The Respectful Wife

Ephesians 5:18-24, 33


We are in the midst of a series of messages on marriage.  A couple of weeks ago we found that marriage is God’s idea, not man’s idea.  After God created Adam, He said that man was incomplete and that He needed a helper fit for him.  So, God took a part of Adam’s side and created woman.  Adam recognized Eve as bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and that she was made in the same image and likeness of God just as he was.  God brought Adam and Eve together into a marriage relationship, a one flesh relationship, designed by the Creator Himself.

What does this mean for you and me?  This means that our spouse was created in the image and likeness of God, they are made of the same flesh, blood, bone, the very same life.  Your spouse was designed to complete you, and make you more of what God intended for you to be.  And most importantly, you are to be as one . . . in all that you are, . . . one flesh.

Last week we looked at what it means for the man to be a loving husband.  God tells us in Ephesians 5 that husbands are to love their wives . . . like Christ loves the church.  The implications of this are huge.  The husband is to love his wife sacrificially, giving of himself in this relationship.  The husband’s love should have a sanctifying effect on his wife.  In other words, because of her relationship with her husband, the wife should grow closer in her relationship to the Lord.

The husband’s love should be selfless and given to his wife whether she deserves it or not.  The husband’s love should be so intense that the husband and wife are united in purpose and goal.  You see, the husband is the spiritual leader of the home and should set the standard for both of them in their walk with God.  As the husband grows closer to God, it will naturally draw the marriage relationship closer to each other.  That is God’s design.

Today, we are once again in Ephesians 5 and since I spent last week on the love of the husband, I want to talk this week about the respect of the wife.  I wanted to address the loving husband first, simply because I think that this is key to the rest of what takes place in the marriage relationship.  The husband’s loving leadership sets the tone for just about everything else in the marriage.

Today, as we talk about the wife, we are going to begin at verse 18 in Ephesians 5 and you might be wondering why back so far.  Why not start at verse 22 where it says “Wives?”  Well, I want to give us a bit of context because it is important in understanding this passage.

In fact, let me just say a bit more about our context.  All of chapter 5 talks about the walk of every believer in their relationship with God, not just husbands and wives.  Verse 1 tells Christians that they are to be imitators of God.  Then it talks about sexual purity, the influence of those we associate with, and that we are to be careful about the things we do in secret.

Verse 15 tells believers to be careful how they walk in this journey of life and make wise use of their time.  So, the context of the chapter has been about how we live as Christians in general.  It is not until we get to the last part of chapter 5 and the first part of chapter 6 that the text moves into how we live in our marriage and family relationships.  Then, interestingly enough, chapter 6 finishes off with the armor of God and how we can stand firm against the spiritual warfare of the world and Satan against us.  What an appropriate ending because it seems that Satan is certainly seeking to destroy strong marriages.

Now let’s pickup at verse 18.

Ephesians 5:18-24

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 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.

The Principle of Submission (vv. 18-21)

Submission, . . . now that’s a controversial term, especially these days.  When we hear the word “submission” we often have a negative reaction because we see a picture of slavery or someone meeting the demands of an overbearing master or lord.  Is that the picture that God intends for us here?  I don’t know if you noticed, but verses 18-21 are all one sentence and it sets the meaning for this idea of submission.  That is the reason I wanted to begin at verse 18.

This long sentence tells us not to be controlled by things like alcohol because we are abandoning our senses of morality to reckless sinful behavior – debauchery.  Rather, we are to be filled with the Spirit of God.  In other words, controlled by the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the alcohol.  It goes on to say that we should be in joyful relationships with others, giving thanks to God for everything.  This is talking about our relationships to others in the church.

Then it says in verse 21 that we should be . . . “submitting” . . .  to one another out of reverence for Jesus Christ.  As of yet, we are not talking specifically about the marriage relationship, but about a general relationship to each other as believers in Christ.  So, what does this submission look like?  What does it mean to submit to one another?

Is it like a slave to his master, an employee to his employer, or even as children to their parents?  Is that the idea we have in mind when it comes to submitting to each other in this body of believers here at the Chapel?  I really don’t think so. 

Some see this submitting in verse 21 as people in the church submitting to the leadership in the church.  Again, I am not convinced that is what is intended here.  The relationships we have here at the Chapel, for the most part, are phenomenal.  We do things for the good of others.  I guarantee that if you have a need, and this body of believers has the means to meet it, and it is known to them, it will be taken care of.  It may be fixing something you can’t fix, doing something that you can’t do, even taking physical care for you or someone you love because you are unable, fixing meals in time of need, etc..  This is part of what it means to be submissive to one another.  It is the idea of individuals putting themselves into submission to the needs of others.  We are as servants to one another.

I believe that this goes for spiritual care as well.  If someone notices that my walk with the Lord is not what it should be, they may encourage me to get into the Word.  I hope that I would be submissive to that encouragement.  Someone may see that I have an issue with sin and they talk to me about taking care of that sin and getting right with the Lord.  I hope that I would be submissive to that admonition from them.

But this is all part of the Body of Christ, this church body called the Longville Bible Chapel, growing in our faith relationship with one another and serving one another.  We are looking out for the best interests of each other.  This is done with respect and honor toward one another.  We are not making ourselves better than other, but submitting ourselves to them.

Did you know that there are 59 “one another” passages in the New Testament?  About a third of them deal with our love for one another.  But we are also told to be devoted to one another, honor one another, serve one another, be kind/forgiving/compassionate to one another and even submit to one another.  Submitting in verse 21 is related back to the verb in verse 15.  It is a further explanation of how we walk in wisdom.  It is how we grow in our journey of faith.

Okay, but doesn’t submission have the idea of being under the authority of another.  Yes, the word “submission” has the meaning of placing oneself under the authority or direction of another and it is done in the reverence or fear of Christ.  Thus, it is voluntary and it has as its motivation our desire to please our Lord and to grow closer to Him.

Any time we listen to the godly advice of others, we must decide if this is something that pleases our Lord and if we want to submit to their direction for our lives, place ourselves under their direction.  Submission is choosing to place ourselves under their authority or direction as it pleases the Lord.  It is a willingness to respond and yield to another.  The important thing is that God be honored.   I think we have an idea of submission to one another, so how does that look in the marriage relationship?

The Picture of Submission (vv. 22-24)

Verse 22 begins with a bold and direct application of what we just talked about.  This is the picture of submission, only in the marital relationship.  Now, I want to show you something interesting in the original language of the New Testament.  In order to make the translation more clear, the word “submit” was added in verse 22.  Now just because it was an added word does not mean wives are not to submit, because it says that wives are to submit again in verse 24 and in other books of the Bible.

But the reason I want to bring this up is because the original language clearly ties the submission of the wife in verse 22 back to verse 21 where we are submitting to one another.  Let me read verses 21 and 22 as it is literally written in the Greek.

21 submitting to one another in fear of Christ.

22 The wives to their own husbands as to the Lord.

So verse 22 is clearly referring to the verb submit in verse 21, so translators added “submit” to help our understanding.  The wife’s submission to her husband is a picture of the submission found in the previous verses.  Now you can tell if you understanding what is going on here by your response to the phrase “wives submit.”  You might be saying to yourself, well that stinks, you mean I have to do whatever my husband says?  If that is your reaction, you still don’t understand the idea of biblical submission.  And the reason we are not paying attention to what submission means is because we want to be in control and all we heard so far this morning was this negative word “submit” that our culture tells us in chauvinistic and unfair treatment.

Biblical submission never means one person is less of a person than another.  Biblical submission never means that we replace God with anyone else, including your husband.  Biblical submission has nothing to do with claiming one is inferior and one is superior.  Men and women are equal from creation as we saw two weeks ago.

What does it mean to submit to your husband then?  Biblical submission means that we voluntarily place ourselves under the care and guidance of someone else’s authority, as they follow the Lord.  There are several places in the Bible that speak of submission.

We are not only to submit to one another, as seen in verse 21, but we are to submit to the governing authorities according to Romans 13:1.  But this does not mean that we must do whatever those in rule over us tell us to do.  We see in Acts that if what someone tells us to do something that contradicts what God would have us do, then we are not compelled to follow that lead.

When Peter and the other apostles were preaching in Jesus’ name, the Sanhedrin told them to stop, they are the authorities, but they would not.  They said, Acts 5:29 - "We must obey God rather than men!

So, wives, submission does not make you a slave. God has not designed you to be a doormat.  He has not give you this directive to submit to your husband to be abused.  If what is being asked of you in your marriage does not honor the Lord, or harms you physically endangers you or others, draws you away from your relationship with the Lord then you have no obligation to follow it or even allow it.

I believe the picture we have here is the picture of a godly man taking leadership in the home giving direction and guidance.  It would certainly be foolish for a wife not to place herself under his godly leadership.  Simply because the husband is the head, as it tells us in verse 24, he answers directly to God for how he leads in the home.  

Now being submissive does not mean that you don’t offer advice or make suggestions.  A husband and wife should be talking and communicating and working together in unity as one flesh.  There will be times when the two of you may disagree about something, but through much prayer and clear conversation about it, there needs to be willingness to humbly accept the godly decision of your husband.  I believe this is clearly what is meant in verses 23-24 about spiritual headship in the home.  But let me also note, a wise husband will certainly take what his wife has to say into serious consideration.

We find this same idea in 1 Peter 3.  Peter tells us in chapter 2 that we are to we are to honor and show submission to governing authorities, each other, and especially Jesus Christ.  Then look at what we are told in chapter 3:

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,

2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Here, we are told that others will see Christ in the way a wife conducts herself with her husband.  Then I want you to see something that is tied to this idea of submission.  What will others see when wives submit to their husbands?  Respect.  We find this back in Ephesians 5 also.  I have called this the:

The Perception of Submission (v. 33)

Back in Ephesians 5, we find the instruction to wives about submission in verses 22-24.  Then we have the instruction to husbands concerning their loving relationship to their wives in verses 25-32.  Then in verse 33 we have a summary statement:

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

You see, we often view submission as slavery.  Wives doing every order that is barked out to them.  But biblical submission does not look like slavery at all, it looks like respect.  The word translated respect is the same word translated reverence for Christ back in verse 21.  I like that this is translated respect, because the husband certainly is not to be revered as God.  But given respect.  I believe that the core of respect is thinking the best about someone and not the worst.

In our day, husbands, and men in general, are being put down as doofus’s, idiots, incompetent, and not intellectual.  Watch any sit-com or even commercials and it will be evident.  Certainly, I won’t argue that there are some men who may fit that description.  But certainly not all men and certainly not all things a husband does fits this description.  I am sure that there are areas of his life that are respectable.  I like what someone said to wives, “Find the hero in your husband and honor him for it.”


We have a good book for married couples in our library called “Love and Respect.”  It is about how our marriage relationships thrive on these two things.  If husbands give the love their wives most desire and if wives give the respect their husbands desperately need, we can move marriage relationships away from the vicious cycle of looking for what our spouse can do for us to a cycle of genuine love relationship.

You see, God never intended for the kind of home where a husband barks out orders and demands and the wife scurries around every moment of her day fulfilling his orders.  What God intends in a marriage relationship is that the husband and wife communicate with each other, listen to the advice and direction each has to offer, spend time in prayer asking for God’s direction in their lives, and ultimately the husband makes the decision he feels is best for the good of the family, not for the good of himself only.

When the wife submits to this, it does not look like slavery, but it looks like respect for her husband.  Why, because not only was she included in the decision, but she now supports her husband in his godly leadership.  In doing so, she becomes his greatest encourager.

Find the hero in your husband and honor him for it.