Understanding Biblical Principals of Authority and Submission in Christian Marriage

Christian marriage embodies both submission and authority through its foundation in complementarity between husband and wife roles, according to Scripture. Husbands should assume their ordained responsibilities of leadership towards their wives while wives submit themselves willingly within the loving leadership of their husbands.  This relationship doesn’t constitute power struggle nor hierarchical dominance but instead promotes mutual respect for achieving each individual role with cooperation among partners fulfilling respective responsibilities in full measure.

Adam was given authority as head of his family as part of their complementarity between themselves. While Adam held primary responsibility for leading and safeguarding their household, Eve contributed greatly in decision making as well as contributing to its well-being. Together they stood under God and had dominion over earth. There’s often the misconception that Christian marriage promotes patriarchal oppression through authority and submission.  However, this approach overlooks historical and cultural factors from 1st-century Rome where women enjoyed considerable freedoms compared to men and were equal to them in many ways.

The Bible instructs wives to submit to their husbands rather than abuse them out of compliance with God’s will and for moral obligation reasons rather than simply oppression. Further, the Bible emphasizes the value of submission and adhering to church practices of God’s churches of today, such as restrictions on women teaching or exercising authority over men in church.  This shouldn’t be taken as evidence or a suggestion that women are inferior or that this decision reflects inferiority but instead upholds God’s plan for authority and submission.

The Dynamic of Submission in Christian Marriage

Christianity’s view of marriage transcends mere authority and submission; rather it calls us all to love and self-gift. Marriage is an intimate union between partners that express and receive affection differently depending on gender differences.  For example, women tend to excel at tuning into personal details and emotions while men rely more heavily on tasks and logical thinking to address life circumstances around them. Women connect with situations more broadly and often connect multiple thoughts and moments together in a thread.  In contrast, men are more likely to think in a narrow way about the same set of circumstances and compartmentalize them separately.  Men and women share complementary traits in marriage that offer each partner distinct advantages in creating the bond of marriage.

Unfortunately, original sin has damaged this intimate union in ways that show up as dominance, objectification and exploitation.  Christ, however, came to redeem marriage and restore its true purpose and meaning. Christian marriage requires husband-wife relationships which demonstrate both authority and submission in an acceptable and redemptive sense. Real authority does not involve dominating or controlling another individual but instead strives to bring out their life’s fullest potential.  Husbands should exercise this authority by self-giving and self-sacrificing love while taking responsibility for spiritual welfare of their wives.  Wives can receive their husband’s selflessness by accepting it with open hands as love from him in submission and gratitude.

Practically Balancing Authority and Submission in Christian Marriage

Balancing authority and submission dynamics requires striking an intricate balance. Husbands should exercise their authority without becoming oppressive. This can be accomplished by actively listening to and considering their wives’ opinions while at the same time encouraging collaboration, mutual decision-making, and cooperation within their marriages. Wives on the other hand have the capacity to submit without succumbing to subservience or abandoning their voice, offering their thoughts and concerns respectfully, engaging in open communication, and actively contributing in decision-making processes. Trusting their husband’s leadership while remaining independent individuals is vital in creating an ideal dynamic between authority and submission. Maintaining a harmonious and balanced relationship also involves acts of kindness, understanding, compromise, humility and forgiveness from both partners. Placing their needs first fosters an atmosphere of mutual submission based on love.

Attacking Common Misconceptions

It is crucial for Christian marriage partners to dispel misperceptions about authority and submission within Christian marriage relationships, which may be understood to promote an abusive power dynamic or gender inequality. An examination of biblical principles shows them instead to call for mutual respect, cooperation and the creation of a balanced dynamic in marital relationships.  We are called to submit to each other and husbands would be wise to submit to God as an example to their wives.  Women should not be seen as less than because they are designated to be a help to their husbands when God refers to Himself as our help.  Men ought not think of themselves as tyrannical authority figures when they are called to mirror the sacrificial leadership of Christ Jesus.

Engaging With Christian Resources

Couples seeking guidance for better understanding authority and submission issues within Christian marriage should seek help from trusted Christian resources such as books, articles, websites or engaging with pastors, mentors, and Christian counselors for personal assistance and individually focused guidance.

Seeking Balance and Harmony Balance is integral to maintaining healthy Christian marriages. Understanding the biblical principles behind these concepts, embracing the gift dynamic of love and self-gift, and practicing open communication, collaboration, and mutual decision-making contribute to a balanced and harmonious relationship. Striving for a relationship rooted in love, respect, and mutual submission allows couples to experience the fullness of God’s design for marriage.


Get Connected!