What Does Biblical Submission Really Mean?


I recently heard a great sermon about biblical submission given by Pastor Mark Hallock from Calvary Church in Englewood Colorado. If you would like to listen to it, here is the link.

I loved this sermon. Often when pastors try to talk about wives submitting to their husbands, abused women walk away with a sick feeling knowing that their abusers are going to use their pastor’s words against them. Not after THIS sermon! Not only did Pastor Mark talk about what submission was and was not, he also addressed how the idea of submission could be used wrongly to abuse a woman. And he gave the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Thank you Pastor Mark!

Pastor Mark summarized his sermon on Calvary Church’s Facebook page. These are his thoughts on…

7 Things Biblical Submission does NOT mean:

1. Biblical submission does not mean that the wife is in any way inferior to, or less than, her husband.

2. Biblical Submission does not mean that the wife becomes a passive participant in the marriage.

3. Biblical Submission is not putting the husband in the place of Christ as if the husband is some sort of absolute authority…therefore, it does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ. This means that if the husband tells his wife to do something that is against the will of God, or contrary to the bible, she can say “no.”

4. Biblical Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says and giving up independent thought.

5. Biblical Submission does not mean that a wife gets her personal, spiritual strength from her husband. She gets her strength from God.

6. Biblical Submission does not mean that a wife should give up her efforts to influence and guide and help her husband be conformed to the image of Jesus. She can pray for him to be the leader God wants him to be.

7. Biblical Submission does not mean living in fearful intimidation of a husband who can strike out in physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse at any point.

Before going onto what biblical submission does mean, I should give a bit of background information. The bible text that Mark spoke from was Ephesians 5:1-2, and 21-33:

5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.


So, the basis of wives submitting to their husbands comes from following Christ’s example, who gave himself up for us sacrificially (Ephesians 5:1-2).

It also is based on submitting to a husband who loves his wife, who gives himself up for her, and loves her like he loves his own body (Ephesians 5:25, 28). Pastor Mark actually said, “A woman should not submit to a man who is abusive”. How much easier would it be to submit to a husband who gives himself up for you and loves you like he does his own body?

So, given this context, here are the…

3 Things Pastor Mark said Biblical Submission does mean:

1. Biblical Submission does mean recognizing that God has established an order in Christian households. Just as every organization in the world has a leader, so does the home. God has planned for the husband to be the leader of the home. Given this, we can acknowledge and embrace that, instead of fighting against it, resisting or resenting it.

2. Biblical Submission does mean recognizing her husband’s spiritual leadership and responsibility in the home, under God. This means that the husband is accountable to God for his leadership. And, he must be a servant leader, just as Christ came to serve, not to be served.

3. Biblical Submission does mean a having voluntary sacrificial, self-giving, patient loyalty to one’s husband. Mark acknowledged that women could only do this with the help of God’s power.

I pray this sermon is helpful to any women who are currently being (or have been) abused by husbands who use the bible to keep control over them; this is called spiritual abuse and it does not honor the Lord. If you would like to learn more about what God says about submitting to domestic abuse, and see if there is anything you can do to help your marriage, I invite you to read my book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse:From Bondage to Freedom.

May the Lord bless you today!


P.S. If you have had trouble getting help from your church, please check out my Domestic Violence Guide for Churches. This guide describes the dynamics of abuse from a Christian perspective, then educates church leaders how to help those who experience it. Click here to see a preview of the written and video guide.


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. cookadee says:

    Hi Caroline,
    I can’t seem to get the link to the sermon above to work. Would really love to hear the message.


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