Posted by: Ety W. | June 26, 2008

Submission To Whom?

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This is part 6 in a series on Biblical Submission. To start at the beginning, click here.

Having spent the last several posts focusing on the word “subject / submit” (starting here), I’d like to turn our attention to the rest of the phrase under study.

To be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Titus 2:5 (NASB)

To their own – Strong’s 2398 -ιδιος – idios = pertaining to self, i.e. one’s own

Sadly, I’ve seen this little word overlooked when it comes to interpreting this phrase. Why is it important? Because of what this phrase doesn’t say. It does not say that women are to be subject to men, it says that wives are to be subject to their own husbands.

True, the Greek word for husbands here is “man.”

Husband – Strong’s 435 – ’ανηρ – aner = a man. Translated as man, husband, fellow, sir.

In the context of this verse, it refers to a woman’s husband.

This is reinforced by cross references:

Wives be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord. Eph. 5:22

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands….. 1 Peter 3:1a

What this points to, is the uniqueness of the marital relationship, not an inequality of the sexes. The division within the church is not between men and women, but between couples.

Christians are to show respect to one another, no matter their place or position. Yet within the church, the relationship of husband and wife is unique and privileged. It is to be an illustration to the world of the relationship of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33).

The question for each one of us is then, when people look at my marriage, what do they see? Does it give them an accurate picture of Christ and the Church? Probably not, especially if our husbands are unsaved, backslidden, or spiritually immature. What then? Unfortunately, no one of us can change another person. No amount of reasoning, nagging, coaxing, or putting down of one’s foot will change them. In fact, when we use these techniques, what does the world see? They see one partner trying to dominate the other. There is no equality in that.

If you’ve hung in there with me and read through this series on submission, then you know that the Bible never teaches dominance in the husband/wife relationship. Rather, it teaches the laying down of one’s life. Indeed, Jesus said this proves that we belong to Him (John 13:34-35). Husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives (Eph 5:25), wives are to lay down their lives for their husbands (Eph. 5:22), and neither one is conditional on the other.

Easy? No. When I’m struggling with this, the following verses help. I hope they will be of help to you too.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant… Philippians 2:3-7a (NASB)


  1. Over and over again I keep coming back to that passage in Philippians.

  2. Me too. And for so many different types of situations and people. In fact, if it wasn’t for that passage, I would have blown it many a time!

  3. Ety and Razzler,
    I think that passage in Philippians should be included in every marriage book, and used more often at weddings.
    Somehow, I find it offensive if preachers choose Ephesians 5 for a wedding. My dad had a few words (in private) for the preacher after my wedding. He said he thought it’s not the right place to “lay down the law” for marriage.
    It takes a lot of Bible study and a desire to know what God means with some of the commands.
    I know I wrote my vows to include what I thought they should include. Thankfully, I’m rebellious enough not to add “obey”!!!! haha

  4. We had the traditional vows, but left obey out.

    That passage is definitely good for weddings. In fact, it’s excellent for any aspect of Christian life. We had 1 Corinthians 13 for our wedding – love.

  5. Madame, I agree about Bible study and the desire to understand what God is truly talking about. What I’ve realized though, is that usually we only research what we don’t understand, and neglect what we think we we know. That’s why a book or topical study is so much fun; they often times open up new meanings to the things we misunderstood.

    Razzler, the passage from 1 Cor 13 is an excellent practical application of the one in Phil 2. I try to keep that one in mind at all times also. Especially the parts about being kind and patient (!) (Patience is not one of my strong points) 🙂

  6. What I’ve realized though, is that usually we only research what we don’t understand, and neglect what we think we we know.

    That’s true….

  7. Since I do not believe in slavery, I would never have a christian marriage. Please see my post in the last section to see the harm these “submissive and head” verses can do to some people. Thanks for listening

    • Tanya, it’s hard to know how to respond since the Bible does not teach this. I read your comment, and hopefully you’ve read my response. I would love to be able to open up the box of your thinking and let you glimpse the things I could show you. It would require you’re being wiling to let go of the definitions you hold tightly to however.

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