What Does The Bible Say About A Wife Not Submitting To Her Husband?

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A husband and wife standing side by side

In our current era colored by discussions and debates surrounding equality and rights, a sensitive topic among many Christians revolves around the biblical notion of submission, particularly the submission of wives to their husbands. This article seeks to provide a thorough understanding of what the Bible says about this subject.

Understanding Biblical Submission

The concept of submission in the Bible is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, leading to numerous questions and controversies. To clear up some of these confusions, it is crucial to delve into the Bible and analyze its teachings on submission purely from a biblical perspective.

The Concept of Submission in the Bible

The biblical idea of submission primarily refers to positioning oneself in a dedicated attitude of yielding to the authority. However, it’s important to note that this does not imply inequality or inferiority. Rather, it is a God-ordained order for the proper functioning of relationships and institutions, especially the family.

When we examine the biblical teachings on submission, we find that it is not a one-sided command. It is not about one person dominating another, but rather about mutual respect and cooperation. In Ephesians 5:21, it states, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This verse highlights the importance of mutual submission within the Christian community.

Furthermore, biblical submission is not limited to specific gender roles. While there are passages that address the submission of wives to husbands, such as Ephesians 5:22-24, it is crucial to understand the broader context. In the same passage, husbands are instructed to love their wives sacrificially, just as Christ loved the church. This emphasizes the mutual responsibility and selflessness required in a marriage relationship.

The Cultural Context of Biblical Submission

In understanding biblical submission, it is essential to also take into account the cultural context in which these directives were written. In the first-century Middle Eastern society, hierarchy in a family was considered necessary for its survival. Therefore, we must carefully decipher the intent behind the biblical text, relating it appropriately to our current social constructs.

It is important to recognize that the cultural context of biblical submission does not mean that the principles are irrelevant today. Instead, it calls for a thoughtful interpretation that takes into consideration the timeless principles behind the commands. For example, the call for husbands to love their wives sacrificially remains applicable, regardless of the cultural context.

When examining the cultural context, we also need to consider the societal norms and expectations of the time. Women in the first-century Middle Eastern society had limited rights and opportunities compared to men. Therefore, the biblical instructions on submission must be understood in light of the cultural limitations and the need for societal order.

However, it is important to note that biblical submission does not endorse or perpetuate oppressive practices. The Bible also contains passages that emphasize the equal value and worth of all individuals, such as Galatians 3:28, which states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Therefore, when seeking to understand biblical submission, it is crucial to approach it with a balanced perspective that takes into account both the biblical teachings and the cultural context in which they were written. This will allow us to grasp the underlying principles and apply them in a way that promotes love, equality, and mutual respect within our relationships and communities.

Key Bible Verses on Wives and Submission

There are actually quite a number of verses in the Bible addressing the topic of wives submitting to their husbands, among which, some seem to have invited the most contention over the years. Let’s take a look at two of these verses and their interpretations.

Ephesians 5:22-24 Explained

The key passage of Ephesians 5:22-24 has often been seen as controversial. The text directs wives to submit to their husbands “as unto the Lord.” However, the context of this statement within the larger discourse on mutual submission and love between spouses provides a fuller understanding of this command. A wife’s submission is not about being dominated by her husband, but voluntarily respecting his role within the marital relationship.

When we delve deeper into the historical and cultural context of Ephesians, we find that the concept of submission was not limited to wives alone. In the Greco-Roman society of that time, submission was a widely accepted principle for maintaining social order. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s instruction to wives was actually radical for its time, as he also called on husbands to love their wives sacrificially, just as Christ loved the church.

Furthermore, the phrase “as unto the Lord” indicates that the submission of wives is ultimately rooted in their devotion to God. It is not a blind obedience to their husbands, but rather an expression of their faith and trust in God’s design for marriage.

Colossians 3:18 Interpreted

The verse of Colossians 3:18 which advises wives to submit to their husbands is often read in isolation. However, just a few lines later the Scripture emphasizes the husband’s sole responsibility to love their wives and not become harsh with them. Aggregated, these verses describe a balanced relationship marked by love, respect, and understanding.

It is important to note that the call for wives to submit does not imply inferiority or subjugation. Rather, it speaks to the complementary roles of husbands and wives within the marriage covenant. The submission of wives is not about power dynamics, but about unity and harmony in the relationship.

When we examine the broader biblical teachings on marriage, we find that the overarching principle is one of mutual submission. Both husbands and wives are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). This mutual submission fosters an environment of love, support, and cooperation where both partners can thrive and grow.

It is worth noting that the Bible also provides examples of strong, influential women who played significant roles in shaping the early Christian community. Women like Deborah, Esther, and Priscilla were leaders, prophets, and teachers, demonstrating that submission does not equate to silence or passivity.

In conclusion, the verses on wives and submission in the Bible should be understood within the broader context of love, respect, and mutual submission between spouses. They do not promote oppression or inequality, but rather provide a framework for healthy and harmonious relationships based on God’s design for marriage.

The Role of Love and Respect in Marriage

Submission in the biblical context should not be considered or discussed separately from the concept of love and respect in a marital relationship. It is essentially a two-sided coin, with each partner playing a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and secure bond.

Marriage is often described as a journey, a beautiful and complex journey that requires effort, dedication, and understanding from both partners. Love and respect are two fundamental pillars that uphold this journey, providing a solid foundation for a fulfilling and lasting marriage.

The Husband’s Duty to Love

In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are instructed to “love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. This powerful metaphor underscores the sacrificial and unconditional nature of the husband’s love, which should be the foundation for the wife’s voluntary submission.

Love, in the context of marriage, goes beyond mere feelings or emotions. It is an active choice, a conscious decision to prioritize the well-being and happiness of one’s spouse. It involves selflessness, empathy, and a willingness to put the needs of the other person before one’s own.

A loving husband understands the importance of emotional support, communication, and quality time spent together. He cherishes his wife and actively seeks ways to make her feel valued and appreciated. This love is not dependent on circumstances or external factors, but rather a steadfast commitment to the growth and flourishing of the marital bond.

The Wife’s Call to Respect

The Bible also makes explicit the importance of respect in a marriage. In Ephesians 5:33, while men are adjured to love their wives, the wives are encouraged to respect their husbands. This respect should not be derived from fear or manipulation, but from genuine love and admiration.

Respect, in the context of marriage, is an acknowledgment of the unique qualities and strengths that each partner brings to the relationship. It involves recognizing and appreciating the efforts and sacrifices made by the husband to fulfill his role as a provider, protector, and leader of the family.

A respectful wife understands the significance of her words and actions in building up her husband’s self-esteem and confidence. She seeks to create an atmosphere of trust, where her husband feels respected and valued for who he is. This respect does not imply blind obedience, but rather a partnership based on mutual understanding and support.

Love and respect, intertwined and inseparable, form the bedrock of a thriving and harmonious marriage. They create an environment where both partners can grow, learn, and flourish together. When love and respect are nurtured and practiced, they pave the way for a deep and meaningful connection that withstands the tests of time.

Misconceptions About Submission in Marriage

There are several misconceptions that cloud the understanding of submission in a marriage. Many of these misconceptions stem from cultural stereotypes and misunderstandings of scripture.

Submission Does Not Mean Inequality

One popular misconception is that submission equals inequality. Biblically speaking, however, submission does not imply that husbands are superior and wives are inferior. Both are equal before God; submission simply outlines different and complementary roles within the marital relationship.

Submission is Not About Control or Abuse

Another misunderstanding is that submission gives license for husbands to control or abuse their wives. This is a gross misrepresentation of the Bible’s teachings. In no way does scripture condone such behavior. Instead, it advocates for selfless love, respect, and understanding.

The Modern Christian Perspective on Submission

Towards better understanding biblical submission, we must consider it within the framework of the modern Christian perspective, which promotes balance, equality, and mutual respect.

Balancing Submission with Equality

The modern Christian perspective suggests that while wives are called to submit to their husbands, this should be echoed by the husband’s deep love and respect for his wife. This balanced approach depicts submission not as a burden but as a blessing that nurtures love and unity in a marriage.

Submission in the Context of Mutual Respect

Respecting each other’s roles and responsibilities cultivates a climate of mutual submission. Thus, the modern interpretation of submission emphasizes that while husbands and wives might have different roles, both should be undergirded by love, respect, and the intention to serve the other.

In conclusion, the concept of biblical submission is not about dominance and control but about love, respect, and serving each other for a fruitful God-ordained marital relationship.


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