Submission – Defined (Part 1 of 3)

For a variety of reasons, I have not been able to blog much original material recently.  This is original, although originally published in our church newsletter in 2006.  I am posting this article in three parts over the next three days:  Submission: Defined, Defied, & A Delight.

Submission – the lost Christian virtue.  Okay, I don’t know if it’s been lost or not, but I do know that I find little written, hear little spoken, and see little practiced, which makes me wonder.  I also wonder if we haven’t lost sight of the concept of submission within the church.  When was the last time that you heard about this topic?  Quite likely at a wedding where the admonishment to submission was mostly or completely directed at one particular gender.  But submission is more than a wife’s submission to her husband. We have done the church and women a disservice when we only speak about submission  in the context of the marriage relationship.  I suppose that we might also occasionally speak about submission in relation to our government, but it is still a truncated view if we allow submission to only be about these things.  We seem to be looking for ways to be let off the hook.   In reality, submission, or the opportunity for submission, is an aspect of most, if not all, of our relationships at some level.  There are times when we submit and times when others submit to us.  There are also times when there is no clear authority and there is an opportunity for both parties to show submission.  Opportunities abound, I just wonder if we are aware of what is before us and how we tend to react.

Submission – Defined

We need to recapture and redefine submission.  Redefined, not in light of our current situation or context, but redefined by Scripture.  Is this not an aspect of the power of God’s Word – the ability to redefine for us over and over again how we think about the world or how we should live in it?  In that way, the Scriptures continue to be living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  We could hope for much less, than to be changed by God’s Word.  And so, we look to the Word for our understanding of submission.First, all submission is unto the Lord.  We should not first think of the ways that we are subject to one another, instead we should think of how we must submit to the Lord.  When we turn to the Lord, we are submitting to Him. This is not a onetime thing but a daily turning and submitting. There is an aspect of submission in our faith in Christ:  we trust His sufficiency for our salvation and we begin to dispense with our self-sufficiency.  You might also consider words of the Psalmist in Psalm 130:5-6:  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman for the morning, more than the watchman for the morning.  These words of trust and hope are evidence of submission, for when we wait upon the Lord we are submitting to His sovereign will and timing.  This is far from easy for us.  When the Lord disciplines us, that discipline serves as a reminder of our place both as children of God and as subjects of the King (Hebrews 12:7-11).  We are reminded that we are subject to a far greater authority than our desires or ourselves.  Submission and obedience work together to ward off the discipline that we may otherwise need.

Even specific instances of submission within our relationships in the Scriptures are unto the Lord, first and foremost.  The specific arenas where submission is commanded carry with it the overall picture of submission to God.  Ephesians 5 and 6 are well known for these entreaties to submission, but hear them again with this in mind:
o    Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
o    Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord.
o    Ephesians 6:5 – Slaves, obey your earthly master…as you would Christ.
When we are encouraged to obey those who are governing authorities, we are still to recognize the sovereignty of God and submit as unto the Lord.  Romans 13:1:  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (See also 1 Peter 2:13).  Submission therefore belongs wholly and completely within the context of our relationship with God, even if it finds itself within a specific relationship.  Submission is an essential part of all relationships.  Submission provides structure to our relationships, whether it is with an individual or with a group. Submission allows for authority to be carried out within the context of specific relationships and for it to be done well.  Finally, there will be a time when all will submit whether by choice or not (Philippians 2:9-10).

It is also notable that, submission is shared.  It is shared in the sense that we all bow before the Lord and submit to His will.  It is shared in the sense that in Christ, every believer is on the same level before God.  Although we may hold offices in the church or we may be at different levels of maturity, the grace of the Lord levels the field (Matthew 20:1-16).  In Ephesians 5, before Paul gets into the relationships between husband and wives, he calls on the whole church to be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.   Submission is to be shared within the church as a whole, not just in specific situations or specific relationships.  It is our duty to one another and it becomes the example for specific relationship.   Look at Ephesians 5:24:  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. You might also consider Paul specific address in the beginning of Philippians 4.  Verse 2 reads:  I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  We do not know what the specific disagreement was over, but you can imagine that in order for them to agree they would need to submit to one another – they would both have to give a little and not worry so much about winning or being right.  There is a place for submission in our interpersonal relationships within the church.  There is a place for mutual submission, which makes the Gospel shine all the more brightly to a dark and dying world.

Part 2: Submission – Defied  (will be posted tomorrow)

Part 3: Submission – A Delight (will be posted Saturday)


One response to this post.

  1. […] November 21, 2008 Submission – Defied (Part 2 of 3) Posted by Adam under Church Work, bible, christianity | Tags: bible, christianity, religion, submission |   3 part post on Biblical submission.  Read part one here. […]


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