In most societies, submission has a bad connotation. It brings up ideas of slavery or other forms of domination, which we see as bad. But submission is part of God’s order of things. First, we are told to submit to God. James 4:6-7a “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God.” If we are proud and follow our own way, God is against us. God knows what is best for us. If we humble ourselves and submit to God and His direction, He gives us His grace.
The greatest example of submission is Christ’s submission to God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As part of God’s order, wives are to submit to their husbands. Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” The younger are to submit to the elder. 1 Peter 5:5a “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” Within the Christian family, we are to submit to those who rule over us, such as elders. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Each of us is to submit to the authorities in our earthly government. Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Employees are to submit to their bosses. 1 Peter 2:18 “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
From the above, we get the picture that God has established a hierarchy in the world. Certain individuals are higher in the hierarchy than others: all of us submit to God, Christ submits to the Father, wives submit to husbands, children submit to their parents, younger submit to the elder, all submit to their Christian rulers, all submit to the earthly government authorities, and employees submit to bosses. If we find ourselves lower in the hierarchy, we must submit to those over us because that is what God wants for His order to be properly maintained. This is important to God and should be important to us.
What does it mean to submit? It means to yield oneself to the authority or will of another. It means to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another. It doesn’t mean that we are puppets with no will or opinion. It does mean that when a decision or action must finally be made, we yield to the will of the one to whom we are under submission.
With that definition in mind, God’s plan goes beyond our submission to those over us. We are to submit to each other as peers. Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” 1 Peter 5:5b “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” In being submissive to each other, we determine in our minds that we will let our fellow Christian have their way in matters of opinion. It is more important to show our love and consideration for each other than to insist that things be done our way. Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Submission is a humble attitude of the heart. Determine in your mind to be submissive as God desires you to be.