Grace-Energized Submission


Ring in MarriageSubmission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and to help him carry it through according to her own giftedness. Submission is a praiseworthy reminder of our great God, and the drama of redemption. Submission is found in the trinity, as Jesus submits to the Father in purchasing our salvation.  Submission in its original purpose, not corrupted by man’s sinfulness and distortions, is a glorious display of the gospel.  Last post helped to clear up misconceptions about submission, so this one will try and more clearly define the biblical stance on the wife’s role to submit to her own husband.  Let me just say that how submission plays out practically is going to look a little bit different for every couple, for every woman is gifted by God differently, thus it will look different how each woman supports her  husband in his specific calling by God in life.

Let me just point out first that Scripture is clear that men are to be the head over the wife, clearly leading the home (Ephesians 5:23).  Before you panic, Paul is not saying that husbands possess the same kind of supremacy as Christ and are supreme over their own wives, leading in a tyrannical manner.  It’s an analogy and a comparison.  The husband is not supreme over the wife, as they are both created in the likeness of God and are both fellow-heirs of the Grace of life (1 Peter 3).  The point of the analogy in the divine relationship is that Christ is one who leads the Church. In the marriage relationship, the husband is called by God to lead.  That’s simply the point.  That’s his role and responsibility.  Men are called to lead with love and women are called to gladly put themselves under that leadership. It’s supposed to point to the drama of salvation.

Treasure ChristWhat is the husband supposed to lead his wife to?  He is to lead his wife to prize Christ as the ultimate treasure.  He and his wife should be growing in their affections for Christ.  Husbands are to lead both himself and his wife while placing Scripture as the primary source of authority in the home. It’s not some vacation before Christ returns.  Here are 6 more things that submission is supposed to be….

Submission is a internal disposition

The rest of the points below flow out of this reality. Submission should include a wife’s desire to yield to the husband’s leadership.  A wife should delight in and encourage her husband to take initiative in the family.  Wives should encourage the husband to take responsibility, and encourage the husband to lead the family with love.  Wives should encourage their husbands to not lead passively, but in love lead their families spiritually and in a protective manner.

Submission is encouraging your husband to help point your family to the most satisfying reality in the universe—Jesus Christ Himself.  That is submission.  It is not old fashioned male chauvinism.  It is glad-hearted placement of a wife, from the God of the universe to love and honor her husband’s leadership.

There are no specific do’s or dont’s laid out in Scripture about a wife’s submission.   Instead, the Bible focuses on the internal disposition. It may look different in varying contexts, personalities, etc.

I Peter 3:4—“Cloth yourselves with the internal, hidden person of the heart.”

Beauty of the HeartSubmission is an attitude from the heart.  Fundamentally, we should not define submission based on how one carries it out practically, but that it is a disposition of the heart.  Submission is an internal set of ideas and thoughts, and foundationally an internal attitude that will affirm the husband as the primary leader and protector of the home, and of course will show outwardly.  It is a tranquil and affirming of the husband.

Submission is willing

You will not find in Scripture a husband commanded to thunder to his wife, “submit!”  The wife is spoken to directly in Ephesians and other passages.  Her willing and voluntary submission is asked for by God through the writers of Scripture. Just as the husband is called to show Christ’s voluntary love for this wife, so the wife is called to volunteer her submission to the husband, representing the church.

Submission is a gentle an quiet spirit

Submission is not a nagging or opposing a husband on every point, trying to be the Holy Spirit in his life. It is not always leaving Bible verses at home where he will see them, constantly confronting him with where he is wrong or what he is doing wrong. This does not mean you follow him into sin, but it is a gentle and quiet disposition even when confronting your husband in his sin.  Are you gentle with your husband? Is there an internal desire to cultivate a inner beauty that is imperishable? This leads to the next point..

Submission is respectful

Submission is done in the fear of God, and it is respectful and pure.  Sarah had an internal disposition in how she reacted to her husband Abraham. Gen. 18:12 informs us that, upon the announcement that she will have a child, she says that  “my lord” is too old.  Sarah seems to always relate to Abraham in a respectful manner in the Scriptures.  He was not the perfect husband, and yet even in her speech she referred to him as “lord.” It was a common way in that culture to show respect.  The point is that she respectful Abraham in her speech.  Wives, it is rather hard to undermine your husband in public or in front of the kids through your speech and yet be submissive. Don’t demean or downplay his work.  Gen. 2:15 tells us that men are more particularly designed to work in a specific way.  If you attack his work you attack his very manhood.  Making fun of his work around the house.

Proverbs LoveSubmission is wisdom

A synonym for submission is wisdom.  Proverbs 1-31 uplifts and promotes wisdom, and the very capstone of Proverbs is a Proverbs 31 woman.  The question thrown out there is found in verse 10:

An excellent wife, who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.

Behind every great man is a great woman.  A woman is called by God to come underneath a man and support him in his work and labor.  A woman is to make the man, she is to be behind the scenes, undergirding him and encouraging him. The end goal of submission is glory to Christ.  But another end goal right behind that is to help your husband become the greatest man of God possible.  It is in your ability to be used by God to encourage your husband towards godliness and Christlike character.

Submission is hopeful

You show your hope is in God when you submit to your husband.  When the world belittles it, put your hope in God.  This is how holy women hoped in God.  This is not demeaning.  It can and should be challenging.  Your hope is in God.  Show your ultimate hope is in God by adorning yourself with submission to your husband.

Wives don’t submit because they love their husbands, although that is gloriously true, but because they love the Christ who bought them with His death. Ultimate allegiance should be given to a husband because their highest allegiance is to the One who has all the authority in heaven and earth. Do you see how freeing that is?  Glad-hearted submission is the joyous life you can have.

Husbands LeadImplications

What is so intriguing to me is that when Adam and Eve got hitched, they had no idea what their marriage was representing. They had no idea that their marriage was a little picture depicting the very drama of salvation of Christ and His Church.  There is nothing coincidental about marriage!

To husbands: your job in marriage is not only to lead, but to lead in such a way that makes submission a delight for your wives. Insensitive, passive, demanding, unreasonable, lazy or selfish husbands ruin this! You make submission a joke to the watching world, and a painful duty to the wife

To wives: resist every pressure out there that tells you submission equals slavery. Do not buy the lie. Believe that submission which liberates you to allow you to be who God created you to be.  It is the discovery of who God designed you to be.


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About Brett Smith

Brett Smith is a graduate of Bob Jones University and is currently pursuing his M.Div. at The Master's Seminary. A native of Chicago, Brett serves on the Events staff at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA.