Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Note 1 at Eph 5:22: In Eph 5:21, Paul said we were to submit "one to another in the fear of God" (see note 36 at Eph 5:21). Husbands are to submit to their wives, and wives are to submit to their husbands. The Scriptures teach, however, that there is a greater degree of submission on the wife's part. Actually, husband and wife should submit to God's will in every situation, but anytime you have two people together, there is opportunity for disagreement on what God's will is. Therefore, there has to be a final authority in a marriage, or deadlock will be the result. The man has that final authority.
Note 2 at Eph 5:22: The meaning of the word "submit" has to be clearly understood or else many problems can arise. The dictionary defines "submit" as "to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another" (American Heritage Dictionary). There are at least two major things about submission that need to be pointed out.
First, submission is voluntary. There are many ways that people can be forced to obey, but true submission is an attitude of the heart that cannot be dictated. Employees may be forced to obey the instructions of an employer, but if there is resentment and bitterness in their hearts, they are not in submission. Every parent knows that children can be made to obey out of fear of punishment, but true submission, where the child lovingly yields to the instructions of the parent, is a totally different thing.
Likewise, in the marriage relationship, the submission of the wife to her husband is an attitude that the wife must voluntarily choose. A husband cannot demand that his wife submit. Men who have tried to use this verse to force their wives into submission have never succeeded. They may have intimidated or condemned their wives into some measure of compliance, but that's not the submission Paul was promoting here. Notice that Paul instructed the wives to submit, rather than instructing the husbands to make their wives submit. Submission is a choice, not a punishment.
Second, submission and obedience are not synonymous (see note 3 at Ac 4:19). This can be seen by comparing Peter's actions with his teaching in 1Pe 2:13 (see note 7 at Ac 5:29). We are never to disobey God in an effort to obey someone else (see note 1 at Ro 13:1). Paul was not commanding wives to obey any ungodly command their husbands give (see note 4 at this verse).
Note 3 at Eph 5:22: Notice the use of the word "own" in this verse. This is specifying that a wife is to submit to her own husband, not to men in general. There are some people who have interpreted Scripture to teach that women in general are to submit to men in general. That is not the message of the Scripture (see note 2 at 1Co 11:3). Other passages such as 1Ti 2:12 use the definite article "the" in front of the singular word "man" when referring to a woman's submission. And 1Co 14:34 refers back to the Old Testament curse of Ge 3:16 where the Lord made Eve subject to her husband, Adam (see note 22 at 1Co 14:34). Women are not inferior to men, and men do not have authority over women. The husband has been given authority over his wife only.
Note 4 at Eph 5:22: This phrase, "as unto the Lord," has been taken by some to mean that wives are to submit to everything the husband wants in the same way that we as believers are to be subject to God in everything. That comparison won't work, because God doesn't make mistakes or sin. Husbands do both. Wives are not being told to obey ungodliness (see note 2 at this verse). Paul was simply stating that the wife should submit herself unto her husband and should see that as an act of submission unto the Lord. This could be summed up in the words of Col 3:23, which says, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
Once again, Paul's letter to the Ephesians and his letter to the Colossians are so similar, they are like twin letters (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Ephesians). In a parallel verse, Col 3:18, Paul said wives should submit to their husbands "as it is fit in the Lord." There is an unfitting type of submission, and that is the type where a woman does whatever the man says, even if it is sin. That is not what Paul was teaching.
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