Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (ESV)
So, let's get right into the hornets nest. This verse has caused a lot of hurt. Sadly, there have been far too many ungodly men who have used this verse to excuse their controlling, abusive behavior towards their wives. If you are a man who has used this verse to try to control your wife you need to pause and repent of your sin before you read further. Now, let's consider a few things.
First of all, in verse 21 it says that we are all to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You cannot ignore verse 21 and claim verse 22. Husbands are not exempt from submission. Submission is a godly practice. The world does not understand submission. The world views submission as weakness. The Bible teaches submission as a godly quality. Remember that Jesus submitted to the ultimate will of the Father saying, "“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Secondly, we need to understand that in marriage the two become one. One is not greater than the other. They are equal in their oneness. Similarly, understand that in the Godhead we see a trinity of persons, but one God. God is not confused within himself as to who is more important. Yet, each part of the trinity has a role in relationship. I think that helps us in this understanding oneness in marriage.
Thirdly, a wife's submission to her husband is ultimately an act of obedience to the Lord, God calls women to submit to a godly husband's leadership. But, if that husband wants to lead his wife into sin, the wife is not to submit to that kind of leadership. I like what Rev. John Piper says in regard to this:
"[Submission] is the disposition to follow a husband’s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.” But the attitude of Christian submission also says, “It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can’t do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can’t follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King.”
Men, submit yourself to the Lord and to your wife before you demand submission from your wife. Wives, do not allow yourself to submit to ungodly behavior. God did not call you to that.
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