WHY “MUTUAL SUBMISSION” IS IMPOSSIBLE
By Bible Love Notes
When our culture rejects biblical principles, false teachings in the church often follow.
That’s why it’s become increasingly popular to ignore, redefine, or deny biblical submission in a marriage.
Before we go further: I’m not discussing abuse where husbands mistreat their wives or treat them like inferiors. That’s not biblical submission.
Everything can be abused. For example, some parents abuse their children, but we don’t characterize parenting by its abuses, nor have we given up on godly discipline.
If we reject submission because of its abuses, then we might as well reject every biblical principle because all of them can be abused.
In addition, let me say upfront that biblical submission is never submitting to ungodly requests. Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
The most important reason we submit to our husbands is out of respect for our Lord, trusting that He knows what’s best for us. So we would never obey an ungodly request from our husband.
Sadly, there’s a popular false teaching in the church that goes something like this: Ephesians 5:21 says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and that means husbands need to submit to their wives and wives to their husbands, so we need to quit talking only about wives submitting. (example of this false teaching.)
Wrong! Ephesians 5:21 addresses a type of submission that is required of all Christians. It means we humbly honor people in positions of authority whether government, church, employment, etc. A submissive attitude also keeps us from viewing situations from a selfish perspective (Philippians 2:1-5).
How do we know that verse 21 is talking about this general attitude of submission to authority and others? Because it’s impossible for everyone to be submissive to everyone else. “Mutual submission” is an oxymoron.
Submission means yielding to someone and letting them take authority. It’s impossible for two people to mutually yield to each other, both being in submission and both being in authority in their relationship.
Claiming Ephesians 5:21 is referring to the same type of submission as Ephesians 6:22-24 is like comparing “love your neighbor” with “love your spouse” and “love your enemy.” There are different types of love and different types of submission.
Furthermore, if Ephesians 5:21 were the only type of submission God requires, there would be no Ephesians 5:22-23: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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.” If we are going to claim that a husband is in submission to his wife, we must likewise assume that parents are in submission to their minor children! But just as Ephesians 5:22-23 clarifies the wife’s position, Ephesians 6:1 clarifies the parent-child position. The minor child obeys their parents, the adult child honors their parents (Ephesians 6:2).
The wife’s role is not inferior to her husband’s, but it’s different.
It’s similar to business positions: A mature, well-educated engineer submits to the decisions of his boss. He may actually be smarter and more godly than his boss, but he submits to his boss because of his position in the company.
Having been married for over 50 years, I can testify that biblical submission has added beauty, protection, and solidarity to my marriage. I am a strong-willed woman, very opinionated and passionate. But submission is a blessing, not a curse. I find great comfort and protection in it, and I see God’s wisdom in it. See my Insights from 50 Years of Marriage.
Women are not less valuable, less intelligent, or less capable than their husbands. Wise husbands understand their need for their wife’s input and insights. See Women’s Intuition.
But men and women have different positions in the family. And a wife’s position of influence is every bit as meaningful and powerful as her husband’s position of authority. See For the Love of a Woman.
So choose this day whom you will follow: God or the world. One choice leads to wisdom and blessings, the other to loss (Joshua 24:15).