What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word submission? Is it positive or negative?
In our culture, submission is a word that often incites controversy. I believe one of the main reasons for this strong emotive response is what people think of when they hear the word submission. For many, the first things that come to mind are words such as inferior, doormat, or controlled. I know that response well.
When I first read in the Bible that wives should submit to their husband, I actually was kind of in a state of confusion because I didn’t truly understand what was meant.
Thankfully, I began to learn and understand that submission in Scripture is not isolated to wives. It’s something that even Christ did when he yielded to the will of the Father to lay down his life for us. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Submission is something all Christians are called to do. For example, we are all called to submit to the governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13–17). Children are to obey their parents (Colossians 3:20). And in the body of Christ, believers are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).
Submission is not about belittlement, inferiority, or worthlessness. Scripture teaches that we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It also says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). And “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19). The act of submission by one toward another does not open the door for disparagement.
A wife’s submission is also not blind and absolute. I feel like this is a HUGE misconception. Ultimately, Christ is the wife’s final authority. As a part of Christ’s church, she is HIS bride chiefly. As a wife follows her calling to submit in marriage, she is ultimately submitting to Christ. She gets her spiritual identity and ultimate strength and meaning through Christ and not through her husband. Though her husband’s role is to encourage her and build her up in the faith, Christ is the sole source of her faith.
Submit comes from a military term, which means “to place under” or “to subordinate” as a line relationship. This is not because of weakness or inferiority, or, that one is better than the other; rather, it is RESPECT. Submission is an aspect of our reverence to Christ for who He is and what He has done for us, and our resulting attitude is obedience (Eph. 5:21-22; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 5:5, 22). This means we submit “For the Lord’s sake”.
Submission comes before obedience. Before we can venture with real, authentic obedience without drudgery of compulsion, we must submit. We cannot surrender to Christ until we have submitted to His Lordship.