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Breaking the Stigma of Biblical Submission: What Biblical Submission Is and Is Not

Clearing up the stigma behind what it really means to be a submissive wife

Biblical submission is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts of the Bible.  One that has caused many women to bristle just at the very thought of it, and one that causes mockery from those outside of the faith regarding "weak-minded Christians".  In today's post, we will break the stigma of Biblical Submission and look at what it is and is not.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22

What Biblical Submission is Not

Looking at the mainstream definition of submission, I can see why women would bristle at the thought of submitting to their husbands.

submission: the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

When looking at this definition from the point of view of what Biblical submission is NOT, I would highlight the following:

Biblical submission is not:

  • submitting to a husband who rules with unrealistic expectations of you
  • submitting to a husband who isolates you
  • submitting to a husband who tries to control and manipulate you
  • submitting to a husband who physically or emotionally abuses you
  • submitting to a husband who degrades you
This is NOT God's intention for Biblical submission.

If you find yourself in chronic situations like these, seek the counsel of your pastor or one of the women in your church.  If you are not a Believer, seek the help of a trusted friend or family member. 

The hope would be that ultimately your church or a counselor would be able to step in to implement a plan to help bring restoration to the marriage, and a healthy Biblical mindset concerning the role of a wife and Biblical submission.  

Biblical Examples of Submission

Before I talk about what Biblical submission IS, it is important to lay the framework of Biblical submission in general...

The Lord does not ask us to do something HE has not already done...

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Philippians 2:5-8

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
John 13:12-17

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, 
and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
Luke 22:24-27

The Holy Spirit is also called the Helper.

 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, 
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
John 14:26

When we look at submission in the context of the Godhead, we see it as something to be grasped, a way to emulate Christ.  Jesus submitted to the Father as the Holy Spirit submits to the Father, both of whom submit because of their great love for US.

What Biblical Submission Is

Now that we have put submission into its proper Biblical context, we can view our original definition in a different light...

Submission:  the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

Karen's paraphrase...

The act or fact of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the God of the Universe, who calls His children to seek and yield to His will as the Perfect Authority and loving ruler of their lives, who bought them with His own blood because He loves them with an eternal love. 

When we submit to our husbands in the manner in which Jesus and the Holy Spirit submitted to the Father, we will have put into practice what Biblical submission is...
I believe the best example of what Biblical Submission is, would be the Proverbs 31 wife...  

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

As we see here, the Proverbs 31 wife is Biblically submissive, but is still equal to her husband.  She is the epitome of a helpmate who ensures that her husband and family lack nothing.   She shows that a submissive wife truly is a high calling by God and one that should be considered an honor to uphold.

As wives, we can show the world what Biblical submission is by loving and submitting to our husbands joyfully as to the Lord and bringing glory to God.

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  1. This is so beautiful, sweet friend. When God is at the hub of a marriage and the husband loves his wife, it is such a vivid portrayal of Christ and His church. We are blessed to have the Godly husbands we have. It makes it a joy to submit to them in the true, Biblical sense. Thank you for explaining this so perfectly. God bless you today!

    1. Hi Cheryl! Indeed, a Godly marriage is a beautiful portrayal of Christ's love for the church.

      We certainly are!

      You are very welcome sweet friend. :-)

      Sending you much love.

  2. Not enough can be taught on this subject. Feminism has so warped the understanding of what a marriage is supposed to look like. Paul tells us marriage is to be an echo/shadow of the relationship of Christ and his bride, the church. He then gives us this directive, "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ", (Eph 5:21). It is not meant to be a burden or even one-sided but rather a beautiful dance of serving and being served in tandem for the glory of God. Thank you for tackling this subject.

    1. Thank you for sharing such a perfectly articulated comment to add to the conversation. I appreciate your words so much and whole heartily agree!

      You are very welcome! :-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. Great post! Love Proverbs 31! For sure an accurate depiction of biblical submission.


    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. Hi Patsy, Thank you!

      And thanks so much for pinning.

      You are very welcome! :-)

  4. Great post! My favorite book on this subject is called, "Me? Obey Him?" She gives in-depth biblical answers to all the questions nonbelievers ask like, "What if your husband tells you to get an abortion?" and she does it in an easy to read and understandable way.

    1. Hi Janine, Thank you!

      Oh! I hadn't heard of that book before. It sounds like a great resource, especially for the very difficult scenario that you shared from the book and I'm sure others. Thanks for sharing about it here!

      And thanks so much for stopping by. :-)

  5. This is a very misunderstood concept. Great job tackling it.

    1. Hi Lauren, Indeed!

      Thanks so much!

      And thank you so much for stopping by. :-)

  6. Because this is so musunderstood, a lot of women's heckles rise needlessly. We love God and we submit to Him. We love our husband and submit to him as unto the LORD. I am so glad you mentioned biblical submission is not submitting to a husband who physically or emotionally abuses you. That would be a stumbling block to many....

    1. Hi Glenys, Thank you so much for adding to the conversation here. I appreciate it!

      And thanks so much for stopping by. :-)


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