Join my cost-effective coaching program, Clarity+Courage where we learn, apply, and grow. This month's concept: Discernment & Decisions. 

The Submissive Wife

1 Peter 3:5-6:   For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,  like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her Lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

If I am honest, the word submission doesn't sound pretty to me.

It sounds passive and potato-like.  Un-engaging.  

It seems contrary to my desire to take life by the reigns and make sure I am going somewhere and being intentional about where that is. 

Proverbs 31 Woman

I much more like the description of the Proverbs 31 Woman who is described as a diligent housewife, a shrewd businesswoman, an enterprising trader, a generous benefactor (verse 20), and a wise teacher (verse 26). 

At first glance, she sounds the opposite of the submissive wife.  She has ideas, and she implements them.  She is engaging with business and supporting her household. She is productive and driven.

But Proverbs 31 also tells us, "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."  

The wind underneath that determination was fear of the Lord. And whatever we fear, we submit to that thing/person.

There are beautiful and lovely things in life that we respect and fear.  Flames, waves, and cliffs come to mind. They are not fearful because they are evil...they are fearful because of the power they hold. And when we don't respect their authority and stand in awe of their majesty (that kind of fear), we subject ourselves to pain.

The Bible has a lot to say about submission, including the very life of Christ as an example.  It talks not only about women submitting to their husbands but calls husbands to love and submit to their wives.

Ephesians 5:21-25:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord.  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. Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Martha and Mary

Another character (or two) in the Bible that helps me better understand submission is Mary and Martha, found in Luke 10:38-42. 

And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat a the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. ... Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.

Martha seemed to be defined by her sense of responsibility and action and yet gets called out for her anxiety and management of Mary.  Mary was praised for doing the "greater thing," which was sitting in a position of submission before the Lord.

Martha certainly has some characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, so I don't think the Lord is rebuking her personality; instead, he is prompting her to quit judging and look at her own heart. He shines a light on Mary's heart that is wanting to be with Jesus. 

God does not fault us for taking action in life. Action is mandatory to walk in obedience. We are, however, always asked to quiet our hearts and bind them to the Lord before we dive into activity. This submissive position is where we discover what action to take and where we get quality fuel for our activity. 


Asking the google, submissive means "ready to conform to the authority or will of others; meekly obedient or passive."

The antonym of submissive are words like disobedient, unyielding, resistant, and proud. 

If being un-submissive means I am disobedient, unyielding, resistant, or proud, well, then I am all in on being submissive!  (Although I was already in if God said it because I trust Him.)

I value characteristics of cooperation that seem in contrast to these rebellious and proud counterparts.

I think at the heart of being submissive is asking the question, to whom are you submitting?  Submission implies that there is a dominant authority.

Submitting To God's Authority

As believers, we put the act of submission in the context of Biblical understanding and the authority of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. However, we can't merely pull out verses without understanding them in a greater context. And we can't only make sense of Scripture without the Holy Spirit living in us. 

We are in a relationship with the Lord if we believe in him and ask him into our hearts. Part of believing is that we enter into God's engagement with us. We accept his invitation. We engage back with Him. We grow in Him.  We experience first and foremost, his unconditional love and forgiveness.  His grace.

Not only do we engage, but we also experience God's POWER and steadiness.

II Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind."

He not only gives us a spirit of love BUT one of power and a sound mind!   

To have a sound mind is also referred to in other translations as having a disciplined mind.  And a spirit of fear is also referred to as a spirit of timidity in other translations.  So we don't have to be timid. But we do have to be submissive. Power and submission can live side by side. 

We have strength and stability when we build our life in submission to our stable, good, and all-powerful Lord who loves us and is our friend, Father, counselor, and might warrior.

Who would not want to submit to this authority of one who has our best interest at heart?!

When I look as submission, the questions that come up for me is WHO am I submitting to and why? Do I trust them? Am I willing to yield my will to this being?

When I look to God as I know him through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I am all in 100%.  I engage with him, seeking God's plan and purposes for my life.  I pray as I read Scripture and ask for wisdom and discernment.  I become meek and obedient before him. 

Look how much engagement is involved in this obedience!  It is not passive.  It actively pursues knowing his will. It requires me to align my heart with his.  It comes from a yielding, obedient, and gentle spirit. 

In this way, the submissive spirit of the Mary and "the submissive wife" come full circle to a life that is the Proverbs 31 Woman. A life that is engaged, active, living, breathing, and influential because it submits first to God's will. 

Submitting to Human Authority

So what does this look like in submitting to human authority? Government rulers, bosses, and husbands? Do we believe our husbands fall into the category of leadership?

Scripture has a lot to say, but I will constrain so I don't get too broad and big for this little mini-course. 

If I constrain myself to one beautiful example from Scripture of submitting to authority (besides Christ's very life), I will reflect on David. His is a lovely example of honoring authority while even fleeing to protect his life. 

  • When King Saul was mistreating David, David didn't submit to the mistreatment or wait around for Saul to kill him, he fled (I Samual 21-24).
  • When David had the opportunity to ambush and kill King Saul, he refused to out of respect for Saul's authority and position (1 Samuel 24, 26)
  • David honored Saul's position because He accepted God's authority.

Twice God says that in King David, he had found 'a man after my own heart. 'God continued to love and to use David even after his time of backsliding. David was not perfect, but he repeatedly submitted his will and plans to the Lord. 

To submit is to first yield to the Lord and his sovereignty. 

It is then to honor the positions of others in your life, including respecting the role of your husband rather than becoming unyielding, resistant, and proud.  

Biblical submission does not mean we have to condone our husband's sin and just sit back. But if we do approach our husbands, it must be from a place of love, respect, and humility that we find by first anchoring our hearts to the Lord. 

God will show you what to do. He gives us a direction of how to respond to sin and how to discover his will. And his Holy Spirit guides each of his children in a very personal way if we accept his invitation.  

I will get more into that, but before we do, lets first look at what sin even is. 

4 Lessons

BONUS 5: Biblical Approach for Responding to Your Husband’s Sin

How do we show up when we believe our husband is doing wrong according to God's standards? Do we confront him? Do we sit silent? Do we leave?

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