There has been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the passage in Ephesians 5:22 instructing wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. But no one ever seems to bring Ephesians 5:21 into the discussion which tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

How do we reconcile the two? Doesn't Ephesians 5:21 apply to husbands and wives?

  • 3
    Well, in the same way that Jesus submits to the church, yes.
    – Richard
    Sep 14, 2011 at 19:50
  • 2
    @Richard "Jesus submits to the church" What??? Aug 26, 2012 at 7:23
  • @MonikaMichael: see my answer for an explanation of what I think Richard is getting at. Aug 27, 2012 at 2:03

3 Answers 3


Husbands are not called to submit to their wives. That doesn't mean he uses his authority over her in a domineering way. In fact, Paul goes on to describe how a husband should love his wife, which would include how he uses his authority. That is, he should love her like Christ loves the church.

Paul relates the submission of wives to the way the church submits to Christ:

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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Eph 5:22-24).

Note the key word "For" at the beginning of verse 23. Its a grounding word and indicates that what comes next is the purpose for what is before it. That is, wives should submit to their husbands because the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. If the husband is the head, the wife cannot also be the head. Someone has to lead the marriage and God calls men especially to that role.

If you are going to say that husbands should submit to their wives, then using Paul's logic in the above verse (and therefore God's), you would also have to be saying that Christ should submit to the church. Is anyone willing to make that argument? Then you should be careful when arguing that husbands should submit to their wives.

The main problem with the mutual submission argument is an incorrect reading of the text, missing the intention of the original Greek word and context:

So what reason can people give to argue for the "mutual submission" interpretation in Ephesians 5:21? Their argument is based on the expression, "one another" (the Greek pronoun allelous). Here interpreters say that the pronoun must mean "everyone to everyone" (that is, that it must be "exhaustively reciprocal," which means that it refers to something that every single person does to every single other person). To support this view, they quote a number of verses where allelous does take that sense: we are all to "love one another" (John 13:34) and "be servants of one another" (Gal. 5:13).

But here is the crucial mistake: interpreters assume that because allelous means "everyone to everyone" in some verses, it must mean that in all verses. When they assume that, they simply have not done their homework-they have not checked out the way the word is used in many other contexts, where it doesn't mean "everyone to everyone," but "some to others."

That quote comes from Wayne Grudem: http://www.rockvalleybiblechurch.org/ResourceLibrary/MythOfMutualSubmission.htm See that article for a more thorough explanation and discussion of this topic.

I understand men have often abused their authority and their wives under the pretext of the authority given them in this text. There is no excuse for their behavior and they will have to give an account for their actions. But, nothing is made better by gutting the meaning of this text. The meaning is clear, wives should submit to their husbands, and not the other way around. If you don't like that, ok, let's discuss that. But let's not try to make the text say what it doesn't say or prevent it from saying what it does say.

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    Thumbs up! Clearly the Apostle follows the submission of the wife beyond the normal 'one another' approach as you say. If Eve was the federal head, then the world would have fallen into sin through her, but she was not. A women's desire is for her hudband as it says in Genssis, why else do they like all those romatic movies? - they want their husbans love, not their submission. Women want to submit to a man's love. Men do not really crave that, but they do crave a woman to submit to their love. Funny in Asia people do not question this - it only seen as natural.
    – Mike
    Aug 27, 2012 at 11:45

Yes, husbands should also submit to their wives. This verse is often taken out of context and should not be.

Verses 25-33 also always seem to be left out. How hard would it be for a wife to submit to a husband that loves her as he should love Christ? I'd say a husband who holds Ephesians 5:22 over his wife probably has not read past it.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (ESV)
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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    This verse says nothing about submission -1 Sep 15, 2011 at 15:00
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    It says. Christ says that He came to earth to serve not to be served. So if husband is to love his wife as Christ loved church - he must serve her.
    – zefciu
    May 24, 2012 at 6:59
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    Show me one verse that says husbands should submit to wives. "Submitting to one another" does not mean everyone submits to everyone else. If you keep reading in the passage, it further defines who should submit to who. See my answer for a more full explanation. Aug 27, 2012 at 1:31
  • @zefciu serving ≠ submitting
    – Geremia
    Jan 3, 2016 at 4:24

I think in relationships we naturally submit to each other all the time. But sometimes men are wrong, as they're just human, so submitting to a man just because he's a man is not always logical in regards to his decision making or leading or authority as some people think these verses mean (and yet none of those words are written). But submitting as in being loving and respectful well that makes sense. I think it generally means to co operate and don't be self seeking and if both genders do that then thats best.

  • 1
    Is this what the text is arguing though? The text says a wife should submit to her husband "in everything." If someone doesn't like that, ok, but it is what the text says. So, IMO, you aren't submitting to a man because he is a man. A wife is submitting to her husband because her Lord has told her to. Thats a big difference. Aug 27, 2012 at 1:42

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