Is there mutual submission or not

I figured I might as well address “mutual submission” because it’s a hotly contested topic and leads to a lot of misinterpretations and denial of Scriptures in churchianity.

This is part of a comment I made over at Donal Graeme’s on Sin of Omission 3.

Ephesians 5 NASB

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [a]you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma.

3 But immorality [c]or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among [d]saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no [e]immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 [f]trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even [g]expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are [h]exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason [i]it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Paul, inspired by God, says here’s what you SHOULDN’T DO, and

15 Therefore [j]be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 [k]making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, [l]for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to [m]one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to [n]God, even the Father;

Paul, inspired by God, says here’s what you SHOULD DO with a few more shouldn’ts.

Then he follows up this passage with :

21 [o]and be subject to one another in the [p]fear of Christ.

It’s clear that the context of this passage says we are to be “imitators of God” and that we are to expose the things of darkness to the light (v8-14).

If you remember back to Romans 12 where it talks about “no one should think of themselves more highly than they ought, but to have sound judgment [in the body of Christ]” this becomes more clear. The body is composed of all Christians, including the husband and the wife. Thus, Paul’s reference to mutual subjection each other is the following:

If a believer is caught is in sin and a brother or sister points it out then we should “be subject” to their correction or rebuke in fear of Christ/God [in order to root out sin] so as to be imitators of God.

This aligns clearly with Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 on how to treat believers in sin.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins[k], go and [l]show him his fault [m]in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every [n]fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as [o]a Gentile and [p]a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 [a]You have become [b]arrogant and [c]have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and [d]I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord [e]Jesus.

6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But [f]actually, I wrote to you not to associate [g]with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God [h]judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Therefore, in parallel with these passages, this is the context to which there should be “subjection” to each other as believers in Christ in marriage:

If a Christian husband is in sin a wife should point it out **respectfully** so as to honor the roles and responsibilities in marriage. If he is indeed sin then he should “submit” to that correction in fear of Christ. In this a wife is her husband’s helpmeet as to the Lord, and she is acting as a fellow believer in Christ to her husband.

If an unbelieving husband is in sin, then the passage from 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 7 applies. I discussed this thoroughly in Wives will never win their husbands with words.

The Christian husband is supposed to do this anyway through his duties of headship like Christ does the Church. This is only an reinforcement of the topic.

This is the only interpretation that I can foresee that aligns the mutual submission passage with all of the other Scriptures including the roles and responsibilities in marriage.

Any interpretation to which a husband submits to a wife as loving her or being coniderate of her or as part of marriage roles and responsibilities is not consistent with other Scriptures. Preaching this type of mutual submission of the husband and wife is heresy.

Husbands need remember that Adam’s sin was from listening to his wife. So if his wife points out a potential fault, unless it is obvious careful examination with the Scriptures and prayer must be taken so as to make the correct decision.

Likewise, if a wife doesn’t like something that a husband does or feels that her husband has done something wrong AND it is not sin, then none of this applies. Rather, she should **respectfully** ask permission to discuss the situation with him. If the husband continues with the situation, she should respectully submit to it. The wife does not get to make the determination of what she will and won’t submit to unless it is blindingly obvious sin such as the 10 commandments. Any feeling based decision should be ignored.

One of the things that gets glossed over in most marriages is that if a husband or wife was in sin and the other spouse points it out then the other spouse should examine their behavior as well. Has the other spouse been doing something which may negatively affect the other?

One of the most clear examples of this is with porn.  Most Christian husbands don’t want to look at porn, and it is still their sin to look at porn. However, if the wife is constantly denying him sexual relations then per 1 Corinthians 7 she is in sin as well. Similarly, if a wife is constantly snarky and disrespectful or challenging her husbands decisions past when they are made.

On the flip side, if a wife is nagging and aggressive all the time the husband should examine his behavior to see if he has been living with her in an inconsiderate way or has become embittered toward her. Likewise, if he has been denying her sex or laying the headship on her instead of taking the mantle himself.

Self examination is important for both the husband and the wife when pointing out behaviors in the others that may be sinful so as not to be a hypocrite.

As a side note I don’t believe a rebuke — which is harsher than a correction — should be used from a woman to a man or a wife to a husband. It’s more than likely to turn a man away from doing the right thing because women who are brash and harsh with men tend to be “nagging” or “bitchy” and no man will listen to it.


Mutual submission only occurs in two instances:

  • If a Christian husband is in sin a wife should point it out **respectfully** so as to honor the roles and responsibilities in marriage. If he is indeed sin then he should “submit” to that correction in fear of Christ (Eph 5:21). In this a wife is her husband’s helpmeet as to the Lord (Gen 2:20-22), and she is acting as a fellow believer in Christ to her husband (Matt 18:15-17).
  • That the husband’s body is not his own just as the wife’s body is not her own in regard to having sex with one another (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
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19 Responses to Is there mutual submission or not

  1. donalgraeme says:

    A good explanation Deep Strength, one that I think carries across all denominational boundaries. The idea of “Mutual Submission” in marriage is not consistent with classical Christian teaching, either. Mrs. C suggested I read St. John Chrysostom’s homily on Ephesians, and I’ve done so. No mention made of any idea that “mutual submission/subjection” guides Christian marriage. In fact, he is very clear about the exercise of authority by the husband, all while tempered by love.

  2. femininebutnotfeminist says:

    Love this post. Lots of good instruction for both men and women to heed here. I read most of your posts from the outside looking in because, as a woman, posts that teach masculinity don’t really apply to me, though I thoroughly enjoy reading them. I learned a bit of what I can do from this. Thanks 🙂

  3. Robyn says:

    Very insightful DS.

  4. Joseph of Jackson says:

    This has been my favorite post of yours to date.

  5. Gordon says:

    Love the blog, keep it up.

    I would like to see you discuss the following contradiction (in my head, at least): The idea that husbands win their wives with words vs. the concept that you can’t negotiate desire (

  6. Looking Glass says:


    Rollo’s point is always “you can’t pay for Love (the emotional response aspect)”. I see a lot of people can’t grasp that concept until it’s said that way. You’re not “winning a Wife with Words” by sitting down and mapping out an agreement. You’re enforcing boundaries and keying off emotional responses to Words. See JoJ’s post about the “formula”. Breaking Rapport causes emotional response. Contracts don’t.

  7. @ Gordon,

    As LG said, the specific negotiation that Rollo discusses in that post is in terms of bargaining.

    A husband can’t say to his wife: “I will do X, Y, and Z, and you should respect me for it” and neither can a wife say to a husband “If you only do X, Y, and Z, I would love you more.” This is exactly what happens in counseling and it’s not effective.

    Attraction is not something you can “negotiate” (bargain, plea, arrange) in that respect to a woman.

    In the post where I said you can’t win her with words, you can’t win her if you do what she says (negotiating). You have to be the head and make the decision between yourself and God how to be the head.

    That should make more intuitive sense to you once you understand.

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  18. Isabelle says:

    “However, if the wife is constantly denying him sexual relations then per 1 Corinthians 7 she is in sin as well.”

    Sorry , but how can she do that since she has NO authority over her own body but it is her husband who has ?

    Withholding sex can only be made with mutual consent . Withholding by oneself is clearly impossible .

    A wife (or husband) CANNOT per 1 Co 7 deny her husband sex since she has no right over her own body but in God’s eyes , the husband has.

  19. Ken says:

    Isabelle, I have to take exception to your statement that a spouse cannot deny sex. Should not? Sure. Cannot? Nope. Authority is not control. A husband or wife has no control over their spouse’s decisions. Second, authority that is poorly used invites sin. A husband or wife that pushes sex apart from the mutual interest of their partner is inviting sin and placing stumbling blocks in front of their partner.

    A good corollary to reinforce what I’m saying about authority and control might be to look at the instruction to fathers to not drive their children to anger.

    I hope this helps as you consider my pushback.

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