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Submission ~ The Mystery of Submission.

From Focus on the Family's The Model of Marriage workbook

The Mystery of Submission

Who, being in very nature God, di dnot consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

What comes to mind when you think of the word "submission"? Perhaps you shudder and the picture of a doormat immediately comes to mind. However, "doormat" and "submission" have distinctly different meanings. A person who acts as a doormat is "one that submits without protest to abuse and indignities."(1) A person who acts in submission yield "oneself to the authority or will of another."(2) A doormat chooses to allow him- or herself to be walked on, while submission is an act of the will to yield to the authority of another person.

"Submission" does not mean that one must endure a disrespectful or unloving relationship (as a doormat would). Instead, the term "submission" us used in th eBible to describe an aspect of our relationship with other believers - we are told to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). It also describes one of the major aspects of our relationship with God (see James 4:7) and an aspect of heavenly wisdom (see James 3:17). We are also instructed to be submissive to those in authority over us (see Romans 13:1-5). Jesus Christ asks us to reflect His heart by willingly serving others, even if they don't desever it - and this should especially apply to the way a husband and wife are to treat one another.

Tilling the Ground

Submitting to another person is probably one of the hardest things for us humans to learn to do. It is especially hard if the person to whome we must submit is a tyrant!

1. Have you ever had to be under submission to a difficult boss or teacher? Describe the experience (without naming names!) and explain what it taught you.

2. Have you ever had to train someone to submit to your authority? Was it an easy task? Why or why not?

What did you learn from the experience?

3. Why do you think submission to another's authority is difficult?

God has set down standards of submission in all relationships. He has also provided us a model of submission through Christ, who said, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38)

(1) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, s.v. "doormat."
(2) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, s.v. "submission."
Planting the seed

How many times have you heard someone say, "It's not fair!" and then someone else retort, "Who says life's supposed to be fair?" Probably too many to count! But when you think about it, if life were truly fair, none of us would ever get to heaven!

Jesus relinquished His power and knowledge in heaven to come into this world in human form (see Philippians 2:6-8 and Hebrews 2:9-11). In doing so, He submitted to the will of God the Father.

The book of Ephesians has much to teach us about how to live out the Christian life, and it gives very specific instructions to husbands and wives.

4. According to Ephesians 5:21, to whome are we to submit?

How can submission to others show reverance for Christ?

Mutual submission in a marriage not only preserves order and harmony in the relationship but also increases love and respect between a husband and wife. Whether you are the husband or the wife, knowing your marital duties and responsibilities is essential for a healthy marriage. When both the husband and wife submit to their roles as defined by God, each ends up serving the other and both find true contentment.
The Submissive Life

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24).


Perhaps no other teaching in the Bible has caused more rancor between the sexes than these verses. The women's liberation movement screams in protest at the thought of submission to a husband. But let's examine the concept submission.

5. What do you think submission means in the context of these verses in Epheisans?

6. How can a wife be submissive without allowing her husband to use her as a doormat?

7. How does a wife's allowing her husband to be the leader in the marriage serve to strengthen the marriage?

8. What must be given up in order to empower someone else?

9. What is the husband's responsibility that would make submission easier for the wife?

10. What might be a benefit of a wife's submission to her husband as described in 1 Peter 3:1-2?

Submission is a response that empowers the husband to be the leader that God has commanded him to be. When done in the context of Christ's obedience to God, submission will not be difficult - and remember, God will give you the strength to accomplish His will in your life (see Philippians 4:13).

"The wife must respect the husband" (Ephesians 5:33)

11. How does showing respect differ from being submissive?

12. Why do you suppose Paul added this admonition to wives?

A woman in biblical submission is acting out of respect for her husband and the role he has assumed under God's direction.


The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). When God created Eve, He did not create her as a slave to Adam. Nor did He create her from "the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7) as He did Adam. Instead, God took a part of Adam and formed Eve from it (see vv. 21-22). Eve was literally "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" to Adam (Genesis 2:23) - an equal to him, given to him by God so that he would have a partner on Earth.

13. What comes to mind when you think of the word "helper"?

Why do you suppose God used the word "helper" to describe Eve's role?

14. In what ways is a wife a partner to her husband?

15. According to Titus 2:4-5, what five responsibilities did Paul encourage older women to teach younger women in regard to their marriage and family?

Why are these attributes important in building a marriage and raising a family?

The wife is instructed to be submissive, show respect and be a helper to the husband. Next we will examine the husband's role.
The Spiritual Leader

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church" (Eph 5:22-23). This may sound like a carte-blanche ticket for men to lord it over their wives, but with this role comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. A husband must protect, care for and even give his life for his wife, just as Jesus did. So what do these instructions mean to husbands?


"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). Like Jesus, the husband must lay down his life for his bride. In practical terms, this means setting aside his selfish desires to fulfill the desires of his wife.

Another way a husband can show sacrifice is to adopt an attitude of humility, accepting that his weaknesses will be complemented by his wife's strengths. For example, the husband might be great at fixing things, but he can't manage the family budget; the wife, however, can stretch a dollar further than anyone. Thus, the husband would be wise to humbly turn the responsibility of the family finances over to his wife. For some men that might be a fearful thing because they might think they are loosing control of their life.

16. Read Ephesians 5:28. What does it mean for a husband to love his wife as he loves himself?
Ephesians 5:28 "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

Why is it difficult to love someone else if you do not love yourself?

17. What is one area in which your spouse is stronger than you in his or her abilities? How could you affirm your spouse in his or her areas of strength?


"After all, no on ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church" (Eph. 5:29). Husbands are told to love and care for their wives to the degree that Christ loved the Church. That's a tall order; however, it is easier done when the husband has an intimate relationship with God and His Word.

18. What are some things that can build a hedge of protection around your marriage?

19. Read Eph. 6:10-18. In what ways could a husband apply each piece of the armor of God to protect his wife and family?

Belt of truth

Breastplate of righteousness

Shoes of the gospel of peace

Shield of faith

Helmet of salvation

Sword of the Spirit

God knows all of the potential pitfalls and dangers in life that can snag your daily steps, so He urges husbands to feed and care for their wives by building a hedge of protection between the world's disarray and their Christ=centered marriage. This hedge of protection can include conflict-resolution skills, financial planning and Bible studies (like this one!) - anything that strengthens your bond with your spouse and with God is another branch in your hedge of protection.


The husband is also admonished "to make [his wife] holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph 5:26-27) This is probably the most important - and most difficult - role for a husband to perform. He is ordained to be the spiritual leader of the family.

20. Even the most important relationship in your life should not be more important than your relationship with God. Who or what comes first in your life?

21. How can a husband follow the instruction in Eph. 5:25-33?

God designed marriage to be an equal partnership in which each spouse takes on a different set of responsibilities. While the husband is called to put aside his own interests to care fo rhis wife, the wife is called to willingly follow her husband's lead. When each spouse willingly assumes his or her God-given role in the marriage, each will be uplifted and gratified in the relationship - as God designed.
This is a handout we got at our MOPS Bible Study to go with one of our discussions. We are going through a book called A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. There is also a Growth and Study Guide to go with the book. I'd HIGHLY recommend both books, the chapter book and the Study Guide for newlyweds as well as ladies who've been married many many years. ~ Sarah

Christ-like Submission

1 Peter 2:21-36 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbnad so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

And let not your adornment be merely external - brainding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry; or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear."

3:1 "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands..." This points us to the verses 2:21-23, in the same way as "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps..."

How can I follow Christ's example in submitting to my husband?

Christ's example of submission to God
Submission: the willing and positive response of a subordinate to the authority, the conscious choice of yielding to the will of the authority

Christ committed no sin (2:22)
Example: Am I "committing no sin" with my husband? Do I have wrong attitudes, bitterness, etc? Am I choosing to submit to the authority of my husband with a Christ-like attitude, or am I complying on the outside with an incorrect heart attitude?

No deceit was found in Christ's mouth (2:22)
Example: Is "no deceit found in my mouth?" Am I exaggerating facts? Am I manipulating? Do I have any hidden agendas?

While being reviled, Christ did not revile in return (2:23)
  • revile: to insult, to call bad names, to treat as vile, repulsive, or disgusting
Example: When my husband "reviles me", am I "reviling in return?" Am I finding justification for my own wrong attitudes and actions by blaming my husband and focusing on his fauilts?

While suffering, Christ uttered no threats. (2:23)
Example: When "suffering," am I "uttering any threats?" Am I threating the silent treatment, withholding favors, making him pay, etc.?

Christ kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (2:23)
Example: Am I keeping my mind, that is not just a man to whom I am submitting, but that I am obeying God? Am I remembering that I can submit to my husband, knowing that in doing so I am entrusting myself "to Him who judges righteously." Therefore, God will take care of me.

By living out Christ's example of submission, even if any of our husbands "are disobedient to the word," they will "be won without a word by the chaste and respectful behavior of their wives." (3:1-2)

The thought of submitting to our husbands in this way goes against our natural instinct, however, as "holy women of the past" did, we are to be submissive to our own husbands, doing "what is right, without being frightened by any fear." (3:5-6) When we entrust ourselves to "Him who judges righteously" (2:23), there is no room for fear.

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All glory, honor and praise to Jesus Christ our Lord.
Serving the Lord together since Dec. 2002!!