Submission Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

Biblical Submission

The other day I was sitting here watching “The View.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of “The View.” It gets under my skin. I cringe, and I walk away from it wondering how this world has gotten this bad. But my friend is a new co-host, and so I recently started taping it, to watch what she has to say.

The other day, the topic of feminism came up. They wanted to simplify the word to “having self pride.” They went on to define feminism as “political, economical, and social equality of the sexes.” And yes, that’s the basic definition of the word.

But here’s the thing, the question isn’t whether or not women are equal to men. That’s simple.

The Bible reminds us that men and women are equal when it says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Let’s start asking the tough questions–are you willing to submit to your husband according to the will of God? Are you willing to let your husband lead your family in accordance with God’s will?

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. – Ephesians 5:22-23

One of the most beautiful friendships recorded in history was that of David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel chapter 18 tells us that that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (v. 1)

Jonathan had every reason to dislike David. He was heir to the throne. He knew that David would be wearing the crown that was intended for him. David was getting all the attention he wasn’t. But rather than be jealous or fearful, demanding or proud, Jonathan stepped aside to serve David as his lord and king.

He stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. (v. 4)

This was a symbol of their covenant. Jonathan stripped himself of everything to become a servant.

I got to wondering how many times I wanted to step over Michael on my way to the top. How many times have I put my pride before his heart? How many times have I put my right to be heard before the good of our marriage? How many times have I resented him because I didn’t get my way?

Then I look to the scripture and I’m gently reminded of this,

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Peter 3:5-6

Sarah stepped down for the good of her marriage. Taking on the form of a servant, she allowed her husband to lead.

This isn’t about equality of men and women. Jonathan was equal to David in every way–even more so because he was in line for the throne. Jonathan recognized the fact that God chose David to be a leader. He was humble enough to step down when he could have stepped up.

In the New Testament we see that Jesus stripped Himself of everything and took upon Himself the form of a servant, which led to the cross.

 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2:5-8, KJV

Was Jesus equal with God? Absolutely. But the will of The Father was more important to Him than equality was. The NIV words it this way, “[Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” 

With that in mind, let’s close with this thought. The next time you’re angry stop for a minute and ask yourself, is my right to be angry more important than my desire to follow God’s will? Is my equality more important than God’s will for my marriage? 

And finally ask yourself this. How can I be an encouraging wife? How can I encourage my husband to lead? 

You are loved by an almighty God,

Darlene Schacht
The Time-Warp Wife

P.S. If you’re looking to find out more about a husband’s role in marriage, and how submission might play out in his life, John MacArthur has a great sermon you can check out. Click here to watch it.

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  • Debbie

    Indeed the husband should lead, but in many cases he is a non-believer or a sometimes believer and I think mothers are required to step over and teach and lead this is not feminism but giving our children back to the God who gave them to us.

    • Leslie


      I completely understand your question, as I am amidst that issue right now. My husband is not a follow of the Lord. He is not guiding and leading our family in a righteous manner. How can I submit, and let someone lead who is leading us the wrong direction?

      • Darlene Schacht

        If someone is leading you in a way that is contrary to God’s word, you must be first and foremost obedient to God.

        In Acts chapter five, the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin and ordered not to preach in Jesus name. Their reply was, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

        In the case of an unbelieving husband, our submission and lifestyle is a powerful tool in drawing them to Christ.

        “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1

  • Kaitlin

    I love the title– submission isn’t a four letter word. Thanks for posting this, and talking about the beauty of submission!

  • Kim Sullivan

    I absolutely love this post! A few years ago I scoffed at the word “submission.” As you can imagine my marriage wasn’t working out to well. Now that I have truly come to “die to myself” and only seek God’s will, submission became an act of pure joy. The world may view submission as a women being weak, but on the contrary, it is the most empowering thing I have ever done, knowing that I am following the will of God in my marriage.

  • Audra K

    I loved this blog entry and plan on printing it out to read often! I think Kim Sullivan’s comment said it best! I, too, scoffed at the word “submission.” Because of this, my husband and I both struggled in the early years of our marriage to make important decisions and would instead not make any decisions at all. There were many arguments and many tears. After 8 years of marriage and finally coming to the realization of what God’s Word says on the matter, my husband and I have a healthy relationship with our roles clearly defined, and a marriage where the word “submission” doesn’t cause me to fidget. We work together well and compliment one another. You can never go wrong with modeling the character of Jesus!

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post! It’s so hard to find biblical teachings on this issue, especially in today’s world. I pray that God continues to bless your ministry. Thank you for encouraging wives through God’s Word! Blessings from SE Oklahoma!

  • Bridget

    When being a life of submission it sometimes does seem like a four letter word. Even more so when your husband refuses to lead due to different religious beliefs. However there is such a beautiful thing that can come from it. A simple peace that comes from knowing that by submitting that you are also submitting to God’s will. With that being said I know for a fact (as it happened in my own marriage) it can help lead your husband to Christ and help to mold him into the man God always intended him to be.

  • Terri

    Citing a male-male friendship in which the prince humbled himself but never actually lost his status or his authority… That is not what a traditional submissive marriage is like at all. But it is not surprising that you might have found it difficult to locate a biblical example of two people living as equals while treating each other unequally.

    Check over the passages you cited. They instruct the husband to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. We can probably agree that a human husband simply can’t fill Christ’s role perfectly; even if a husband sacrifices his life for his wife, it won’t be salvific for her. There are many things Christ does as the head of the church that men cannot ever do. So the important question here is, In what functions as head are husbands to emulate Christ?

    Fortunately these passages answer that question. One of the verses that uses this phraseology says “and he is the saviour of the body.” The other verse ends, ” and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”

    That is crystal clear. Husbands are to be a saving, nourishing, supporting, cherishing element in their wives’ lives. These verses don’t say “Husbands, lead your wives” or “guide your wives” or “tell your wives what they need to do.” For a belief that is supposedly so biblical, it is interesting that the Bible’s direct commands to husbands never once include a word about being in charge of them or telling them what to do.

    However, the “head equals boss” idea can be extracted from these and other verses if you come to them already believing that God established a hierarchy in marriage (one that does not appear in the Creation account, however).

    It grieves me that we are still teaching this. For one sad example, did you know that before it was translated into English, Ephesians 5:23 didn’t even have the word “submit” in it at all? That is because Eph. 5:23 and onward are just expositions of the ways believers are to fulfill the mutual submission command found in verse 22. We *must* be much more careful with Scripture than this. We must not bring our own understandings to it, but let it interpret itself. That is not being done when we assume what these verses mean instead of just reading them.

  • Darlene Schacht

    I didn’t find it difficult at all to locate a scripture. In fact I cited this one, “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” 1 Peter 3:5-6

    Sarah stepped down for the good of her marriage. Taking on the form of a servant, she allowed her husband to lead.

    I used Sarah as an example in this post.

    The reason I chose to focus on these other two relationships today is because this is one of many blogs I’ve written on the subject. We’ve talked about the submissive relationship of wives many times. I wanted to specifically focus on the different between submission and equality in this post.

    The word subject or submit is in italics because it wasn’t in the original version (Eph 5:22), but it was in v21. He’s expanding on it in verse 22 with a specific instruction to wives. Therefore it would read:

    And submit to one another in the fear of the Lord. Wives to your own husbands as unto the Lord.

    It didn’t need repeating.

    And then in verse 24 again it says, But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

    It’s crystal clear, even with the one italicized word removed.

    A husband is the savior of his wives body in many ways. Not the savior of her soul, but her personal well being. He provides for her, he protects her, he fights for her, and he cares for her. He comes to her rescue when she is in need.

    The verses never instruct husbands to make their wives submissive. This is not surprising because they must model the role of Jesus Christ who has never forced his lordship upon us. We have always had a choice to serve Him or to reject that commandment. We serve our husbands out of obedience to God. It’s not a commandment that comes from the husband, it’s one that comes from the word of God.

    Loving, respecting, honoring, and submitting to our husbands is for the purpose of bringing glory to God.

    I don’t have any question at all as to what the word “head” is when the Bible tells us that Christ is the head of the church. Giving my life to Him means that I walk in submission to His will. His authority trumps mine.

    So when the Bible says that a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is head of the church, we don’t have to wonder who stands in authority. It’s clear. There’s no guessing game.

    If I go into a company and I’m introduced to the head of that company, as an employee I assume the role of submission to him without question, without complaint, and without confusion. But when the same concept of leadership is introduced to us in scripture many refuse to accept it as truth.

    For you to say that we’re “assuming” what these verses mean, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s so clearly spelled out.

    • Lori Jones

      Thank you for your clear, biblical teaching concerning the husband and wife relationship. It is so needed!

  • Joe

    Thank you for an incredible article. IMO — The biggest hurdle in women truly embracing this role is the lack of leadership from men. Men need to fully understand the “as Christ loved the church” aspect of our responsibility in order to make this work. If more men understood the mutual submission that marriage truly is, I don’t think this would be such an issue.

    Another thing I’d like to point out is the importance of respect for men. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs explains it very well when he says “men need respect like they need air”. When a man is disrespected, it wounds him deeply. It tears him down, and enough of it will turn him into bowl of jello. Respect builds him up, and will allow him to accomplish things that neither of you ever dreamed possible. I know this from personal experience. I have a divorce in my past where I didn’t know how to love her and she didn’t know how to respect me (I wasn’t a Christian at the time). I am now married to a woman who I love unconditionally and she respects me unconditionally. I’m going down a path I never dreamed possible and I attribute it all to her.

    Bottom line, God designed marriage perfectly. If we follow His design, it’ll work every time! Thank you again for your very insightful and well written article!

  • Reena

    There is enough in the Bible about men being the spiritual leaders it can be considered truth. What submission means. However, is often made to sound harsher then it is. Christ is not a dictator, he gently guides and when he does lead us we are to follow. He does not plan out our day and he does not dictate our every decision. Boundaries are not breaking submission. We also must serve God first so if our husband asks anything of us and in prayer we believe it against Gods will then we should be serving God first. Especially as parents we must teach our kids Gods will even if it’s not supported by our husband. As far as it depends on us though we should encourage the leadership that God commanded.

  • Loni

    I have been married for 5 yrs this past September. It has been very difficult. His family has never liked me. The first 2 yrs were ok . Then I had to take my own grandkids away from my daughter. We have them 3 days a week. For awhile he was ok with it . But now that he has realized it is going to be a more permanent thing he has been not so happy. Also the past 1 1/2 years I have been going to many Dr’s many tests. . My body will not let me work . I have applied for disability but It takes time. I was up until March of this year working for a friend for cash . So he has had to carry the load. My medications are crazy even with Co pay. I have wrote to people who give money away with no luck. He mentally abusing me calls it being honet. I found a naked lady screen saver on his phone the other day. Lied to me like I was stupid. Everything is about him he has no patience with the kids. I want to get them away from my mother because she is emotionally abusing them. She has two faces the public and the real one behind the doors We are supposed to be working together and nope not working. She buys and I love them . Then me and my husband get no time together. But When We Do He Is On The Phone OR Listening To 80’s Music Like I am not here. I am seeing a therapist on my own. To keep from going crazy and to have someone to talk to because he doesn’t like to listen. If I would give him sex every day he would be great. But that is one of my health problems. I have a defective sling and it causes a great deal of pain. I have no where to go he won’t go to counseling. We did go to a church for a few years then it didn’t feal right anymore. So I quit going and me and the kids found a new church to go to. Been there over a year and a half. On my birthday I asked for on thing. For him to go to church with me. He said nope not going broke my heart even more. He is always negative never has any thing good to say. I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy and by the time he gets home the meds have wore off. He yells at me and hits me to wake me up. I cannot help it I have been praying for 3 yrs for God to change his heart. I am at the end of my rope . Can you tell me what I can do? Loni

    • Darlene Schacht

      Loni, it sounds like you want to take the children out of one abusive situation and put them in another abusive atmosphere. I don’t know if you have considered that in your desire to step up and help them.

      I’m glad to hear that you are going to a counsellor. You can’t force another person into counseling unfortunately, but I do pray that you will gain clarity and direction as you seek the help on your own.

  • Yacta Omus

    To me, as a man, I read ‘submit’ not as a groveling subservient blind obeying manner with no will or backbone of one’s own. That is not God’s idea of submission – He gifted us with free will, with brains and strength after all, not to mention commanded us to NOT worship anyone or thing but Him. ‘Submit’ means to *commit* yourself to your husband as close as possible to your commitment to God. For a true Christian that is an impossibility, but that’s okay, the point is that you strive to match the *commitment* to your husband even though you will never actually achieve equaling that commitment you have to God. By the same token I feel the Husband must also care and provide and do for his wife, as God would care and provide and do for the Faithful, the truly *committed*. The Husband cannot hope to match God’s magnanimity, but it is the striving that matters. In this way, the bond between Husband and Wife strives to match that ideal bond between God and the Faithful. Thus a happy marriage is ensured.