What Is Submission?

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ….

~ Ephesians 5:21-25

All sorts of folks quote these verses. Some quote them to prove that women must obey their husbands in everything (but “obey” and “submit” are not quite synonyms).

I don’t know very many people who go on to define what “submission” means by continuing through the next few verses, but that’s what Paul does:

… to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

~ Ephesians 5:26-33

Jesus Christ submitted to the needs of His bride, the church, by humbling himself and taking the form of a servant and bathing – not only her feet – but her whole body … because he loves and cherishes it, feeds and cares for it … to the point that He left His Father in heaven and submitted to death on a cross to win her and wash her and feed her and be united with her.

That, good people, is what “submission” means.

And we must never, ever forget that it is not just how wives should relate to husbands, but also husbands to wives and believers to believers. Because right before verse 22 is verse 21, and there is no ignoring it, getting around it or explaining it away.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Okay, end of sermon.

5 thoughts on “What Is Submission?

  1. Keith,

    Very good, sir.  I’ve always thought that verse right above was a most-often-overlooked, yet oh-so-critically-important verse!

    On a separate note, if I’m not mistaken, I believe today is your blogiversary. Seven years.  Wow.  Congrats.

    And thank you.

    Your Blogdaughter

  2. Keith,
    A very balanced and needed explanation of these passages. I get headaches from how often they are used in oppressive and abusive ways.
    Thank you!

  3. Luk 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

    This is submission, sub-mission, your mission outranks mine. so I will put mine aside and accomodate yours.

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