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Biblical Submission: Interpretive Study

Updated on July 26, 2012

Is this possible? Is it Biblical?

I want to talk about a topic that unfortunately has been taken out of context frequently in Christian circles. The idea of mutual submission, not only in the marriage relationship, but also in the work world. and with the parents and children. I will be examining this misconstrued aspect with a biblical perspective through the eyes of Paul as he wrote to the church of Ephesus. Is this idea of mutual submission possible and Biblical?

Lets take a look at Ephesians and find out.

Contextual Verse

When Christian circles discuss the idea of submission in Biblical terminology, they will usually go to the passage in Ephesians 5:22-30. This is a great pasage of scripture, and I will also be analyzing this passage. However, verse 21 is oftentimes missed or if touched upon, not touched upon in any depth. In introduction I will be looking at this verse and how it plays a big role in this idea of mutual submission not only in the marriage relationship.

"submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Ephesians 5:21 shows the believer how these three roles of submission(marriage, work world, and family) are carried out.

  • How does the wife submit to the husband?
  • How does the husband love the wife?
  • How does the employee submit to his/her employer?
  • How does the employer treat his./her employee?
  • How does the child submit to his/her parents?
  • How does the parent submit to his/her child?

These questions can all be answered with a proper understanding of this verse.

" submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

By submitting one to another. Everyone is called to be submissive; it is just worked out in different ways.

Now before I go on it is crucial to note that this submission will be utterly impossible if submission to God first is nonexistent.

Ephesians 5:21 calls for the aspect of mutual submission, where each party considers others better than his/her self. Whatever role we have been given, whether it be the husband, the wife, employer, employee, parent. or child, we must learn to accept out of a love and respect for the Lord.

Mutual Submission in a Power-Hungry World

Everyone has a little bit of a pride issue; it just depends on how open and honest we our with ourselves and whether or not we want to admit it. It is embedded in our human nature, the desire to be in control, to have power. So how do we balance this yearn for power in our everyday relationships? It is by learning the ability to be mutually submissive.

Marriage Relationship

How is this idea of submission carried out in the marriage relationship?

Let's analyze Ephesians 5:22-30 briefly.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."

Why is mutual submission so vital in the marriage relationship. Because a society that does not love, protect, and cherish this relationship will inadvertently be threatening its existence. Think about it? Is not one of the goals of a maariage to teach your children how a husband and wife are to treat each other with sacrifial love? When marriage fails, the family falls apart, and when the family falls apart, the society follow right behind it.

So, now that we see the importance behind this aspect, let us take a glance at the passage and see what it says.

The wife is supposed to submit to the husband in everything, according to verse 24. Oftentimes, this word submission in context of marriage is misconstrued. It does not mean inferiority, but rather in refers to a willing submission. The submission of the wife ought to flow out as a voluntary response to God's will. It is the idea of being willing to give up one's own rights, in this case giving up rights to the God-ordained authority, the husband.

So if the wife is supposed to submit to the husband, what is the husbands duty/obligation to the wife?

Ephesians 5:25 states, " Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The husband is supposed to love his wife with a sacrificial love. Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up. Now we al know that in most situations the husband will not have to literally give up his own life. But, in reality, the lesser sacrifices are more dificult because of the human nature to be prideful. John MacArthur puts it this way,

"Husbands, when you put aside your own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare to please your wife and meet her needs, then you are truly dying to self to live for your wife. And that is what Christ's love demands"

Now that is sacrifical love. When the husband loves his wife this way, it will make it ten times easier for the wife to be in submission to him. It is this idea of working together or submitting to one another according to Eohesians 5:21.

The passage in Philippians 2 sums this idea up when it states,

"complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others"

Work World

The main idea for this hub was to convey the importance of mutual submission in the marriage relationship, so I will be briefly discussing the same idea in the work world and in the family.

Ephesians 6:5-7 states,

"Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man"

How does the employee submit to his boss? He submits with a sincere heart. What this means is that he does not pretend to obey or pretend to respect, but instead completely obeys. He also works unto the Lord and not unto man. How do you actr when your boss is not around? You should act the same when your boss is not around and when he is looking over your shoulder. There should be no middle ground.

How does the employer treat his employees? Ephesians 6:9 states,

"Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him."

The employer should not be opverbearing, tyrannical, and even partial, but instead caring and loving. It is dificult for the employee to respect an employer who is overbearing and who has no care for his employees. So it goes both aways. Again, it is this idea of mutual submission. Both parties have a role to play.

Parents and Children

I am sure we are all familiar with Ephesians 6:1-3, but sometimes the following verse is not preached or lived out, so I will highlighting that in bold print.

" Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

The child's role in this mutual submission idea is to simply love his/her parents. SImply said but rather dificult to live out. No matter what, the child is to love his.her parent. The parents know best, and although at the time, it may seem "dumb" or "not fair", it is in the child's best interest to obey. But, if this submission is mutual, what is the parents role? The answer to this question can be found in the bold print.

The parent must not provoke his children to wrath. What does that mean? How often does a parent make a rule, just because they can? The parent should be patient with his children and avoid unreasonable harshness. And when the child goes against his/her parent in disobedience, the parent must correct out of love and compassion, not of anger. When the parent acts in this way, it DOES make it simple for the child to obey!

Closing Thoughts

Forgive me for being brief in my last two points; they could be separate hubs, but at this time I thought it relevant to put them all together. I may separate the three categories at a later time.

Before I conclude, I would like to refer back to the questions I posed in the beginning.

Is this idea of mutual submission Biblical and possible? Yes, of course it is, if we are carefully applying Ephesians 5:21 to our lives.


well, are we submitting to one another in reverence to Christ? Like I all ready made clear, we must first be in submission to Christ for this work out in these other areas of our lives.

No matter what stage of life you are currently in , whether it be a marriage relationship, the work world, or family, there is a universal call to mutually submissiver; it is just carried out in different ways.

What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you agree? Please share your thoughts!

What do you think?

Is this idea of mutual submission plausible?

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    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Thanks so much Faith! Your comment was very encouraging! :) Thanks!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Josh, I believe you may have missed your calling as a pastor, as you have gotten His Word down at such a young age. Awesome!!! I am glad I met you via Hub Pages, and you are a role model for young people and for all of us. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Yes, Suzette, I know what you mean, it is definitely not a perfect world, and nothing works out perfect, but yes if only we all could get rid of our pride! Simple to say and hard to do huh? Thanks for reading and leaving such an insightful comment!

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks very much Tammy for beginning to be a loyal follower, I really appreciate it! :) I have all ready bookmarked one of yours and will be stopping by shortly!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      8 years ago from Taos, NM

      I have read this passage in the Bible and I agree with it. In a perfect world this would work. But, it is not a perfect world, and not all people have read this or believe this is the way to go. I have experienced too many abusive bosses, a former husband, and parents that did not understand this passage in the Bible. I wish I could find someone of the same mind as is this passage. I agree with your point though, if we could give up our pride and selfishness, which is not hard to do, and live as simply as this, there would not be contention and conflict in the world. Great hub and as said by others so thought provoking!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      This discussion can lead into brave new territory. Very thought provoking. Voting up and sharing.

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you very much Christine, glad it touched you!

    • Christinme profile image


      8 years ago

      Touched my heart , thankyou. May God bless you for your wisdom Josh . xx

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you very much for that kind and compassionate response to my hub. I really appreciate it!

    • Rina Pinto profile image

      Rina Pinto 

      8 years ago from Dubai - UAE

      Ahaa! so ashamed that i have not been a good mother nor a good wife .. but i am beginning to walk and not by my self but by the Hand of the Almighty Yahweh .. I am humbled and i am asking more of this into my life. I am not worthy of nothing but yet Jesus shows me He is faithful and still Loves me and yes my weakness are before me and my God .. I see my weakness stripping one by one by the Power of His Love for His Mercy endures for Forever. I no more condemn my self i see me Now as a New creation in Christ Jesus. Thank you Holy Spirit for showing all weakness and hidden sins. I am glad I belong to Jesus Proudly.. Amen!

      We need to heed to God's tender and yet a Powerful Rebuke through men of God .. God Bless you Dear Josh3418

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You are most certainly welcome, glad you enjoyed it; I think the problem these days is that is so misunderstood and misconstrued, especially in the marriage relationship!

      I am not saying I have all the answers(I am not married and am only 25) but I do know however, that Ephesians 5:21 is oftentimes misinterpreted in its proper context) Thanks for your visit!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      8 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for a lot of good stuff to ponder. And yes, mutual submission not only is possible but necessary.

    • josh3418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you very much CVB, I appreciate the vote and compliments! I graduated with a degree in youth ministry last year. So we shall see what happens.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      8 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Number 5's a good 'un, Suhn!! ;) Voted up, useful, and interesting. When you're not hanging, video-ing, etc. what are you preparing to do with your life? Wouldn't have preacher in mind, would you? Psalm 32:8 is my request for you, Josh! Enjoy your day!!


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