Biblical Submission is a Powerful Choice

Biblical Submission

“Everyone knows the Apostle Paul was a male chauvinist PIG!”

Senior Editor
Major conservative evangelical Christian publisher
Editorial Dept. discussion of marriage manuscript from international speaker/author

A moment of (stunned) silence followed.


It’s the dirty little word that packs a powerful punch in 21st Century Christian religion.

The very idea of yielding one’s will to the oversight, direction, or decisions of another is antithetical to everything taught by the current religious spirit of the age . . . actually, to the spirit of any age.

Unless Jesus is involved . . .

Then the adoration and praise songs about his sovereignty, authority, might, power, lordship are endless.

Submit to Him? No problem (we say). He’s good, righteous, just, merciful, and possesses all power and authority. There’s no qualification to be placed on the authority of Jesus and the Bride’s, the Church’s, responsibility to submit to Him.

But then there’s the ‘S’ word directed to wives about their own husbands.

Submit to him? Not so fast.

Some wives have legitimate reasons not to submit to the men they are married to but, biblically speaking, these are exceptions, not the norm . . . and that’s the critical issue.

What is normal for biblical order in Christian marriage? When it comes to reading your own mail – the parts of the Bible directed to you – do you have a normal Christian marriage?

Ephesians 5:22 could hardly be clearer. In Christian marriage, a wife submitted to her husband is normal.

Never has a simple, straightforward passage of Scripture engendered so much anger and acrimony in so many.

Which makes sense.

Nobody’s flesh is going down without a fight.

Lisa and I went to hear Elisabeth Elliot speak a few years back. To the horror of many present, she put it like this:

“I don’t submit to my husband because I want to.  I don’t want to.
I don’t submit to my husband because I like to.  I don’t like to.
I don’t submit to my husband because it makes me feel good.  It doesn’t make me feel good.

I submit to my husband because the Scriptures command me to.  I do it out of obedience to Christ.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Biblical submission isn’t yielding to your husband’s will. It’s embracing the order Christ established and submitting to Him.

That’s what the phrase, as unto the Lord, in Ephesians 5:22 means. Embracing biblical order in marriage is service to Christ, not subservience to your husband.

If we Christian men walked more consistently in holiness, it would be easier for wives to embrace this Scripture but, it wouldn’t change everything.

Jesus is the perfect Head of the Church, His bride. Does His perfection make the Church’s response to Him consistently holy, right, and yielded? No, because despite His perfection, we still struggle against our flesh.

And so it is in marriage. Having the perfect husband will not make you the perfect wife. God gave Lisa an imperfect husband and yet still calls her to obedience in the matter of embracing biblical order.

She is not a weak woman. Submitting to us less than ideal husbands isn’t weakness. It’s an exercise of your power to choose obedience and service to Jesus Christ.

Normal biblical marriage is a radical departure from what our flesh naturally wants and what the world says is healthy. There are many stripes, brands, and flavors of Christian-like religion to identify with. For those who aspire to normal, biblical Christian marriage, it’s not complicated, and not particularly sophisticated.

Exercise your power. Submit to your own husband (not men, just your husband) as unto the Lord – as your service to Jesus Christ.

~ Matthew

Matt and LisaMatthew Jacobson has been in the book publishing industry for 22 years and is currently the president of Loyal Arts Literary Agency. For the last 10 years, he’s served as a teaching elder in his local Church. Matthew and his beautiful bride of 21 years, Lisa, raise their 8 children in the Pacific NW. You can join him at his blog by clicking here: MatthewLJacobson.com or find Matthew on facebook.


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  • Shannon

    Powerful! As a Jesus girl, this is such a desire of my heart, yet the world tries to make it such an argument. Scripture clearly instructs, simple as that. Thank you for sharing!

  • Dashaina

    I love that we are getting the guys point of view in this topic. I would like to offer another view on wanting to verus not. I am have been with my J for 8 years and I chose to submit recently, because I WANTED to. I think it should be something a wife should want to do, let’s paint it in a positive light. Let’s encourage wives to want to please the Lord AND their husband. I think women have the inate desire to please people and their husband shouldn’t be any lower on that list of wanting.

    • Matthew Jacobson

      Dashaina, you are so correct. No one should ever force anyone on this issue, especially husbands. Choosing to be obedient is a response to God, not a result of coercion. God never forces us to be obedient. He draws us, encourages us, “romances us” to embrace life in Him. God bless you for your obedience to God and the example you provide for others.

      • A man

        This was a very good post. And while I agree with you that submission should not be “forced” from a husband. I do believe you are making in this reply a much too flowery statement of what Christ teaches on submission to Him when we choose not to. We have dozens and dozens of passages where Christ teaches what the consequences of not submitting to Him are and they are quite severe.

        A husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church and we should be all about love, but Christ does far more than “romance” us to submission. He loves us and gives us amazing grace but at the same time we doesn’t plaster a smile on His face we go about our rebellion to Him.

        He does draw us. He does encourage us. But in His love he also corrects & rebukes us.
        It’s a dangerous narrative to make it sound like a husband is to be romancing someone in rebellion. It’s not the complete picture. Definetly part of it, but without the whole picture a lot of wives could be led astray when husbands are merely responding as Christ would.

        • Matthew Jacobson

          Brother, no 65 word statement will ever provide a “complete picture” of a vast topic. You speak of plastering smiles as we rebel . . . not a topic addressed in my article, nor one addressed in my encouragement of Dashaina. As to Christ rebuking us (and your implication that that is part of our role in our marriage), Jesus Christ’s rebukes to us follow His perfect love for us. Christian men would do well to endeavor to meet that standard – selflessly loving their wives before any idea of rebuking their wives ever enters their thoughts (yet another topic, related, but not part of this post.)

          As to being rebuked, I can’t tell you how many times I have needed the loving rebuke of my wife (and yes, she from me, occasionally).

          Relative to the consequences that follow disobedience to Christ, of course. It may be helpful to consider that no compete picture is painted with so little time and so few colors (words). No, what we have here are facets of multifaceted truth. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

          • A man

            Matthew, I understand you only have a few words…I always just get a little queasy when we start talking about how Christ doesn’t force our obedience and “romances us.”

            You are very much right that he does not “force us”- he just happens to tell us that our disobedience leaves a trail of wreckage, sickness and death in it’s wake and that we are in the danger of the fires of hell for such action.

            Please understand, what most women desire is to be “romanced, encouraged and drawn to”- if those are the actions husbands takes when faced with a wife that is rebelling at all times- why would a wife not naturally rebel? She is getting what she wants. If God rewarded us with blessings, peace, riches, joy and eternal life for rebellion why would we ever stop rebelling?

            So bottom line, if you would not have made not choosing look so attractive in how a husband should respond to such action- I would have kept my big mouth shut 100% because the article itself was spot on 100%. Just your reply that seemed to not paint the full picture.

            But I agree completely that a husband should be first looking to himself and making sure he is laying down his life for his wife with sacrificial love and a servant’s attitude- even for a long extended period of time. I just see this constant teaching in the church of years and decades of rebellion on the part of christian wives and the response is, a) love her more b) somehow you are screwing it up. But if all we do is love our wives as Christ loves the church with the warm and fuzzy “romancing” love and not the complete definition of Christlike love found in scripture we are encouraging rebellion as husbands.

            Part of being the spiritual leader and head, is being firm. One can both be loving and correcting at the same time. Both loving and rebuking. Both loving and washing with the Word.

            I hope that I am making sense. I have no problem with what you are saying- except how a husband is to respond to constant rebellion with “romancing”…

            I think we have to paint an accurate picture of how Christ handles rebellion so when husband’s respond Christlike, wives don’t think it unchristlike and further rebel.

            So in conclusion, no problem with how you were teaching women. My problem came with how you were teaching women how their husband was to respond to their rebellion- you were setting husband’s up for failure and to be honest, wives also.

          • Matthew L. Jacobson


            I do appreciate your thoughts and the concerns that you express. These matters are easy to pass over without consideration but Brother, It’s evident you are fighting a battle I haven’t engaged in. The statement I made to the Dear Lady is that God doesn’t force or coerce us into submission. He invites us to choose what is best for us, a yielded heart to Him, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We get to choose . . . and certainly will deal with the negative consequences of rebellion – separation from God, forever. You equated my statement that God doesn’t force us with validating a wife who “is rebelling at all times”. Nothing I said supports or encourages such an idea. No such specific situation was under discussion. When wives or husbands rebel, they need the love of Jesus to be administered . . . which is to say, they need to experience the hard edge of grace – Church discipline – reproof, rebuke, and exhortation. Rebellion, as the Word says, is as the sin of witchcraft. Rest assured, in the future, if addressing the issue of rebellion, I will endeavor to “paint an accurate picture”. That you should have discerned an address of the subject of rebellion – that I was teaching women how their husband was to respond to their rebellion – in my answer to the Dear Lady fills one with incredulity. Clearly, this is a trigger-point with you. I have seen the “woman” (3, actually) you describe . . . living in a constant state of rebellion (again, not the subject of anything I wrote). Please take some comfort in the fact that we agree on the subject of rebellion. God will deal with rebellious husbands and wives.

            The last word I will offer is that men who try to force their wives to submit are sinning and will ultimately fail. Men who create a loving, safe place for their wives will typically, not always but typically, enjoy a yielded heart on the part of their wives. Wise men focus on the monumental endeavor of walking as they are called (to sacrificially love their wives). God’s best, Matthew

  • Lori Alexander

    “Rebellious obedience is the same as disobedience. So obey God’s design for marriage with a joyful heart. When you have that kind of attitude, you’ll experience a deeper joy as you align your heart with God’s will for you!”

    Joyful submission to one’s husband, as unto the Lord, is a powerful way to exhibit Christ and His church to a fallen world. It is actually preaching the Gospel with our behavior.

  • DD

    As many times over the last 17+ years I’ve heard this message, thank you for reminding me again that I am submitting because of Jesus. My husband has a strong personality by nature and I believe God is bringing us both to a place of balance. I know God’s way is perfect and believe the Psalm that says that none of those who trust in Him will be put to shame.

  • Kari

    Thank you for this. Elisabeth Elliot’s quote and then your thoughts are some of the most helpful things I’ve read about a wife’s reasons for biblical submission in marriage. Perhaps I should be able to “just do what I’m told” but understanding why always helps. Being reminded that in submitting to my husband, what I am doing is submitting to Christ really helps me frame what to do and why. Doesn’t make it easy to then do it (because as Elisabeth says, “I don’t want to. I don’t like to.”) but it is giving me some framework for something specific in our lives right now and I appreciate these timely words. I realize I have some exercise to do, the choosing to follow Christ variety of exercise.

  • Angel B

    I didn’t always choose submission. My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years and I just started not too long ago….maybe 3 months ago! I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to be a wife or a mom. Although I knew what the Bible says, I was “a modern women who was equal to my husband and didn’t have to do that”. Since reading The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife, our world had changed. My husband attends church, we get along so much better. I actually repect him and he me. We are working as a team to raise our children. Im not saying submission changed our marriage. Well maybe it did. I started doing as God commanded and His word changed our marriage! I love being my husband’s help meet and allowing him to be the head of our home. Now that I know, I can teach my children.

  • Christy

    Thanks for this post. A hatred for anything Godly seems to be a theme in some churches today, and I’m so thankful for those who are publicly “fighting” for God’s way in marriage. As with anything, God’s way works!

  • Missy Robinson

    “Embracing biblical order in marriage is service to Christ, not subservience to your husband.” So true!

    i like remembering that I am exerting my power when I choose to submit.

  • Aimee

    I thank God that I was not married at a younger age, I have had a chance to watch, read, listen and learn – I am being prepared. I LOVE articles like these. What I have learned about this topic over time is this:

    Marriage is a spiritual principle/union and when we are lukewarm for God we use our own wisdom to translate His word. However, if we are fortunate enough to get on fire for God we have a better chance at perceiving with God’s wisdom (having revelation). Submission to me means that somebody has to have the last word. When we do not agree, when deciding black or white is necessary and we both want to lean on our shade of gray, wives agree to step aside. With the privilege of my submission (and support) – my husband takes responsibility, as the head of our home – as the provider.

    When the Bible talks about a man being the provider, I do not believe God is speaking about money (even though that is typically how it is translated) I believe that God was making a point about husbands providing the spiritual covering. His obedience to God, his SUBMISSION to God determines the strength and stability of our home.

    We are all called to submission and should understand the privilege and responsibility that comes with it.

  • Kelli

    Thank you for posting this article. It is always a wonderful to be reminded that in submitting to my husband I am ultimately submitting to the Lord.

    I do have one question though, in regards to a verse not referenced – Ephesians 5:21. It states, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Could you please shed some light on this verse? I read another article recently that warned husbands and wives not to take Ephesians 5:22 out of context; that the marriage relationship involves mutual submission. The idea of mutual submission in the marriage goes against much of what my husband and I have been taught and I am left baffled.

    On top of the confusion my flesh is crying, “See, I’m not the only one who has to submit!”

    Any thoughts and additional biblical references would be helpful. Thank you.

    • Matthew L. Jacobson

      Thanks so much for your comment and your interest to delve into the Scriptures. It’s no wonder you are confused. There are many attempts to skirt around the hard teachings of Scripture – especially in this the times in which we live.

      So, what is happening in this passage?

      Verse 21 isn’t an isolated verse. Ephesians chapter 4 – 5: 21 is teaching directed to the entire Church Body, lived out at the local Church level. As brothers and sisters in Christ, accountable to each other in the same local fellowship, we are to live out the principle of having a submissive heart to each other. I would encourage you to read from chapter 4 through 5:21 with this in mind.

      Beginning with 5:22 and extending to Chapter 6:4, Paul is bringing up a new topic – first, the specific order of the relationship between a husband and wife, followed by the children’s proper relationship with their parents.

      It’s common for those who mishandle this text to cancel out verse 22 with verse 21 but why stop there? If the teaching to submit to one another is the “trump card” verse then parents should submit to their children . . . hardly the stuff of accurate biblical exegesis.

      May God bless you as you seek to honor him and “rightly divide the word of truth”.

  • Sarah Coleman

    Great thoughts Matthew. It baffles me that Christians argue over this. I appreciated the point that submitting to a perfect Christ does not mean the Bride is perfect. Wives submit in obedience to Christ. Thank you to be bold enough to declare the truth despite opposition.

  • Shelley

    I would have loved to see you expand on this and include the husband’s response to Ep5:25-28 and how you love Lisa this way.
    I am honestly one of the most strong-willed, stubborn women I know, and because of things I’ve been through at the hands of men in my life you would think I should hate to submit; but knowing 5:25 kind of love from my husband every day makes it easier to let God break me down when needed and submit to Him by submitting to my husband.

  • His Helper

    “Biblical submission isn’t yielding to your husband’s will. It’s embracing the order Christ established and submitting to Him. ” What this article addresses is excellent because it is not just telling us to respect and honor, or even submit to our husbands so that we can have a better marriage. I read about that in piles of marriage books for years, and made a good Christian marriage my idol, focusing on the outward actions I could take to get me closer to a goal that was indeed not a bad thing in itself, but was erroneously based on works and manipulation.

    This got me nowhere. My flesh warred against submitting, and I struggled and failed over and over. People outside of our family would say what a submissive wife I was. My husband saw right through it and did not respond back to me in the overtly loving, tender, and intimate way I had so hoped he would. Thank the Lord he didn’t! My husband loved me by refusing to be manipulated. He steadfastly sought to lead even when I refused to follow. He would explain where we were going, and I just wouldn’t hear, constantly questioned, and all the while I thought I was being a biblical helper to him.

    No amount of wooing or romanticizing this would have brought me out of my stubbornness. Rewarding my rebellion in that way would have only fed my pride. Rather, my husband patiently, painfully allowing me to reach the rock bottom of my misery is what woke me up. I am amazed how he forgave me over and over again, and am so very thankful that he stayed true to our marriage vows when his flesh probably screamed that the misery and loneliness wasn’t worth staying.

    So, I think I relate to what A Man is saying in his comments above. You are absolutely right, too, in mentioning the “hard edge of grace”. It wasn’t until I truly embraced God’s order of authority with the desire to obey the Lord above all else that there is now peace. I now find it a joy to submit to my husband, because it is a joy to serve the One who redeemed me! In the end, a beautiful, godly marriage IS being built, but it has been totally opposite to the way I imagined it would come about. As I seek to honor and obey the Lord by honoring and submitting to my husband, the Lord is doing the building this time, not me.

    In Christ,

    His Helper

  • Sandi

    Matthew, fabulous post! You packed a big punch for so few words. Thanks for sharing the truth in strength and love.

    @A man
    Everything looks like a nail when you’re a hammer.

  • Charlie Wadd

    Well said Sandi,, why some people feel the need to have complete authority over another human being has never sat well with me , I dont care what the Bible says on the subject

  • Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    When I was a young wife, I had a very worldly view of marriage. I didn’t understand that submission to my husband wasn’t a laying down of my rights, but obedience to Christ. Changing my perspective has changed my marriage. I love this blog (and the contributing writers) because I think this is a message that a hurting world needs to hear. Thank you for your thoughts!

  • Ginny Warriner

    I have been studying a wife’s submission to her husband this week in the privacy of my home. Your article puts it into perspective for me. Although he’s not perfect (yet honestly I think he’s marvelous), my submission is an act of obedience (and faith) to Christ. It’s not a popular mindset, even among some of my Christian girlfriends but this article was very helpful to me. It’s so well written that I’m going to look to see if you have a book on the subject. And if not, please write one 🙂

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