Submission is forgoing our rights and desires by voluntarily putting ourselves under the partial or superficial control and authority of another, as opposed to surrender which is coming under the total domination of the conqueror. At salvation we should give unquestioning allegiance to God in full surrender. This is outworked in ongoing submission to Christ and limited compliance to our fellow humans – with humility and grace this leads to unity and cooperation by working together in harmony. Submission is not a reflection of inferiority.

Submission should always be at the core of our relationship with God, a continual 'present tense' offering of ourselves to Him as living sacrifices that is reflected in our behaviour (Rom 12:1; Jas 4:7). Through the process of the new birth we yield to His Lordship and the authority of His Word, with ongoing obedience to please Him (Lk 6:46, 14:27). This is outworked to each other so there might be the smooth running and practical functionality in the home, church, business and nation – within the family the husband is to submit to Christ (as Christ constantly submitted Himself to the will of the Father) and the wife is to submit to her husband (Lk 22:42; Jn 5:30; Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 11:2,3; Eph 5:21-24; 1 Pet 2:13-17, 3:1-7, 5:5). The husband is specially tasked with loving his wife, the wife’s responsibility is to submit. This is God’s plan for how the family should function and we are answerable to Him.

Submission is not giving blind, unquestioning allegiance to what is not right, lawful or God-honouring, negating our personal rights and responsibilities or accountability by giving others the permission to control or dominate, but rather a

Do I recognise the strengths of those who forgo their rights in the interests of ‘the greater good’?

loving, considered response that does not violate Scripture, conscience or common sense, recognising God, as the highest authority, is always to be obeyed (Ex 20:3; Dan 3:16-18; Mt 22:37-39; Act 4:18-20, 5:27-29). Nor is it apathy, abuse, or withdrawal that devalues the sacredness of humanity. Instead it respects the value and worth of others by reflecting the servant attitude of Christ to whom we have first submitted ourselves then with the same attitude of humility we are able to “follow in His steps” (Lk 22:42; Jn 5:30; 1 Cor 10:24; 2 Cor 8:5; Phil 2:5-8; 1 Pet 2:21-23).

Throughout His earthly life Jesus displayed a life of submission, doing and saying only what God wanted, by being a servant of all, washing the disciple’s feet, and humbling Himself to the extent of being ‘obedient to death’ (Jn 5:19, 12:49,50, 13:15). Knowing the pain and agony that awaited Him, He was prepared to accept it if there was no other way of bringing us salvation – “If it is possible let me not experience this suffering and separation from You...yet your will be done, not mine”, and His prayers were heard because of His fervent petition to the Father (Mt 26:39; Heb 5:7,8). Although His prayer was not literally answered, an angel strengthened Him and He received power to endure; it was a case of being helped in the situation, not the removal of that which was abhorrent when He gave up His rights, status and power by submitting Himself to death to save us (Isa 53:7; Lk 22:43).

The world’s way of pride, authority, control and manipulation that measures personal status by being answerable to as few people as possible is in contrast to God’s way of humble submission, self-denial and servanthood, with the greatest being the humble person who has everyone over them (Mk 9:35, 10:43-45). This free choice is motivated by love, faith and hope for future benefits, being prepared to self-sacrifice in the present by trusting in God and His Word, and puts the interests of others first and so serves them sacrificially (Rom 15:1,2). Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). By failing to put into practice what we say, it can also be said of us, “These people honour me with lips, but their heart [motivation and lifestyle] is far from me’ (Mt 7:21, 15:8). Just as “The sinful mind...does not submit to God’s law”, neither should Christians be dictated to by the world’s corruption and temptations (Rom 8:7; Col 2:20; Jas 1:14,15).

Practicing submission:

Submission is outworked in obedience to His Word, in love to family, service to neighbours and responsibility to the wider community, by praying for and obeying the governing authorities, who are His delegated agents unless they instruct us to do what is not scriptural (Mk 10:42; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1,2; Tit 3:1; Heb 13:17). It is only then, we are permitted to disobey human authority by declaring our loyalty to the ultimate Master if a compromise cannot be found or He does not intervene miraculously (Dan 3:17,18; Act 5:29; Heb 11:32-40). By disobeying God or human authority there will be consequences.

We are to be subject to one another ‘out of reverence to Christ’ counting each other better than ourselves (Eph 5:21; Phil 2:3). This involves going beyond the call of duty, behaving towards others as we desire they should to us, and, without pride, acknowledging we are only doing what we should (Mt 5:41; Lk 6:31; 17:10). When things don’t go your way or don’t seem to meet your needs be joyful that you are subject to character forming experiences (Jas 1:2). Mary, the mother of Jesus, submitted herself to God’s plans saying, “Be it unto to me according to your Word” then later she encouraged others to “Do what He tells you to do” (Lk 1:38; Jn 2:5).

Although given major responsibilities Joseph remained a slave. He kept a right attitude, living a submissive and godly life, that positively affected the whole nation of Egypt and beyond (Gen 39:1-6,21-25, 41:40,41, 50:20). Those who submit to authority are empowered by the authority they are under, such as the Roman centurion who said, “I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me…” (Mt 8:5-13). Because he followed the orders of his superior officers, he could expect those under him to respond likewise. In a similar manner, as we are obedient to the Lord we are given the authority to use His name to fulfill His work, setting people free of the devil’s clutches (Mk 16:17,18). The disciples said, “Even the demons submit to us in your name” (Lk 10:17-20). These evil beings recognized their obligation to ‘bow before’ the supreme ruler of heaven and earth, surrendering to Him in obedience.

A lack of submission is a major cause of relational and marriage tension when both spouses are strong willed. How often, when we don’t get what we wish, we protest ‘Why me, it’s not fair, where are you God?’ Godly submission recognises our dependence on others and surrenders our independence

Submission ‘oils the wheels’ of relationship. Where can I apply some oil today?

knowing this was Satan’s downfall. He urged Adam and Eve to do likewise, tried to tempt Jesus and will continually try to entice our rebellious hearts (Gen 3:1-7, 6:5; Isa 14:13; Mt 4:1-11; Rom 14:7; 1 Cor 11:11).

We are all slaves in submission to someone or something. Is it to God and the advancement of His Kingdom, to a destructive habit, material object, another person or bondage to selfishness? As each ‘master’ rewards for the allegiance given them, choose wisely who you will serve, for eternity is a long time to live with regret (Rom 6:12-23; 2 Cor 5:10; Gal 6:7,8; 2 Pet 2:19). Why not pray now, ‘Lord help my hard, sinful self to yield to your liberating, life-giving Spirit’. Submission is having the heart attitude towards God, ‘not my will but yours. You said to make my requests known, I’m doing that. However, if what I’m asking is not a good gift or the time is not right, it’s not a problem – I’ll go your way’.

See also: altar, attitude, authority, choice, commitment, consequences, control, covering, humility, meekness, obedience, responsible/responsibility, rights, self-denial, servant, strong willed, surrender, wife.