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Submit To Whom?

Leslie M. Grant

From Grace & Truth May 1993

God alone is absolute in power, majesty and authority. Therefore, the very nature of every creature is one of submission. We may think we are above the level of having to submit to anything, but this very attitude is already one of having submitted to our own rebellious pride. We are always submitting whether to good or to evil, for we are mere creatures, not authorities in God's creation.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, instead of simply submitting to the great God of creation, submitted to the deception of Satan, and thereby brought unending trouble to all their descendants.

Shall we allow Satan to deceive us also? This will be the case if we do not pay close attention to what James says, "Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (Jas.4:7 NKJV).

To God

In the first place, if anyone is to be saved, he must submit himself to God receiving the Lord Jesus as his Saviour from the guilt of his sins. In the second place, after he is saved, he must make a practice of always submitting himself to God if he is to avoid the deceptions of Satan. Only in this spirit of submission to God will strength be found to resist the devil.

Romans 10:3 illustrates the fact that it is natural pride that keeps us from submitting to proper authority. Speaking of Israel, Paul writes: "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." How natural it is to want to be right without submitting to true righteousness! This is the snare of submitting to our own self-righteousness.

Therefore, our submission must be primarily, and above all, to the living God, the Creator of heaven and earth. There are many who would admit that this is true, yet at the same time may consider themselves in subjection to God while they are ignoring their responsibility to submit to His authority as established in the world in various spheres. Let us therefore consider these.

To Parents

The first time in the Gospels we read of submission (or subjection, the same word in Greek), is in Luke 2:51, where we see the lord Jesus at twelve years of age being "subject to them" - that is, to Joseph and Mary. Luke is the Gospel of His manhood - His perfect humanity - and it is beautiful to witness there His submission to His God and Father by being also submissive to parental authority. Was this because Joseph and Mary were always perfectly right in their dealings with their children? Not at all. We may be sure that they made mistakes, just as all other parents do.

Being Himself sinless, the lord Jesus would know better than we what their mistakes were. Did He answer back, or seek to correct them? No! He was submissive whether He was treated fairly or not. If this was so with Him, how much more so should it be with children who themselves have sinful hearts? Of course, if parents would demand that a child should plainly dishonour God, the child then should remember that his submission to God comes first.

Even then, he must not be defiant of his parents; but speak kindly to indicate that he has a conscience toward God. Ephesians 6:1-2 is a passage to be taken deeply to heart: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise."

To Husbands

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph.5:22). The Word of God is plain: if a wife does not submit herself to her husband, she is not submitting herself to God. Though the wife should be a valuable complement to her husband, and though she may be more wise and more spiritual than her husband, yet her wisdom and spirituality would lead her to be glad to defer to him in all matters where the decision is his according to Scripture. She may make useful suggestions to her husband, but her opinions are not to be pressed over his.

On his part, he is not told to demand his wife's submission, but to love her, which will encourage her submission. Thus the Lord has ordained that true harmony may be maintained in family relationships.

To One Another

In fact, even before the wife is told to submit herself to her husband, the previous verse (21) tells us, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Both the husband and wife therefore should have a submissive spirit, not contentious, for the husband may often be glad to submit to his wife's desires in various matters. Yet in matters of serious consequence he is to have the final word, and she should be gladly submissive.

To Church Order

In the church of God both the men and the women are to be subject to the order God has established. 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of the church as being gathered for the ministry of the Word of God. In such a meeting we are told, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge" (v.29). The Spirit of God is to be free to use whomever He would in speaking. However, this is guarded by the reminder, "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (v.32).

Another guard is given us in verse 34: "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive as the law also says." This submission to church order is submission to God. It is not a question of whether the woman is capable or not, or more spiritual, but rather of God's prescribed order for His church. Submission to Him will always bring the greatest blessing in the end.

To Elders

"Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders" (1 Pet.5:5). This is instruction that we in the western culture seriously need. In eastern countries there has been a very striking respect for elder people, sometimes even to the point of exaggeration. But even schools in the west are now teaching that we can discard the experience of those of an earlier generation. God does not say so.

While it is true that the younger are not to yield blindly to elders, yet they must remember that elders have had more experience than they have, and may possibly have more wisdom than the younger think they have. At least, let the younger show a respect that is willing to listen. Elders, of course, may make mistakes also, yet in the church of God they must be considered as those who watch for souls, and should be submitted to rather than set aside by the opinions of those younger.

Again however, in this case, it is added, "Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility" (1 Pet.5:5). This includes those elder as well as the younger.

To Masters

"Exhort bondservants to be obedient (submissive) to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Ti.2:9 - 10). These bond-servants were actually slaves. When converted, how were they to regard their masters? Sometimes the masters were extremely hard, but whatever the case, the Word of God tells the slaves to submit to their masters.

The same principle applies to every employee. Usually it is not as hard for an employee now as it was for slaves then. Yet it is common to hear bitter complaints against employers by their employees, and such things often lead to strikes. This is not a right attitude for a Christian. If he is treated badly, let him appeal to the Lord, but continue to show a spirit of real submission to his employer. If the Lord has given him this employment, it is wise to remember to thank Him and seek to rightly represent the Lord in his actions on the job. We may learn well by such things, and find greater blessing in the end.

To Governmental Authorities

"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" (Rom. 13: 1). Again this passage emphasizes that submission to proper governing authorities is submission to God. Too often this is ignored even by Christians. Many feel they have the right to strongly oppose legislation they consider unjust or unfair.

Some have refused to pay taxes on the ground that the money is being used by the government to carry out morally bad programs. This does not excuse our refusal to pay taxes. We are responsible to God to submit to the government's demand for taxes, as Romans 13:6 insists. The government must answer to God for its use of the money. The Lord Jesus told Peter to pay the temple tax for himself and for the Lord, even though He was not really required to pay it, but because others thought He should (Mt. 17:24 - 27). This surely tells us that money is not as important a matter as submission to the authority ordained by God.

In this scene where it has become increasingly popular to submit to Satan's deceptions and to the selfish desires of the flesh it is wise for the Christian to desire to rightly submit to God, and every authority He has established. If Christ is the object of our hearts, we should delight to contemplate His perfect submission to His Father in this world, and seek to follow Him.