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EP 38: What Does Submission in Marriage Look Like? {Marriage Series}


When we are living out the beautiful doctrine of submission the unbelieving world around us will take notice. @mferrell

We are continuing in our marriage series on the podcast, and this is the second half of the episode on submission. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to the first one where my husband joined us you can do that here. I highly recommend it before listening in to this one.

My husband shared last week on the theology of submission, and I’m continuing on today on what submission in marriage is and what it isn’t.

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When we are living out the beautiful doctrine of submission the unbelieving world around us will take notice. Click to Tweet

When we are living out the beautiful doctrine of submission the unbelieving world around us will take notice. They will see wives respecting and loving their husbands.  Peace and joy in our homes.  Wives who talk about their husbands with honor and respect.  Wives who look to their husbands for guidance and leadership and are true helpers that come alongside them in the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  They will see marriages filled with genuine love and affection. 

My hope today in our time together is to give you the practical application in our everyday lives of what submission in marriage looks like and what it doesn’t look like. Please know that when I am sharing with you, it does not mean I have this area of my life mastered.  I am still a learner, and God continues to teach me much.  Let’s pray that with the Lord’s help we can all be more obedient to God’s ways and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior.

Show Notes:

What it Isn’t: (These are just briefly titled here but elaborated on in the podcast)

-It is not putting your husband in God’s place. Christ holds first place in our lives.

-It does not mean men are not more superior, intelligent or more spiritual than women.

-It does not mean we don’t study God’s Word for ourselves.

-It does not mean you don’t use the gifts God has given you.

-It does not mean you follow your husband into sin.

-It does not mean we are submissive to all men

-It does not give the husband to abuse his wife.

-It does not denote weakness

-It is not a burden

-It does not mean we don’t try to influence our husbands and specifically in spiritual matters.

-It does not mean we will agree with our husband on everything.

-It does not mean we don’t have opinions or input in the home.

-It is not to be forced on by our husbands.

A point I want you to remember is first and foremost; submission is a matter of the heart.

A point I want you to remember is first and foremost; submission is a matter of the heart. Click to Tweet

 Some ways that we as wives are not submissive:

She does things that are annoying to her husband. (Proverbs 21:19)

-She does not discipline the children as she should (even after her husband asks her to). (Proverbs 29:15)

-She argues or gives him the cold shoulder when she doesn’t get her way. (Proverbs 21:9)

-She is more loyal to others than to her husband. (Proverbs 31:11)

-She does not stay within the limits of their financial budget. (Proverbs 19:14)

-She corrects, interrupts, talks for her husband and is too outspoken when others are around. (Proverbs 27:15,16)

-She manipulates him to get her own way. She may do this by tears, nagging, begging, complaining, anger or intimidation. (Luke 10:40)

-She makes important decisions without consulting him. (1 Corinthians 11:3) (*see note below)

-She directly defies his wishes. (1 Samuel 15:23)

-She worries about decisions and takes matters into her own hands. (Philippians 4:7,8)

-She does not pay attention to what he says. (James 1:19)

*Note: Occasionally, a husband will instruct his wife that in certain areas she is to make the decisions. In those cases, when authority is delegated to her, she then has freedom to choose. Otherwise, he should be consulted in all matters (that are important to him), and she should submit to his headship.

~ Above taken from The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace, Chapter 13

What is Submission:

Definition of submission: Submission is voluntarily placing myself under the authority of another person.

The honor of God’s Word is at stake here. This is not about us, but it is about God being honored in our lives. 

The honor of God's Word is at stake here. This is not about us, but it is about God being honored in our lives. Click to Tweet

-We want to demonstrate and model in marriage what it is like for the church to submit to Christ.

-Scripture always refers to submission in a positive way.

-True freedom is found when it is in accord with God’s purposes laid out for us in His Word.

-Your submissive spirit is one of the most evangelistic tools in your home.

-A submissive wife is a beautiful and powerful display of the gospel of Christ.

-Your submissive conduct can also have a profound effect on your husband who is a believer but who may not be obeying God’s Word.

-We are called to be submissive to our husbands in all things unless they are asking us to sin.

-Even in disagreements, you are to still make it clear that you honor him in his role.

-You are your husband’s help mate, not his helpless mate. He needs your input and thoughts.

-God does not want us to have complete dependence on our husbands but on Him.

-Am I prepared to trust God to lead my husband to lead me?

-Submission is a demonstration of our confidence in the sovereign power of the Lord God.

-God’s Word must be our motivation for submission, not our feelings.

-Being submissive to our husband is showing love to them.

-Our obedience to God’s call to submit to our husbands is not dependent on their conduct or behavior.

-Submission to our husbands is voluntary.

-As we submit to the Lord submission to our husbands becomes easier.

-It takes true strength to submit your will to another.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Is your home a safe place for your husband or is it a place where he feels criticized and critiqued?

Does your husband know he can share anything with you without you rejecting him or trying to fix him?

In the way you talk to and about him do you show his God created worth and value?

Do you make it easy for him to fulfill his role as a leader in the home?

Do you respond to him in a way that communicates respect and affirmation of his manhood?

Last thoughts:

God’s Word is the source that informs our beliefs and determines our behavior.

Submitting will not always be easy, but there is always joy in glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. (See Submission is an Act of Worship)

Our ultimate submission is our submission to God. Do we trust Him enough to say, “Yes Lord” to whatever plan He has for our lives?

Scriptures and Resources:

Ephesians 5:22-24

1 Peter 2:13

Proverbs 31:26

2 Timothy 2:15

1 Peter 3:15

Romans 12:2

1 Peter 4:10

Colossians 3:16

1 Thessalonians 5:14

Romans 14:17

John 8:32

1 Peter 3:1-6

1 Peter 2:11-13

1 Peter 1:23-25

1 Peter 3:15-16

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective by Martha Peace

Sweethearts for a Lifetime: Making the Most of Your Marriage by Wayne Mack

Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack

Ephesians MacArthur New Testament Commentary

By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Women’s Identity by Wendy Alsup

Wives with Unbelieving Husbands – Desiring God – Look at the Book Series (this is part one of a 5 part series – you can keep working through each one)

The Willful Submission of a Christian Wife sermon by John MacArthur


  1. My sister and her husband are born again Christians…they attend a bible believing church. HE is an alcoholic and his drinking is making her so bitter.
    Her actions and comments are so sad. She tells our 87 yr old mom daily what he did the night before. We are,worn out as a family by all this. How does submission play a part, if any, in her life? She has no respect for,him and he knows it……it is so sad! Thank you for any advice or input…god bless

    1. Marci Ferrell says:

      Denise, I am so sorry – please know I’m praying for your sister and her husband. If her husband is a Christian and struggling in this area the church leadership is there to be a help and guidance for them both with this issue of his alcoholism. If their church isn’t aware of the issue that would be a first place to start. Respect and submission are hard when marriages are good but so challenging in these situations. It doesn’t sound like her situation is abusive physically and I’m thankful for that. The best guidance I can give is you direct conversations with her to her own relationship with the Lord. How she is responding to her husband in a way that is God-honoring and pointing him to Christ by her responses and actions towards him. His behavior does not justify her sinning by complaining and speaking evil of him to others. The Excellent Wife is a helpful book for her to work through if she’d be open to it. Denise this isn’t a quick fix but my guidance would be to work hard to re-direct her conversation to how she is being Christlike towards him and also for them to seek counsel from their church to help him and really them both to walk through this. Much love, Marci

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