Let me begin by answering the question in this title with an “absolutely yes!” Good husbands will submit to their wives early and often. They will do it as a habit of life. They will become so good at it, they’ll do it without hesitating, without thinking twice, and without any regret. I’m ashamed to say, I’m not there yet. But after a year of marriage, I do think I’m growing in the area of submitting to my wife and I hope by God’s grace to continue to grow in this area for as long as my wife and I draw breath.
Shocking, you think, Pursuing the Pursuer has gone off the deep end. They finally fell for all that exciting, new, and dangerous theology and are full blown egalitarians. Actually we haven’t. I haven’t. I’m as committed to complementarianism as any sane, biblically-informed person who claims the title (there are some who call themselves complementarians that I want nothing to do with, but more on that later). I believe the role of a husband is to lovingly lead, and the role of the wife is to sweetly submit. I also believe that a husband who doesn’t do a whole lot of submitting to his wife is a husband who hasn’t really figured out what it truly means to love or to lead. So what does leading and loving look like from a biblical perspective?
Servant Leaders Practice a Lifestyle of Submission
The paradox of Christian leadership is that the leaders don’t get whatever they want. Christ made this point repeatedly in his interaction with his disciples (Matthew 20:20-28; 23:10; Mark 10:35-45; John 13:1-20) and acknowledged that this is the opposite of the way most people think. Most people think that the CEO doesn’t have to live by the same rules as everyone else. People bring him coffee, he doesn’t get it for them. When there’s dirty work to do, it goes to the lowest guy on the totem pole, not the chief. So if the husband gets to lead and the wife has to submit, then he lounges around reading the paper (or, to put it in modern lingo, playing video games) while she cooks, cleans, and does the house chores.
But that’s not what Christ teaches. Christ teaches that if a husband is to lead, it means he cleans the toilet, not her. He does the dishes after dinner, not her. He takes out the trash, mows the lawn, and helps with the kids every chance he gets. Why? Because he’s her leader, and that makes him her servant. This doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t ever cook or clean, especially if they want to or are good at it. It doesn’t mean that if he works for 40 hours a week and she is a stay at home mom she does nothing around the house. It doesn’t mean a wife should never sacrifice for her husband. A healthy marriage is a partnership, with both husband and wife looking to give and serve, rather than to take or be served.
But it does mean that when he comes home, his focus ought to be on how he can please her, not how she can please him. It does mean he loves his wife as Christ loved the church: by sacrificing for her. There will be times when he makes a decision with which his wife disagrees, but those decisions should be rare and based on principle, not personal pleasure. Played out in real life, Christ-like leadership means choosing to serve her rather than be served by her every chance he gets.
Every Believer Should Submit?
Okay, so by “submit” you mean give up what you want for what she wants. That makes sense I guess. But should we really use the word submit? Doesn’t that confuse things a little? After all, does the Bible ever describe the role of a husband as submitting? Great question, glad you asked. To my knowledge, no, the Bible never tells a husband to submit. But I’ve got one better. The Bible actually tells every believer to submit to every other believer.
It’s interesting that Ephesians 5:22 comes right after Ephesians 5:21. Ephesians 5:22 reads “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” But the verse that comes right before it says, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That verse is addressed to all Christians. Husbands are supposed to submit to their wives because they are supposed to submit to every other believer. They are supposed to forgo what they want so that someone else’s needs and wishes can be met. If this is true for everyone, it ought to begin where it’s often hardest: the home.
This means a husband should submit to his wife’s preferences, goals, and desires. Practically, that might mean watching what she wants to watch, not just what he wants to watch. It might mean forgoing a night with the guys when she’s had a hard day at work and needs to someone to talk to. It means dying to your own agenda, plans, and loves so that you can devote yourself to cherishing, loving, and serving the wife God gave you. It means you submit in a hundred little ways, making it so much easier for her when she is called upon to submit in bigger ways.
The Damage of a Domineering Husband
Hopefully, this is a no-brainer post. I hope, as I write this, that godly Christian men everywhere are puzzled over why I even felt the need to bring this up, just as they would be puzzled if I told them that cheese is a dairy product or that rough wood can give you splinters. But I fear that this perspective may not always be so obvious. And I fear that what I hope is the exception is viewed as the norm. So let me finish by making a few strong statements on husbands who equate their role of headship with getting what they want.
The only thing worse than holding on to wrong doctrine is using right doctrine as a cover for sin. When the stench of selfishness seeps through the facade of Bible verses, a watching world plugs its nose and turns away from Christ in disgust. The husband who sacrificially and submissively leads as Christ leads is a beautiful picture of the love of God, whereas the husband who leads so that he can get what he wants is a horrifying picture of the twisted way that Satan grabs the good things God has for us and warps them into something ugly. God has called husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and so the husband who glibly reminds his wife that he’s her leader to make her serve him has committed an egregious error and has shamed the name of Christ.
Satan hates submission. He got Adam and Eve to hate submission. And now, thanks to our sin nature, there is planted within everyone is a desire to be his own king, rather than to submit to someone—anyone—else. Which is why, if we are going to hold to the right position (within a marriage, the husband should lead and the wife should submit), we have to be so, so careful that we display the beauty of that submission—and of mutual submission—to a watching world. Because after all, God himself was the one who said our marriages are supposed to be reflections of his love for us. So husbands, let me leave you with this convicting thought: If unsaved people saw the way you treat your wife day in and day out, would they be more or less likely to submit to Christ?
Ben Hicks went to Bob Jones University for college and stayed on for grad work, recently graduating with his Master of Divinity. Ben is the Young Adults Pastor and oversees the Single Focus ministry at Colonial Hills Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter @HicksBen
9/16/2019 01:07:13 am
4/4/2021 10:42:10 am
Thank God for your life. I pray for God's grace on you to love your wife as Christ loves His Church!
2/20/2021 07:12:52 pm
Great write up.
5/23/2021 06:47:25 am
Thank you for this because as a wife I struggle with these verses. My husband so does as you say and had until others seem to say it's not so to do .and I struggle because of submitting like I use to with my first husband because he thought or I did too that I had to do so also . you have opened my eyes as well. I have been carry to much about what people think. Like a sister in Christ said your husband's a Christian isn't he. So you are to do as He says. However I didn't agree with her completely because husbands are human too and can lead in a wrong direction at times and when the Lord do such and he says do opposite nope that's where I have to draw the line. And he would have to with me. Disagree with each other when need be don't fight over it talk it over is needed . I got to work on not wanting my way all the time too.as we as many. My hubby has spoiled me . He loves me as Christ love the Church and does well until someone else trys to make us feel bad about the way we do thing or I beat myself up on about trying so hard to submit to my husband as like I use to the other. But as you have saifmd the verse before that of submitting to one another takes care of the others we are to love each other as well not be mean to each other. I thank you for bringing this other to me also well . it takes a great load off my shoulders. And here comes where we don't have to please man or care about what they say . like commanders to other mans ways and point of views..again thanks now it will be much easier for us in getting along better .God bless.
7/17/2021 08:14:35 am
Your implication that egalitarianism isn’t biblical is false. Heirarchism needs selective Bible reading to justify it. I can’t understand how so many women are fine thinking men have more authority than them when they’re just as capable of the same things men are believed to have the only authority to do. God is the spiritual leader. A wife can be better educated about what the Bible teaches and better apply it than her husband. Being a husband doesn’t make him automatically better suited to lead with anything. Husbands being called heads of wives is not giving men more authority than women. If it did, then it wouldn’t be much use to know, because it gives no description of what the husband supposedly has more authority to do. This is why most hierarchist marriages operate the same as mutual ones. In Ephesians 5:21 it says to submit to each other. Submitting is giving something you have to help others and is supposed to be mutual. A husband and wife are supposed to act as a unit because they’re partners, not a boss and subordinate. It doesn’t say in Ephesians for wives to love their husbands, but most people don’t argue that’s proof only one spouse should love the other. Mutual respect and love are needed for a marriage to work. Mutual authority is specified in 1 Corinthians 7:3 and 4: The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise the wife also to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband also does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. In Genesis 2 it says the two will become one flesh, quoted later in Ephesians 5:31. At the beginning of creation, no rights were given exclusively to men. All that’s said is for all humanity to have dominion of the rest of earth.
9/17/2021 11:57:14 am
Well, this is what I thought but my husband treats me like a house slave. For ten years I've lived in submission and tried my very best to live this lifestyle. I was hoping he'd learn by my actions and learn about submission also. But I am depressed and feel like the shell of a person I used to be. I leaned on Jesus through so much. At what point do I stop. I recently TOLD him I was getting and job and an apartment because I need space to figure things out. (Which for him was betrayal) The way Jesus has the marriage set up works very well. I tell him that I'm still in love and still very committed and my loyalty is here and that this is a forever kind of love. But I also have issues with how the marriage is and we need to work it out. It's like he doesn't empathize or understand. He thinks he's doing God's path by remaining stubborn. What's worse is we started having shouting matches. I told him that I'm not sure if he actually likes me and just fell in love with my submission. Everyone whose known me before knows what sort of woman I am. So they see how much I've changed for him. But at a certain point, I am not a doormat. I love my husband, but I don't like how he's running things. I want financial freedom, a part-time job, and the freedom of travel (like if I want to stay late at my family's house). I don't want a divorce but something has to give because shouting matches won't work. I don't want to be depressed anymore. (Whither it's I give up on my life dreams or a divorce). Anything that requires him to change himself, he acts like it's not an option. Don't understand why some men are so stubborn. He really thinks it's God's path to be this stubborn while his wife cries nightly from depression. And whats worse, pastors that I trust preach the same ol' dogma. Making me feel like there's no place in the world for someone like me. I'm glad I found this post because atleast someone out there gets it. I was feeling alone even questioning my belief in Christianity. Because up until now, Christ has always been the truth. And the truth has always been edifying. Yes, maybe Christ wants me to continue in submission but I'm really feeling like a shell of a person with all my husband's rules. If the bible says women can't work, then I'll reconsider.
2/12/2022 03:13:40 pm
https://margmowczko.com/ This is an excellent website!
11/1/2021 07:56:04 pm
Looking for ways to save my marriage
3/14/2022 06:14:08 pm
This is the first writing I have found that reflects (in my opinion) a correct exegesis on submission. I am currently working on my third book, "Wifecoach4men Teaching Men to Nourish and Cherish Their Wife in Five weeks!"
11/7/2022 09:35:02 am
It sounds like you’re saying the Bible contradicts itself, or at least counteracts itself? For example, I’ve heard a lot of clarifying remarks on Ephesians 5:22, where Pastors carefully and rightfully reiterate that a wife is to submit ONLY to her own husband, not all men in the same way. However, your logic on Ephesians 5:21 seems to imply that wives are indeed to submit to all men (and all men to all women and all men)?
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