“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
Paul now turns to relationships within families. The Bible shows us how to bond within the family. First, the role of the wife. Understanding this verse is not going to be the greatest day for feminists! There are no loopholes for feminists here.
A couple riding in the car had not spoken for some time. Riding Sunday afternoon in the countryside, the husband spotted two mules and said, “Some of your relatives?” She was equal to the occasion and said, “Yes, on my husband’s side!!” Sometimes holy wedlock becomes holy deadlock! The biblical answer is for the partners in marriage to function in their roles.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands”
We live in an egalitarian age. The assumptions of this philosophy are so strong that it is difficult for people to think objectively outside this system in our culture. The idea of a wife submitting to her husband is foreign to freedom, democracy, and any sense of fairness to our generation.
God does not limit this command to the first century because He states it as a principle without qualification. The idea of submission is not derogatory to our persons because Jesus himself submitted himself to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3). It obviously does not mean inferiority but merely relates to the function of role. Paul also goes back to the principle of the divine institution in creation (1 Tim. 2:13).
“Submit” is the same word used to express our duty to government officials (Romans 13:1). “Submission” is an issue of respect (Eph. 5:24,33). Adam was the first in creation and last in transgression between him and Eve (1 Tim. 2:13,14). We find this creation principle in 1 Cor. 11:3,8,9, where the male is set forth as head of the wife by the will of God. This submission is not to a rigorous tyrant but to her own husband.
The word “submit” was a military term meaning to rank under. In this case, the wife is to arrange her life under her husband’s. We find other uses outside of the husband-wife relation in Luke 2:51; 10:17,20; Romans 8:7, 20; 10:3; 13:1,5; 1 Cor. 14:34; 15:27,28; 16:16; Ephesians 1:22; 5:24 (the church); Phil. 3:21; Titus 2:5,9; 3:1; Hebrews 2:5; 2:8; 1 Peter 2:13, 18; 3:22; 5:5.
The word “submit” does not mean obeying in a graveling sense but instead surrendering one’s rights or will. The idea is voluntary subordination (e.g., of Jesus to his parents, Luke 2:51). The word does not convey the inferiority of personhood. It means to maintain God’s order. It does not connote a misogynist idea of forcing women to make concessions. Capitulation to a tyrant attaches a concept foreign to the meaning of the word and adds more to the meaning of the word than is warranted.
The command “to submit” rests on the positive volition of the wife. Paul is challenging wives to defer to their husband’s roles. The wife is no slave. She is not to be ordered by her husband. The Bible views her as a partner (Genesis 2:18-23). She is the husband’s complement. They make decisions together.
The biblical role is a matter of position, not person.
In government, the authority of role is essential for the administration of the country—even the trinity functions under roles. The Son submits to the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son.
A wife may have a more splendid IQ or personality than her husband. Capacity is not an issue of the role. Both the male and female hold an equal position before God (Gal. 3:28). The role relates to the organization and function within the family.
A person who exercises their will voluntarily is in a place of power. If the husband requests her to do something outside of God’s will for her, she has the biblical right to reject the husband’s request. The wife’s ultimate authority is God.
The wife does what she does for the sake of the Lord. She does not submit to avoid a fearful situation, such as her husband’s anger, silence, or criticism. Nor does she submit to her husband for appearance’s sake; she does it for the Lord. If he beats her or threatens her life, she obeys a greater command to protect her body. She must separate herself from him in that situation because it is the Lord’s will that she respects her body.