What Does Submissive Mean in Church and Marriage? (2023)

Marriage is a solemn and holy estate that should not be taken lightly. Today, many married couples still are unable to grasp the true meaning of how to submit in their marriage. Therefore, here are some key points about what submission means in regard to a man and his wife.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Wives Being Submissive?

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24 KJV).

Theologians take two views on this passage and others. Both agree that Christ is the head. Complementarians argue the husband follows, and the wife takes third place in the marriage, but complementarians usually stress that this means husbands and wives are equal yet with different roles. Egalitarians argue that the husband and the wife are fundamentally equal.

Complementarians also note that the Bible teaches that a wife submits to the husband as the husband submits to Christ. Hence, a wife submitting to her husband as her head doesn’t communicate weakness but demonstrates spiritual and natural strength.

What Does the Bible Say to Husbands in the 'Wives Be Submissive' Passage?

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:25-28 KJV).

Christ is the great lover of His church, which is His bride. He loves the church so much that He sheds His blood and gives His entire life for it. Christ’s action concerning the love for His church is a strong teaching example of the type of love God requires men to love and honor their wives. If Jesus can show so much love for His beloved church that He went as far as to die for her, then so it is required that a man should show the same love to his wife.

Husbands are not called to dominate their wives or abuse them. Men are called to love, respect, and cherish their wives. A husband’s love and respect for his wife will demonstrate what love Christ has for His church. If Jesus loves His Bride, the church, so much that He died for it, so must husbands love their wives in the same manner as Christ. They must be willing to sacrifice their all for their spouse.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Being Submissive to Church Leaders?

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your soul, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17 NKJV).

In the above Scripture, Paul encourages the church to obey the leaders God sets over them. Our duty to our church leadership must result in our obedience to them. As we obey the spiritual leaders God placed over us, we obey God and His will.

The leaders have the responsibility to watch out for the congregation. The leaders, therefore, must always be praying for the people. They must encourage and admonish their church members so that the congregation will spiritually mature. Leaders are not called to dominate anyone under their rule; instead, they must treat everyone with the same respect they would have others treat them. Leaders must understand that they are accountable to God and must be attentive to their flock’s spiritual needs.

What Does the Bible Say about Being Submissive to God’s Plans?

Many scripture references in the Bible encourage us to submit to God’s plan for our lives. However, one Scripture speaks out more than all the others:

“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, ”If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV).

When fully sold out to God and His plan, we become God-centered, not self-centered. Denying ourselves for God’s purpose to work out in our lives will make us spiritually stronger. To deny one’s self for the glory of God is to gain heavenly rewards in the afterlife.

What Do We Do When Christians Misuse the Idea of Being Submissive?

Some Christians misuse submission to their advantage. Immature Christians who do not understand the full principles of submission to authority can practice unbiblical principles, causing damage.

When this happens, we can do several things to help bring them on track.

1. Pray for them: prayer is a weapon we can use to destroy the works of Satan and set our brothers and sisters from misuse of submission. In fact, the scriptures continuously encourage us to pray for each other (James 5:16, Ephesians 6:18). We must remember that we all belong to one Body, and if a part of the body isn’t doing well, the entire body hurts. Prayer is what keeps us together and in the right standing with God.

2. We must try to correct them gently: no one is perfect, and if we see someone in the church misusing their idea of submission, Christians on the receiving end may consider submission repressive and reject the idea. We may be able to help them by giving them a gentle correction. Still, though, we must understand that exercising gentleness doesn’t make us weak; instead, it brings across to the person a sort of mature wisdom on our part (Proverbs 15:1-4) and let them know we are trying to help them.

3. We must show them love: Apostle Paul said that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Without love present in us and shown towards those who abuse submission, we can never hope to win them over, and they may forever continue in their folly. While prayer can keep us together, love is that special ingredient that seals up the cracks in any relationship.

4. Explain to them the truth of the Bible on the topic of submission: sometimes, people misuse submission because they lack Biblical teachings. If this is the case, you should try to gently lead them in a study of the Bible to show them where they have gone wrong. However, in pointing out Biblical truths to them, we should remember not to make the mistake of ‘forcing the Word down their throats.’ Instead, we should teach them humbly, knowing that we can be caught in the same trap.

5. Ask them to leave the congregation: when all fails, and the perpetrators will not take heed to corrections and sound doctrine, then the only thing to do is to ask them to leave the ministry (Ephesians 5:11). However, this should only be done as a last resort. Before asking them to leave, leaders should follow Scripture’s guidelines for admonishing people. In admonishing them, the leadership should first have private meetings with the individuals about the matter. Suppose there are no changes in their lifestyle after meeting with them privately. In that case, the leaders should take the matter to a public stage so everyone can understand and not heap up unfair criticism or condemnation on the leadership of the church who are doing their job. If the leaders see no positive changes to the perpetrator’s way of life, they should ask them to leave the congregation. It is to the advantage of the leaders and everyone in the congregation that we see to it that the ministry is presented to God without spots or blemishes (sin).

If we do not ask such people to leave the ministry, their rebelliousness can negatively affect the rest of the congregation. Losing a single member or two is better than losing one’s entire flock.

How Can We Become More Submissive to God and in Marriage?

Becoming more submissive to God and in marriage is a growing process we have to go through. Therefore, here are some quality tips on how to submit to God better and simultaneously submit in marriage.

1. By spending more time in prayer, prayer draws us closer to God: without prayer, we may move away from our Creator and even end up in a backslidden position. Spending intimate times with God in prayer will produce in a wife the zeal to continue in the faith and not stop loving or submitting to the head of the household.

2. By reading God’s word daily: The word of God teaches us that if we have the word in our hearts, we will not indulge in any form of sin (Psalm 119:11). The Bible will teach us how to truly submit ourselves to the Lord and to the leadership God has placed over us. Receiving Biblical knowledge will help us grow and mature so that everything we do in word or deed can please Him. Therefore, receiving godly knowledge from our daily Bible study will help us grow spiritually and produce the will to submit to God in every area of our lives.

3. By fellowshipping together: when spouses spend quality time together, they understand each other better. Distance damages the marriage, while understanding each other strengthens it. Both a complementarian and egalitarian perspective agree this helps spouses become better people. Egalitarians would say greater understanding helps spouses determine what each excels at and should focus on. Complementarians would say greater understanding allows wives to understand how best to submit to their husbands, while husbands learn their wives’ needs to serve them better.

4. By building a strong romantic relationship: strengthening a husband and wife’s romantic relationship will help the marriage succeed. They can keep the romance alive by going out on dates, surprising each other with gifts, communicating often, etc.

Christ is the head of His church, so He loves and cherishes His church. He sets a fine example for us to follow. Likewise, husbands must love, cherish, protect, and care for their wives as Christ did the church. Christ’s relationship with His church shows us the true nature of godly submission to Him and to each other in the marriage. As husbands and wives cohabitate in a bond of unity, the binding cord that holds them mutually strengthens. When this happens, they showcase the loving relationship between Christ and His Bride, the church.

Further Reading:

25 Bible Verses about Equality

How Can We Reconcile Differing Opinions on the Role of Women in Church?

Let's Talk About Submission

Three Sneaky Ways 'There Is Neither Jew nor Gentile' (Galatians 3:28) Gets Misinterpreted

What Wifely Submission Does Not Mean

Have Christians Had Gender Roles Wrong All This Time?

How Did Jesus Address Negative Feelings toward Women (Misogyny)?

I’m a Complementarian Man With an Egalitarian Wife; Can I Pastor?

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Rowan Jordan

Lancelot Tucker is a book author and freelance writer who writes on a vast amount of topics. In addition, he serves as an associate pastor in his hometown, Spanish Town. Lancelot loves to do research and write, and is an avid reader of other authors' works. When not writing or reading, he spends his time reaching out to the less fortunate residing in his community.


What Does Submissive Mean in Church and Marriage? ›

“A submissive wife in a Christian marriage

Christian marriage
According to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1979), reflecting the traditional view, "Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God," "intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is ...
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Christian_views_on_marriage
is a supportive wife. You work together with your spouse, and respect and support him in your marriage.” “Within a Christian marriage, a wife freely expresses her thoughts, trusting her husband's response will lovingly support her and look out after her best interests.”

What does submissive mean in a marriage? ›

Submission in marriage means selflessness, service, accountability, and respect for your partner, which should be mutual; it is not slavery or a woman's call to lose her voice.

What does submissive mean in Christianity? ›

It means humbly sharing your opinion with him. It means not invalidating him, especially in front of others. It means trusting his decision as a leader, while feeling empowered to give your own point of view.

What does a submissive wife do? ›

A submissive wife is a women who, through the contract of marriage, agrees to submit to the will of her husband when their opinions differ. Many cultures and faiths encourage submissive wives, and claim it to be the natural order and/or the will of God.

What does God say about a submissive wife? ›

Wives, be submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head and Savior of the church, which is His body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

What does the Bible say about submission to your husband? ›

Wives, submit to your husbands as 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 Saviour.

What does submitting to your husband look like? ›

Often, submission is learning to consider your spouse's opinion as just as important as your own when making major decisions. It can look like listening as your husband shares the stress of his day, even though your day has been every bit as wearing.

What does submissive mean husband? ›

Being Submissive To Your Husband Means:

Supporting his decisions even when you don't agree. Following his spiritual lead.

What are examples of submissive? ›

allowing yourself to be controlled by other people or animals: He was looking for a quiet, submissive wife who would obey his every word. In the presence of older birds, the younger eagles tend to be submissive.

How does a woman act submissive? ›

The signs of a submissive woman often come with passive-aggressive symptoms. Suppressing desires and opinions doesn't make them go away. The characteristics of a submissive wife often include indirectly sharing negative feelings. They haven't gone anywhere just because she's trying to comply.

Should the husband be submissive to the wife? ›

In Ephesians 5:22-25, Paul directs wives to “submit” to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Traditionally, this text has been understood to teach that a husband should be the leader of his family and that a wife should follow the leadership of her husband.

Does a woman have to obey her husband? ›

to obey their husbands, 2021. Explicit provision in the law that states a woman mustobey her husband, or a provision that states disobediencetoward her husband will have legal ramifications for thewife, such as loss of maintenance.

What do you call a man who is submissive to his wife? ›

Uxorious is usually negative, a way to show that a husband has too much concern for his wife or is submissive to her desires. It's also an increasingly dated, old fashioned word, as a husband is considered uxorious if he lets his wife "control" him.

What is submission in a relationship? ›

Submission is an act that is expressed mutually and voluntarily. Being submissive helps us to be less self-centered and allows us to consider the desires of others. Submission has nothing to do with being weak, but allows us to be strong enough to open our hearts to others.

What does the Bible say about a man taking a wife? ›

Genesis 2:24: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

What is the difference between submission and obedience in marriage? ›

Obedience is following orders, commands or instructions. Obedience does not guarantee a person's willingness to comply with orders. Submission is yielding to power or authority. In submission, a person has respect and love for those in power.

What is love and submission in marriage? ›

The relationship expert who has been married for 28 years explained that there is no hitch-free marriage but there are two guiding principles which guards a godly marriage – Love and Submission. “The man is to love his wife while the woman is to submit to her husband.

What does the Bible say about putting your husband first? ›

Ephesians 5:21-33 CEV

A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.

What does a woman being submissive mean? ›

To be submissive is to obey or yield to someone else. When you are submissive, you submit to someone else's will, which literally, you put your own desires lower than theirs.

Why you should be submissive to your husband? ›

Submission in marriage is a spirit of respect a wife has toward her husband. It is an attitude intended to help her and her husband to live a more contentful, peaceful life together. Problems and disagreements between a husband and wife in marriage are inevitable.

What does a submissive relationship look like? ›

One person, the Dom, takes on more the role of leader, guide, enforcer, protector and/or daddy, while the other person, the sub, assumes more the role of pleaser, brat, tester, baby girl, and/or servant. Many couples limit the D/s dynamic to sexual role play in the bedroom.

How do I practice submission in my marriage? ›

Here are some simple ways we can all show more submission to our husbands, regardless of how easy or challenging it may seem.
  1. Brainstorm ways to help him. ...
  2. Make him feel important. ...
  3. Be selective in how I “instruct” him. ...
  4. Practice gratitude for all the things my husband does. ...
  5. Pray for God to give you a heart of submission.
Feb 10, 2020

What comes first love or submission? ›

As we submit to His love, then we want to keep His commandments. His love inspires us to keep His commandments. It is love that makes a woman to submit. When a man proposes marriage to a woman, the woman submits because of love and not commandment.

What does the Bible say about a wife denying her husband? ›

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Cor 7:3, 5). "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband.

What is submissive Behaviour in bed? ›

Being submissive can be limited to during sex, when the submissive partner might be on the receiving end of masochism, bondage or other forms of domination. However, some submissive don't limit their submission to within the bedroom, and will be a 'lifestyle' submissive.

What are signs of a submissive? ›

Signs You Have A Submissive Personality
  • As they seek both approval and support, a person with a submissive personality cannot express opinions or disagreement, especially with those on whom they're dependent.
  • It may seem like they don't have a strong sense of who they are or what they like or dislike.
Dec 14, 2022

What is good submissive Behaviour? ›

One of the most important things that you can do for a submissive is to allow them to express themselves. This means giving them the space to share their thoughts, feelings, and desires. It also means listening to them without judgment and respecting their wishes.

What makes a true submissive? ›

A submissive personality is someone who willingly submits to the authority of someone else. They have a service-oriented mindset and find peace in taking instructions from those he or she looks up to. This can be at home, at workplace, with friends or in community relationships.

How should a woman be submissive in a relationship? ›

To Be Submissive, Cultivate The Ability To Sit With Uncertainty. This is where being submissive is especially powerful and strong, on the woman's part. To be submissive, a woman has to be OK with being uncertain. She has to let her guard down, peel off the mask and look of 'steel' and be free.

What are the signs of a dominant woman? ›

The Alpha Female: 9 Ways You Can Tell Who is an Alpha Woman
  • They Offer Fearless Leadership.
  • They Possess High Emotional Intelligence.
  • They Are Obsessive Learners.
  • They Are Strong.
  • They Are Sought Out.
  • They Are Highly Ambitious.
  • They Love Their Mommas (and Daddies)
  • They Cultivate Harmony.

What a wife must not do to her husband? ›

You can dishonor your spouse by the way you talk about him in a negative light to others or by the way you talk to him as if he were a child or an idiot. Be careful not to question his judgment and abilities.

What is wife's obligation to husband? ›

In Ephesians 5:33, Paul says, ” … the wife must respect her husband.” When you respect your husband you reverence him, notice him, regard him, honor him, prefer him, and esteem him. It means valuing his opinion, admiring his wisdom and character, appreciating his commitment to you, and considering his needs and values.

Does a husband have the right to touch his wife? ›

It is common practice to ask before touching something that is not yours. The same rule applies to bodies. A husband does not own his wife or her body and must ask before touching it. She is the sole owner of her body and has the right to decide who can touch it, how, when and for how long.

What does the Bible say about a woman without a husband? ›

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.

What is submissive behavior examples? ›

If you are submissive, you obey someone without arguing. Some doctors want their patients to be submissive. Synonyms: meek, passive, obedient, compliant More Synonyms of submissive. submissively adverb. The troops submissively laid down their weapons.

What submission feels like? ›

Most subs say that when a session is over, they feel a sense of euphoria, a warm, ecstatic glow. It can be such an intense, natural high that subs can feel as though they are walking two feet off the ground. The afterglow can last for hours, even weeks.

What is the difference between submission and love? ›

Yes, loving someone is a sure way of being loved back. But it is not totally guaranteed. According to the Oxford Dictionary, submission is the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

What are the 3 blessings of marriage? ›

God has three purposes for marriage: companionship, procreation, and redemption. These purposes are still relevant today and are essential for a healthy society. Let's take a closer look at each one.

How should a husband be to his wife according to the Bible? ›

A Christian husband should love his wife as he does himself and always protect her from all harm (Eph. 5:25–29). He should do his best to “nurture and cherish” his wife in the love of Christ as he would his own flesh and tend to her spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs (Eph. 5:29; Col.

What does the Bible say about a woman separating from her husband? ›

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

What is an example of a submissive wife? ›

Here are some of the typical external signs of a submissive wife are that she: Curbs her opinions and thoughts to ensure peaceful communication without arguments. Glorifies the husband and makes him feel on top of the world by showing eagerness to please.

What does the Bible say about being submissive? ›

`Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church . . .' Submissive wife.

What are submissive traits in relationships? ›

Submissives are concerned with facts rather than emotion, and won't spend time getting to know you on a personal level. In conversation, submissives are serious, direct, and formal and often like to be dealt with at arm's length.

What is submissive behavior? ›

To be submissive is to obey or yield to someone else. When you are submissive, you submit to someone else's will, which literally, you put your own desires lower than theirs. You can see this in the Latin root of submit, submittere, which is formed by sub- "under" + mittere "send, put."

What are the dangers of being submissive? ›

The result of submissive behavior is that you get little of what you want whilst losing the respect of other people. You are also likely to fall into a spiral of failing self-esteem, internal anger and psychosomatic problems.


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