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Should Women Submit To Men?

This post examines the question: should women submit to men? How are we to understand the head of the woman is the man? Asked another way, are women generally in a place of submission to men?

This is, at times, a controversial topic in the Church. It is also a point of contention for both men and women. Some men, even pastors or leaders, point to Bible verses that suggest that women should submit to men. Then there are the women who hold this view and try to influence other women to fall in line with men.

The verse that is often used to support this argument is 1 Corinthians 11:3, which reads, But I would have you know that the head of the woman is the man, the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.

Reading this passage, it would seem very clear that the woman's head is the man. Considering the implications of this idea, especially concerning the functioning of men and women, this is not a trivial idea. That is why building a theological idea off of one verse is dangerous and contextually inaccurate.

Women Submit To Men

Should Women Submit To Men?

Which is the first thing I would point out concerning this question. Every other verse concerning this issue is usually in the context of a husband being the head of the wife. This is one of the few verses, the only one I could find, that directly implies the broad idea of men being the head of women.

Secondly, the verse says that man is the head of the woman, Christ is the head of man, and the head of Christ is God. So is that suggesting that a woman must go through man to Christ or God? That would appear to contradict Galatians 3:28, which says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

So that what is the context and meaning of this verse found in 1 Corinthians? To understand it, I believe we have to go back to Genesis.


Let's quickly recap what happened. In Genesis, Adam and Eve were created and placed by God in the garden of Eden. God told Adam he could eat every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It should be noted that this command was given to Adam before the creation of Eve, and Eve received it from Adam. Satan came and deceived Eve; she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then gave it to Adam, who also ate. God enters the scene, the sin is exposed, and God begins to outline the judgements of that sin.

We pick up from Genesis 3:16 as God speaks to the woman and lays out the consequences of her deception and actions.

Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, and in pain you will bring forth children; your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

The first consequence is multiplied pain in childbirth. It seems that in the original concept of bearing children, some pain would be involved, but now the pain of this event would be increased many times. On a secondary note, this is not only speaking about giving birth but also carries the idea that women would experience pain in raising and "worrying" about their children. It would seem that mothers often carry a more significant burden for their children. That is not to say fathers are not burdened for their kids, but this load appears to be more prevalent in the mother.


Secondly, God said that Your desire shall be for your husband and rule over you. This brings us back to the verse from 1 Corinthians 11:3 and the context of Paul's statements. There is no doubt in scripture about who the home and family head is. But it must be realized that this verse in Genesis 3 sets up the context for all other verses in scripture, including 1 Corinthians 11:3, related to this topic. Our understanding must be derived from the framework of Genesis 3:16 and the original formation of God's plan.

So, no men, in general, are not head over women. Males are not the head of females. It is the husband that is the head over the wife.

Bringing this down to a practical application. I am the only head over my wife. The only man, my wife, is responsible for submitting to is me. It cannot work in any other way. Some men think they are the head over women. Absolutely not. As scripture says here, the only man a wife is called to submit to is her husband. Notice that God said to the women that your husband, not men, would rule over you. Anything else is reaching beyond what scripture says.


Since we are talking about this, let me also address this concept of submission for a moment. The rulership is not unlimited, and it does not mean a husband should not submit to his wife. Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:4 - The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Just something to think about.

So how does this work? How should it work in a Christian marriage? Does this mean the man is king in his home? Does this mean that the man rules his family and his wife must do everything he says? Again, scripture gives us the answer, and it is no.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head and Savior of the Church, which is His body. 24 But as the Church submits to Christ, so also let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 In this way men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

First, Paul gives us something to compare. I won't spend long on this, but he compares the spiritual marriage of Christ as head of the Church to the husband as the head of the wife. Then Paul gets into the relational or how this is to function from a practical standpoint.


Paul tells the wife that she is to submit to her husband. He says, Wives, be submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord.

This is the first responsibility a wife has concerning her marriage. She is to be submissive to her OWN husband, not every man or someone else's husband. Also, see that the wife's submission response should be made as an activity of service unto God or the Lord. This is important because it also gives the conditions of submission. Some men read verse 24 - But as the Church submits to Christ, so also let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. They say, see, it says that my wife is to submit to me in everything. This is not giving license for husbands to expect unconditional submission.

The wife is part of the Church, and her first responsibility is to submit to the Lord. Submission to the Lord should bring submission to your husband, but surrender to Christ also overrides any submission to your husband which conflicts with God. If a husband asks a wife to behave, talk, do anything, or put up with any activity or behaviour that violates God’s Word, a wife is not bound to listen to her husband. For example, a husband may ask his wife to lie for him. She has no obligation to do that. He may abuse his wife and expect her to take it. That is incorrect. Maybe he wants her to defile things within the marriage bed; again, she has no obligation to submit to it. Some Christian husbands keep their wives home from Church which the wife is not bound to do because she, being part of the Church, has the direction from God not to neglect the assembling together.


What about what Paul says to the husbands? There is, at times, in the Church, the concept that the husband is the king. I would say this; if we as husbands want to be the king, we must remember what the King of Kings did. Jesus came as a servant. Christ gave Himself for His bride. Christ gave the His best for His bride. He laid down His life for the one He loved. Verse 25 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it. Husbands, we are not to abuse, not bully, not be harsh with our wives. We are to protect, honour, lift, build up, and minister to our wives. We are to put her needs ahead of our own. Paul says Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

Here is another interesting verse many husbands should think about, specifically, the last phrase. 1 Peter 3:7 - Likewise, you husbands, live considerately with your wives, giving honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they too are also heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Has any husband ever considered that their prayers might be hindered because they are not considering or honouring their wife as God has called us to do? Just something to think about.


The Church is not in oppressive bondage to Christ. Wives are not in bondage to their husbands. Women are not in bondage to men.

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