Biblical Submission

Tom C Lacy cropped

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      Today “submission is often viewed as a curse word making the following biblical principle difficult to grasp.

      Why? The hurdles to understanding are due to a misapplication of definitions, usage and context.

      This biblical principle, or tool, states:


If you submit, God is in control.
If you resist, others are in control.

      Note:  The words wife and husband do not appear in this biblical principle.

      This is a general principle set forth to guide everyone’s role in life. Taking the true meaning of submission out of context destroys God’s purpose in this arena.

The Law of First Use

      Following this rule sets the stage for understanding biblical submission. Submit is first used in Genesis 16:9:  “And the angel of the Lord said unto her (Hagar), ‘Return to thy mistress (Sarai ), and submit* thyself under her hands.’”

*Submit: Hebrew: to heed, i.e. pay attention

      Verses 10-11 explains God reward to her for obeying (submitting) to His command.

      It is essential to note this word is used only one time in the Old Testament. God’s teaching is simple:  take heed, pay attention. As adherents of God’s Word this means this principle remains altered. God got it right the first time.   

      Generally, studies in submission stem from a breakdown in communication between husbands and wives. Context becomes a vital factor in understanding what Scripture really teaches regarding submission.

      This error is often generated through improper teaching from Ephesians when starting at 5:22 instead of 5:21.

Ephesians 5:22:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”

      Although verse 21 is the concluding phrase of the sentence started in 5:18 (KJV), it connects directly with 5:22.

Ephesians 5:21:

      “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

      In this passage submit and submitting are the same Greek words. In context, before a wife is admonished to submit to her husband, the husband and wife are admonished to submit to each other in the fear of God.

      In context, this study on submission is a study on responsibility not equality. It was pointed out previously that equality between a male and female is spelled out succinctly In Genesis 2:27 which bears repeating:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

      The discipline of mathematics proves this biblical equation:  Quantities equal to the same quanity are equal to each other.

      Before concluding this session I want to quote from the Life Application Bible (KJV) by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.:

      “Although some people have distorted Paul’s teaching on submission by giving unlimited authority to husbands, we cannot get around it – Paul told wives to submit to their husbands.

      “The fact that a teaching is not popular is no reason to discard it.

      “According to the Bible the man is the spiritual head of the family and his wife should acknowledge his leadership, But real spiritual leadership involves service.

      “Just as Christ served the disciples, even to the point of washing their feet, so the wise husband is to serve his wife.

      “A wise and Christ-honoring husband will not take advantage of his role, and a wise and Christ-honoring wife will not try to undermine her husband’s leadership.

      “Either approach causes disunity and friction in marriage.”

      In teaching biblical submission it is almost always necessary to deal with the breakdown in communication in marriage before getting to the punch line of this valuable principle:  If you submit God is in control. If you resist others are in control.

      Who are the others?

      The answer is simple:  Any one but God.

      Joshua stated the solution simply as he was about to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land as recorded in Joshua 24:15:  “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

      As you meditate on that meditate on this also:  What Christian would abuse another when following the Word of God?

If you do not know who God is or have forgotten Him;

you will never consider what He wants you to do!

Next Time:  God’s Plan for the Family

Tom C Lacy croppedRev. Thomas (Tom) C. Lacy, Advisory Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance and Founder and Director, of New Hope Counseling Service.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

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