be a viper. Be a servant.

How do you submit in your daily life to witness to Christ’s love?

As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and The Virtual Chronicles series, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines.Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following:Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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Yvonne Anderson

I completely agree with you on this (though some readers of my Gannah series might not believe me; the societal heirarchies on that fictional planet are purely cultural, not based on Biblical principles). In order to use the scriptures to justify spousal abuse of any sort, the passages must be yanked out of their proper context and twisted to face a backward direction. Marriage is such an achingly beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His church, it’s no wonder the devil so delights in attacking it. What the unbelieving world does to marriage is tragic. How much more must it break God’s heart to see the way we, His own people, deface His word and defame His name.


I agree. Pretty much down the line. Any directive that includes the toleration of abuse is absolutely unbiblical. In fact I believe 1 Cor. 7  actually addresses this directly.

When Paul to commands to submit to one another, the verses that follow define what that means. The only thing I would possibly question is the idea of husbands obeying their wives. I understand what you mean by this, but I wouldn’t character it that way. NOT because it makes me brstle. I promise you it does not. I just don’t think that is the best characterization.


There isn’t a lot of difference between sacrifice and submission when it comes to marriage. They both imply a giving up of self will. I don’t think the word “obey”really fits for either party because it’s far too simplistic a word and doesn’t necessarily imply thought behind action. Obedience is something that can happen by force or by rote and doesn’t mean the party obeying is being self-sacrificial. That word entirely misses the point, IMO.