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The Bible and Submission

Updated on November 1, 2014
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I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

All Are to Submit to Someone

There are some topics in the Bible that, when brought up, often lead to a heated debate. One of those topics is submission. This is especially true when it comes to wives submitting to their husbands. Pastors who teach this are sometimes seen as chauvinistic and living in the past. People who speak against submission will tell others that the church is trying to take away a woman's rights and dignity and keep them from competing with men. They will point back to the past when, in many cases, the woman was no more than a slave in a man-centered patriarchal society.

Well, the biblical view of submission is far from chauvinistic. In fact, God's Word sees the woman as created in the image of God, just as the man is, and therefore of great value. To put it more succinctly, she is of equal value with her male counterpart. And the idea of the wife's submission is seen in the light of a whole order of submission, ultimately leading to God the Holy Spirit being in submission to God the Son, and the Son, being in submission the Father.

I. Submission is Voluntary and Orderly

Based upon that truth, Paul tells the Ephesian believers to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:2). You might notice in this verse that no one is forcing you to submit. It is done voluntarily out of love for God and the order that He has established.

Our God is a God of order and not chaos. And each person who is being submitted to in Scripture has someone else to which he is accountable, excluding the one final authority, God the Father. For instance the wife is to submit herself to her husband as the Church submits to Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:24). But at the same time the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.

Jesus' ultimate gift to the Church was the fact that He gave His life for her(5:25-33). Therefore, the husband should be willing to sacrifice his very life, if necessary, to protect his wife. He is also responsible to nourish and care for her as he would his own flesh. The husband has a heavy responsibility to see that she becomes all that God intended her to become. And he does all this out of his ultimate submission to Jesus Christ.

II. Submission In All of Life

Because of feminism a big deal is usually made about the submission of the wife to the husband. However, in Scripture, there is submission in all of human society (Ephesians 5:21). For instance, children are to obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1). And slaves are to obey their masters as they would the Lord (Ephesians 6:5). In today's world this is equivalent to an employee obeying his boss. And we all must be in submission to the government. For all government is ordained by God (Romans 13:1-6). This order is for the good of all because If there is no order there will be chaos and society will ultimately fall apart.

The only time a Christian is not obligated to obey an authority is when that authority would have you do something against the will of God. In that case we should obey God rather than man (Acts 5:27-32).

None of us is an island. We all answer to God and to those God has put in authority. In this way we are more like God Himself, for there is an order within the Trinity.

III. Submission within the Trinity

A. Jesus' Submission

In looking at Jesus' submission, it is clear that the Bible doesn't see Him as in any way inferior to the Father. In fact Scripture highly exalts Him. He is seen as no less God than the Father, or the Holy Spirit is God. The word that theologians have given to this biblical truth is Trinity. There is one God eternally existing in three persons- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yet, even though Jesus is equal to God the Father in every way (Colossians 2:9, John 10:30, John 14:9), He subordinated Himself to the Father (John 5:43. John 5:19. John 10:25, 29. John 12:49).

B. The Submission of the Holy Spirit

In the same way the Holy Spirit is seen as fully Divine (Acts 5:3,4) but is also in subordination to Jesus Christ. In John 14:26 Jesus says:

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you."

And in John 16:13 our Lord says:

"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come."

The Holy Spirit was sent by request of God the Son (John 14:16. John 15:26. Acts 2:33). And He seeks only to glorify the Son. This is seen by what Jesus tells us in John 16:14,15:

"He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you."

Ultimately, both the Son and the Holy Spirit are in submission to the Father. The Apostle Paul says that one day the Son, who has placed all things under His feet, will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father. In speaking about the order of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, Paul has this to say:

"23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.…"


So we see from all of this that submission does not in any way make the one submitting inferior to the one to whom he is submitted. All three persons within the Trinity are coequal, for instance. In the same way, there are no second class citizens within the Body of Christ. All are created in His image and are of equal value to God.

What submission does show is that God is a God of order and not chaos. Each person, though equally valuable, is given different roles and responsibilities. And all have been given specific gifts which make them uniquely qualified for wherever the Lord has placed them.

This evil world in which we live has taken a good concept and made it into something demeaning and undignified. We need to recover the biblical understanding of submission and see it as God does.

Without order, a society falls apart. When all are in charge, then essentially no one is in charge. It makes for a many headed monster, with all the heads wanting to go in different directions. So let us each be in submission to one another, and in this way show our submission to the God who created us.


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