What Biblical Submission Looks Like
We have all been there—a popular blog, television show, or friendly conversation—where submission is mentioned and usually frowned upon. It’s usually followed up by thinking submission is the husband controlling his wife or a question for God: “Why would He force women to submit to men? He’s being completely unfair, so therefore submission is something I can just put to the side.” Or even better, an applause to feminism, praising women for being the independent, strong, don’t-need-no-man creatures that we are.
As a woman, this should give me a breath of relief. The further I drift from submission, the easier my life becomes. After all, I don’t have to go day-by-day with the weight of my husband’s “demands” on my shoulders. With the feminism movement being at its peak, dealing with this topic is touchy and downright scary. But God’s perfect design of creation, once understood in its entirety, is beautiful and welcoming (yes, to even women).
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas, simply stated, “If you’re not confident in the authority of the Scriptures, you will be a slave to what sounds right.” We must interpret Scripture with Scripture, relying on the Holy Spirit to give us the knowledge to understand it in its entirety.
So, what is submission, and why does God call us to submit–wives to their husbands and husbands to Christ? Grab my hand, and we will take a walk through the true meaning of submission and God’s design for creation.
Firstly, let’s focus on what submission is not.
Submission Is Not Demanding
Submission is not your husband dictating your life in a harsh and abusive manner or you bowing down to his every need.
First off, your husband isn’t your highest authority—God is (or should be at least). We are not to look to our husbands for our worth. Although we are called to respect and love our husbands, we certainly do not condone their sin, as they should not condone ours. We were created to be our husbands' helpers, encouraging them, loving them, and respecting them. God’s perfect plan for creation is displayed in Genesis 2:20-22:
But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Men are called to be the spiritual leaders, always protecting their wives and loving them like Christ has loved His Church. While you are submitting to your husband, your husband needs to be looking to Christ and submitting to Him in all his fullness and with all of his ability. Together, you are both looking to Christ and the promises He has for you.
Submission Does Not Mean You Don’t Have a Brain
Submission does not mean you cannot think on your own. You have a brain, and you are more than capable of being your own person and accomplishing your own goals in life. You have a voice. You have the ability to grasp the Gospel, to spread the Gospel, and to be a messenger of the Gospel. I can guarantee you will disagree on numerous topics with your husband, and that’s okay! You are equal to your husband as both of you were created in the image of God. But although we were created in His image, we embody different roles.
In 1 Peter 3:1-6, it talks about the husband being an unbeliever. What then? Do we forget submission, respect, and helping our husbands? Even if not to that degree of being non-Christian, but what about irrational thinking on your husband’s end? Let’s take a look at the context of the verse:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
By having a gentle and kind spirit, by loving our husbands, by obeying God’s word and submitting to His design for us, we are fulfilling our role as women. It’s not compromising our Biblical beliefs and submitting to whatever your husband says—it’s recognizing both you and your husband are flawed and relying on the sovereignty of God and the truth in His word to reveal your role as a woman. And if your husband is an unbeliever or rejecting God’s authoritative word, you humbly and submissively do not submit to that—God’s word is always higher than man.
Submission Is Not Unfair
God is not an unfair God; He is just and loving, and He does everything out of perfection and for a reason.
God created Adam first and made Eve from his rib as a suitable helper and companion. As women, we are not of lesser value (although that is a huge misinterpretation, even among Christians).
We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Society gets their feathers all ruffled by the sheer fact that women do not have the same role as men—it in fact is very different, yet just as incredibly important. When we forsake our Biblical femininity to pursue the attributes that belong to men, we abandon our God-given uniqueness as women.
Women believe the lie that in order to be significant in a man’s world, we must become like men…but the opposite is quite true. If we want to be relevant in the world, we need to be who God created us to be: fearless, unruffled, bold, and God-fearing.
Submission affirms God’s perfect order of creation.
Now, let’s talk about what submission is.
Submission Points to the Trinity
Christ submitted to the Father by dying a brutal death on the cross, paying the penalty of our sins. He lived a perfect and sinless life on our behalf. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together, each submitting to each other perfectly. Just as Christ is not inferior to the Father, wives are not inferior to their husbands.
In the book The Excellent Wife, author Martha Peace puts it beautifully, “Christ subordinated Himself to the will of the Father in order to carry out the perfect plan of redemption. So, too, the wife submits herself to her husband so that God’s plan for the family can be carried out. She is not inferior, but her role is different.”
Submission Points to the Supremacy of Christ
Marriage is a perfect example of the Gospel—Christ being crucified without blame and dying for His Bride, the church. A man and a woman, becoming “one flesh”, as Christ is with the church. But marriage also points to submission. As the church submits to Christ, also the wife should submit to her husband. It’s a beautiful illustration, and it points to a greater glory. To affirm the supremacy of Christ is to affirm that Jesus is God. In Ephesians 5:22-23, Paul states:
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.
As Christian women, we should be proud of submission and the role it brings. To neglect this topic is to neglect God’s design of creation and His perfect and orderly roles. It does not undermine women. It is not unfair or unjust. It is not demanding.
This topic is so popular in today’s society. Be the voice of love and admiration of the Father. Know His word, know your role, and embrace it ever so fully.
Raegan is wife to an amazing man of God and mom to her baby boy, Weston. She is the director, content manager, and writer at Whole Magazine. She believes cheesecake, snow, a cup of hot coffee, and an episode of Breaking Bad can fix any dreadful day. Her mission in life is to show women of all ages how they can be whole again through the Gospel of Christ. She longs for her writings to be a testament of the mercy and grace God has shown her. You can follow more of Raegan on her blog, Delighted In Him.