“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25)
In our modern society, the traditional roles of husband and wife are coming under scrutiny and even opposition. Much of this, unfortunately, stems from one spouse abusing their position in the relationship to an unhealthy degree, leaving a power struggle between the man and woman that goes back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:16).
But the New Testament paints a different picture under the lordship of the risen Christ, which opens up the discussion of mutual submission.
#1 Made for Support and Companionship
As we have observed, the root cause of the dynamics between man and woman goes back to the first days of creation. When God made Adam, the only thing that was not “good” in His creation was the fact that man was alone among the created beings (Genesis 2:18). When the woman was made out of Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22), she was originally created to be a suitable companion for him. This does not mean that God is insufficient for our needs, but that man and woman are meant to be together in this life.
Matthew Henry wrote of the creation of Eve that the woman was “not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” This view is what biblical scholars call “complementarianism” because man and woman are meant to complement each other.
#2 Marriage as Submission and Care
This passage in Ephesians is traditionally one read at marriage ceremonies in the church because it gives the soon-to-be husband and wife a model to follow in their relationship with each other. In this passage and others, the husband is identified as the leader in the marriage (Ephesians 5:23-24). But husbands are given a strong charge to care for their wives in a sacrificial and mutually submissive way (Ephesians 5:25).
This notion of mutual submission can be skewed to see husband and wife as equals, despite the direct statement by Paul (under the divine inspiration of God Himself) that the husband is the head. However, any apparent discord or confusion is easily cleared up when we consider that mutual submission is required of every Christian (Philippians 2:1-4). We are all called to submit to one another in love and care for the others’ needs above our own.
#3 Mandate for Support and Consecration
This is nowhere more true and necessary than in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. This does not mean that husbands should yield every time there is a disagreement because that would undermine his authority and rights as a spouse. Rather, it is an expression of his love for his wife that he cares for her so. He is called to love his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:28), which is the natural extension of Jesus’ greatest commandment as it relates to our fellow human beings (Mark 12:31).
The husband is called to not only love his wife but also to build her up and lead her in their spiritual walk together. Paul describes the beautiful analogy of Christ and the church, how Jesus purified the church to present her as holy and blameless before the Father (Ephesians 5:27). This points to the new heaven and earth, where the church will be presented as a radiant and spotless bride to reign with Christ forever (Revelation 21:2, 9).
So this submission is not one of yielding authority or ignoring God’s commands. Instead, it is the love of someone who does not consider authority something to be wielded as a weapon or as abuse, but lovingly treating her as a created being of precious value and worthy of care and devotion. This goes beyond infatuation, emotion, or physical expressions of love but speaks to a deep connection between two spirits that are joined forever in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24).
#4 Model for Sanctification in Christ
Through it all, the husband is called to love his wife – and, truthfully, all human beings – following the example of Jesus Christ. He submitted His legitimate will and authority to the Father, died on the cross for our sins (Philippians 2:5-8), and gave us the example of how we should live our lives.
This example is best lived out in a marriage relationship when the husband remembers how he and his wife have both been redeemed from sin and raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4). When he sees his wife as a treasure to be grateful for and not just a conquest or possession, he will have a better perspective from which to love her selflessly and seek to support her emotionally, provide for her materially, encourage her spiritually, and love her unconditionally.
Scripture clearly states that the husband is to be the head of a marriage relationship. But rather than become a cause for resentment and jealousy, the husband is also called to a sacrificial and submissive love that cares for his wife more than himself. By doing so, he honors both his wife and the God Who gave her to him.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.