DEFINITION: Submission is a willingness to yield or surrender to somebody and the act of doing so. Biblical submission is expressed in both attitude and conduct and occurs under leadership that is set in order by God.
FACTS ABOUT SUBMISSION:
Authority comes from God. Romans 13 indicates that all legitimate authority is given by God. God-given authority provides organization and direction in society, government, the church, and the home.
You are to obey authorities. Hebrews 13:17 indicates you are to submit to those over you because they must give an account to God. You are to obey and submit in a way that it will be a joy and not a burden for them.
Rebellion is the opposite of submission. Romans 13 indicates that all legitimate authority is from God, so when you rebel against authority you are actually rebelling against God.
You learn submission by submitting to God. James 4:7 indicates if you submit yourself to God, the devil will flee from you. As you submit to God, it will be easier to submit to others–your spouse, authority, your employer, etc.
Leaders in the Kingdom of God are to be servants to those who are under authority, not to “lord it over them” (Luke 22:25-26). A biblical attitude exhibited by a leader makes it easy for those under him to submit to his direction.
When the divine order of submission is instituted, relationships are set right, rebellion ceases, and harmony and unity result.
Submission is not abuse. When submission becomes destructive and abusive, it is an affront to true biblical submission. Discipleship–submission as it has also been called–has often been abused in the Church. Discipleship and biblical submission are not the same as when a leader controls every aspect of your life and excludes from the fellowship those who do not conform. Never submit to abuse in any situation. That is not a scriptural concept of submission.
Submission in the home. The wife is to be in submission to the husband, the husband is to be in submission to God (Ephesians 5:22), and the children are to obey their parents (Colossians 3:20). Husbands are told to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. If a man really loves with the self-sacrificing love with which Christ loved the Church, his wife will desire to please him in all things just as a true believer desires to please Jesus. Christ is perfect in His love for the Church, even though the Church is not perfect in its submission to Him. The husband should demonstrate similar love towards his wife, even if she is not perfect in her submission to him. A wife who is a true believer whose husband loves her in this manner, will seek to please him and submit to his leadership, even as she does to Christ. A man should not force his wife into submission. She is to submit voluntarily because of the Christ-like love shown by her husband. Biblical submission does not mean submission to a godless man. It is describing married life between two Spirit-filled believers who have a natural relationship similar to the spiritual one between Christ and the Church. Paul is saying that if a woman is married to a Christian man who has this type of love for them, then they should be in submission to him (Ephesians 5:22). The husband is to cherish and nourish his wife because they are one flesh and they are both members of Christ’s Body. The wife is to be the most important person in the husband’s life. He is to leave father, mother, and all others and be joined to his wife. He is to love his wife as he loves his own body. This makes her submission to him a joy. She can submit easily to him, just as she submits to the Lord
We are to submit to one another in the Lord. Believers, both male and female, husband and wife, are to submit to one another, desiring to please each other: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21).
Submission does not justify sin. In Acts chapter 5, a woman named Sapphira agreed to her husband’s plan to defraud God and the church and she was held personally accountable for her sin. You cannot excuse sin by saying you were forced to do something by someone in authority. If you are asked to do something contrary to God’s Word, you must decline. As the disciples who were forbidden to preach the Word, you must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20).
DEALING WITH SUBMISSION:
Pray for any improper submissions to be broken. Do not allow a leader to dictate how you live your life. It is good to accept biblical counsel, but that is different than someone dictating decisions that should be made between you and God alone. Do not accept abuse from an ungodly mate in the name of “submission”. Do not allow abuse of children. Remove yourself and your children from abusive situations.
Pray a prayer of submission. Submit yourself to God first, then ask Him to help you be properly submissive to authorities in your life.
Lead with love and compassion. In your home, on the job, or in the church–if you are in a position of leadership, lead as becomes a true believer, serving with love and compassion.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT SUBMISSION:
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26)
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”-which is the first commandment with a promise–that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephesians 6:1-9)
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:18-24)
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:1-10)
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. (1 Peter 2:13-19)
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:1-8)
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:5-6)
(See also “Authority” in this database.)