This was written by a dear friend who is both mother and wife. I hope you find her thoughts on Ephesians 5:22 (“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.”) as enlightening as I did. I would like to thank her for the time and energy she put into the composing – with three young boys in tow no less!
“Submission” is defined “to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.” This definition implies a voluntary yielding of one’s rights or a placing of oneself under an authority. The authority in this case is not lording himself over the submissive one, and placing undue expectations on her, but rather the submissive one is choosing to put her energy into regarding her husband as worthy of headship, knowing that his spiritual responsibility is to sanctify her in the Lord. This action on the part of the wife, contrary to popular belief, is not a position of weakness or inferiority, but is a God-given economic position fulfilling God’s purpose for both the husband and the wife as His image-bearers.
Firstly, notice that in order for God’s image to be fully mirrored on Earth, He created both man and woman, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” Gen. 1:27. God created Adam and Eve as ontological equals (equal in value before God, yet each are accountable for his/her own actions before God) but with differing economic roles (different jobs) in order to accomplish His eternal purposes on earth. Adam was given the job of tending the garden, being the priest of the garden, both in the garden and then extending to the whole world. A big job—and Eve was created to come alongside and tend with him, co-bringing God’s image into the garden first, then to the whole world. God created Eve as a helpmate to Adam, a “paraclete:” “one who comes alongside” to enable her husband to fulfill his God-given vocation and to co-labor with him. They are working together for the same purpose and result. However, God created Adam as the priest and thereby made him accountable for the results of their work and also, consequently, accountable to sanctify Eve as well. Eve, accountable to God for her actions, was created as helper, not as head, under her husband’s authority, though ruling with him in unity. As Paul says to Timothy in regards to the man’s authority in teaching and sanctification of the church in 1Timothy 2:13, “For Adam was created first, then Eve.”
Secondly, notice in Ephesians 5:24 that Paul likens the wife’s submission to her husband/head as to the church (us) submitting to Christ, as her Head. If the church did not submit to Christ’s authority as the second Person of the Godhead, she would remain unrepentant, rebellious, and ultimately, unsanctified in her heart and deeds. John addresses this issue in Revelation 2 and 3, warning the seven churches of their idolatry and the consequences if they didn’t repent. Submission to our husbands, whether they are godly or not, is an act of worship, not of our husbands, but of God. As worshippers, we will either worship God or an idol. There is no neutral ground. God has mercifully provided a means of sanctification for us wives that when we submit properly, we avoid self-worship and all other forms of idolatry.
Lastly, and I just love this, marriage is an earthly type or picture of the relationship of the Trinity. Paul makes an amazing statement in Eph. 5:31-33, “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Paul says that just as the husband and wife are one flesh, so the church and Christ are unified. To add a layer to this mystery, Christ prays in John 17:20-21, “I pray also….that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” The intimacy and oneness of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is the unity we exemplify as husband and wife: one flesh. Each Person of the Trinity is equal in power and glory and value, but has a different economic role within the Godhead. Each Person of the Trinity is completely fulfilled in fellowship with one another and the Three are united joyfully in one purpose, yet has a different vocation in order to fulfill that purpose.
What a perfect picture God has given us in the Trinity of the mystery of marriage and Christ with His bride, the church! This gives submission purpose and joy and great merit, not mere duty and drudgery. If Christ, equal to the Father in power and glory, did not submit to the Father’s plan of redemption, we would all be doomed to go to Hell. However, Christ, equal to the Father, chose to submit to His Father’s plan, and thus work together for one purpose. Likewise, the wife, equal to her husband in value and glory, submits to her husband, working with him in his God-given calling as priest and sanctifier of his home.
Ephesians 5:22-33 is a very comforting passage of scripture for us married women: knowing that we are cared for sacrificially by our husbands, sanctified “with washing of water through the word,” and partnering with Christ to glory in our position of submitting to our head in the Lord. Knowing that my husband’s calling is great as the priest of our home, gives me great contentment as I work alongside him. While I am accountable to God for my calling as helpmate, he is accountable for not just himself, but for me and our children as well before God. I now appreciate NOT being in charge of my destiny and my life, and striving to win my feminist rights. I rest in knowing I have an advocate in my husband, and one who is called to sacrificially look out for my and our children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I can then pray for him accordingly and be free from worries and strivings that my husband is equipped to handle. I can also be free to serve him and honor him as head of our home and to work with him in raising little image-bearers to be worshippers of the One True God.
As an addendum, if a woman is married to an unbeliever, her submission to her husband as unto the Lord, as I Peter addresses, can be the catalyst to leading him to Christ.
I did not delve into what submission looks like pragmatically, as I believe each married couple will work that out differently according to their giftings, circumstances, perspectives and convictions. Suffice to say, a submissive woman is a beautiful woman. May we wives rest in being dearly loved and beautified by our Savior through our submission to our husbands, whether they are godly or not. Soli Deo Gloria!
Christi Griffith is wife to Rob Griffith, who works with Third Millennium Ministries in Orlando, Florida and mom to three beautiful boys. She maintains a private vocal studio and enjoys performing theatrically when the season presents itself. She also enjoys blogging on her blogsite Soli Deo Gloria http://solideogloria-christigriffith.blogspot.com/.