Pastor David B. Curtis

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Wives Hupotasso!

Ephesians 5:22-24

Delivered 11/02/2014

Does that title sound harsh to you? If it does, it is only because you have a non-biblical view of submission. I suspect that the feminist movement has infiltrated the church much more than we realize. These verses are teaching a divinely given order in marriage that we are declaring is from Yahweh—and in this world in which we live, when you declare that anything is from God, it is frowned upon. While there are many who do not like what Paul has to say to wives in these verses, there is little doubt as to what he has written. Paul tells the wives in Asia Minor:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 NASB

Before we examine this verse, let's back up a few verses, because none of this is possible unless we are controlled by the Spirit:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB

This is where it all begins. The submission that these verses are calling for is a by product of being controlled by the spirit.

Ephesians 5:22-6:9 are extremely practical, Paul is showing us three areas where "the rubber meets the road." These three areas are where we have contact with opportunities to show the difference Christianity has made in our lives. They are areas almost all of us have to deal with: our marriage, our home, and our work.

As we look at these areas, you need to ask yourself some important questions: Does your relationship with Christ make a difference in these relationships? What difference does it make? Paul gives us some practical instruction that will enable us to have relationships that honor Yahweh.

Paul starts with the marriage relationship. Have you noticed that marriage has been disparaged in our society? It has been and continues to be. Many are saying that marriage is no longer a viable institution for our contemporary cultural patterns of living.

When you look at the statistics that show that half of all marriages end in divorce, you may be tempted to think that they are right. Something certainly has gone wrong in marriage. Yet, people still get married!

People get married, because marriage fulfills a need in our lives. We have a need for companionship. Yahweh mentioned this need in the Garden of Eden. He said that it was not good that man should be alone, and so He created a woman for the man. We need to remember that Yahweh instituted marriage. He performed the first wedding ceremony. He gave the first bride away:

The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:22-24 NASB

Marriage is a divine institution. It is not something society invented, and therefore, society cannot define it. Yahweh has defined marriage as the joining of a man and a woman for a life time. That's it, nothing else is marriage. Yahweh invented marriage, and He has given us instructions for it. The problem usually is that we are not willing to take His advice. Instead of doing things Yahweh's way, we do things our way and usually mess them up.

We saw in our last study that one of the results of being controlled by the Spirit is submission:

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:21 NASB

Some have derived from this verse the teaching of "mutual submission," that every believer must submit to every other believer, and they apply this to the domestic relationships that Paul is about to discuss. But the word translated "submit" (hupotasso) regularly functions to describe a one directional subordination to another's authority, rather than a symmetrical relationship.

By definition, mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences. In other words, if mutual submission is a reality between husband and wife, then it's a contradiction to say the husband has a special responsibility to lead and the wife a special responsibility to support that leadership and help carry it through. If this is teaching mutual submission, then parents can tell children when to go to bed, but children may reply, "Fine, but you should go to bed, too." No, it doesn't work that way.

Paul makes a general call to all Christians to submit to one another in whatever hierarchical relationships they are involved in. He then gives three specific examples of relationships in which submission of one party is required.

So submission is a result of the Spirit controlled life, now Paul explains this submission and how it works out in the family. In chapter 5 and verse 22, right through to chapter 6 and verse 9, Paul gives us the household code, he cites three specific areas in the Christian home where submission is the will of God. The first instruction here is given to wives. They are told to:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 NASB

This verse literally reads, "Women, be subject to your own men, as to the Lord." The Greek language has no distinctive terms corresponding to our words wife or husband. But the reference to married persons is unmistakable.

Many say that the verb "be subject" is in italics because it is not in the Greek text, but is carried over from verse 21. Although the verb is missing in some manuscripts, it is included in the majority of manuscripts from the earliest times. And if you question that in the parallel text in Colossians 3:18, the words "be subject" are there:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18 NASB

The words "be subject" are from the Greek word hupotasso, which comes from two Greek words: the word hupo, which means: "under," and tasso, which means: "to set in place." In other words, the word means to set something in place up under something else. In the context it is talking about submitting to the authority of another. So Paul is saying to the wives, "Be willing to place yourself in a position under your husband, who is the authority of your family. Be in that position of being submissive."

Hupotasso is in the present tense indicating this is to be a wife's lifestyle. The mood is imperative, indicating that it is a command. Finally, it is in the middle voice, which signifies that the wife initiates the act of submitting and participates in the effects or results of her submission. It conveys the idea of the wife putting herself under the authority of her husband, not by compulsion, but willingly. Middle voice also conveys a reflexive sense & can be translated as "subject yourselves." In any case, the idea of submission of the wife is that of a voluntary attitude and action based upon one's recognition of Yahweh's ordained order, and it cannot be forced upon her against her will by a demanding despot.

Paul says that the wife is to submit to her "own" husband, as opposed to men in general. It is significant that whenever the New Testament addresses the subject of Christian marriage, it always commands the wife to be subject to her husband, using the same verb as here. But it never commands the husband to be subject to his wife.

Submission is lining up under authority and involves respect and obedience. Notice what Paul says when he sums up his counsel in verse 33:

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33 NASB

He repeats that the husband is to love his wife (from verse 25). But rather than saying that the wife must submit to her husband, he says that she must respect him. So we could say that submission involves respect.

Often commentators will make a distinction between submission and obedience and say that wives are never commanded to obey their husbands. They claim that the word "obey" does not appear in Scripture with respect to wives. They use as their argument that children and slaves are called to hupakouo, which is obey, but wives are called to hupotasso, which they say is not obedience. But notice what Strong's Concordance says about hupotasso: "to subordinate; reflexively to obey—be under obedience."

When we submit to someone who has authority over us, our submission in part should be evidenced by obedience. When commentators state: "The word 'obey' does not appear in Scripture with respect to wives," they must miss that fact that the Bible uses hupakouo ("obey") when it speaks about Sarah in 1 Peter 3:5-6:

For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive [hupotasso] to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed [hupakouo] Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 1 Peter 3:5-6 NASB

Peter writes that Sarah obeyed (hupakouo) her husband. Then, he says that women are to follow her example. This necessarily implies that we must equally apply hupakouo (obey) to all wives. In addition, the verse itself either equates hupotasso (submit) with hupakouo (obey), or assumes that hupotasso (submit) implies hupakouo (obey) since it says, "They were submissive (hupotasso) to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed (hupakouo) Abraham and called him her lord." These women were submissive, like Sarah, who obeyed. Thus, the two terms seem to be used synonymously.

Paul says that the wife is to be subject to here own husband "as to the Lord"—who is the Lord in this phrase? Thomas Aquinas, among others, argues that a wife is to be subject to her husband "as a lord." Since the adverbial phrase "as to the Lord" in the two other uses in the New Testament (Eph. 6:7; Col. 2:23) refers to Christ and not to man, it is reasonable to think that it also refers to Christ here. Again, if we look at the parallel text in Colossians, it helps clear it up:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18 NASB

"As is fitting"—is the Greek word aneko, which means: "something is fitting or right to do and is what is proper or is one's duty." Aneko is used of actions that are due someone; it conveys the ultimate meaning of moral obligation:

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do that which is proper [aneko] 9 yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you— since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Yeshua- Philemon 1:8-9 NASB

The contextual use of aneko denotes not merely that which is fitting, but that which is almost legally obligatory or a necessary duty. In this use in Colossians, aneko is in the imperfect tense, which speaks of an action going on in past time. The Greek form in this phrase expresses an obligation, It is how Yahweh designed and commands the family to operate.

Listen, wives, the reason why you are to submit to your husband is not because he is such a wonderful guy, it is not because he deserves it. You know very well that sometimes your husband does not deserve anything from you! The reason why you are to submit, is not because HE deserves it, but because our Lord Yeshua the Christ deserves it. It is because you have died and have been raised with Christ that you are to set your mind on things above and put to death the things that belong to your earthly, sinful self. And out of your gratitude toward Yahweh, you can submit to Him, in the name of Yeshua, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

It's not because you love your husband that much, but it is because you love Yeshua that much. That is the key. As I love the Lord Yeshua, I am willing to do whatever it is He tells me to do. A wife's love for Christ motivates her to submit. So, she looks in God's Word. She is a student of Scripture. She can't be Spirit-filled if she is not, because the Scripture has to play a role in our obeying the Lord Yeshua the Christ. She gets into the Word, and she knows that Ephesians 5:22 says:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 NASB

Yeshua said in John 14:21, "If you love Me, you will obey Me." She says, "Out of loving You, Lord, I am going to do what You have told me to do." That is the motivation of submission—it is "as to the Lord."

Now the society that Paul was writing to in the city of Ephesus, was within the bounds of the Roman Empire, and we need to understand the cultural backdrop that there was there. A woman within that society was unimportant, they had no authority in the home, the only duties that they had were preparing food and bearing children. Men could do as they pleased within the home in Rome. But a Christian home, a home that was now coming on the scene through Paul and the preaching of the Gospel within the whole of the Roman Empire—this was a new thing, this was a new man, a new people.

Within the New Testament you find the elevation of women to a position of honor, respect, and dignity, which was a product alone, not of the women's liberation movement, but the product of Christ and Christianity:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. Ephesians 5:23 NASB

First let me say that this is NOT a command, it is a statement of FACT, "The husband is the head of his wife." Some husbands are weak, ineffective, and just plain lousy heads of their wives, but they are still in that position of authority. Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership.

"The husband is the head"—what is meant here by "head," which is the Greek word kephale? Those of so called "evangelical feminism" say that "head" does not carry the meaning of leadership or authority at all. Instead, they say it means: "source," somewhat like we use the word "fountainhead" or the "head of a river."

Wayne Grudem did a study of the word kephale in the history of the Greek language. And every time it doesn't speak of a specific task, like the head waiter, every time it is used in terms of relationship, it always means: "authority," always. It never means anything else. Kephale metaphorically means: "government, or authority." "Head" here clearly means authority. Notice how Paul uses it in:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23 NASB

Yeshua is head over all things to the Church. Now look as our verse again:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. Ephesians 5:23 NASB

The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ also is the head of the Church. "Head" here means: "authority." In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul declares the principle of headship that is to govern the people of God for all time. Here is the principle:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB

The word "head" here is the Greek word kephale. Now when "head" is used, figuratively, as it is here, it refers to priority in function. That is what the head of our body does; it runs the body; it is in charge; it is the direction setter of the body. Used metaphorically, therefore, the word "head" means primarily: "leadership," and thus it is used in this passage.

Now the statement is clearly made that Christ has a head, and his head is God. And the statement is made that we have a head, and our head is Christ, and the woman has a head, and her head is the man.

Now, let me ask you a question, as evangelical Christians: if God is the head of Christ, are we to assume, then, that Christ is inferior to God? No, absolutely not. We know the Scriptures teach us that Yeshua is the second person of the Trinity, and He is equal with the Father in all of the things that make up deity. And yet at the same time the Father is the head of Christ.

The hierarchy here is God, Christ, man, and woman. God and the Messiah are equally divine, but there is a subordination of function; so too, man and woman are spiritually equal, but one ranks above the other in function.

So when Paul says to the wife, "submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord," he means simply submission, and not inferiority. It does not suggest in any way that the woman is inferior to the man, but she has a certain relationship for a specific purpose.

At the end of verse 23 Paul says, "He Himself being the Savior of the body"— most commentators understand that this clause refers solely to Christ, but some see this as referring to both Christ and the husband. I see it as referring solely to Christ, because the personal pronoun autos in apposition to Christ is emphatic by its presence and its position. This personal pronoun emphasizes Christ's exclusive work as savior of the body. Plus, nowhere in the context is the wife viewed as the husband's body:

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:24 NASB

I really don't think any Christian would argue that the Church is to submit to Christ. Anybody want to argue that? You read through the feminist literature that wants to overturn all of this, and you won't find anybody, any evangelical, saying, "Well, the Church doesn't have to submit to Christ at all." Well then if the Church is to submit to Christ, then the wife is to submit to her husband, because that's what it uses as the analogy, the model.

In what area are wives to be subject to their husbands? In what areas is the Church to be subject to Christ? In everything! That of course is everything that is not unbiblical.

We need to notice something very important about this passage. Who is it addressed to? It is addressed to the wives. It is not addressed to the husbands. This is very important. What usually happens is that the husband reads the instruction addressed to his wife and reminds her when she is not living up to it (in his view). Is it illegal to read someone else's mail? Well, it should be illegal in this case. Husbands, this is not written to you.

Submission is not a command for the husband to enforce. There is never even a hint of such an idea in the Scripture in which a man, through conniving, brute force, manipulation, or mind-control, can bring his wife into submission. It is not something the husband demands of his wife any more than she makes the demand that he love her. So, we are not looking at ways to bring a wife into submission as we consider our text. In this verse Paul is addressing the responsibilities of the wife.

Women, please understand that this text in Ephesians is not an isolated text. This is not the only time in the New Testament that wives are told to submit to their husbands. The idea of the wives submission is taught all through the Bible. This submission is not only to be seen in the home, but in the church also:

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 NASB

These verses give us the woman's role in the church. She is not to rule or be a teacher over men. Her silence is that of not being a teacher. Many today would say that this is cultural. But Paul, in this text, says this is how God designed it from creation:

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:13-14 NASB

Let's go back to the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:

For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 NASB

Here Paul gives the reasons for the woman's subjection. Adam was formed first—Man was made for God, the WOMAN WAS MADE FOR MAN. Do you believe that? Yahweh could have created Adam and Eve at the same instant by speaking the word, but He did not. He created Eve out of Adam.

She was to be a helper suitable for him, to assist him in his God-given tasks. So the roles in marriage are not culturally determined, but rather ordained by God at creation. Specific duties in a household are flexible and can be worked out in a marriage for the mutual good of the couple. But the role of the husband as head and the wife as subject to him are fixed.

The priority of creation places man in a position of authority over the woman. Eve was made for the sake of Adam, to be his helper:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:18-24 NASB

She is to be his helper and his glory:

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:7 NASB

The principle of headship is something true from the beginning of mankind. By virtue of creation, there is a difference which puts the man above the woman in terms of function, a difference we should never forget.

Man is uniquely created to bear the image of God as a ruler who was given a sphere of sovereignty. Both men and women were created in God's image, but as Paul points out in verse 8, the original creation from the "dust of the ground" was Adam only. Eve was created later from part of Adam himself. The male was given the dominion and authority over God's created world and is, by that fact, the glory of God.

Woman is the glory of man, woman was made to manifest man's authority as man was made to manifest God's authority. The woman is viceregent, who rules in stead of man or who carries out man's will, just as man is God's viceregent, who rules in His stead or carries out His will. Charles Hodge says, "She receives and reveals what there is of majesty in him. She always assumes his station; becomes a queen if he is a king, and manifests to others the wealth and honor which may belong to her husband":

For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;1 Corinthians 11:8 NASB

The man was created directly for God; the woman, on the other hand, was made for man. She was created on his account, and not he on hers. God could have simultaneously created Adam and Eve as He did the animals, but He created Adam first, then Eve. God made this distinction for all times, and with it He reveals His design and purpose for the sexes. Woman was created under the headship of man

It's interesting that the church and also the woman were formed out of a husband. In the Torah, when Eve was created by God, she was created out of Adam. God took the rib of Adam, and out of the rib of Adam formed Eve, his wife. Paul uses that as a reason for submission: she has secondary existence from Adam.

The church, similarly, has come into existence. For the church is the product of the work of the Lord Yeshua the Christ. Just as Adam was by God put in a deep sleep, divine anesthetic, and out of that picture of death Eve was created, so Yeshua, on Calvary's cross, there died for sinners that out of His death there might be created the basis for the existence of the Christian church. So both the wife and the church have been formed out of their husbands.

Women's subjection is tied to creation, and it also ties to the fall:

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:14 NASB

Eve was the first to fall. Eve's fall occurred when she ignored her divinely ordained position. Instead of following, she chose to lead. Women, do you see the seriousness of not submitting to your husband?

Romans 5:12-21 places the blame on Adam; he followed his wife. Men, God created us to be the leaders. When we fail to do this and follow our wives instead, it causes numerous problems. Eve needed protection, she needed a head. She acted independently and was deceived and fell. The fall was caused by a violation of God ordained roles of the sexes; she took authority, and he submitted.

Turn with me to Titus where we see the seriousness of submission:

that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Titus 2:4-5 NASB

The word "subject" here is hupotasso. Ladies, when you don't submit to your husband's authority, you are dishonoring the Word of God.

Now let me say this again, Submission is not Inferiority! The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is one God who subsists in three persons who are themselves equal in power, in authority, in the possession of the divine attributes. To say that submission means inferiority is heretical, because it would imply the inferiority of the Son to the Father, because the Son submits to the Father.

The submissive wife makes a choice to place herself as an equal underneath another equal, her husband, in order that there can be order and function in the family. If you want to have a properly functioning family, wives, you yourself make up your mind you are going to live in the state of submissiveness to your husband, no matter what he is like.

It is really clear in the Scripture that the man's responsibility is to lead, and the woman's responsibility is to submit. I think that most Christians understand this, but I also believe that in most Christian homes the woman is running the show. She is not submitting, she is leading. It is a constant struggle, and there can only be harmony when believers are controlled by the Spirit of God. Submission is a sign of the Spirit's control in your life.

Paul wants wives to know that that is not only how God has made things to be, but He has made things to be that way for their good. His is the divinely given order of the household, and when His order is reversed, when these roles are reversed, just like with Adam and Eve in the fall, it always results not only in the destruction of the man, but in the self-destruction of the wife. And so he calls for a recognition of the divinely given order of the household.

Single ladies: The husband is the established authority under the laws of divine order. Any woman thinking of marriage should think twice before she agrees to marry any man. She should ask herself the question, "Do I want to be under this man's authority for life?"

How can you tell who's the leader in the home?

1. Who is making the decisions—leaders make decisions. This does not mean that a husband must make every decision, but he is responsible for every decision made. With the children, if a husband and wife disagree on a certain course of action, whose decision should be followed? Leaders make decisions as to the finances, the church, the schooling of the children. Women, how do you respond when your husband makes a decision that you disagree with? Do you line up under his authority?

2. Listen to the speech—those in submission don't give imperatives. You don't tell your commanding officer, "Get me a cup of coffee." You give commands to subordinates, not authorities. Does your speech betray you?

According to Paul, there is no possibility of a married woman's surrender to a heavenly Christ, which is not made visible and actual by some submission to an earthly husband. This directive is not mine, not the Puritan's, it's not even ultimately Paul's. And when it is ignored, it does not make life better for women, it actually makes life worse. And I would argue that many of the stresses and strains on family life today are precisely due to disagreeing or ignoring this particular biblical directive.

Whether our culture agrees with Scripture or not—whether we agree with Paul or not—the clear teaching of this text, supported by other equally clear instructions from Scripture, is that wives are to be subject to their own husbands in everything.

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