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How Does a Wife Biblically Submit to Her Husband?

This Biblical command has been misinterpreted and thwarted throughout the years. As a consequence of the fall, God said to the woman in Genesis 3:16: “...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.” God indicates here that there will be ongoing struggle between a man and woman in the marriage relationship. God had always designed the husband to lead the family, with both male and female exhibiting equal value and complementary, yet distinct roles. Sin had damaged and distorted this design, in where the husband would now desire to either domineer over his wife, or abdicate his God-given responsibility to lead, while the wife would desire to assert leadership over him.


Ephesians 5:22-23 states “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”


This does not mean a “blind submission.” Wives, submission to our husbands still has some contingencies. God’s law does not permit sin or lawlessness. So, a wife is not expected to submit to her husband if he tells her to do something God forbids or if he attempts to keep her from doing something God commands. A wife is not expected to submit to abuse.


Submission as the life of the church to Christ is one filled with joy and trust. Knowing that Christ has given new life, brings one into a path of turning from sin, trusting Christ, living under his authority, and growing in relationship. At times believers wrestle with submitting to Christ, desiring our own plans over his. Consider what is lost and gained by venturing down this path.


Paul does not pick up this comparison lightly. No husband will rightly exemplify Christ; no church will consistently submit to him. Therefore, grace is needed in loving husbands and submitting wives. The relational basis for this exchange is one that should lead to greater intimacy.


Submission also does not mean wives have no say in how things operate at home. Proverbs 31:26 affirms that an excellent wife “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” A wise husband will listen to the sage counsel of his wife.

Husbands will not always lead perfectly, as wives will not always submit perfectly. We are all sinners and will at times fail in carrying out our God-given roles. However, a wife is called to submit to the lawful leadership of her husband even when he leads imperfectly.


How can a wife submit well?

1.    Pray for your husband- first and foremost, a wife should pray for God to give her husband a desire and the wisdom to lead the family like Christ leads the church. It is a heavy responsibility, and he will bear the weight of the consequences of his decisions. Likewise, pray that God will give you the desire to submit as He commands in His Word, and that you will grow in trust of your husband’s leadership, as well as grow in wise counsel for him.

2.   Start small - if you’ve been leading your home for quite a while, it may be challenging to hand over that responsibility all at once. Start with handing over smaller responsibilities of leadership with low risk, such as asking him to lead family worship time once a week or praying with you and/or the kids at bedtime. As he grows in those areas, your trust will grow to submit more leadership responsibilities to him.

3.   Give grace when he messes up (you will too) and verbalize to him frequently that you trust him.


-Pastor John and Michelle Richardson

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