St. Paul’s dictum in Ephesians 5: 21, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” is commonly used by egalitarians as a nullification of what follows, rather than a summary introduction: the command for wives to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord and for husbands to love their wives as Christ, the church’s Lord, loved it and gave himself for it. This is Paul's application to married couples of a common theme of his writing, as in Philippians 2: 3f: “In humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.” In Eph. 5, he is applying this attitude, which in Philippians he identifies as “the mind of Christ” to the specific relation of husband and wife. The Lord gave his own illustration of this principle when he washed his disciples’ feet, emphasizing that this one who was their servant was also their Lord and Master, indicating that they (who would soon enough be lords and masters in their own courses) were to do and teach the same.
We should be careful of two mishandlings of scripture here, first of denying that the concept of “submission” applies to the relation of each Christian to every other, including husbands and wives, and second, that the character of this submission doesn’t vary with personal situation. The submission of the husband to the wife is principally that of sacrificing his prerogative of independent self-actualization (as Christ did for the church) for her good, that of the wife to the husband a submission of her will–her own prerogative of self-actualization– to his. The resulting unity in diversity are acts of faith and a great mystery, but cannot be consummated unless they are effected by two distinctly different personal kinds in the character of greater and a lesser, each of which receives the other into itself, thus partaking of and exhibiting the being of the other. Those who characterize this mutual self-giving as “mutual submission” in the sense of a something that looks exactly the same in each partner would destroy not only Christian marriage, but the bond of love in which the church is founded by the Spirit of God.
The conceptual problem they have arises from refusal, hence inability, to understand the nature of God as Trinity in which there is both perfect equality of deity and perfect hierarchy of Persons, a God whose creation, and redemption of that creation, bears the stamp of his eternal being in the ordered equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. Indeed, the same people who have been struggling so valiantly to give us egalitarian churches and marriages, that is, the nullification of marriage and church, are the ones who are now attempting to give us an egalitarian Trinity, and thus the nullification of God. Many of them call themselves Evangelicals, but their gospel isn’t Christian.