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Jesus Christ Submits To His Church

Updated on November 5, 2011

The Ethics of Servant Leadership and Mutual Submission

Welcome to this new Hub. We hope you will enjoy this special Hub about Jesus Christ's Submission to His Bride the Church. Some may think that we are mistaken because most think Jesus is the boss of the Church. Well, here is another one of our egalitarian book reports. This again is on the subject of submission in the Church. Allen G. Padgett has written a new book on this subject that should be an eye opener to us all. The Title of Allen's book is "As Christ Submits to the Church," a Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission.

With so many differing Churches claiming to be Christian it seems odd that most of them miss this unique relationship between Christ and His Church begun in 31 A.D. on Pentecost, Acts 2:2-4,17-18? Most churches follow a patriarchal top down relationship that requires Christ to be the supreme leader of the church under God the Father.and the church must be submissive to Him. So, just what does Allen Padgett mean that Christ is submissive to His Church, His Bride, Revelaton 19:7-9?

We all need to examine and read this book written by Allen G. Padgett, Professor, D.Phil, University of Oxford, of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, and a ordained minister in the United Methodist Church with his insightful understanding and distinctive nature of Christian leadership in the church along with also specific issues of roles for women in leadership in the Church. It is true that men and women together make up the Bride of Christ because of the Holy Spirit in them, 1 Corinthians 3:16. Doesn't this point out to us that the church is founded on equality and is an egalitarian Church in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 6:15--17; 12::13-14; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18?

Living Gospel

In chapter one, Allen discusses the several Evangelical Approaches to Gender roles. He says in our culture there are issues of gender and sexuality which are confusing and cause confict both within and outside the Christian faiths. We as Christians believe that the church has a message to carry forth into the world and that this creates a context for understanding about our human sexuality and gender if we are to accomplish this mission of our faith. However, there is a struggle going on as to how to articulate the gospel for each gender. Allen wrote this book to help us reconsider our views within the Christian ethic of submission in light of Scripture and the Gospel. Therefore if Christ truly submits to his Church in servant leadership then we need to follow His leadership and submit to one another in God and Christ Jesus in that same love, Ephesians 5:21-33.

So what is going on and why is there conflict in the churches on this subject of submission among Evangelicals? Just what kind of example did Jesus Christ show us from Christians in the past and right up to this day? Allen says we need to distinguish between two types of submission. The first type comes from the realm of of political and military struggle. This is obedience to an external authority, which can be voluntary but most often is not. The second type is of submission is the one that comes from personal relationships and is often based on love and compassion. In this second type submission it is voluntary giving up power in order to take up the role of a slave, so that one may serve the needs of another person. The first type is external, hierarchical, and legal. The second type is internal, personal, and a kind of gift or grace. Allen argues in this book that Jesus submits to the church only in the second type or sense of the word,"Love, for us in the Spirit,"Ephesians 5;25-32, 1 Corinthians 3:16.

When we look closely at what this is saying we can see that with the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, Christ submits to the Holy Spirit in loving service . This makes a world of difference. For both Jesus and the Spirit defer to one another as members of the same God Family, Ephesians 3:15-16. There may be a main reason why some evangelicals look at women as being inferior because of some supposed proclivity of women to sin easier because they are like Eve in flesh and that they are easier to be deceived. But is this reasonable and are they saying it's okay for men to sin with their eyes wide open to sin all the time? Could this be a major problem in that men know what the teaching of Jesus says but continue to openly disobey him like ancient- Israel? After all we are all in the priesthood of Jesus Christ through grace and the faith of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:4-10. Are men blind to this presence of the Holy Spirit in women and forget that we are all gifted by the Spirit in each one of us as the Spirit gifts us, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. It makes us wonder if men have the Spirit of God at all, Romans 7:23-25?

The problem here is that men in their institutional seminar education see women as inferior with less ability but they forget it is God the Father who calls us through Christ to salvation not based on our natural abilities and education but on our wilingness to approach God with a humble contrite spirit or mind and soul, Isaiah 66:2. Could it be men of such great intellect are puffed up in their minds about themselves and feel superior to women, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. Are men foolishly glorying in their own self esteem? Can this be just one more reason why women are not accepted as preaching ministers in their institutionalized churches?

A Few Modest Conclusions:

In this first chapter of Allen's revealing book we can argue that evangelicals base their theology and discipleship appropriately on Jesus Christ and the gospel. That is whatever Christ teaches on the subject of gender should be followed by the eye opening examples He sets for us not just on a few hazy Scriptures. The best textual evidence for Christ and the good news comes from Scripture, which we confess to be the Word of God written by human hands,( but supposed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:20-21) and Evangelical bible ethics, therefore, will only accept the authoritative reading of the whole Bible on a topic, with Christ himself as the interpetive key to Scripture. The practical result of this point is that no single verse can determine what the church should think about the role relationship between men and women. So let us examine this whole topic on sex and gender and let Christ lead us to the truth of Scriptures, John 14:6,15; 16:13-16.

You need to obtain your own copy of this book for your own personal enjoyment and education. Allen is one gifted theological scholar that put's Christ teaching on sex and gender in there right prospective. Check our link to CBE and ask for a copy.

Mutual Submission and Christian Leadership; The Bible and the Ethics of Roles

In the second chapter Allen shows us what the bible teaches us about how ethics and roles are supposed to be applied. How is mutual submission is to be understood as a biblical ethic? Their are those that hold a man centered hierarchal gender roles and insist that their wives should submit to their husbands in show servant leadership to their authority as their designated leaders. Husbands here do not submit to their wives but have authority over them.

So in this chapter Allen discusses and make a distinction by taking a fresh look at this issue of leadership in the New Testament. As evangelicals we must look to Jesus Christ's example of "servant leadership" and hold him as our center of understanding on this matter of submission. He is also the key example in mutual submission for the New Testament. This term, submission, for the twentieth century discribes one way of living in servant leadership, and actually describes but one way of living in mutual submission.

There seems to be a notion of "roles" which Allen describes for us that is a wrong idea of men ruling with women in submission to them. This is called the complimentarian notion of roles used to make central the biblical ethic of man and woman. In this notion women are now seen as equal to men in that they are fully human and fully in the image of God but their roles are different. The roles of men and women are to compliment one another though they are different and maintain the difference of these roles. This is a man centered notion of our gender roles which does not measure up to the example set for us by Jesus Christ. The church says the woman may have some roles of authority but must be under the "cover" or "spiritual headship of the senior male pastor. Here Allen gives some very good examples of what holds for the nature of character and what roles should hold for the gender roles we play in life. However,some roles that humans fill in society do not clearly display a person's moral character. Gender roles do display a persons character as to whether it is good or bad. Here we are talking about an ethic of character more than an ethic of roles and this can cause humans to miss the points of servant leadership and submission.

Allen points out that the Bible contains an ethic of character, an ethic of virtues and vices. It also has many commandments to guide these ethics like the Ten Commandments. For a Christian the most important story of a virtuous life is found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. The purpose of this book, "As Christ Submits to the Church" is to show his virtuous character in the way he leads us through his submissive servant role and it is the mission of this book to show how Christ leads by servant leadership and how he mutually expects us to follow Him. This is why you will need a copy of this book to search out these amazing concepts of servant leadership and servant mutuallity and apply it to your gender relations in the Church and society.

Allen discusses both types 'one and two submission' here and clearly gives us a better look at how they should be applied. Mutual submission or " 2 Submission' is exactly what Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in the name of servant leadership. To turn servant leadership into a kind of hierarchy of fixed authority is a sad misreading of the ethics of the New Testament. This makes for a terrible underdstanding and women are still marginalized even though Jesus raised them up to mutually work in leadership roles beside the men as first rate Christians. Through Jesus Christ examples we should have the perfect understanding through the Holy Spirit what our gender ethics should be, John 16:13, Romans 8:26-28.

So is it Mutual submission or male dominance?

In chapter three of Allen's book, he investigates Christ and Gender roles in Ephesians and 1 Corinthians and the big picture. He makes it very clear that it is 2 Submission that Christ emulates here in regards to His relationship with the Church, His soon to be wife when he returns in person on the Feast of Trumpets, 1 Thessalonians 4;16, Matthew 24:22, Revelation 20:4, Leviticus 23:24.

You need to read for yourself how Allen argues for mutual submission between husband and wives in Ephesians 5.That the word "head" does not imply authority over so much as it can mean being first in some way such as the source of life for the church in reference to husbands. In 1 Corinthians 7 there is this example of both husbands and wives sharing submission on having sex. That they are to share mutual authority over their bodies. In 1 Corinthians 11, here Paul teaches the mutuality of man and woman in the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 14, we see that Paul taught submission to authority when disciples are noisy and need to be quiet in the church services. This is about order in worship and silence in learning, by all the disciples not just the submission of women to men.

So here we find little reason to affirm a fixed hierarchy of men over women in Paul's letters; but instead we find several texts that point in a different direction of mutual submission outside the Gospels. Such as Galatians,Philippians, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians dealing with the issues of submission and gender roles. These texts are later in the history of the New Testament, written at a time of great emphasis on church organization in the era of persecution and a parallel concern with false teachers. Especially, 1 Timothy 2, that the man-centerd church leaders will point to in justification of their view of submission as a fixed, top-down hierachy of roles, with men at the top. With them we need to study the early chapters in Genesis 1-3. Here again we will find no basis for a fixed hierarchy of roles for men and women.

In other words there is no solid biblical basis for 'creation order" of husband over wife. This does not mean there are no biblical passages about wives submitting to their husband as their "head" (source of life to) because there are starting in Ephesians 5:21. So the debate over concerning theories of male dominance is about the theological justification of such submission and the larger question of how some passages are to be understood and lived out in the church today.

It's All About Mission and Submission:

Allen shows us that we can find more in 1 Peter and the Pastoral Epistles on missions and submission.

This argument is based on submission and roles of the disciples in the church on their roles in service to Jesus Christ, the mission . In the gospels and several key New Testament letters, submission is understood not merely as a top down, involuntary obedience. It is ratther, following the model of Jesus Christ, Christian submission is a voluntary self giving in love, but the emphasis needs to be on servant leadership, which should be thought of first as a role rather than a social institution. For the New Testament ethic so far examined by Allen,"in the Lord" woman and man, husband and wife, are not independent but one flesh; they show love, their love in the context of society through their mutual submission, and servant leadership.

Does the complimentarin theology of gender roles really show that in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, that women are to be submissive always to a man's authority? No not really when we take a closer look at the original texts in its historical and literary context. Here we find through history that this text is written about certain women who have invaded the Church of God at Ephesus with strange teachings about Adam and Eve. This passage is written about certain wealthy women and women from the the Temple of Artimus in Ephesus who were spreading false doctrines. The mistaken patriarchal interpretation is asummed because of a long tradtion on its side with many defenders mainly men with a bias against women based on poor investigational research and scholarship about these verses.

In chapter 4 of this book, Allen shows that we have been looking at the submission passages that are usually used to support a man-centered leadership. Allen shows us that a careful reading of the original texts in context leads away from the usual complimentarian patriarchal interpretation. Clues in the text themselves suggest that these were not meant to be one-sided submission commands to wives or women believers all the time. In each case the context and shape of these commands demonstrate their temporary nature. They were also written at a time of persecution when church leadership was very concerned for the spread of the gospel and the reputation of the new religion in a larger community. These Scriptures were written against false Gnostic teachers and their deceiving doctrines which at one time influenced some wealthy women believers who were seeking to learn about this new faith. Nowhere do those verses provide for a solid footing for a man-centered theology of Christian leadership in the home.

Allen Padgett's focus so far has been what he calls the conventional sense in these first chapters. Now he moves on to a broader canonical sense and will show us what contemporary meanings these passages have. You do need your own copy of this captivating book to enjoy it's eye opening content.

Allen's teachings on Headship and Head- Coverings;

So far in this book Allen Padgett has shown us that so called dominance of mutual submission in taking up a role of a servant in passages in the New Testament is based on an humbleness self giving service. In this ethic he had us look at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.which he says has fascinated him for more than twenty years. He says he cannot leave the topic of submission, headship, and gender roles without explaining the results of his long investigation of this text. He says the best way to understand this text is from reading it from the bottom up, by looking at the end of this difficut argument one can get a better understanding. That actually the Church had no argument about a head covering but it was merely about a traditional at that time in Greece in the first century.

So by reading from the bottom up, he has opened up a new space to look at a difficult passage. Giving special attention to Paul's words and to the type of letter he wrote will help us to understand this the original settings of that age. This makes more sense in each part of the passage. This reading about headship and hair covering has nothing to do with a man being a cover for a woman. We see here that a woman is a man's glory with her own power to brighten up his day. By giving greater liberty to women and men Paul was simply explaining hair styles of that day based on an errant theology. Here Paul rejects the idea that man alone is made in the glory of God by insisting woman was the glory of man to make him complete and as such women should have freedom over her head.

Submission Today should be based on the hunger for justice in our gender reationships in the church and society.

So the point of the passages is not always about who gets the say-so in the home, but rather it is about submitting ourselves to one another. It is not about those who are weak and always giving into those in power. Of course this kind of reading has been all to common in church history, especially since the union of church and state under Constantine. Such and approach about a few passages ignores the rest of the New Testament.

So the contemporary meaning of the submission Scriptures in the New Testament can be found by looking at the Bible as a whole, with Christ at the center, we see that submission can never be an isolated ethic. The command to submit is part of the larger ethic grounded in the love of God. By using wisdom to balance love of self and love for neighbor in a perfect example of justice through Jesus Christ's own personal behavior and ethics. It will always be in this perfect example and larger vision of love and justice that the Spirit fillled community of believers follows the Master's way of submission to one another, John 14:6.

This is very well written and researched book written by Allen G.Padgett, who sees equality established in the egaltarian church of Jesus Christ. We need more men and women like him who follow in the footsteps of Jesus the Christ with a submisive contrite heart established in the teachings of Mother Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKadosh, John 14:26, Isaiah 66:2, Proverbs 8:12-22,32-35. But those that sin against the Holy Spirit Ruach HaKadosh, Mother Wisdom in the church, wrongs his own soul and all that hate her love death, Proverbs 8:36.

So make sure you obtain your own copy of his very important book and I am sure you will come away with a better understanding of Jesus' teaching as a our perfect Servant Leader through mutual submission for all time, John 13:15-17.


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