Are Husbands Supposed to Submit to Their Wives?

Are Husbands Supposed to Submit to Their Wives?

Many people use the verse in Ephesians 5:21 to explain that husbands and wives are supposed to be mutually submissive. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. I have heard this from the pulpit, from books, blogs, speakers, and teaching preachers on the radio. My question is how can that work in marriage when wives are commanded to submit to their husbands multiple times and husbands are never directly commanded to submit to their wives? I decided to go to the commentaries of old to find out what they had to say about this verse.

Elliot’s Commentary: In grammatical construction this clause is connected with the preceding verses; in point of idea it leads on to the next section, which treats of the three-fold submission of wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: Maintaining due subordination in the various relations of life. This general principle of religion, the apostle proceeds now to illustrate in reference to wives Ephesians 5:22-24; to children Ephesians 6:1-3; and to servants, Ephesians 6:5-8.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary: to those to whom ye ought to be subject in natural, civil, or church relations.

Gill’s Eposition: Which may be understood either in a political sense, of giving honour, obedience, and tribute, to civil magistrates, since they are set up by God for the good of men, and it is for the credit of religion for the saints to submit to them; or in an economical sense; thus the wife should be subject to the husband, children to their parents, and servants to their masters, which several things are afterwards insisted on, as explanative of this rule.

Cambridge Bible: The primary point in the spiritual ethics of the Gospel is humiliation; self is dethroned as against God, and consequently as against men. Here the special, but not exclusive, reference is to fellow-Christians. “[The precept] seems to have been suggested by the humble and loving spirit which is the moving principle of thanksgiving” (Ellicott). Special applications of this great principle now follow, in a study of the relative duties of the Christian Home.

I couldn’t find one that said specifically that husbands are to submit to wives. Some said we are to serve others in the body of Christ and I agree since we are called to be living sacrifices but these men of old were wise enough to take the Scripture as a whole and not make a doctrine out of one verse since there are other verses that specifically command wives to be submissive, subjective, and obedient to their husbands. God is very clear about this and there should never be any confusion.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives (1 Peter 3:1).

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing (Ephesians 5:21, 22)

…and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:33).

…To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:5).

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man (1 Corinthians 11:7).

I am not sure how you can argue that a husband is ever commanded to submit to his wife with all of these verses. It would be the same as saying that parents should submit to their children and many are doing this these days which causes chaos in the home because it’s not God’s order, just as it’s not His order for husbands to submit to their wives.

41 thoughts on “Are Husbands Supposed to Submit to Their Wives?

  1. Thanks, Lori. You are a very faithful mentor to younger women. I am grateful for all your teaching. I, too, have heard Ephesians 5:21 used by a pastor as referencing that men should submit to their wives. Not surprisingly, this man had effeminate demeanor, while his wife clearly demonstrated she wore the pants, sort-to-speak. It hindered their effectiveness in the church.

  2. How sad that this truth is not preached! Things would be so much better for everyone if God’s ways applied to ALL our dealings. If only our country had stuck to the old ways of women not being allowed to cross the threshold of sin by venturing into domains rightly controlled by men! If we were under our husband’s/father’s protection and close guidance throughout our lives in all things we would ALL be so much better off!!

  3. Unfortunately, most pastors these days are afraid to teach what God’s Word actually says about a wife’s role towards her husband. It would be scary to teach that wives are to obey their husbands in this feminized culture and church, sadly. Thankfully, we have the Word of God so can know truth even if it’s not being taught many places.

  4. Everything is better when following God’s perfect plan for us, Ava, as you stated but most, even Christians, don’t want to so they don’t, then everyone suffers needlessly.

  5. Do you think that perhaps it might be better to back up this post by digging deep into scripture and seeing what is says in context rather than relying on commentaries, which are just a secondary source of scripture? I am not arguing with the message, I just think you could state your case more effectively by going straight to the word, the original lamgagues and the context and then sharing your findings with us.

    I think it’s the preacher’s kid in me because my dad was very strict about us digging into the Bible, the original language and the culture and circumstances of the time before trying to present any case from scripture, lol. My husband is the same way. This is how they prepare their sermons and I was always taught to research the same way, to be sure that you were as informative and honest as you could be when sharing the word.

  6. Hi Lori,
    I understand that you are a complementarian believer on the scriptures, believing the traditional doctrine that men are the heads of households and in the church while women act as assistants to them, thus only “complimenting” them.

    I want to inform you that I see you want to share truth to your viewers, but your sources of information and face-value reading of the scriptures simply isn’t true. Any sources that are commentaries are simply how someone views the scripture. There is absolutely no direct study of historical context, language syntax, or cultural accounts based in commentaries, particularly the ones you mentioned. Also, if we are to read scripture at face value, not studying into the things I mentioned, then you must also agree with the scripture which says “a man will leave his mother and father to join his wife and become one flesh”, which would, at face value, infer that the wife owns the husband ( Gen. 2:25 and Eph. 5:31), “the husband and wife owning each other” ( 1 Cor. 7:4), mutual submission to Christ (Eph. 5:21, which you even pointed out), scriptures that speak of no one in the Kingdom of God lording over one another ( Matt. 20:25-28).

    So if those are all face value scriptures, then the Bible appears to contradict itself. But when scriptures are studied in their correct contexts, keeping in mind the traditions, cultures, governments, religions, and language of the times these scriptures were written, we see a much different picture, one that shows God’s love and submission to God and others working not as a hiearchal pyramid, but as one unit, the body of Christ. This is talked about in several scriptures of the Bible, predominantly throughout the New Testament. There were also plenty of women who did exactly what God instructed them to do without the permission or even knowledge of a husband such as Jael, Tamar, Esther, Deborah, Junia, Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla, Anna, and Phillip’s daughters, who were all in positions of authority, prophesied, or preached the gospel, and I’m sure there are more.
    So why would the Bible clearly affirm women in the Bible as co-heirs of Gof’s creation and made in God’s image and be given authority to do whatever their calling is, but Paul and Peter give specific instructions to women in Ephesis, Corinth, and where Peter was preaching?

    History tells us that this was the Greco-Roman culture, which was all about the hierarchy of men dominating all things and oppressing women, treating them as property to conquer. Why would Paul and Peter tell these women to submit to men in a culture where they were already submitting to men? According to historical logic, probably because at the time of Pentecost and shortly after, women did not have the means of independence, education, and authority to teach or survive on their own, so it makes sense that instead of letting them do whatever they want right away, they should listen to their husbands, who already had independence and education, to help them out, and to be able to actually go to church and sit in and learn from these men (which they weren’t allowed to do in their culture).

    I hope this helps see why egalitarian Christians believe what we believe. May the Lord reveal the truth of this topic to us all as we seek to follow God will all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
    Hannah Petry

  7. I usually do dig deep into Scripture by quoting plenty of verses, Trina. Romans through Revelation is all relevant to the Church age under which we live so I’m not sure why I need to learn context about this. I have also learned from some solid preachers of God and why not the commentaries? This is what they are there for – to help us learn from godly men who have deeply studied the Word of God. I don’t believe I need to know Greek and Hebrew to understand God’s clear teachings to us but thank you for the suggestion. It’s just now my way of learning the Word.

  8. This section opens with, “Being submissive to one another in reverence for Christ; wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Therefore, when Bible translators separate verses 21 and 22 into different paragraphs, they leave verse 22 without a verb. “Being submissive” appears in masculine plural form, which in NT Greek can encompass either men or both genders. As a result, one cannot accurately interpret this phrase as applying to only women.

  9. I was always taught that that verse means to treat each other with mutual respect and kindness – “submit” in that context simply means treating each other well. And isn’t that what husbands and wives should be doing anyway?

  10. The definition of submit: “To surrender, to yield one’s person to the power of another, to give up resistance,” therefore, it means a lot more than mutual respect, kindness, and treating each other well. The one in submission to another is following the one who is the leader.

  11. But you will find John MacArthur say that husbands should submit to their wives and he DOES connect it to the preceding verses. His older sermons follow the original interpretation, but his newer sermon says husbands and wives are to submit to each other.

    Don’t believe me? His sermon is dictated into notes right on hi sight.

  12. Hannah,
    If we are to submit to each other, then I guess I should start submitting to my pastor in the same way I do my husband. And my children should submit to all sources of authority, not just mine or my husband’s. As the younger is to submit to the elder. So in conclusion, I am to submit to my husband, pastor, male friends, male co-workers, other women’s husband’s, the cop that stops me for a breathilizer test, even more so if any of the above are older than me. If husband and wife are to “talk it out”. Until they agree, then you will be talking until the second coming of Christ. Until one of you decides to relent. (Submitting under protest) if you have no problem with this method, then, be my guest. And, seeing as the average woman speaks about 50,000 words a day, I pity anybody that would be on the receiving end. God is a god of order, not confusion. There is a distinct order for men and women in the context of marriage, and a distinct function in the context of the body of Christ. You submit to other members in the body of Christ in a less intimate way than your husband. So while he is your brother in Christ if he is saved, he is your God appointed head. And has access to areas of your life than your pastor does. That passage refers to submission within the context of the body of Christ. Not the context of marriage. Instead it supports the idea that you are to submit to your husband even more so because he is a fellow believer.

  13. Hi Hannah,

    Lori asked me to try makes some sense of your comments and respond to them or she wasn’t going to publish them. It seems that you, like others who hold an egalitarian view of God’s ideal for marriage are reaching for straws, chasing red herring and making assumptions that have no substantiation in the scriptures or history.

    You first seem to want Lori to have “direct study of historical context, language syntax, or cultural accounts” on this important matter” which I am a firm believer in doing. I have studied each of these passages related to submission in the original language having an advance degree in Theology. Since that time I have studied the verses repeatedly and there is no reputable Biblically based Greek scholar or theologian who would disagree that the word “hupotasso” does not mean to submit, and that the syntax is clear that such submission is to place oneself under the leadership of another as in a military sense. I have no idea how one can disagree with Lori’s understanding of the syntax in relationship to Biblical submission.

    For “Historical context and cultural accounts,” I am not quite sure what you mean here, but we will grant that man has been in most cultures, if not all, dominant over all those things necessary for survival of the family, protection and provision. This significant ability to out work and out earn a wife, and the shear strength of a man, combined with the significant issues women face with carrying a child and giving birth, often to large families, and having to care for those children, this the history of the world, not just culture. The culture of male dominance over the family has only recently changed with the advent of birth control and many more non-manual jobs available to women so that they can be independent of a man. Prior to 1930’s or so, few women could be independent, relying heavily on the grace and love of a husband or father to help them meet their needs. I will grant you that it was to this culture that God gave His Word on the matter of marriage that a husband was to be the provider and the wife his helper and she was to submit to him. It does not take much study of Greco-Roman culture to understand this as what was happening in those days was a step up from previous years and cultures, but not by much for women.

    You seem to be asking Lori not to take the scriptures at “face value” and that will never happen for no one can speak authoritatively concerning God’s Word if it is not to be read and understood at face value. And we do agree with you that ‘face value” must include context, language and syntax. But you have given us nothing to refute the complementarian view except to accuse Lori of not understanding these things, which she clearly does. We would agree that “the husband and wife owning each other” (1 Cor. 7:4), must be understood in context, and when it comes to sex (one’s body) and not depriving each other of sex, a wife indeed has ownership (authority) over a husband’s body and he is to not deprive her of sex.

    I cannot address Gen. 2:25 and Eph. 5:31 as I do not know a face value interpretation of becoming “one flesh” would illuminate your argument. We know that God and Christ are said to be “One” and yet the Son voluntarily submits to the Father. We know that we in the church are said to be “one body” in Christ and yet we know that we the members are to submit to our elders. Scripturally, being one regularly means one submits to another for the order to reign in the Godhead, in the church and in the family.

    It seems your real argument boils down to two things: 1) Somehow at Pentecost and with the apostle Paul’s declaration that “there is neither male nor female” and all are co-heirs of the Kingdom of God women were liberated from the requirement to submit to their husbands. 2) That somehow this same apostle who declares this new status for women, along with the apostle Peter, when they give their clear commands “wives submit to your husbands in everything,” this was just cultural. How do we know it was just cultural? Your only argument must be that we now live in a different culture! Somehow feminism has come and finally did for the church what God could not do for the past 2000 years and liberated wives to be of the same authority as their husbands in a marriage.

    Hannah, if this is what you are arguing it has no basis in culture, syntax, language, but simply you must argue that because the context of the time has changed, so too must we change our views on this important matter. You have nothing in your arguments except that you want to believe that it no longer applies to today.

    If this is true, then we are no longer to submit to elders in the church, and children are not to submit to parents and workers not to submit to a boss. Your arguments hold no water but I am sure a number of people who all want your conclusions will champion your ideas. They will see what they want to see and think they can scoot around the face value of what God has said. “Hath God said?”

  14. Yes Denise, but for our argument to hold any merit the apostle should have written, “Being submissive to one another in reverence for Christ; husbands submit to your wife, wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

    Is it not glaring and telling that the husband is never told to submit to his wife yet the wife is told to submit or obey nine (9+) times in one form or another. Even if you could force this interpretation on this passage, you cannot in the others.

  15. A marriage should indeed be filled with mutual respect and kindness and love, but the admonition to submit is given exclusively to:

    The Church to Christ
    Members to Elders
    Wives to husbands
    Children to parents
    Employees/Servants to the Boss

    In each of these contexts can you not see where mutual respect and kindness is not exclusive of one’s need to follow their leader? Not ever child, wife, employee, even member in a church is going to feel that the one given charge over them is being fair, or respectful of their wishes all the time, but they are still to obey and follow trusting that God has an order to things that is healthy in the marriage.

    I am very respectful and kind to Lori, and I try to please her, but it sure makes our lives easier to know who has the final say. Our marriage with her in control, or no one leading was a mess, and now it is fantastic, not because I am such a great leader, but because she happily and joyfully rests in me and my decisions when we disagree.

  16. It woukd be so much better if girls were raised to know and embrace their role. Education should equip us for our high calling as heepmeets and homemakers. Homeschooling girls is so important! That is our domain – NOT learning things that cannot help us. Our boys are homeschooled for the world and our girls for the home.

  17. To which passages are you referring? I’ve exegeted most of the relevant Hebrew and Greek Scriptures on this topic in concert with the highest-rated commentaries ( and would be happy to address specific issues.

  18. I’ve just reread your comment and realized that I failed to address part of your response.
    Paul dealt with the genders in separate blocks. First he addressed the wives and then moved on to how husbands obey the command to submit. Incidentally, Greco-Roman household codes were geared to only the people with less power in these relationships. Paul revolutionized societal expectations by also listing requirements for Christian husbands, fathers, and slave masters.

  19. Lori, “Romans through Revelation…”
    You missed the 4 gospels and Acts. Remember, the gospels are the words of Jesus. Very relevant to our understanding of how to live as Christians.

  20. Denise, hope we can both agree on one thing… wives are to submit to their husbands. It’s a simple set of admonitions and commands repeatedly given to wives in the Bible. You have seen them all and exegeted them all, and I am only asking you, “Do you believe God has commanded a wife to submit to her husband?”

    Can we also agree that wives are told to submit to their husbands a number of times, “to their own husbands,” and “in everything.” This along with a husband never told to submit to his wife. Correct?

    I Corinthians 11:3 “…the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” The husband is the wife’s head; he is over her.

    Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”

    Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church..”

    Ephesians 5:24 “…so let the wives be {submissive} to their own husbands in everything.”

    1 Timothy 2:11,12 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Here we have the issue of authority and specifically a women not to exercise authority over or teach a man in the church. So why would it be OK at home? Paul’s defense for this is the creation story and the fall, so nothing to do with culture.

    1 Peter 3:1 “Likewise, ye wives be in subjection to your own husbands….” Here we have Peter joining Paul in the admonition to wives with his proof is the women of old, proving that this had nothing to do with the Roman-Greco world.

    I Peter 3:5 “…the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves being in subjection to their own husbands.”

    I Peter 3:6 “…Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord: whose daughters ye are…”

    Titus 2:5 “Teach young women to…be obedient (submissive) to their own husbands.”

    Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,as it is fit in the Lord.” No mutual submission found here… just wives are told to submit to husbands.

    If your answer is “No” then we have nothing more to discuss. You are being dishonest with the Word. If you say “yes” then what are you fighting for? You want submission to only be submission when the wife wants to submit?

    “Well he has to submit to me too!” Even if you could prove this point from the scriptures which you cannot, you still have to deal with the verses that commands women to win him without a word.”

    “Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the Word, they also may be won without the word by the conduct of their wives.” So if he does not want to mutually submit, she is still to submit according to God’s Word.

    I hope you can agree with me that Biblically a wife is to submit to her husband, even if he is being disobedient, except in cases where he is asking her to sin. The fact is that even if you could prove mutual submission from Eph 5:21 you cannot wipe away God’s ideal for marriage that a wife submit and that the word used for submit means to “place oneself under, to follow, to obey.” You and I both know that is hupotasso found primarily as a military term and that mutual submission in the military is senseless.

    I address the ridiculous nonsense of finding mutual submission in this post:

    You have given me more food for thought with your pointing out that ὑποτασσόμενοι “submitting yourselves” to one another is in the masculine. Now of course we both know that all references to a group of male and females are listed as masculine plural, just as we do in English when we write, “All men” referring to men and women.

    But what you have pointed out is that this reference to “men” in the plural may indeed mean the “men” in the church are to submit to each other with no inclusion of women in this group. So mutual submission in the church is a possibility and a reality among the men, except of course we are to obey/submit to our Elders. In the church the women are to submit to their own husbands, and not just any man.

    So imply that Eph. 5:21 is not clear as to who which group is being addressed, all men or men and women, and you have acknowledged that the same word would have been used inn either case. You might have had an interesting argument if half s not destroyed by the 50% chance Paul is indeed only referring to men in mutual submission, and then goes on to say to women, “your own husbands(men)”

    As your argument that the masculine is used for submission in vs. 21 and not repeated in 22 with a change to feminine, so somehow the same masculine should be applied thus including men in the “Wives to your own husbands,” such hermeneutical gymnastics on the verse is new to me, but a ridiculous assertion for any Greek student. You know well that this type of syntax is common when in an opening part of the passage the participle may refer to masculine and is not repeated, yet the new feminine noun is qualified by that verb without having to add the verb in the feminine. Regardless,in it’s sister verse repeated almost word for word in Colossians 3:18 you can’t argue that ὑποτάσσεσθε is masculine and the subject is “to (your) husbands.” But the greatest refutation of your argument is Tutus 2:5 where hypotassomenas is clearly feminine and again “to their own husbands.”

    It’s amazing how hard people are trying to take what has been so clear to Greek and Biblical scholars for years and now all the sudden you know better than men of lifelong study of the language and the church Fathers throughout history who were much closer to the original time and intent.

    You want us to believe that somehow that the church throughout history missed this new idea “Being submissive” appears in masculine plural form, which in NT Greek can encompass either men or both genders. As a result, one cannot accurately interpret this phrase as applying to only women.”

    If your argument is we can’t be certain in 5:22 we certainly can be from then other passages. Let me take you back to my original question of which the whole world of Christendom must be certain… That a Christian wife is to be submissive to her husband.” Of the later part of whether a husband is to be in turn mutually submissive the overwhelming weight of scripture repeats the command to wives and never once, except possibly in Eph. 5:21 mentions mutuality. A beachhead is made by you and others out of a verse you say we cannot be certain what God meant.

    It seems that your scholarship is only a defense for feminism in the church. That you have sided with our modern culture and society and will see in the Greek what you want to see. I can’t believe that you, and others who want this new interpretation of mutuality to be true, can’t see that all you are doing is muddying the waters of interpretation in an attempt to say, “You see! There is a 10% chance that mutual submission is possible!” But then you still have to deal with the reality that the Christian wife is to submit and most Christians wives are doing a poor job of it because they see the idea of mutual submission as an excuse to not be submissive at all. Ask the most Christian husbands if his wife is submissive and he will chuckle at the thought and may say, “Sure, in everything she wants to submit in.” Most will say “no” and a number will say, “I don’t want her to be submissive” even in light of the clear commands and admonitions that she be so.

    I tell the men I mentor to be happy with mutual submission in their difficult marriages because it is the wife in control. Please, if you are to continue to grasp at straws to try and create mutual submission in the Word, please, be sure to inform your readers that indeed God does demand their submission to their husbands, even those who are disobedient to the Word. If you and others are not doing this, you are going clearly contrary to what God has intended for a Christian marriage. It is better to focus on what should submission look like in a marriage where a husband is called upon to love his wife and treat her as a co-heir of the Kingdom. Not try to wipe away submission as it can’t be done.

  21. Jesus was mostly teaching to those who lived under the Law and was trying to point out to them that they could never keep the Law, thus they needed a Savior. Many of His teachings were to show the narrowness of the Law, such as cut off your arm if it causes you to sin or pluck out your eye. He wanted them to know how evil sin is because it keeps one out of eternal life and no one can attain it by their works.

    Acts is the history of the Church age but Romans through Revelations are the instructions to the Church age; those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb. Without Romans, we couldn’t have known all that was accomplished on the cross. Yes, all of the Bible is important but for young believers and those who want to grow in their faith – Romans to Revelations are the books to focus upon.

  22. In a partnership, two or more leaders make decisions together. I know several partnerships that are quite successful. Compromise is not difficult when you have a servants heart!

  23. Yes Opus T,
    I also know a number of successful partnerships, and in some of them the partners have found a way to separate responsibilities, and in others one partner is considered more senior and deferred to by another. I have also seen about half of the 100+ partnerships I am familiar with fail or dissolve, sometimes in very ugly divorces over unresolvable differences because no one could make a final decision.

    If you want to know why the Christian marriages look like the world’s marriages and too often end in divorce, look no further than the partnership model. It works so long as it works, but once things get difficult it falls apart.

    The main issue is that God has not asked Christians to live in a partnership marriage but a One Flesh marriage where the wife is submissive and the husband loves his wife sacrificially. This means both spouses must be sold out on serving and pleasing each other, even if at times the wife must trust her husband to lead and make the final decision for the good of the whole. To use the apostle’s illustration, what the head does to the body is to control things, and that does not mean to be “controlling.” The husband is told by God that he is the head of the wife in a One Flesh marriage.

    The biggest issue I have with a partnership marriage, besides the fact that it is not what God wants for his church, is that a partnership can never achieve the trust, full connection and great joy that only a One Flesh marriage can find. It takes years perhaps to get to this stage where a wife trusts God completely and in turn vulnerably submits her will to a loving husband’s, but when that target is achieved, as it is in my marriage, it is something fantastic. No more walking on eggshells around each other. No more thinking things and not able to say them for fear of upset and discord. No more barbs and digs at one another because issues cannot be resolved. Instead peace, love and joy reigns.

    Are you at peace, love and joy in your marriage or are their festering unresolved issues? Consider that doing things God’s ways is always best no matter how practical and wonderful man’s ways may be. A partnership is man’s ways, and a One Flesh sold out marriage is God’s way. For those of us who claim Christ as Lord we want to be sold out to do things His ways so we can reap His blessings and please Him because we love Him.

  24. Absolutely Lori!
    But the verse I was referring to was “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ” – this is the part that I have always been taught is respect and kindness. A husband is not called to submit to his wife, but he is called to love and respect her and treat her with kindness.
    How can both be in submission to each other, which is what that verse is saying? Easy: by treating each other with respect and kindness. And the following verses delve deeper into what that should look like – wives submitting to their husbands in everything, and husbands loving their wives as they love their own bodies.

  25. Genesis 21:12 is a perfect example of when God commanded a husband (Abraham) to submit to/obey/listen to his wife (Sarah).
    There are also beautiful examples of when Sarah obeyed Abraham. This is the perfect model of mutual submission – Sarah obeyed her husband, submitted to him and called him Lord, but God also told Abraham to listen to Sarah. God didn’t choose to give the message directly to Abraham, as He could have done; instead, He chose for Abraham to listen to Sarah, his wife.

  26. But Sarah is known, regarded, and given as an example for us to follow as being submissive to her husband, not vice versa. You can’t pull out one verse and try to explain that they were mutually submissive.

    “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” 1 Peter 3:5, 6

  27. But the words respect and kindness don’t mean submission because submission means the act of yielding to power or authority. Husbands are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to submit to their husbands for the husband is head over his wife.

  28. Hello Ken,

    I have been reading this thread in interest and I am curious as to why you think that marriages that are partnerships aren’t happier than a marriage your way. And what are some areas you feel strongly that wives should submit in? This is a genuine question and I hope you will answer. My wife and I have been married 25 years. We’ve never thought much about labels, but after reading this thread, I suspect we would fall into the “partnership” category.

    We have a happy marriage. No walking on eggshells, no arguenents, no manipulation, pouting or anything. We run our home together and our construction company together. We bought are involved in homeschooling our 5 children. Each of us bring specific strengths and gifts to the table in our marriage and we compliment each other very nicely. I married my best friend since childhood. We married like minded and I have not one word of complaint for our marriage. My wife doesn’t either.

    I’m curious as to what exactly my wife should be submitting to me in. I really cannot think of anything major. Some of the areas that I’ve seen people lay down as law on this blog make me a bit in comfortable because honestly, I have zero desire to try to do things like tell my wife how to dress or how to wear her hair. Yes I do prefer her hair down and she knows this, but in our hot humid climate I would never dream that she wear it down all of the time just to suit my eyes. It wouldn’t be fair and she is grateful that she has the freedom to both dress comfortably and do her hair in s comfortable manner even though commenters on this blog will say my wife is being defiant! We have never had an argument about dress.

    I also have no desire to move or relocate without the input and listening to the heart of my wife on such a big issue as moving and relocating our family. I would never dream of making a decision to uproot my family. I value my wife’s input and such a major decision will not be made unless she is also in agreement. We have never had an argument about moving.

    I had/have no desire to decide for my wife how many children we would have. Again, this is something we have discussed and are in full agreement about. My wife actually got the final say in if we added our 4th & 5th because it is her body that had to carry a pregnancy and birth a child and I would never dream of forcing my wife to carry more children than she feels like she can or is physically/emotionally capable of carrying, birthing and raising. We have never once had an argument about the number of children we wanted to have or if we should have anymore.

    We have never once had an argument about sex. Ever. Not even as newlyweds. My wife has never been made to feel that she must have sex as a duty to me. I look at sex as bringing joy to her. I have never once asked her for sex when she is unwell or exhausted, and she hasn’t done that to me either. I put her needs first in the bedroom every time we come together and we have a very happy and enthusiastic sex life. No issues there. In a lot of the men I mentor, I see that their sex lives would improve if they would strive to put the pleasure of their bride first in the bedroom, do more to help their bride so she isn’t so exhausted from tending to kids and a home all day, thus helping her have more energy for bedroom fun. Just because you are married does not mean you get sex on demand whenever you want. Another person’s heart, soul and body still must be tended and cherished as well.

    I would be very uncomfortable telling my wife how to vote, as it’s a personal issue for each individual. I did not mind my wife voting differently than me and in fact, I reminded her it was fine and sent her to the voting booth with my blessing during the tumultuous 2016 presidential election. I would never dream of saying my wife must vote like me.

    We strive to keep Jesus first in everything we do. No decision is made without a lot of prayer and discussion. We have a happy, peaceful home and I’m a little surprised that people would call a woman like my wife unsubmissive and rebellious and our marriage as less than, without ever meeting us in person and without living in our shoes. My wife is a amazingly talented individual who runs the office in our business, a homeschooling mother of wife, is always learning a new skill or hobby and is opening her own business on the side. I feel I’m the luckiest man in the world even if some would say our marriage is “nothing more than a partnership”

  29. Husband’s, while in leadership. Are wise to take their wives feelings and advice into consideration. But that does not mean the wife is thus elevated to the place of leadership. Take the example of a waitress, giving the chef advice on how to present food more attractively or get it out faster etc. And he heeds to her advice. In the end, she is still but a mere waitress. And he, is still the chef. She would not have a job if it weren’t for him. A wise boss will listen to his workers, then male what he feels is best for all of them. The same at a departent store. You have store manager, manager and assistant manager. Each can give the other advice, but a manager is not suddenly elevated to store manager because he gave great advice. Abraham was still Sarah head. But ye was sensative to her counsel. Sometimes God will inform a wife of something, but not the husband. And the wife must pass it on respectively. And it is the husband’s choice to heed to it or not.

  30. My apologies for leading you to misunderstand what I was saying. There is not a 50% chance that the masculine plural addresses only men. Given the context, it clearly applies to both genders.
    I agree that women are to submit to their husbands, just as men are to die to their own desires in order to meet the needs of their wives, which is what Christ did for the church. Notably, where Christ is depicted as the head of the church, he is described as nurturing and caring for it.

    Finally, the passage in 1 Peter refers to women who were married to unbelievers, a situation which frequently occurred in the early church. He instructed them to be like Sarah, a woman who showed respect to her husband and whom the Lord instructed Abraham to obey (shamar) (Gen 21:12). In that same passage Peter warned Christian husbands who failed to treat their wives with proper respect that God would not heed their prayers.
    The call to put the needs of one’s spouse above one’s own works in both directions.

  31. We must always respect the men that God has placed in our lives. When women were bound to their familiies by laws that favored the natural order of the stronger vessel in leadership of the weaker we were a much more godly nation! My pastor preached strongly on this just yesterday : )

  32. I do heartily agree with you that the sacrificial love a husband is to give as head of his wife is actually a higher responsibility and call to service than a wife has in “to be submissive.” The demand of the Christian husband to love his wife as Christ does not in any way negate a Christian’s wife’s responsibility to submit. In Lori’s experience hearing from thousands of Christian women, it seems that far too often the Christian wife is waiting on their husband to love them they way they can “feel loved” before they will consider submitting. It becomes self justification for sin, which we all do to some degree with our excuses, or as the apostle calls them, “Arguments” which God is in the business of tearing down.

    Certainly the husband of 1 Peter 3:1 has been regularly understood to be “unsaved” looking back to a earlier similar reference that certainly meant unsaved. But the context here could be also be the Christian husband who is not walking with the Lord as he should.

    Let’s assume that it is referencing the unsaved husband, if a wife’s godly behavior may win an unsaved man, why would it not as likely, or more likely to win the backsliding or difficult husband back to God and His Word?

    Furthermore, record of Christian wives winning over saved disobedient husbands seems almost a universal promise in Lori’s ministry, remarkably, even with affairs and other gross sins involved. It is amazing what a wife sold out to love and serve her husband can do in creating a healthy, joyful marriage in the midst of difficulties. But I must report that I have rarely seen a loving husband be able to submit to his wife’s difficult ways and see her turn to God or goodness. It simply is not a general two way miracle, unfortunately for husbands.

    Thanks for the conversation…

  33. Congratulations on your wonder marriage Brian H! I love all that you write and on the whole agree with everything you are saying. It is a pig of a man who uses his God given position as head of his wife to be selfish and self-serving. The fact that you two have a wonderful marriage without you having to ask your wife to be submissive should be no less remarkable than your wife not having to tell you to be loving and understanding.

    You may view your marriage as a partnership but what you describe is indeed a One Flesh marriage, and one that .looks very much like my marriage now. I don’t boss my wife around or seek my own way. I am always checking in with her to try and stay on the same page, and to be able to defer to her desires is there is no reason not to. Like you, I am always looking for a harmonious marriage, and we now have it.

    Is it possible that your wife is indeed being submissive but you don’t recognize it as submission, but rather deferring to your leadership? You would have to ask her, but the question might be, “If you were in charge of our relationship what things would you want me to be doing differently? You may get an earful with a smile. Most wives are very opinionated when it comes to raising kids, what the family eats, and a laundry list of other things, and you may generally not care so you go along, and when she sees you really wants something she submits.

    If you are never having any irresolvable disagreements it may be that you both have Relater personalities which are easy going and don’t like to rock the boat. Or one of you is a Driver/Bossy type and the other is a Relater who doesn’t care and prefers to see harmony than rock the boat.

    But there are other types of personalities that simply do not mix so easily together. The Driver – Go Getter generally likes to keep things moving their way and the Analyzer- Perfectionist type is often annoyed when things are not done perfectly their way.

    So what you call a perfect partnership may be nothing more than a blend of two personalities, great role models for parents and a strong and mature walk with the Lord. How many couples do you think have this and are without conflict? God knows that the vast majority of couples will need someone to break the tie in decision making, but beyond that God wants your wife and children seeing you as the leader of your home. This should not diminish Mom’s role, but if your kids do not perceive you as the leader they may grow up to marry a spouse whose personality does not mix so well, or is untrained in your partnership approach.

    Your son could go years as I did trying to chase down the desires of my wife to please her, only to find that she was never satisfied. And then where would you like him to turn for his answers except God’s Word on the matter?

    The bottom line is that God would not teach us a wife’s submission if it had no purpose. It may be in some marriages it is not as necessary and admonition as in many others, but in most marriages, a wife beginning to truly love her husband and serve him, as your wife does with you would revolutionize the marriage. But she can’t do those things well if she thinks he needs to be doing what she wants over his own thoughts and desires.

    I would say that your marriage goes far beyond a partnership to a One Flesh marriage, and the test will come when you do get that job where you feel strongly you must move and she does not, or she wants your daughter to marry a man that you simply cannot support. No matter how great a partnership, unless one of you or both is really chill with few strong thoughts on major matters, you will hit a conflict and will need to decide if you will follow God’s Word or go the way of the world.

    Your wife sounds amazing like mine, except mine had a very strong and controlling disposition that got in the way of our connection with each other, until she was Transformed by the Spirit and the power of God’s Word. Please keep loving her and showing her respect and caring for her thoughts, as that is your calling, and there is no need to make up things to want or need from her if she is pleasing you. That would be nonsense and sinful to boss a wife a round just so you can be boss, but to lead so that the family always gets God’s best… that is God’s ideal and His calling on your life.

  34. Hi Ken, thank you for graciously taking the time to reply.

    Actually my wife and I are firstborns with stronger personalities but an even stronger drive to love, honor, cherish, and esteem each other high than ourselves, so it’s worked quite well for us. Dying to self is a wonderful and essential thing for any Christian to learn, and it sure makes marriages a happier place 🙂

    “The test will come when you do get that job where you feel strongly you must move and she does not..”

    That actually happened, right after the birth of our 5th child, which was a very rough time for my wife. We had an opportunity to move to a better (moneywise) situation. A few honest discussions with my wife later and she revealed that she was very apprehensive about moving such a far distance because we would be losing our support group and the help of my parents with the kids, and she just honestly felt she couldn’t handle it at that season in her life. We prayed and discussed for a week, then I decided to turn down the offer in order to make sure my wife was better cared for and supported. It wasn’t worth it to me to yank her 1000 miles away to a new area with no support or help while recovering from a difficult experience and wrangling four other kids under the age of ten. I had complete peace about the decision and my construction business started taking off in earnest that summer. God blessed us.

    “or she wants your daughter to marry a man that you simply cannot support. ”

    We have unified goals about the kind of people we hope our children will marry. We always have. Also, our policy is that we do not pick our children’s spouses for them. We will advise, and pray, and offer as much wisdom and counsel as we can, but our adult children will not be our property. We are raising them in the Lord and are trusting that they will chose wisely. Should our adult children marry someone we cannot get behind, we have no control over that, but will continue to love and pray for wisdom and understanding the best we can.

    Thank you again for the discussion.

  35. Wonderful discussion. The issue of marriage relationship is uplifting when we find people with great, lasting marriages. Mine was not when a married again after my former wife died, and with whom we had a good, long, happy marriage.

    When two Christian people commit to each other in Christ, we have expectations, and in my position as husband, knowing my new wife was a long time, mature Christian, I expected to be respected as the head of the family with her submission. This didn’t happen as she made many decisions independently.

    I want to mention about our experience as an example for this subject of submission of wives and the love of husbands.

    We married when we both were 67, and we had her adopted teenager’s son.

    Only a month after we were living together, a neighbor’s son (17) had a hot argument with his father and came to our door asking to stay. We both said yes, only that I said yes until things were discussed between us, and my wife until the boy decided what he wanted to do. Well, he wanted to stay until his graduation at high school in two years.

    The decision about the neighbor’s son had to be given by court as he was a minor and the father seemed not want him. I said to my wife not to tell the judge, as I could not go to court and she went, that he could live with us for eight weeks, until the end of the academic year, and then go to another state where he had family, but she said we agreed he could stay with us for two years, and that was the beginning of our break up. When I confronted her she cried and went to keep crying in our walk-in closet. I went to see her and she said that if I didn’t sign documents from the social worker, she would go to court for not saying the truth, and I accepted the boy with us because I loved her and did not want to see her facing court. I believe that was wrong. She did similar things again and again until I became strong in my decisions and challenged her desires.

    Our marriage lasted one year.

    When finally I took hands in all my decisions, she asked me to leave under menace of a accusing me of being abusive; not being true, but possibly would be supported by her son and the neighbor’s son, who was with us.

    I left and she asked for divorce. Where is this relationship’s fault, if is not in a faulty submission and love?

  36. I am so sorry to hear about your woes. If the story is true as told, without other circumstances, it appears that your wife has given up on your marriage because she refuses to do things God’s way’s. Many of us got married to Christians and assumed that they wanted to live out the Word in the area of marriage and their roles and responsibilities in marriage, only to discover that they disagreed with what the Bible clearly teaches on submission.

    I am surprised that this would lead to divorce. The worst case it seems is that you would put up with her defiance and live with the teen for a couple of years. Just because a wife does not submit does not necessarily mean that a husband cannot try to live in peace with her until the Lord convicts her and changes her.

    Unfortunately for some, once the marriages starts going down hill they prove their lack of any true love to be committed in good times and in bad. May the Lord bless your journey and heal your heart. Have you tried to reconcile with her. Don’t give up, unless she proves it is impossible. Even divorce is not final until one remarries.

  37. I do not want to bring this conversation away from the subject of submission or love because this webpage opened up in that area, but Ken, I will answer your queries trying to maintain that way.

    A married man of God would not let a non-submissive- or should I say an unyielding and domineering- woman damage his love for her. l believe character cannot be changed by anyone other, but one’s self under the power and grace of the Lord. So that was out of the question for me. Patience, long suffering and grace were my weapons.

    I discovered this area of her character after marriage, and I thought God had put me in that relationship to be a light in our home. That light was to tell the truth in kindness and keeping peace. However, I set up a time limit to see any fruits. That time was a year ahead, while I kept in her desires.

    I was not at any moment to seek divorce, because love to my wife is a commitment to God, and it was her who asked for divorce. Also, I did not leave her, she asked me to leave. Presently both of us remain unmarried and in occasional distant contact. Yes, I have pursued reconciliation several times, and her answer has been the same. She will accept me if I submit to her wishes, and she gave me a list I needed to meet.

    I believe the divorce she asked was so that she would have freedom to do what she wanted without opposition of any form. Her natural inclination was not to submit to her husband, but to emasculate him. I understood that almost at the end of my time limit, and I changed and stood for what I believed without raising my voice or being verbally or physically abusive, and acted as the head of the house, determined to see things going as I thought, and fully stopped yielding to her desires.

    My experience may bless someone seeking understanding, and I pray that it will be to the glory of God.

  38. I think, in today’s world, it’s becomes an issue of control. The wife is supposed to submit to her husband out of love for God first, then her husband. The husband is supposed to love God first, then his wife. If this happens, then the husband will not ask anything unholy from his wife. The marriage is then controlled by God.

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