22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22-6:9 expounds the biblical view of marriage and the family. Marriage is a divine institution from God’s viewpoint. Its structure is permanent and inviolable: one husband and one wife until death part them. God gave roles to both husband and wife in marriage. Nationalism is another divine institution—it is important that citizens submit themselves to the laws of a national entity.
With 5:22 the application of being filled with the Spirit transitions to the first of a number of specific relationships—the marriage institution. The role of the husband is to “love” and the role of the wife to “submit.” When both husband and wife are filled with the Spirit or controlled by the Spirit (5:18), the marriage experiences harmony.
“Wives” are to defer to their husband’s leadership in the home.
Verse 22 picks up the principle of “submit” in verse 21 to apply it to wives. “Submit” is not in some manuscripts but, even if it is not in the original, the Holy Spirit carries over the idea of submission from verse 21.
The idea of “submit” is that she recognizes orderly function in the home. The husband and wife have different God-appointed roles. God does not leave the home to a free-for-all. However, submission is a voluntary response to God’s will and cannot be imposed by the husband.
to your own husbands,
“Your own” limits the wife’s submission to order in the home. She does not submit herself to any man that comes down the pike. There is a mutual possession between husband and wife. They belong to each other. They are equal in person to each other, but they have different roles with each other. Marriage is an exclusive relationship.
A Spirit-filled wife accepts divine order in the home.
God made the woman for the man (Ge 2:18; 1 Ti 2:13). God’s purpose is that the husband be the head of the household. It is important that the wife arrange her life around that order.
Note summary of the wife’s submissive role:
The wife willingly assumes the role of submission.
The wife does this for her Lord even if her husband does not deserve it.
The wife’s submission is limited much like our submission to government.
The word “obey” used for children and slaves is not used for wives. First Peter uses the word for Sarah obeying Abraham, but that is a descriptive term rather than a command.
Matriarchal societies with the woman as the head of the home is an inversion of divine establishment. It violates the essence of masculinity and femininity. Rapport in marriage centers around the natures of male and female.
Submission does not involve inferiority or losing one’s identity. Neither does it mean blind obedience or that she takes the position of passivity. The idea is that God is a God of order (1 Co 14:40). From God’s viewpoint, everything in the universe has order, which implies authority. Authority is necessary to maintain order. God has authority over creation; man has authority over nature (Ge 1:28); husbands have authority over their wives; parents have authority over their children; governments have authority over their societies; employers have authority over their employees (1 Pe 2:18); pastors have authority over their congregations (1 Pe 5:1f).
The Bible uses “submit” for the wife and “obey” for children (Eph 6:1-4). There is a different order for a wife than a child. There is a different order of the home for the wife. A child or slave is to obey, but a wife is not to be dominated by the husband as a superior. The husband is to love, protect, and provide for his wife. He is not to lord it over her and treat her by his whims.
Submission here is not qualified by whether the wife has more education, maturity, intelligence, or any other factor.