Ephesians 5:22 commands the wife to submit to her husband while Ephesians 5:25 commands the husband to love his wife. But are these two separate things? I don’t think so.
Submission is always an act of love and love is always an act of submission. These are not unrelated commands. In fact, they may be one in the same. Love is not some warm, fuzzy, or tingling feeling that you get. Love is an action that involves submission, or the giving up of something important to you so that someone else may benefit.
John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God submitted His Son, Jesus Christ, into the hands of sinners to be tortured and ultimately killed so that these same torturers and murders would have a means to get to heaven. That is love. But it was also a tremendous act of submission.
The Bible says in John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Again, we see that this great love is accompanied by an act of great submission. Submission and love go hand in hand.
Even in Ephesians 5:25 where God commands the husband to love his wife, He gave the example of Jesus and the Church: “…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Jesus loved the Church by giving up His life for it. Again, we see that love and submission are one and the same thing.
Jesus, while talking to the Disciples, said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Thus, one means of loving Jesus is to submit your will to His commands.
When there is true love, there is true submission. You can’t have the one without the other. Every time I love my wife, I submit my will to hers. I choose to do something that she wants rather than what I want. She, in turn, does the same for me.
So why then did God word it this way? Why didn’t He simply use the word ‘love‘ or ‘submit’ in both instances? I believe God had it worded in such a way in order to appeal the greatest to our natures as men and women.
Women define themselves by their relationships. When a woman is insecure, she often seeks to dominate or control the relationship in order to feel good about it-feel secure. Even during her attempts to control the relationship, she will think she is loving her man. She won’t necessarily see it as anything else. God used the word ‘submit’ because it strikes at the heart of her actions. She isn’t loving until she is submitting.
Men, on the other hand, define themselves by their work or their capacity to perform a duty or role. Most men, however, do not willingly surrender these roles to anyone, man or woman. They tend to say, ‘I can do it myself’, ‘I don’t need any help’, ‘I don’t need directions’ and so forth. When you use the word ‘submit’ a man thinks of surrender. Most men get stubborn when you tell them surrender. But using the word ‘love‘, will strike at the heart of a man’s failure. In refusing to budge, or give an inch, he hasn’t loved his wife as he ought to. Get him to love, and he will have submitted. He needs to understand that submission is not an act of surrender, but an act of love.
God, I believe, chose these words to fit best with our nature and particular roles. It merely demonstrates how smart and intelligent God is.