I have just read an excellent post at http://betterexegesis.blogspot.com/ and I urge all who are interested in the Greek rendering of the difference between “submission” and “obedience” to go there and read. I will not attempt such an analysis here.
Submission is an attitude of the heart that simply wants the will of another person. Obedience is the action that will follow when submission is in place. As such, submission is a gift you choose to give and only you can choose to do so. Obedience can and at times is a requirement that others can demand. Submission, on the other hand, is an attitude of heart that each person can choose to give to another. It is commanded in the New Testament as a requirement for the church to live in harmony, and for the marriage to be successful in Christ.
However, if the husband does not hear Ephesians 5:21 and understand that this attitude is required of him in reference to others, and he then attempts to demand it from his wife, there will be war. However, if it is lovingly taught and encouraged by mutual submission first, then it is a joy to watch it flow and increase the love and obedience in Christ between us.
Much of the “Christian” teaching we have experienced about marriage has encouraged a “Lordship” attitude from the husband. This same attitude is condemned by the Lord in reference to the way Christian leaders are to work in reference to the church. (Mark 10:41-45) So if we violate one passage to confirm our view of another one, something is terribly wrong.
The submission data must be heard by all so all will have opportunity to respond to the Lord in this attitude, and to respond to others in through this empowerment. I say “empowered,” because I believe only the Lord can work this inside us. Rebellion is so much a part of us that we often do not even recognize it. All of us must be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the reality of the holiness, through submission, that the Lord has imparted and invested into us.