Ephesians 5:22: Wives Submit to Your Own Husbands
The war of the sexes goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis chapter 3 we see the fall of man in sin. We see the first sins of the first husband and wife. Adam tolerated the serpent questioning God, and passively allowed the serpent to mislead his wife failing to defend her. Eve presumptuously taught the serpent taking the lead not deferring to her husband’s authority. Adam failed to lead, teach, defend and punish. Eve failed to get permission, clarification and help. Both wanted to be like God; both questioned God and both abandoned their God given roles. After they sinned they both felt guilt and shame and attempted to cover their nakedness. They sensed the vulnerability and threat where once they had security in one another. They felt alienated from each other and defensive towards the other and no longer felt safe. Both hid from God as they hid from each other.
God came looking for the man of the house 3:9 and then confronted and cursed them for their sins. There are so many things in these curses that we have to overlook but let me draw your attention to one verse that foretells the war of the sexes for all of history. 3:16, ‘To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”’ There we see God prophesying the conflict sin will introduce into marriage, the wife will ‘desire’ her husband. To understand the word desire you need to turn to Gen. 4:7 where sin is described, ‘If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”’ This is prophesying the women’s desire to rise up from her role as a helper and usurp her husband’s role. The other part of the verse describes men domineering and ruling over their wives. Submission in the hands of sin will be distorted, and headship in the hands of sin will become distorted. The tendency of sin in our hearts leads us to deny those God given responsibilities. The wife will be tempted to disrespect her husband and attempt to rule him; the husband will be tempted to not lovingly lead. The words submission and headship are now hated words and robbed of their beauty and meaning. But Christian marriage is God restoring the original beauty of what men and women ought to be in a marriage. We can see in Ephesians 5:33, as Paul summarizes the take away from this section how Paul is seeking to address these exact issues, ‘However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’
As we continue our study of Ephesians 5 we turn now to look at Paul painting the picture of restored submission and headship. That which God originally made in Creation and was ruined by sin is now restored in redemption. The intended roles are outlined as they are imaged in the relationship between Christ and the church, the fulfilment of what Adam and Eve marriage pointed to. We will begin by looking at the role and responsibility of wives.