What does Christian submission entail? My understanding of our hupotassMENOI (passive/MIDDLE voice) submission with the Lord is one of non compelled freely aligning ourselves with His Life. We want to be one with Him like the prayer that Christ prayed we should all be one as they (Trinity) are One, a perfect unity, a cleaving together, a unity of purpose, a perfect mutually sacrificing love of one another. He gave us His life first, we give ours back to Him. Some imply that Christ tells us what to do, or that we are to seek His permission daily as to what we do, but I don’t see that. Certainly, God will give us direction when we ask and since Christ is all wise we do well to ask frequently. Also as Creator Christ will speak to us TRUTH, which is directive by its nature. The Holy Spirit also warns us as Paul says the HS did not ‘permit’ him to go places. And the HS, using prophets warned Paul of danger. And we know that the HS offers us comfort, which we do well to receive, submit to (choice!). Christ is not our boss, our director, our employer, etc. He is our Life. We do well to remain submitting our lives freely INTO Him. That is our submission with Christ. It is also part of remaining (cleaving) as a branch on the vine as Christ shows us in John 15. Neither hupotasso or hupotassomenoi (middle voice) is the same as hupakouo (obey). While a submission that is responding to requests (hupotasso) CAN look like obedience (hupakouo), the meaning of the word does not require it. It is just one of the possible applications. However, hupakouo definitely entails hearing and obeying as hearing is the main part of the word. Hupotasso OTOH has a primary meaning of arranging oneself under. When in the passive voice, that means that there is no need to do so in response to outside influences but rather we can choose deliberately to arrange oneself under others in some way. When Paul tells us to hupotassomai one another (allelon) that means our attitude is to be deliberately set to put others before ourselves. This would entail being supportive, respectful, honoring, helpful, and a slew of other things. It is no small omission that wives are NOT admonished to be obedient to husbands in the original languages. As Christians we are to be obedient to Truth, the Word of God. As fallible humans we are not ever told to command, demand, exercise lordly authority over one another. Rather we are to serve one another following Christ’s example who came NOT to be served, but to serve and give His life for the benefit of others (matt. 20:26-). Thus, the emphasis changes from husbands thinking they have to direct their wives to husbands desiring to serve their wives in ways that God shows the husband is needed. Then wives do well to determine to be responsive in honor and appreciation of their husbands.
With a proper understanding of what the Greek meaning of submission is in the middle voice in contrast to what obedience is, we can then better determine what it means for everyone to hupotassomenoi each other as well as what it means for wives to hupotassomenoi toward their husbands in everything. If she were hupakouo in everything, that would entail responding positively to every request of her husband. But husbands have not been admonished in Scripture to instruct or lead their wives and wives have not been instructed to hupoakouo their husbands. Thus we can leave that aside. Since the passive is self instigated that means it doesn’t matter what the husband says or does or doesn’t do, the wife is still responsible to hupotassomenoi toward her husband in the same way that all Christians are to hupotassomenoi one another (Epe. 5:21). Her submission does not require anything from him. Rather she is to so arrange herself, her actions, her words so that they support him (under lifting up), encourage him, equip him, warn him, with Godly as well as good Christian love. As fellow Christians we should be doing this to all other Christians as we are led. In a marriage we want to do this in everything, so that our marriage is strengthened.
THE TERM HEADSHIP
Since Scripture says “head of and body of”, the term “headship” in effect goes against Scripture. “Head of and body of” infer interdependent relationship. Add to this the foundation of “submitting one to another in the fear of the Lord” and you have a relationship of solid mutuality. We have perfect complementarity with the husband daily loving sacrificially, i.e. giving of his strengths to provide and protect. The wife gives of her strengths to be hupotassomai/be submissive and at her own instigation to support, honor, assist, encourage and do everything to help him be all he can be in Christ. They are sacrificially loving (vs. 1-2) and being submissive to one another (vs. 21) differently as a man and a woman.
Headship on the other hand is unilateral and about authority, power, primacy and supremacy. This is a totally different concept than what Scripture paints in Ephesians.
What I see in general Christiandom are gender hierarchalists (complementarians/patriarchalists) and equality minded (Christian egalitarians) men and women who want to do what I said above being sidetracked by the word ‘headship’. If that term (which is NOT in Scripture) were dropped, it would do a great deal to bring egals and non egals into unity and comparable understanding at least on the question of marriage relationships.