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What Does Submission Have to do With Marriage?

Fact number one in God’s blueprint for happy homes, then, is that the husband is to submit to his wife, and the wife is to submit to her husband.

Written by Luis Palau

My wife, Pat, and I have been married more than 30 years, and every day I thank God I married her! We’re different in many ways, but we complement each other. Pat is a levelheaded thinker, while I tend to be a more impulsive decision-maker. I appreciate her strengths and have learned to rely on them regularly.

In marriage, God wants us to learn to rest in each other’s strengths.

It’s exciting to have a wife who complements you, and if you marry in Christ, that’s what happens. Your weaknesses she balances; her weaknesses you balance. God built this concept of complementing one another into marriage at the very beginning. After creating Adam, God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18), and then He formed Eve. Why? Because without her, Adam was incomplete.

Interestingly, that word helper is used throughout the Old Testament to describe someone of strength. Obviously Eve had a lot going for her. She supplied what Adam lacked. But Adam could receive what she had to offer, and she could receive what Adam had for her, only by submitting to each other.

Before we’ll get anywhere, we must submit to each other.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about how husbands and wives should relate to each other, but before saying any of it he commanded, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Fact number one in God’s blueprint for happy homes, then, is that the husband is to submit to his wife, and the wife is to submit to her husband.

I can’t insist on having my own way all the time, and neither can Pat. Our marriage relationship immediately begins deteriorating when either of us wants our own opinion to dominate. That’s why the Bible teaches that we are to submit to one another.

The concept of submission is found throughout Scripture:

  • In 1 Corinthians 16:16, we’re told to “submit to…everyone who joins in the work” of serving others.
  • Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.”
  • First Peter 2:13 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among man.”
  • 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Be submissive to those who are older.”

Ephesians 5:21 – 6:4 shows submission for the entire family.

  • 5:25-33 – The husband submits to his wife by sacrificially loving her.
  • 6:1-3 – The children submit to their parents by obeying and honoring them.
  • 6:4 – The parents submit to their children by spiritually nurturing them.
  • The Apostle Paul goes on to say that even slaves and masters are to submit to one another, because we all serve God.

Submission is necessary for order and stability.

Without it, each person does his own thing. One popular song says, “I did it my way.” Go ahead—and see how many people you hurt, including yourself. Lack of submission leads to disaster.

To husbands:

Too often, we men insist on having our own way in a futile attempt to mask our insecurities. Listen, your wife knows your weak points! The Bible encourages you to rely on her, just as she is to rely on you.

Notice that God doesn’t tell us, “Make your wives submit. Assert your authority as head of the house. Show who’s boss.” Instead, Ephesians 5:15 tells us men, “Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” To do that, we must die to self.

By dying to self, I can enjoy my wife’s specialness. I can let her meet my needs—even needs I might rather not recognize. As I honor Pat, my relationship with her—and with God—is blessed (1 Peter 3:7).

To wives:

Remember that your husband is the head of the home—not because he is superior, but because God has given him this responsibility. Frequently, husbands try to shirk their duties as leaders of the home. When we get married, some of us men secretly hope our wives will be tough-minded and good decision makers. You may have to help your husband be the spiritual leader in your home. So how do you do that?

Early in our marriage Pat told me, “The Bible teaches that you are the head of the home. I will help you make decisions, but I will not make them for you.” This encouraged me to be a better husband and a better Christian. Encourage your husband to do the same.

Are you a wife or a husband? Share with us what struggles are going on in your marriage and get advice from a caring Christian.

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