The word “submission” is translated from the Greek word “hupotasso.” (5293 in the Strong’s Concordance) It means to place or rank under, to subject or to obey. The word is also fairly often translated “subject.”
In the Kingdom of God, “submission” should not be considered a four-letter word. When we look at the life of Christ, our example, we find that it is full of examples of His willingness to submit or subject himself to various authorities.
- Jesus submitted to his parents when he was a child.
And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:51-52.
- He submitted to the Old Testament Law when He walked as a man. He was circumcised as a child. He went to the synagogue and to the feasts.
- He was subject to the governing authorities of His time.
And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:17.
- Jesus submitted to the direction and leading of God, the Father.
Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19
- He submitted to the will of the Father, even unto death.
… not as I will, but as Thou wilt. Matthew 26:39
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; Eph. 5:1
We are called to live lives of submission also. It’s not about being superior or inferior (is Christ inferior to the Father?). It’s not about being intelligent or not, gifted or not. It’s about choosing to be submitted to authority because:
- It is the will of God.
- We don’t want the Word of God to be dishonored.
- We need order.
- We want to win the lost by our example.
- We want to avoid God’s wrath.
- It is the right thing to do, as a matter of principle, for the sake of conscience.
- We want to be like Him.
We are called to submit to:
Submit therefore to God. James 4:7
… and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:21
… clothe yourself with humility toward one another 1 Peter 5:5
be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; Romans 12:10
- Ministers and Spiritual Leaders (elders, group leaders, teachers, …)
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Hebrews 13:17
- Governing Authorities / Human Institutions (government, law enforcement, bosses …)
Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. … Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Romans 13:1,5
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God… 1 Peter 2:13-15
I think, in effect, the Lord is asking us to submit to any authority recognized by man. This means bosses, scout masters, elders, the manager of the grocery store, etc.
But what if someone asks you to do something wrong?
I believe there is a case for godly disobedience to authority. In the examples I list below, I see this disobedience as a reaction to being asked to do something that clearly violates or makes a mockery of the Word of God and its sound counsel.
- Paul and friends in Galatians 2:5 were not willing to “yield in subjection” to those who wanted the Gentile New Testament church to walk in Old Testament legalism, nullifying the work of the cross.
- Peter and the apostles in Acts 5:29 said, “We must obey God rather than men” when they were told to stop preaching the gospel.
- Abigail in the Old Testament disobeyed her husband’s command (which endangered her household) to refuse rightful help to David.
- Believers around the world gather secretly for fellowship when doing so is against the law of their land.
- Jesus Himself did not submit to the corrupt man-created laws of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Luke 11:37-38).
A word of caution here: Excuses and rationalizations are easy to come by. If you must consider not submitting to an authority, think carefully. Are they asking you to violate the Word of God? Are they making a mockery of His truth?
I don’t always want to follow the speed limit, but is it really violating or mocking the Word of God to ask me to drive 35 mph in a residential neighborhood? How about obeying neighborhood ordinances and keeping the yard nice, or following directions at a seminar (even if they seem stupid). Is it violating the Word of God to ask me to have dinner on time?
Not submitting to an authority is a very serious thing. Abigail disobeyed a wrong command in order to save her family’s lives and because it was right to feed those who had protected their herds. Peter disobeyed the Council so that others might hear the gospel. These are no small matters. Be careful to judge well your real reasons for not submitting.
He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:2
Submission in Marriage Roles
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior … [adorn yourselves] with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hope in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 1 Pet. 3:1-5
… be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Titus 2:5
In looking at submission and marriage, it seems clear to me that scripturally women are called to submit to the leadership and direction of their husbands. Given the number of scriptures that spell this out so simply in black and white, I find it difficult to see that the scriptures could mean anything other than what they actually say. Although this area of submission can affect more personal issues (and, yes, be a bit scary), I see submitting to a husband as similar to submitting to any other authority. Trusting that a husband is called and anointed to direct the home is no different than trusting that a pastor or elder is called and anointed to direct a church (or a scout master to direct a troop, or a teacher to direct the Bible study etc.). None will be perfect, but each person is called to do a particular job and will be enabled by God to do so.
What submission is not…
- mindless obedience:
I think this is covered by understanding godly disobedience. If someone, anyone, asks you to do wrong, respectfully and graciously say, “No.” You are accountable before God for what you say and do.
- chunking your intellect and individuality in the waste basket:
Submitting to a husband isn’t about giving up your individuality, your personal tastes or your dreams. It’s not about following your husband around drooling “yes man” phrases.
God created husbands and wives to be a team. Husbands are the leader, but their input alone is not enough (see Headship). The team needs your intelligence, your experience and your perspective also.
Submission is choosing to step into agreement with God’s structure of order and trusting Him to work it for everyone’s good.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
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