One part of a biblical marriage which intimidates a lot of folks is the concept of submitting to your spouse. We tend to hear the word “submit” and think that means we’re “less than” in some way, even though the bible tells us multiple times that husbands and wives are equal, but different, in their roles. Genesis 2:18-23 clearly establishes that the wife is her husband’s partner, his compliment.
Colossians 3:18-19 is one of the verses which addresses a wife submitting to her husband, and also addresses the husband’s responsibilities to his wife. I wanted to look at this verse today, and try to get a deeper understanding of what it means to submit, within a biblical context.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,
as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and be not bitter against them.
In our society we tend to have a negative impression of the word “submit.” Either because we associate submission with concepts of superiority and inferiority, or because it’s so heavily steeped in sexual connotations that we don’t see how else it could apply to a relationship. I found that when we’re looking at Colossians 3:18 it is especially important to understand the context behind this verse.
A great deal of context is added when we recognize that submission is mentioned multiple times throughout the bible, and not in a negative context. We see Jesus himself submitted to the Father in I Corinthians 11:3. “Submit” is also the same word used to express our duty to government officials in Romans 13:1; and Ephesians 5:24,33 address submission as a matter of respect.
Grant Richison describes submission, not as meaning “to obey”, but as being a form of voluntary subordination, in much the same way that Jesus choose to be subordinate to his parents in Luke 2:51.
It’s also important to note that when we address the wife’s role and her calling to submit to her husband, we are also looking at her vocation as a helper for her husband. Sam Storms explains that the Hebrew word translated as “helper” is also used in the old testament to refer to God as the helper of mankind.
With this added context, the meaning of Colossians 3:18 probably seems different than from your first impression. Colossians 3:18 is telling us that a wife should willingly defer to her husband. When we put it that way, it sounds very different. We can understand how this relates to a wife’s role as a Godly helper of her husband. In my own marriage, I know that I’m not always quick to defer to my husband. Not to say that I always have to agree with him, but I know that sometimes I’m particularly less than helpful, and I could certainly stand to look more frequently to Colossians 3:18. I need to more frequently stop to ask myself, “am I being a helper with this action?”
What lessons from Colossians 3:18 can you apply to your marriage?