Does Ephesians 5:21 Nullify 1 Timothy 2:11,12 On The Roles of Men And Women?

Does Ephesians 5:21 Nullify 1 Timothy 2:11,12 On The Roles of Men And Women?


Some teach that husbands and wives have equal roles by twisting Ephesians 5:21 (which states: “submitting to one another in the fear of God”). This verse does not teach mutual submission to the exclusion of all other passages on the divine roles of men and women.

1. The word “submit” (from the Greek word hupotasso) “describes the submission of someone in an ordered arrangement to another who is above the first – that is, in authority over that person” (Nordling 20).

This same word refers to the submission of…

a. Jesus to his parents (Luke 2:51)

b. Demons to the disciples (Luke 10:17, 20)

c. Citizens to governing authorities (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13)

d. All things in the universe to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22)

e. Angels, authorities, and powers to Christ (1 Peter 3:22)

f. Christ to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28)

g. Church members to their leaders (1 Corinthians 16:15-16; 1 Peter 5:5)

h. The church to Christ (Ephesians 5:24)

i. Slaves to their masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18)

j. Christians to God (Hebrews 12:9; James 4:7)

k. Wives to their husbands (emp. mine) (Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:5 (Nordling 20)

As you look at all these relationships that appear in the New Testament, do any of these give an indication of mutual submission? Is Christ to be submissive to the church? Is God the Father to be submissive to God the Son? Is God to be submissive to Christians? Absolutely not!

2. In the remote context Paul qualifies what is meant by “submitting to one another.” He elaborates on husband-wife, parent-child, and master-slave relationships (Ephesians 5:22–6:9). First, notice that Paul never states that the husband is to be submissive to his wife. Second, notice that there is an ordered relationship in which a person is to be submissive to another person in each of these relationships. Children are to be submissive to their parents. Slaves are to be submissive to their masters. Likewise, wives are to be submissive to their husbands. This does not imply that the one in submission is inferior or less valuable than the one in authority. God ordered the structure of these relationships and we are not to rebel against His divine structure of authority (1 Corinthians 11:3).

3. Notice that the husbands are to be reciprocal not in submission to their wives, but is to show love toward their wives (Ephesians 5:22-33). This is a command. Paul commands husbands to submit to Christ by being like Him. Jesus is and was the greatest self-sacrificial person there ever was. Husbands are to imitate that type of love by imitating and being submissive to Christ (James 4:7).

Works Cited

Nordling, John G. “Does Ephesians 5:21 Support Mutual Submission?” Logia, 24 no. 4 (2015): 19–28.

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