Submission By Derek Long

Submission is not a popular topic with many people in our world today. Most Americans resent anyone telling them what to do. It is often thought submission indicates inferiority in some way or another. God’s word is filled with commands to submit and shows us what is involved in submission. God commands submission of many different classes of people. God’s word teaches, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1, 5). God expects children to be in submission to their parents. Among the qualifications given for a bishop is he should be, “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4). God expects members of a congregation to be submissive to the elders who watch over them. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” God expects citizens to be submissive to the governing authorities. His word says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). God says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Peter 2:18). All mankind needs to heed the admonition of Scripture, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God expects everyone to be in submission to someone. Ephesians 5:21 speaks of us, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” If we recognize our need to be in submission ultimately to God and also to those whom God has placed in positions of authority over us, we need to know what is involved in being in submission. Someone has said submission refers to ranking oneself under another. Submission is something we willingly offer as we are willing to place ourselves under the authority of another. Submission requires one to be obedient to those in positions of authority over us (Ephesians 5:24; Titus 2:5; Hebrews 13:17). Understanding these concepts is helpful but what are some practical illustrations of what is involved in submission. Submission does not mean one cannot appeal to one in a position of authority over them. Jesus has taken on a role of submission to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2:5-8). While Jesus is the perfect example of submission to His Father in heaven, Jesus made appeals to God. Jesus appealed to the Father in Gethsemane saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Jesus made known His request and petitioned the Father while being in submission to the Father. Prayer is a means by which we too can let our desires be known to the Father but prayer is not a lack of submission. Wives, citizens, children, etc. can make their desires and wishes known to those who are in positions of authority over them and still be submissive. Submission is demonstrated when we like Jesus are willing to place our desires under the will of the one in authority over us. Our submission is not an excuse to do something which is ungodly. Peter and the other apostles had been commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name by the governing authorities. We have already seen where God expects people to be submissive to government. Why do Peter and the other apostles continue to teach in the name of Jesus? Acts 5:29 tells us they replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” Our submission to God and His will must trump our loyalty and submission to any other human authority placed over us including parents, government, husband, etc. (Matthew 10:34-37; Luke 14:26). Ananias and Sapphira both agreed to sell a possession and deceptively keep back part of the price of the land for themselves (Acts 5:1-11). Sapphira could not justify her deceit by saying I was simply going along with my husband’s plan. Submission also does not mean we cannot attempt to correct the folly of others by taking certain actions. Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 took actions to avert the consequences of her husband’s folly. Submission does not mean we fail to correct those who are in sin. Timothy was taught to honor the elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Yet there may be a time when Timothy would have to rebuke an elder who was living in sin. Paul instructs him, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:19-20). As a Christian, if I see a brother committing a sin, I have an obligation to warn them whether they are in a position of authority over me or not (Matthew 18:15-17). In correcting those who are in a position of authority over us, we would do well to heed the instruction given to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). We still need to show respect for the person and their position of authority over us when correcting them. Submission is a necessary attitude to adopt if we are going to be pleasing to God. Let’s learn to understand what submission is and what is not involved in submission. Let us ultimately remember our responsibility to submit to God who has authority over us all.

 

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