Love it or hate it, this is the clearest passage in scripture regarding the roles of husband and wives in the Bible.
18. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19. addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20. giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26. that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27. so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does to the church, 30. because we are members of his body. 31. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
33. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
First, notice that in verse 21, that everyone is called to submit to each other, recognizing that we all are brothers and sisters of Christ and have his Spirit living in us. Secondly, Paul makes a clear case for marriage being a representation of the relationship between Christ and the Church. There are a lot of interesting things here, but for the purpose of this paper, we see that wives are playing the role of the Church in this drama. Perhaps you did not audition for this role, but you have it. Men play the part of Christ. Here is the assignment of your role in the marriage.
It will be of use to get into the idea of submission in the New Testament understanding a little bit, I feel. The Greek-English Lexicon describes hupotasso in Ephesians 5:21 as, “Of submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love.” It carries with it the concept “to line up under.” Because it is a present participle it refers to an activity that must be continuous, and because it is in the middle voice it must be voluntary – “to submit oneself.”
This word is an old military word for “lining up under.”. “Paul uses the verb hupotasso to describe the relation of the church to Christ. The root meaning of tasso and its various forms is ‘put in order,’ ‘arrange,’ or ‘put in place.’ Hupotasso, the form Paul used, means ‘put in order under,’ or ‘sub-ordinate’ and is best translated by forms such as ‘to make subject’ or ‘to subdue’ in active uses and by forms such as ‘to submit oneself’ or ‘to be obedient to’ in passive or reflexive uses. Each of the more than forty New Testament uses of the verb carries an overtone of authority and subjection or submission to it. The use of the verb necessarily carries with it a concept of exercising or yielding to authority.” We need to notice here that a line or chain of command and hierarchy is necessary for any institution to survive. Women are commanded by Paul to submit to their husbands. Is this a simply one sided action that women are always asked to be the sufferers? Paul exactly thought something else. Submission of women to their husbands is something that comes in return to the selfless love from the men. Jesus loved the church such that He was ready to die to redeem her with the price of his life. When the men are ready to die for their women, the women in return submit themselves to their husbands. It is in this context that one shall see the concept of submission of women here. Seeing it only in the context of a woman is utterly wrong like a car with wheels only on one side! In this very context one shall read St. Peter’s commandments to the husbands and wives (I Pet 3:1-7).
Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing. Rather let your adornment be the inner self with the spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
Weaker sex here is to mean that Eve was weak from within to resist the evil. Modesty and meekness is assigned to women by the apostle and love, concern and protecting care are assigned to men. With the power of modesty, meekness and perseverance women win their immodest, violent and impatient men and through their love, concern and protecting care men shall pacify their women. This again is mutually inclusive like wheels on both sides of a car and not to be compared in a worldly way like what is assigned to men is like muscle power or money power and what is assigned to women is simple submission to the muscle and money power. If we want to compare what men have been assigned with with muscle and money power, what women have been assigned with is mind power, which is much more powerful than the muscle and money power. In this very context let us take the parallel to what Paul has to say.