It is a shame that a break is made here between v.22 and v. 21, because Paul began the following admonishments after what he wrote in v. 21, namely, “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” In other words, it is not just directed to wives. Although it is true that the Husbands are the covenantal head of the family in most cases, nevertheless it is a headship of love, and in this way husbands do submit to their wives, most importantly through teaching the word. For Paul it went beyond this however, as he was first laying down how the members of the church must submit to one another as well. The husband’s love is to follow Jesus’ pattern (vv. 23-7) There is a simple principle for Paul – husbands show their love for their wives, in the same way they love themselves. However, for Paul what he had just written was secondary to how he viewed the life of the church as a whole.
Paul turns to the Christian marriage as an example of submitting one to another. Wives are called to submit to their husbands as their head, and husbands in their love for their wives – both are centred on Christ. However, for those cases where either side is out of step with these directives, other scripture must come into play. No woman should be forced to live with an abusive man, nor a believing man with a rebellious wife. Forgiveness should be sought and given, otherwise the innocent party needs to take the case to two witnesses, and if there is still no change, then to the church. During this time it would be best if the couple were separated, and if true believers, give themselves to prayer, not letting the devil gain a foothold. Marriage is a great mystery, as is the union of Christ with his people therefore. “let each one of you love…his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (v. 33)