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Women should submit to their husbands? What the Bible REALLY means

Ephesians 5:21-33 tells us the truth about submission between men and women.

Many people struggle with difficult topics in the Bible. One of these virtually taboo topics is Ephesians 5:22, which reads, “Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord.”

This passage is often misunderstood, particularly when paired with the following verse: “since, as Christ is the head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands, in everything.”

When the topic of anyone being submissive comes up, people often cringe. Of course people, men and women alike, rely on Ephesians 5:22 to explain away abusive or unhealthy relationships, but what does the Bible really mean?

When read in its entirety, Ephesians chapter 5 from verse 22 to 33 reads:

“Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord,
since, as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife;
and as the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands, in everything.

“Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her
to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words,
so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless.

“In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself.

“A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church,
because we are parts of his Body.

Husband and wife. Husband and wife.

“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh.

“This mystery has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church.
To sum up: you also, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.”

When read like this, the message suddenly becomes clear.

Women are no lower than men. If women are to submit to their husbands, who treat their wives with the same respect and reverence he does the church, then women are man’s equal.

We are all part of the Church, and Christ lives in us all. Men must love women as much as they love themselves and every wife must respect her husband as much as they respect the Church.

Neither sex is superior or inferior. When we respect and love each other, we develop an identity that cannot separate husband from wife.

The Lord did not create us to be dominated by one another, he created us to live our lives according to Christ’s example. Remember this and stand tall in your relationships.


 

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)









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7 comments

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Why then is it a sin for a woman to deny her husband sex? Google “Catholic marriage debt.” I can’t find the article, but I’m pretty sure another author pointed this out on this very forum in another article. A woman MUST submit to her husband’s demands for sex in the Catholic Church, or she commits a grievous sin. There are a few short term exceptions, but giving her husband sex is her duty in the RCC, as best I can tell.
    .
    The convoluted babble in the article here is intended to hide the fact that the RCC is utterly sexist, following in the footsteps of Yahweh for whom women were essentially chattel. The RCC basically condones rape – forcing married women to have sex against their wishes. Even Mary wasn’t asked for consent…

    1. Mae Saba Reply

      I’m not Catholic so i’m not going to pretend to be an expert in that regard but if ANY church says that then it’s a gross misreading of 1 Corinthians 7 where a wife and husband belong to each other and to not deprive each other of sex as sex deepens their relationship with one another and the only time they should is to give each other time to deepen their relationship with God through prayer.

  2. Katrina Fowler Reply

    A man should also not deny his wife. For her body is as his body, and his body is as her body. Both husband and wife belonging to one another, and not denying the other. Remember to read the bible, and not just trust what someone tells you. Also don’t forget to pray for understanding.

  3. Mae Reply

    Just out of a genuine desire to understand the passage and after reading through Eph 5..

    Wouldn’t it be more in line with the passage to say that men should treat their wives with the same sacrificial love that Jesus displays for the church/His people (i.e. taking the punishment on himself when justice needed to be served for our refusal to acknowledge God as God) (Eph 5:25-27) rather than men who ‘treat their wives with the same respect and reverence he does the church’? As well as loving their wives just as they would love their own bodies and just as Christ loves the church as if we were His own body? (Eph 5:28-30).

    And that wives should submit to their husbands just as the church submits to Christ (in acknowledgment of his sacrificial love to them and to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour) (Eph 5:22-24) rather than ‘wives should respect their husbands as they respect the church’?

    The first line of this part of the passage is “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21) and the chapter itself starts off with “Follow God’s example… just as Christ loved us” (Eph 5:1-2), the passage is so magnificent and rich and points to God’s example and Jesus’ sacrificial love over and over again that I feel it would be a great injustice to simply view marriage as man loving the church and women respecting the church. How wonderfully rich a marriage would be with Jesus at the centre of it! Where a man loves his wife as much as Jesus would die for His people and a woman would love her husband as much as the church understands the gravity of Jesus’/God’s sacrifice and love.

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      The first place to start is with a critical examination of the text of Ephesians. Most non-religious scholars, and many religious scholars today are pretty sure it wasn’t written by Paul. The battle between Ebionites, Marcionites, Theodocians, various Gnostics and the proto-orthodox resulted in “forged” texts like the Tims and Ephesians, which were designed to “fix” and bring into evolving theological alignment what would eventually become “orthodoxy” which in turn became the Catholic Church – and that means women had to be subservient, as the Catholic Church morphed into an unnatural, disordered institution manically obsessed with sex. It’s clear from Paul’s real writings – those that almost everyone agrees were written by him – that he was not sexist enough, and as a result, he had to be massaged with redactions and fake Epistles in order to bring him into the proper “orthodox” viewpoint. Many if not most scholars (particularly non-religious scholars who have an axe to grind) think Ephesians was written a couple decades after Paul’s death.
      .
      What we absolutely know for sure is that we don’t know. We have no originals of anything, and most of our copies, are copies of copies of copies of copies dating hundreds of years after the events in question, at a time when everything was hand-copied, and scribes freely redacted (altered) texts in order to make theological points. We know this beyond any shadow of doubt given all the copies we have that contradict each other.

  4. Mae Breva Reply

    Just out of a genuine desire to understand the passage and after reading through Eph 5..

    Wouldn’t it be more in line with the passage to say that men must sacrificially love their wives just as Jesus sacrificially loved the church (i.e. when he took the punishment that was meant for us for our refusal to acknowledge God as God) (Eph 5:25-27) rather than ‘husbands, who treat their wives with the same respect and reverence he does the church’. And that they should love their wives just as they would their bodies and just as Christ loved his people whom he considered to be part of His body? (Eph 5:28-30)

    And wives should submit to their husbands just as the church submits to Christ in reverence of His sacrificial love and in acknowledgement that He is God? (Eph 5:22-24) rather than ‘every wife must respect her husband as much as they respect the Church’.

    I just feel like it would be a great injustice to simply say we should respect and love one another and that we are all equal when the passage is so rich and unapologetic in it’s pointing to Jesus and God as the centre of it all over and over again! The first line of this section of the passage states ‘submit to each other out of reverence for Christ’ (Eph 5:21) and the first few lines of the chapter itself is ‘Follow God’s example.. just as Christ loved us..” (Eph 5:1-2).

    Rather than just simply respecting and loving one another, how rich and wonderful a marriage would be where Jesus’/God’s love was in the centre instead! Where a husband loves his wife as much as Jesus would die for His people and a wife loves her husband as much as the church understands Jesus’/God’s sacrificial love. A magnificent picture of constantly building each other up and both looking to God together than settling for looking only at each other in search for ‘equality’.

  5. Mae Saba Reply

    Just out of a genuine desire to understand and be true to the passage and after reading Eph 5..

    Wouldn’t it be more in line with the passage to say that a husband should love his wife sacrificially just as Jesus loved the church sacrificially (i.e. when he took the punishment meant for us for our blatant refusal to acknowledge God as God on himself instead) (Eph 5:25-27) rather than just husbands ‘who treat their wives with the same respect and reverence he does the church’? And that husbands should love their wives as much as their own bodies just as Christ loves his people as if they were (and are) His own body (Eph 5:28-30)?

    And a wife should submit to her husband just as the church submits to Christ in acknowedgement of Christ’s sacrificial love and recognition that He is Lord (Eph 5:22-24) rather than just ‘every wife must respect her husband as much as they respect the Church’?

    The passage is so magnificently rich and unapologetic in it’s pointing to Jesus’/God’s sacrificial love and example over and over again that I just feel like it would be an injustice to only take from it that we are all equal and that we should love and respect one another. The first line of this section of the passage is “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21) and the chapter itself starts off with “Follow God’s example… just as Christ loved us” (Eph 5:1-2)

    How rich and wonderful a marriage would be with Christ in the centre! Where a husband loves his wife as much as Jesus would die and suffer for His people and where a wife is so moved by her husbands love that she would gladly submit and respect him just as the church is so moved by Jesus’/God’s love that they follow Him. Such a wonderful picture of together, looking to God as Lord, the name above every name loving us all equally rather than focusing only on ourselves in search for equality with each other.

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