Why Would God Tell Women to Submit?

Romans 13:8-10 says:


8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Emphasis mine)


The end of “any commandment,” says the apostle in his signature letter, is love. That is why loving one’s neighbor sums up the entire Mosaic law.


There are a lot of laws in the Pentateuch, about a lot of different things: killing an ox that gores someone (Exodus 21:28), not wearing women’s clothing if you are a man (Deuteronomy 22:5), building a parapet on every roof you own (Deuteronomy 22:8), burning the garment of a leper (Leviticus 13:51-52), etc. So, it seems that Paul (and of course he is getting this from Jesus: Matthew 22:39-40) is exaggerating in throwing all these various laws into the category of love.


But he isn’t. What he means is that there is a beneficial reason behind all the laws. They were all getting at something in how the Israelites treat each other. Although we have a different relation to them now, in this new covenant in which we live, we must see that God gave the Mosaic commands to help us love each other.  Which fact the apostle feels is important to state in order to help us obey.


If we believe him, it should help us look to this purpose for every commandment given. Take the commandment, “Wives, submit to your husbands…” (Ephesians 5:22-24, 5:33, Colossians 3:18, 1Peter 3:1, Titus 2:5). The end of this commandment, as it is included in “any other commandment” must be love. Yet the typical responses I see to this commandment are to:


  1. deny it,
  2. obfuscate it, or
  3. just grit one’s teeth and bear it (and above all, don’t talk about it)


But none of those reactions recognize what Paul is saying, nor do they honor God, including the third one.


Instead, we ought to ask, and answer, how a wife submitting to her husband achieves the goal of us loving each other. Any person must get to this understanding if she will be able to heed and embrace the asymmetries of gender. This is why I often talk about the “promoting” of a man that is the end of the “submitting.” I am frequently explaining what husbands laying down their lives and wives submitting does for each other.


I see understanding this “end of the commandment” free people as it casts the commandment in a different, I would say, truer, light. At a recent training I did, one woman, a faithful follower of Christ yet with a troubled relationship to this command, grasped this. The re-orientation brought her freedom. She sent me a kind email describing it:


…Over the years when I hear teaching on gender, I have developed this fearful posture like I am about to be dishonored or devalued. Because I hold high the Word of God as our authority, and believe that regardless of how I feel about it- it is to be obeyed and received, it’s almost like I have a conflict within: flinching for the commands of the Lord to be burdensome or even feel demeaning (for example, when I’ve heard teaching that women are more gullible and easily deceived as compared to men). Honestly, if that is what the Word teaches, I want to receive it with all of my heart.

YET- in our training times together I’ve experienced the very opposite. The commands of the Lord and his design in gender that you’ve been teaching have instead inspired comfort, worship, and peace in my heart. I am wondering if it’s because his yoke is indeed easy and his burden is indeed light.


The answer is ‘Yes’! Christ’s yoke is easy when we can clearly perceive the love behind the commandment.


This is why AffirmingGender.com exists, why I write these books, why I do what I do—because the end of the gender commandments is love. It is imperative, especially today, that we see the ‘why’ behind them.

One comment

  1. Steve Goble

    Sam, thank you for this compelling discussion of this potentially thorny topic. I appreciate all you do to communicate the gender distinctives in the Bible and that “the end of the gender commandments is love.”

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