Print This Page Print This Page

‘AS TO THE LORD’ – Ephesians 5:22-24

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 19, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; July 19, 2017 from Ephesians 5:22-24

Theme: The wife is to reflect the submission of the church to Christ in her relationship to her own husband.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

We come this morning to a passage in our study of Ephesians that absolutely must be handled with great care. Because of negative experiences and cultural sensitivities, it has often been either cruelly mishandled or fiercely rejected. Rarely is it reverently understood.

As he was writing to believers about their call to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), Paul explained what the manifestation of that filling would look like in practice. He said in verse 21 that it would involve “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord”. And then, in a section that deals with mutual submission in a variety of relationships (5:22-6:9), Paul urges wives to be subject to their own husbands in the Lord.

The word that Paul uses for “to be subject” or “submitting” is upotassō; and it means to be subordinate to or to be subject to the authority of another. Many have objected to this teaching of Paul; fearing very sincerely that its misuse is inevitable. But keeping some important things in mind will help prevent that from happening:

  1. It is not describing something that can be done in human power, but is dependent upon divine enabling as a product of being filled with the Holy Spirit—both on the part of the husband and the wife.
  2. It should never be understood as a command to wives alone, but ought always be seen in unity with the complementary (and much more detailed) command of the husbands to love their wives as Jesus loves His church.
  3. It is a command that the wife should ultimately be submitted to the Lord Jesus first, and only secondarily be submitted to her own husband as an act of loving obedience to Jesus.
  4. It is not a command that singles wives out for submission alone, but is part of a longer command for all believers—men and women, children and parents, masters and servants—to be appropriately submissive in the different human relationships in which God has placed them.
  5. The command of the wife to be submissive to her own husband is not the ultimate concern—nor is the command of the husband to love his wife; but rather, both are meant to be a symbolic picture of the much greater and more glorious matter of the Lord Jesus’ mysterious relationship with His bride, the church.

In our next session, we’ll focus on Paul’s command to the husband. But for today, notice Paul’s instruction to wives in terms of …


Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The way that this is actually worded in the original language is not “wives submit”, but rather beginning in verse 21, “submitting to one another in the fear of God … wives to one’s own husband …” In other words, Paul carefully phrases this command as a part of the larger context of mutual submission in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Note that this is not a command for ‘all women to be submitted to all men’ (which is an utterly unbiblical idea); but specifically for a wife to be submitted to her own husband—but not to anyone else’s husband. This passage does not place women under men. When it comes to her own husband, the apostle Peter put it this way:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Note too that Paul’s instruction is that she be submitted “as to the Lord”. It’s not that she is to put her husband in the place that only the Lord should occupy; but rather, she is to enthrone the Lord Jesus as Master in her heart, and then submit to her own husband in obedience to her true Master—respecting his position as she would respect the position of the Lord Jesus over her.


The word “for” in verse 23 indicates the reason behind the command: “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church …” The husband (whose responsibilities are addressed in verses 25-29) is in the same position toward his wife as the Lord Jesus holds toward His church—that of being “head”. “Headship” should not be understood to mean a position of dictatorship however; because that’s not how the Lord Jesus exercises His headship over His bride. He has a true position of authority over His bride; but as is shown in the verses that follow, He uses that authority to serve and make sacrifices for His bride so that He may beautify and fulfill her.

This means that the submission of the wife to her own husband is not merely a culturally-based thing, but is rather a theologically-based thing—something timeless, universal, heavenly, and not subject to cultural changes and demands. (Though it is a passage that requires a good deal of prayerful reading and careful interpretation, Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 concerning ‘head-covering’ deals with the concept of the headship relationships between the Father, Christ, the man and the woman.)

To help us understand how Christ exercises His headship to His bride, Paul adds, “and He is the Savior of the body.” This helps us to appreciate that Jesus’ relationship as head to His bride is one of love toward her, and care for her, and for the ultimate perfection and glory of her. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:22-23, God placed all things under Christ’s feet, “and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Just as the church is that which is the fullness of Christ—the ‘body’ to His ‘head’—so the wife is to submit to her own husband, in the fear of the Lord, as she who is the ‘fullness’ of her husband; who, in turn, is also to honor and glorify her, and give to her whatever will beautify and fulfill her.


Paul introduces verse 24 with a Greek word that is translated “thus”—indicating a statement of purpose; and the words “just as” speak of a comparative analogy: “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Her submission to her own husband is never to be a thing done in and of itself, but always with the view of keeping true to the picture of Jesus’ eternal relationship with His church, and of imitating the church’s submissive relationship to Jesus. It looks ahead to that glorious event we read of in Revelation 19:6-9;

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:6-9).

The wife’s submission to her husband is to be based on her husband (whether he is worthy or not), but rather on the basis of Jesus; for earthly marriage is designed by God to be a picture of the profound relationship of Christ to His bride—and not the other way around.

But what if the husband commands his wife to do something evil or immoral? Is she required to submit to him then? Paul says she is to be submissive “in everything”; but it must be understood that in all such things, she submits to her husband “as to the Lord”, and “in the fear of God”. In primary submission to the Lord, she is to submit to her husband in all things—except for sin.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the classic movie “Rocky”, when Rocky Balboa explained to her brother why he liked Adrian, he said, “She’s got gaps, I’ve got gaps. Together, we fill gaps.” May it be that wives become submitted to their own husbands in the reverent fear of the Lord, with their husbands also sacrificially loving their wives in the reverent fear of the Lord; so that together—in perfect complement to one another in accordance with the design of God—they fill gaps.

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.