Ephesians5:22says, “Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” However, the verse before it says, “Subjecting yourselves one to another.” Can a wife be in subjection to her husband, and yet a husband be in subjection to the wife? Does a husband lose his role as the head of his wife if he is in subjection to her?

If I understand Lipscomb’s comments on verse 21, when he says, “They are to submit to each other in the relationships they stand as defined in the following verses” he does not think these verses have anything to do with mutual submission, but as he comments on verse 22, it appears that he understands it all as referring to different classes of persons submitting to other classes. That is, he seemed to think that wives are always to submit to husbands, but husbands do not necessarily need to submit to wives.

If that is Lipscomb’s meaning, I think he was wrong. In my judgment, when Paul says in verse 21 that we are to submit one to another, he includes all Christians of all classes. Does this mean that the elders are to submit to “ordinary” church members? If so, how can it be that we are commanded to “Obey those that rule over us and submit to them” (Heb.13:17)?

If we can understand how the Lord and Master could take a towel and wash the feet of His disciples (John13:12-16), surely we can understand how one in authority can submit to one under his authority. If we can understand how one can “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3), then surely we can understand how a husband can submit to a wife and still be the head of the house.

The principle of mutual submission must not be applied in such a way as to destroy or contradict the God-ordained principle of authority. The head of a household may submit to the wishes of his children without abdicating his responsibilities to direct, teach, guide and oversee the training of his children. Surely no Christian parent has failed to understand that. An elder may submit to the wishes of a congregation without surrendering his ordained function to be a shepherd who leads the flock to higher ground. Surely only an elder who sees himself as an authoritative figure who calls all the shots and whose will must be always obeyed would deny that he can follow the example of Jesus and be a servant of those whom he directs. Many elders have made the tragic mistake of assuming that if in any way they submit to the wishes of the congregation they may as well abdicate their responsibility and let all matters be decided by popular vote. That is not the case.

When Tomijo says to me, “Darling, would you like to fix the salad, or mop the floor, or hang up the clothes” do I surrender my position as head of the house (and the wife) when I submit to her wishes? I think I may have said, “No” in some cases, but it was not because I think my position as head of the house would not permit such menial tasks. First Corinthians 7:4 indicates how this principle works in one area of the marriage relationship. The fact that the wife has power over the husband means that he submits to her, but it does not mean that he thereby loses the responsibility to be the head of the family.

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