Understanding Biblical Submission

I was recently asked of explain what Biblical submission is, but I couldn’t quite give a simple and clear explanation. I realised then that I had little grasp on the subject. The great physicist of yesteryears, Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Having looked further into the subject now, I am writing this blog in hopes to clearly simplify and explain what Biblical submission really is all about. Please do sincerely reflect on what I have to share. My prayer is that God will grant anyone reading this blog insight and understanding in everything.

Submission is simply choosing to follow someone’s direction. As on the dance floor, it takes two to tango ― One person generally leads, the other follows. But there needs to be balance, trust, and mutual respect to make it work. Submission is however often seen as a dirty word today. The worldly view of submission (including the view adopted by many Christians) is not a good thing. Some men (women too, I suppose) say “submission” when they really mean “unquestioned obedience.” Furthermore, the concept of submission has been perverted by the feminist movement and has infiltrated the Church. “It [feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.” ― G.K. Chesterton.

“Submission is not weakness – it is strength. It is not weakness for the boat to submit itself to the laws of sailing. The submission of the boat to the laws of sailing is it very strength. It is the rule of sailing that enables the boat to utilize her full strength, to harness the wind, and thus it takes on the strength of the wind. It is not a weakness of the Son of God that made Him obey the will of the Father – it was power, the power of His own will to will the will of the Father.” – Dr. Michael Youssef.

I find it somewhat ironic that submission is often regarded as a controversial subject when in truth, we willingly submit to others all the time – we submit to our bosses, our teachers, our doctors, government and so forth. Every Christian (single or married) at some point is called to submission (Eph. 5:21). In the context of marriage, the Bible says that wives are specifically called to submit to their husbands:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

– Ephesians 5:22-24

This passage has been the subject of so much needless debate and controversy. In these verses, the apostle Paul is saying a wife is to submit herself to her husband in a manner comparable to how she would submit herself to Jesus Christ. By using analogy, Paul here is saying that in a manner similar to the way in which Christ is the head of the church, so the man is the head of the wife. The second phrase (in verse 22) doesn’t bother many Christian women, they perfectly are willing to submit themselves to the authority and leadership of Christ, but not to their husband. Biblical submission when done rightly is a good thing. You can’t have a healthy marriage without some form of submission.

In the Biblical case, women are supposed to acknowledge their husband as the head of the family, not because men are superior, but rather because God has designated men to that role (so it is also submission to God’s direction). Christian marriage is not 50-50. As soon as it is thought of being 50-50, it becomes a power struggle. “Anything with two heads is a monster” – Voddie Baucham. In a GODLY marriage, the husband is physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually responsible for his wife which is a very serious task. A marriage is ultimately a representation of CHRIST’s relationship with the Church, and thus, husbands are called to love their wives in a similar way to how Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).

“It takes a strong and confident woman to be a submissive wife. It does not mean that you don’t have an opinion or that you let your husband control every aspect of your life. Being a submissive wife to your husband means that you focus on being his helper, lover, and supporter. Submitting to the will of your husband is a sign of complete trust and love and can significantly improve your marriage.” – Nikita Anderson (Relationship advisor at family and friendship)

A submissive wife is a blessing to her husband. Now, by no means does that mean the woman is to be a doormat or have no say in the relationship at all. Should a woman always and under all circumstances submit herself to her husband? The short answer is NO! Especially if there is a conflict between what God commands, and what men command – we must obey God. Above all else, God comes first. I have tackled this same question in separate blog post titled, “The Government”

“The scripture makes it clear that we are to obey those in authority over us only on these two conditions: Only when that authority commands us to do what is right or forbids us from doing what is wrong. In other words: a woman, or anybody, may disobey authority wherever that authority commands that person to do something God forbids or forbids that person from doing something God commands. In those two instances, if there’s a conflict between the authority of God and the conflict of the human authority, not only may we disobey that human authority. We must disobey that human authority.” – R.C Sproul.

To conclude with, I believe both men and women thrive better when they embrace their God-given roles as revealed to us in the Bible. God did not knit both man and woman identically. There are attributes a woman possesses that a man lacks, and the reverse is true. We ought not to blur our differences but to embrace them. “A great marriage is about two things: Appreciating the similarities and Respecting the differences.” – Trey & Lea (Stronger Marriage Workshops).