If a wife must submit to her husband, must he also submit to her?
21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, Ephesians 5:21-22 (HCSB)
There is some uncertainty about whether the word HYPOTASSO (submit) is repeated in verse 22 or not. The fact that the earliest known manuscripts do not repeat the word in verse 22 does not impress some (good) scholars because some good conservative scholars are critical of the manuscript tradition that comes from Alexandria and is used for most modern translations.
But suppose the HYPOTASSO is repeated in Verse 22, that is still a powerful rhetorical signal that the two verses are part of the same passage and cannot be legitimately dealt with separately. Preaching on both but in separate sermons is not legitimate exegesis.
Verse 21 tells all Christians to be willing to yield to all other Christians, not to be doormats but to be considerate, respectful and flexible.
If verse 21 does not apply to husbands in marriage, then we have the absurd idea that a married man must be willing to submit to every other Christian but not his own wife. Obviously complete nonsense.
Mutual submission is a key doctrine in the New Testament but it is often overlooked by Bible teachers who are obsessed with the idea of theocratic hierarchy.
Theocratic hierarchy was an essential element of the Law of Moses but when Jesus fulfilled the Law, He established a new order, the New Covenant, based on Faith in the Blood of Jesus.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:8-9 (NASB)
This is a personal covenant between each individual believer and the Son of God who died for him or for her.
In the Old Covenant, the Prophets, Priests and Kings were the go betweens, like mediators between God and the Covenant People.
Many Christian leaders today want to perpetuate this concept by making the Pastor the Mediator between God and the lay believers, who must unquestioningly obey the preacher. They also want to make the husband the priest or mediator between God and his wife, who must not question her husband’s priestly authority.
This is dangerous falsehood verging on heresy.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5 (NASB)
If Jesus mediates between God and MEN, what about the women? Do they need a father, older brother, husband or pastor to tell them what to do and be their priest and mediator?
Not at all. The New Testament was not written in English but in Greek. The Greek word which is translated here as MEN, is ANTHROPOS, which means HUMANS.
So to return to our original question, is Christian submission based primarily on hierarchy or mutual respect and flexible consideration of one another?
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others … James 3:17 (TLB)
In addition, I have compiled a list of verses that teach mutual submission.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 13:14 (NIV)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. .. John 13:34 (NIV)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 (NIV)
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:2-3 (NIV)