When people talk about the word submission in the Bible, they often bring up Ephesians 5. Truth be told, this chapter has much to say about how to live as a Christian. It talks about not being drunk, being wise, worshiping together and being thankful. Then, it says in verse 21:
Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
In the very next verse it goes on to talk about husbands and wives. It says, wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.
It seemed odd to me that we would be told to submit to other Christians in the same way we should submit to our husbands. If submit really means what we think it does. Right? Like, if he is my “master” or “decision maker” or “boss” why would we submit to every single Christian out there?
Study the Bible, don’t just read it
So, I started to do some digging. If you really want to understand the Bible it is important to not only read it, but to actually study it. Learn the context of the verses – what was happening when it was written. Look at the original language it was written in, Greek or Hebrew, and find out what words were used and what those words meant.
Sometimes in English we have one word for something, and the Hebrew may have multiple words for it. For example, we have one word for love, but there are multiple Greek and Hebrew words for love and each means something a little different.
Submit is a military word
When studying this particular book of the Bible, we need to be aware that the entire book of Ephesians uses military metaphor. It closes with the most obvious military metaphor in the book…putting on the armor of God. The chapter uses words like domain and prisoner throughout.
So, I can’t help but wonder what is meant by the word submit in this chapter. When I searched the Greek lexicon, I found that submit here is the word hupotassomai, which is a combination of two separate words:
- Hupo, means under
- Tasso, which means to arrange in ordered formation to confront an enemy
The term hupotassomai is a military term used to say:
- Draw up in order, appoint, assign
- Appointed, designated, determined, devoted, established, commissioning
Do we submit in marriage?
When we marry we are devoting ourselves to our spouse. Some scholars and theologians actually believe this scripture is saying to us to take up a formation, get aligned for defense. It is referring to the spiritual defense OF our husbands. And in turn, our husbands do the same for us.
When I read this I was actually so mad at the enemy. I felt like he has twisted this scripture to bring animosity between married people for years. There are men who have used this to rule over their wives, and wives who have used it as reason to turn away from the Bible because it oppresses.
But what it is actually saying is, do spiritual battle for your spouse! Get in formation to fight off the enemy for and with them.
And, actually, to do the same for other Christians. We are supposed to be using our weapons to fight for each other. Not with each other.
Is the husband the head?
The next line in this scripture says: the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (verse 23)
And so we need to look at the word head as well. It is the Greek word kephale which means head. So in writing it translates exactly. But in meaning it does not. In ancient Greek the word head did not mean “master”.
It meant source. As in the source of a spring. So, it is thought that it was either referring to Adam and Eve, and women literally coming from man. Or to the cultural truth that women did not work in that time and men provided for the women and children. Which makes sense, as it says in verse 29 “but provides and cares for it”.
Even the most basic of creatures will fight to protect the source of it’s life. Right? Yet so many women destroy that source. I think it’s because we don’t really understand what God is saying to us here.
Proverbs 14:1 says a wise women builds her house but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Or perhaps with her own mouth or her own attitude.
My personal application
As I was studying this God reminded me of a dream I had a few years ago. I was walking with my husband in a neighborhood. There were stores and houses etc. I was barefoot. We were on our way to find a shoe store to buy some shoes for me. We came to an intersection with a stop light for both directions. We could see the shoe store from where we were waiting for the light to change.
While we waited a group of guys came up and started beating my husband up. They were beating him to death. I stood there and watched and didn’t do anything. Startling, I know.
Back then, I thought the whole dream was about me not being spiritually “covered” by my husband. But as I studied this portion of scripture, I realized that while he was being attacked I did not line up in formation. I didn’t take my position to defend him spiritually, or confront the enemy. I expected him to cover me, but I did not take up his defense.
It hit hard.
I now see something I did not see when I had that dream. I can feel bad about it, feel like I missed it, or I can take this knowledge and act on it.
What can we take away?
We read in verse 21 that as Christians we are supposed to do spiritual battle FOR each other, AND together. How much more the people we live with and will do life with forever?
This isn’t to make you feel bad if you haven’t been praying for your spouse, but rather to help you to see clearly that you have the authority to do so. God has given you military orders to do it.
Women, he has designated you as a soldier to fight for your husband. He has appointed you to that position. You’ve literally been commissioned to do battle for him, and him for you.
Thankfully, I somehow figured out along the way of life that I need to pray for my husband regularly. I figured out that I can take authority over the enemy on his behalf, and he can do the same for me.
I wrote a prayer from scripture that I pray for my husband daily. I made it available to you on my Facebook page. You can get it below! Feel free to download it, screenshot it, change it to fit your life.
Photo by Pixaby