All the arguing (and there is plenty) that Ephesians 5:21a is a call for mutal submission (“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”) does not alter this one whit. There is a sense in which we are called to mutual submission, insofar as we are to “honour one another” above ourselves (Rom 12:10). But the husband ‘honours’ his wife in one way, and the wife ‘honours’ her husband in another.
He honours her by exercising a love which is consciously modelled on Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church, giving himself for her so as to give to her. She honours him with a love that is equally modelled consciously on the Church’s love for Christ, by her submission to her husband in “all things” (Eph 5:24, or as we might say “in all respects”, cf 2 Cor 6:4; 11:6).
To say, however, that Ephesians calls for ‘mutual submission’ between husbands and wives is to subvert the text, which states specifically that the husband is the ‘head’ (as Christ is to the Church), and the wife is the ‘body’ (as the Church is to Christ). These are not simply ‘opposite versions of the same thing’. Nor are they interchangeable. To be a husband is to be the head. To be a wife is to be the body. These rôles are given, not chosen.
He concludes with this sobering thought.
This issue confronts us today as the Christian view of marriage has always confronted Christians. Like the first disciples (though for different reasons), we are tempted to respond, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Perhaps, however, our problem is not with marriage, much less with understanding the biblical text, but with trusting God.