Summary: 1) The basic matter of the submission (Ephesians 5:22a), then with its 2) Manner & Motive (Ephesians 5:22b-23a), as well as the 3) Model (Ephesians 5:23b-24).
For the past several hundred years western society has been bombarded with the humanistic, egalitarian, sexless, classless philosophy that was the dominant force behind the French Revolution. The blurring and even total removal of all human distinctions continues to be masterminded by Satan so as to undermine legitimate, God–ordained authority in every realm of human activity—in government, the family, the school, and even in the church. We find ourselves victimized by the godless, atheistic concepts of humanity’s supreme independence from every external law and authority. The philosophy is self–destructive, because no group of people can live in orderliness and productivity if each person is bent on doing their own will. The idea of subordination to authority in general, as well as in the family, is out of favour in a world which prizes permissiveness and freedom. ... Subordination smacks of exploitation and oppression that are deeply resented. But authority is not synonymous with tyranny, and the submission to which the apostle refers (in Ephesians 5) does not imply inferiority ((O’Brien, P. T. (1999). The letter to the Ephesians (p. 414). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).)
Few areas of modern living have been so distorted and corrupted by the devil and the world and caused the church so much confusion as those of marriage and the family. It is these issues that Paul confronts in Ephesians 5:22—6:9. He expands and clarifies the general principle of mutual submission (“be subject to one another in the fear of Christ,” v 21) by giving several illustrations from the family, beginning with the relationship of husbands and wives. Scripture makes clear that there are no spiritual or moral distinctions among Christians. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). There are no classifications of Christians. Every believer in Jesus Christ has exactly the same salvation, the same standing before God, the same divine nature and resources, as well as the same divine promises and inheritance (cf Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; James 1:1–9).
Because so much of the church has long disregarded the full teaching of Scripture, many believers find some of its truths to be unfamiliar and even hard to accept. And because the church has been so engulfed in, identified with, and victimized by worldly standards, God’s standards seem out–of–date, irrelevant, and offensive to modern mentalities. His way is so high and so contrary to the way of the world that it is incomprehensible to many in and out of the church.
In Ephesians 5:22–24 Paul begins this list by outlining the role, duties, and priorities of the wife in relation to her husband’s authority First he deals with 1) The basic matter of the submission (Ephesians 5:22a), then with its 2) Manner & Motive (Ephesians 5:22b-23a), as well as the 3) Model (Ephesians 5:23b-24).
1) The Matter of Submission (Ephesians 5:22a)
Ephesians 5:22a Wives, submit to your own husbands, (as to the Lord). (ESV)
In matters of role and function God has made distinctions. Although there are no differences in intrinsic worth or basic spiritual privilege and rights among His people, the Lord has given rulers in government certain authority over the people they rule, to church leaders He has delegated authority over their congregations, to husbands He has given authority over their wives, to parents He has given authority over their children, and to employers He has given authority over employees.
Wives is not qualified, and therefore applies to every Christian wife, regardless of her social standing, education, intelligence, spiritual maturity or giftedness, age, experience, or any other consideration. Nor is it qualified by her husband’s intelligence, character, attitude, spiritual condition, or any other consideration. Paul says categorically to all believing wives: submit/be subject to your own husbands.
As indicated by italics in most translations, submit/be subject is not in the original text, but the meaning is carried over from verse 21. The clearest and most challenging expression of the biblical meaning of submission is Mark 8:34–35 (RSV): “And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” “Submit” translates a military term (hupotassôg, Gk.), which means “to place under” or “to subordinate” (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1, note). This is not because of essential feminine inferiority but because God has placed the husband first in order of creation as head of the home, just as Christ is the Head of the church (Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Eph 5:22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.).