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Does the Bible Really Command a Wife to Submit to Her Husband?

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People hear the word “submission” as it pertains to marriage and feel afraid that they will fall under someone’s command or rule, but biblical submission is anything but control and toxicity.


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Shortly after my husband and I got engaged, I remember reading a love-based devotional which shared this particular scripture: “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” (Ephesians 5:22-24).

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After reading those verses, I paused, put my book down for a moment, and said to myself, “Submit to your own husbands? What in the world?”

I was flabbergasted and, admittedly, a bit afraid.

“Submission.” That word took me by surprise.

My mind swirled with thoughts, and I immediately believed, according to the Bible, that my life as a wife would mean a total loss of control, identity and freedom to exercise power in various capacities, big and small. I assumed submission equated to extreme authority and, in a sense, belittlement.

Submission does not equate to needing permission to use the bathroom, consent to speak, or authorization to live your life. Instead, submission is agreeing to work within a one-flesh alliance.

I allowed myself a few minutes to digest my thoughts. Then, I dove back into the Word, confident that this scripture meant so much more than a toxic means of authority.

I soon learned that submission does not equate to needing permission to use the bathroom, consent to speak or authorization to live one’s life. Instead, submission is agreeing to work within a one-flesh alliance. Submitting to your husband does not mean rolling out the red carpet for him so that he can do and say whatever he wants. Submission is accepting that a husband is responsible for the care, love and respect of his wife, and unity is achieved in marriage when the power struggle disappears.

Does the Bible Really Command a Wife to Submit to Her Husband?

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As I began to explore the true meaning of submission and the value of the husband’s role and the wife’s role, I became increasingly excited to meet my husband at the altar, no longer fearful of the idea of submission. Then, I came across Genesis 2:22-24, another scripture from my devotional, and this passage put a smile on my face:

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” 

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I always knew I was my husband’s helper and companion, but at that moment, I was lovingly reminded that God’s design for human marriage is perfect and there is nothing to fear. He trusts men to be faithful, respectful, loving leaders, and He knows that women are powerfully capable of carrying it through according to her special gifts.

With this in mind, marriage is no longer seen as a cruel hierarchy. Instead, marriage is intended for each partner to lovingly seek the unity needed for a strong, happy and healthy marriage.

Six years later, although still a bit wet behind the ears, I am humbled to share that His Word has certainly led my husband and me to unity, joy, growth and continued love.