What does submission of the wife to her husband mean in the Bible? 

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Submission 

Submission, humility, and subjection are necessary qualities of the believer. Before God and one’s fellow men, self is to be humble. Paul wrote to the believers, “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Often the dictates we ask of one another and even our rights, are opposite to the spirit of love, which is the spirit of Christ (John 13:15, 16; Galatians 5:15). Submission shows itself in kindness, love, and respect for one another. 

Paul emphasizes that before God there is “neither bond [slave] nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). Distinctions of sex, class, or race are not found among those who are “in Christ”; nevertheless, the different sexes, classes, and races each have their peculiar roles. 

The submission of the wife to her husband 

The Bible ascribes to women a position of submission in relation to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1–6). Paul wrote, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 7–9). The wife should see in her relation to her husband a reflection of her relation to Christ. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18 also 1 Timothy 2:11, 12; Titus 2:5).

However, Christian relationships between the husband and wife do not in any sense mean inferiority. The submission of the wife is of the kind that can be given only between equals, not a forced obedience, but a voluntary submission due to the fact that the husband was equipped by God to be head (Genesis 3:16).

Every organized group must have a head. Even in our modern days, the husband who does not lead his family in love is considered failing in his duty. This principle of submission is everlasting, but may vary in different cultures.  

The love of the husband to his wife 

The response of the husband to the wife’s submission is not to order her around, but to love her. The headship of the husband consists in his ability and responsibility to care for his wife, in the same way that Christ cares for the church.  He will provide for the wife’s livelihood (1 Timothy 5:8), ensure her happiness (1 Corinthians 7:33), and honor her (1 Peter 3:7). A true husband never utters rude words or give harsh commands. His love will be expressed in understanding and affection. 

As Christ is the “savior of the body,” the church, so the husband should be the protector and sustainer of his wife and family. No question of inferiority or of headship ever arises in a family where the husband shows the same care for the well-being of his wife that Christ shows for His church.

The ultimate test of love is to be willing to let go of one’s happiness in order that the other might have it. In this respect, the husband is to imitate Christ, giving up comforts for securing his wife’s happiness. Christ gave Himself for the church because she was in great need; He did it to save her (John 3:16). Likewise, the husband will give himself to save his wife. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team 

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