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Principles of Submission

The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.
—Ephesians 5:23

This week I will point out several principles about submission that we find in the Word of God.

Submission is mutual. Now, the topic of submission has become a battleground in homes as well as in denominations. In this fight over the doctrine of submission, there are basically two camps. One camp is known as the egalitarians. The egalitarians teach that in Christ we are all equal and therefore no one person in the marriage ought to have the final say. It is a joint decision-making process. We are all equal and therefore all capable of making decisions. The egalitarians point to Ephesians 5:21 as their verse. They say, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” That is, we’re all to submit to one another, wives to husbands and husbands to wives. That’s the egalitarian view.

The second view is called the complementarian view. This view says that even though we are equal in Christ, God has assigned different roles to husbands and wives, to children and to parents, and to employees and employers. And they point out this fact that you can’t get around: “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (v. 23).

Now which view is right: the egalitarians or the complementarians? Well, both are to a certain extent. First, the egalitarians are correct in pointing out that this passage begins with verse 21, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” It is true that all Christians are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ. That is, we are to place the needs of others above our own. That’s what Jesus did for us, isn’t it? Even though Jesus was equal to God, He had all of these privileges in heaven. He willingly came to earth and submitted Himself to meet our needs. He placed our needs above His own when He died on the cross, and we are to show that same submission to one another. And it works out beautifully when we do that—when husbands put the interests of their wives above their own and wives put the interests of their husbands above their own.

The egalitarians are right in that the principle of submission is mutual. But they so concentrate on verse 21 that they fail to look at what the rest of the passage says, which is even though we are to submit to one another, submission works itself out in different ways. For a wife to put the interest of her husband above her own means that she follows his leadership. For a husband to put the interest of his wife above his own means for him to sacrificially love her and to meet her needs. Submission is the lubricant that ensures a smooth-running marriage.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Truth about the ‘S’ Word” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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