Submissive Wife Deception

The topic of “The Submissive Wife” came up recently and I planned on writing an article about it. Shortly thereafter I got an email from a reader about the very topic. My answer to her is what I planned to write about so I thought I’d just share the whole message for continuity sake. I also give some strong advice that I thought would be helpful for others who are in similar situations to read.


A concerned reader asked:

“Hello and thank you for reading my comment. I have a huge problem and hope you can help. I am a new Christian and married my Marine next door neighbor who is also a Christian. When we were getting serious and he was teaching me about the Bible more and more, he asked me to go to this “church” he had just started going to. Knowing we were probably to be married soon I agreed. This is a IFB “church” and at first I was shocked at all the things (sin hell condemnation seperation etc) that I never learned. We were married and he was deployed for a month while I stayed behind left with this IFB “church” that consisted of the pastor, his wife, his daughter and me…..that’s it. All the things you spoke of in your article about the cultish and cult like are exactly these people. My husband now has returned and after going for a few weeks longer, they start telling me I can’t see my mother or friends and how to dress and act. At that point I told my husband I am not going back there. My feelings and alerts after praying for weeks had been confirmed. Now, this pastor is making me out to be “evil” and “probably not saved at all” and “I only want to sin” is why I’ve started going to another church. My husband and I fight terribly and he’s been verbally abusive and telling me to submit and obey him. I’ve only skimmed the surface of this issue and there is so much more. My husband won’t listen to me about this place and refuses to seek other counsel. This church is called Fundamentalist Baptist Church in *****. [The Pastor] is on the phone with my husband constantly now brain washing him further. What do I do? Thank you so much for your time. Michelle”

My Reply:

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for contacting me. I’m sorry for your struggles… I’d like to offer some thoughts with the following disclaimer. You agree that this is for informational purposes only… [not counseling or therapy].

Now, having said that, here are some thoughts.

First of all, yes, according to Ephesians 5: 21-24 wives are to submit to their husbands. The problem is that this is one of the most misinterpreted passage among the IFB. Ephesians 5:22 tells us that wives are to submit to their husbands, however, the verse doesn’t begin or end there. The IFB would like to pretend that it does, but it doesn’t. It begins with verse 21 which tells us that husbands and wives are to submit to each other. This isn’t a one way transaction, but a mutual submission to each other.

Also, it goes on to read “…as you (the wife) do the Lord.” This is a respectful submission to authority and an acknowledgment that he is the head of the house and responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the family. This “submission” does NOT mean a blind disregard for your convictions and relationship with Christ. Verse 22 does NOT mean that you are to simply follow his leadership regardless of whether it’s right or not ignoring your own intuition and personal guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, the IFB conveniently ignores the remainder of the passage. Ephesians 5:21-24 is an incomplete thought. The passage goes on to tell what husbands are to do – love their wives as Christ loved the church. So how did Christ love the church? He was a servant leader. He lead others by SERVING the Church NOT by using power and manipulation forcing them to “submit” to him. Eventually Christ died for the church. In the same way a husband is to SERVE his wife and die (give up himself) for her not lord over her like some dictator expecting her to fall down and “submit” to his every command.

So what should you do? Set some strong, firm boundaries. Let him know that you’re willing to submit, but ONLY if he is willing to read the rest of that passage and apply what it says. If he will listen to reason and demonstrate that he is willing to find out what it means for him to love you as Christ loved the church and then implement those things in your marriage then you will WANT to submit, it will come naturally as a byproduct of his desire to do what’s right. If he doesn’t accept those boundaries then tell him what the consequences will be if he continues to abuse you. If the abuse continues then leave. Get away as quickly as you can. Tell him that you will file for a divorce on the grounds of abuse if he doesn’t change. Do not return to him unless he has demonstrated that he is willing to restore trust and mutual commitment to the relationship. No one should remain in an abusive relationship, whether it’s physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse!!!


  1. I left a Fundamentalist Baptist Church, but my husband still attends. The pastor is an angry, outspoken bully.

    It is a KJV only church, and has scripture to back it up. You cannot question the pastor on anything as he is “God’s annointed.”

    He has preached numerous times on how a husband is to make sure he throws a bigger “fit” than his wife so that she will always know who is in charge. (He advised the young men to start early in their marriage). He has said outright that any conflict in a marriage is due to an unsubmissive wife.

    My husband wanted to put our kids in the “Christian” school the pastor was starting (15 kids in the school, 5 of whom were mine) and I refused to sign papers agreeing to a student handbook that had not been written. The pastor told my husband to “get me into submission.” They believe that I must obey everything my husband says immediately or I am disobeying God. My husband has the only opinion that matters in our home.

    The men have monthly meetings, usually shotgun time at the Pastor’s house, where they have open discussion on church scheduling and finances. All men 16 and older are allowed to the decons meetings. Women are allowed to vote on matters in the church, but the discussion happens at the men-only events.

    Godly women at this church wear dresses/skirts. The pastor publicly chewed out my daughter for wearing blue jeans on a Wednesday night to orchestra rehearsal after church. The male pianist (a respected college professor) wears jeans every Wednesday and Sunday night on the stage without any problem.

    Recorded music is “ungodly” and live music is “Godly”. The only music that is God-Honoring is southern gospel or bluegrass.

    More disturbing than all of this is that scripture is regularly twisted to mean anything the pastor wants it to mean.

    I’m sure not all churches are this extreme, but the environment is right for spiritual and verbal abuse. Women are second class citizens (or at least equal to the oldest child). The pastor has a temper and is feared.

  2. I have seen several instances where someone was told not to divorce their husbands but to totally submit to them as you have said they should. Unfortunealty some of those women I got to attend their funerals. In every case I and others recommended that they should leave and find a safe place. Unless you are there in the middle of it seeing both sides and understanding what is really going on you do not have a clue on how to answer that question. Husband are told to love to their wives as Jesus did for the church. (And believe me it is not the IFB or Baptist or any other formal group, which you will not find in the Bible. The church in this case is all of His followers.) I have a beautiful wife who is not afraid to tell me her feelings on any subject we engage in. I have seen her bend over backwards to help someone in need without my input or thoughts because she believes the Lord led her to move in that direction. Through that action I have also seen many of those people come to know the Lord. My advice for what it is worth, stop getting caught up in what some ‘church’ leader has decided what the word means and you should follow it without question; instead study the Lords word. He will answer your questions without all the gobblygook that everyone seems to have when they think they know more than anyone else.

  3. wow, terrible advice from whoever wrote this article. that’s a very stupid reason to divorce your husband. I think this lady might just be over reacting because she doesn’t want to submit. I know because I use to be a woman like that. I have been in a few radical IFB churches and they were not like that and not all baptist churches are that controlling. Look to the bible for advice, not this article!! to me it sounds like this lady is living in rebellion to God and to her husband.

    1. Sounds to me, you are very judgemental of this woman. I agree, She should seperate, but not divorce. Perhaps you like the Ibc, becuse they feed your self righteous ego.

      1. Sandy, you are being every bit as judgmental as Nettie. I’m starting to figure out there is not a big difference between hard line IFB folks and those that attack them.

  4. While I do agree that Christians should submit ourselves to one another-there is a clear pattern and delegating of authority laid out in these scriptures.

    Also, I do disagree with the above argument (which I often hear) that women are only to submit if their husbands are doing their part. That idea just isn’t consistent with God’s word. We are to obey God whether the people around us do or not. A woman’s submission is not contingent upon her husband’s loving her as Christ does the church. Nowhere in God’s word does it say to wait for others to treat you how they are supposed to before you treat them how you are commanded to. In fact, it says the exact opposite-treat people how you want to be treated, pray for your enemies,bless those who despitefully use you, etc.

    If I had waited for my husband to do his part first, I would probably be divorced. However, I am happily married and our relationship just keeps getting better every day since the Lord opened up my eyes to His plan for marriage. I began to put my husband first in life (after the Lord, of course) and recognize his God given leadership in our home and God changed my husband dramatically!

    However, I do agree that a woman’s submission to God comes before her submission to her husband. We must obey God first always and I hate to see teachings where women are told to follow their husbands at all costs.

  5. I keep getting distracted by the line “they are supposed to submit to each other”…or “husbands are to submit, too.” I think you are mistaken (I’ll get to the responsibility of the husband in a minute). Eph. 5 is to husbands, wives, children, employers, employees…everyone. You told this lady that this is misquoted all the time…yet I see you misquoting it here. v. 21 is talking about submission, and the rest of the chapter is explaining how and to whom you are to submit. Husbands are never told to “submit” to their wives, but to God. Employers aren’t to “submit” to their employees, and parents aren’t to “submit” to their children.

    Now, God DOES clearly tell each party how to behave, and the husband DOES have a responsibilty toward the wife…to love as Christ loves. This is love: mercy and grace to those who are “under” your authority, and total submission to those who have the “rule” over you (so long as it does not cause you to sin against God who is your ultimate authority).

    As for the “abuse” you keep talking about. I am curious what it is exactly in your opinion.

    1. In my Bible, Ephesians 5:21 reads “…you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

      Submitting to another person is misunderstood in our Christian culture (mostly because of the teachings of this passage – and because of the unscriptural church hierarchy that’s set up).

      First, this passage isn’t using the word “submit” in the sense of yielding to someone in power or authority. It’s using the term in the sense of a person willingly putting the other person as more important. This is evident in verse 23 where Paul equates the husband with Christ who willingly gave his life to be her (the church’s) savior – Christ considered the church as more important than himself and even his own life.

      Second, the idea in this passage is a MUTUAL submission – Paul is addressing husbands AND wives. In a marriage relationship, the husband and wife each willingly subordinate his/her rights to the other person’s rights. In a marriage relationship, both husband and wife are called to submit. The husband is called to “submit” (put aside his own interests) in order to care for his wife (see verse 28).

      This passage is VERY rich with godly advice for married couples, but it’s so misunderstood because pastors have screwed it up for hundreds of years.

      As for the “abuse” you keep talking about. I am curious what it is exactly in your opinion.

      Michelle said he verbally abuses her. Not sure how you missed that. But also in my opinion, based on what Michelle wrote, I also believe that he is being spiritually and emotionally abusive (if you can’t see that in what she wrote then there isn’t much hope that you’d see it if I repeated it).

    2. Ephessians 5:21, so you are a liar, Rocky. Read your own bible before you speak.

  6. You actually recommend DIVORCE as a solution? How about a separation and working on reconciliation?

    1. Unfortunately separation and reconciliation aren’t always possible.

  7. Crystal :
    Yes, Christians should not go where the world goes, Christians should not hang out with certain people that are bad influences, the list goes on and on.

    Colossians 2:20-23 – 20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

    Crystal :

    Strong words. Can you prove it? I don’t see you lining anything up with scripture in your comments.

  8. I would like to say to the person in charge of this site, Steve I guess. Not fully sure, but what I have read does sound like that person was in a very bad Church! I have been a member of an Independent Fundamental Church for over 3 yrs now and the things that you say happened in your IFB Church does not even come close to mine! For instance the part about wives submitting…. Let me say that my Pastor says yes it says wifes submit, but if you read a little more it also says husbands submit! There were other areas I saw when I come across this about a week ago and YOU may have been in a wrong type of IFB, but please do not criticize all of them! I saw someone saying something about the Pastor said don’t have anything to do with their Mom and friends…. well that may have happened, but that does not label them all! Yes, Christians should not go where the world goes, Christians should not hang out with certain people that are bad influences, the list goes on and on. If you’re truly reborn again, your preferences do change! I just want to defend my IFB Church cause I thank God for sending me and my husband to a TRUE BIBLE BELIEVEING CHURCH!! It truly does sound like some errors in your church, but don’t bad mouth all IFB Churches cause that is not how mine is and I can tell you WE HAVE A TRUE MAN OF GOD AND THE THINGS YOU SAY DOES NOT LINE UP WITH MY CHURCH! I just want others out there don’t be afraid of IFB Churches cause a TRUE IFB CHURCH LINES UP WITH THE WORD OF GOD AND IT’S JUST THE REAL DEAL! There were so many errors in your church and you are putting a bad name for IFB Churches and yes I did get offended! THERE WERE DEFINITELY ERRORS AT YOUR CHURCH, CAUSE I AGREED WITH A LOT OF WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY! Just wanted to make my comment and have a blessed day!

  9. Hi Michelle- there is an excellent book I would advise you to read titled “Fool-Proofing Your Life” by Jan Silvious, WaterBrook Press. My life changed for the better when I learned how to handle fools, (though I don’t agree with all she said in her book)and from what you have offered in your e-mail it sounds as though your husband has some tendencies of a fool. That is all the advice I will give and I will certainly pray for you.

  10. Hi Michelle – Would completely agree with Steve, such a hard place to be in, I said a quick prayer for you even as I began to type.

    I’m a retired police officer that has been out of the IFB for about 4 years now, retired in 2009. I use to buy all the bull about staying in the marriage no matter what, but after seeing so many women and yes, some men in abusive situations, I simply cannot believe that “anyone” should stay in abusive situations. I have seen men and women killed by their abusive spouses/significant others. (didn’t say that to frighten but to make you aware)

    I echo what Steve said, speak with him and let him know clearly what you expect, and what the consequences of his actions could lead to. Remember this too, he is being manipulated/controlled by this so-called man of God, and probably thinks he’s doing a good thing.

Comments are closed.