May 26, 2014


Photo Credit: Branden Harvey
We don’t hear too much about submission anymore. And if we do, it’s usually a command to the wife, to submit to her husband. Still, this is considered a bit archaic in today’s modern culture.

Submit to one another.

But what does the Bible say? Before the section on marriage in Ephesians 5, we read in verse 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

So should a husband submit to his wife? Yes. He submits to his wife’s need to feel loved. I take this position by combining God’s command in Ephesians 5:21 to mutually submit, with God’s command in Ephesians 5:25-31 to a husband to love his wife.

Juxtaposition, a wife submits to her husband's need to feel respected. I take this position by combining God's command in Ephesians 5:22-24 to a wife submitting to her husband, with God's command in Ephesians 5:33 to a wife to respect her husband.

Submit during conflict…really?!

Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved.

We asked 7,000 people this question: When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected? 83% of the men said "disrespected." 72% of the women said "unloved."

Though we all need love and respect equally, the felt need differs during conflict.

What might happen if we submitted to one another’s “felt need” during a heated argument? What would that even look like?

I think we know what it wouldn’t look like.

It wouldn’t look like name-calling or yelling derogatory insults. It wouldn’t look like letting our anger get out of control at the expense of our spouse. And it wouldn’t look like “winning at all cost”!

Keeping in mind our survey, if 83% of the men are feeling disrespected during conflict with their wives, then a wife submitting to his felt need during conflict would mean getting her point across respectfully, rather than with contempt and insults.

And if 72% of the wives are feeling unloved during conflict with their husbands, then a husband submitting to his wife’s need to feel loved during the conflict would mean communicating his points lovingly, not with harshness and anger.

Don’t submit when…

But let me also be clear about when not to submit. The Bible never instructs us to submit to sin. When there is sin and disobedience, a spouse must respectfully and lovingly confront the sin. To look the other way or to ignore the sin in the name of “submission” is wrong, and actually condones and enables the sin to continue. Ephesians5:11 says we are to have nothing to do with deeds of darkness, but must expose them.

The key is to confront lovingly and respectfully rather than with anger and contempt.

Does God really call a husband to submit to his wife?

Yes. Peter says in 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive." Then, and this is the clincher, he writes in 3:7, “You husbands in the same way.”

To what does he refer when writing “you husbands in the same way?” In the same way that wives submit, you husbands submit. Specifically, in this text a husband submits to his wife’s need to be understood and honored.

It gets even better. When a husband submits this way, God answers the man’s prayers (3:7). Talk about favor!

Husbands, he favors you when you submit to your wife’s need for love, understanding, and honor. Don’t let this frighten you. Instead, try this and watch God show up. You do not lose power but experience power!

You will not lose power.

In the same way, wives will not lose power when they submit to their husband’s need for respect. In fact, unconditional respect is a wife’s secret to power and influence in her marriage.

Thus, submission is defined as respect from the wife to the husband (especially when she's feeling unloved) and love from the husband to the wife (especially when he is feeling disrespected). We submit to God and to our spouse in a way that is contrary to our nature but which empowers us with benevolent influence.

Husband and wife, will you submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?

The marriage that is based on mutual submission will experience God’s power!



Mr. Taranza Crutchfield said...

Thank you Dr. Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs
Subject: Submitting to each other in Christ.


Thank you for this insight.
May God Bless You and The Works of Your Hands.

Very Respectfully,
Mr. Taranza Crutchfield

Anonymous said...

great read and thanks on "when not to submit" portion!!

Anonymous said...

Great article and thank you for the "when not to submit" segment too!!


Hungry for Examples said...

"The key is to confront lovingly and respectfully rather than with anger and contempt."

Whatever way you choose, confronting will NEVER be seen as loving!

Unless you give step by step detailed how to with several examples, your statement is merely to tickle the ear.

FundamentalGeek said...

I kinda understand the need to waterdown the biblical doctrines of submission these days, but your interpretation of Ephesians 5:21 would also call for parents to submit to their children (eph 6:1) and masters to their servants(6:5). 5:21 is obviously a general admonition to all believers to submit to their own rightful rulers in the fear of God, not for everyone to submit to everyone else ad infinitum.

breakfreerut rut said...

"The key is to confront lovingly and respectfully rather than with anger and contempt."

Whatever way you choose, confronting will NEVER be seen as loving!

Unless you give step by step detailed how to with several examples, your statement is merely to tickle the ear.

FanoftheGoodShepherd said...

Fan of the Good Shepherd
To Emmerson and Sarah -thank you for sharing an old misinterpreted concept so well.
To Fundamental Geek - sheep submit to the Good Shepherd and have their needs met. The Good Shepherd has committed to care for the sheep -He leads by example and doesn't expect them to go where He will not lead. He evaluates their needs by watching and listening to them. When sheep go astray He fetches them and carries them on His shoulders - He is even willing to lay His life down for them. In this sense - He serves and submits to His sheep - even if He is the Leader.

To submit to another means ( according to my dictionary) : to yield to another's opinion or wish or control. Also to refer to another for judgement or consideration. Which parent shouldn't consider their children's opinions or feelings or judgements? Which shepherd would last if sheep didn't follow him? Any organized system must work for the good of all - none should be abused - thus we must submit to each other, consider each other, serve each other and communicate.

Anonymous said...

You have erroneously defined the word, "submission" to mean; "to be ruled". Allow me to lead you to one of several examples of what submission means. If you read the story of the Last Supper, Jesus' example of washing His disciples feet gloriously defines submission. The Ruler of Heaven and Earth humbly submitted Himself to the principles of love and service. Your definition of submission is " to subjugate" which by all purposes is a sin.

FundamentalGeek said...

To Fan...
To submit for judgment or consideration would more properly be understood as submitting an entry for an art contest or such like. Nevertheless there is truth in what you say, yet as the head of the wife, the husband bears the greater burden of rule in the home. As believers will stand before Christ and give account, it will not be an excuse to say 'the woman thou gave me, I was submitting to her like you said'. A curious aspect of love is that sometimes it appears as hate in the eyes of the recipient. Much like children will recoil from chastisement in horror, yet the bible tells us to spare not for their crying and that to spare discipline is actually hate, not love. Thank you for replying.

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