Defining Submission

Defining Submission

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

What is submission? There are many who hear this word and think of weakness. They believe that if you are submissive, you’re at the bottom of the food chain. Is this really the case? 

The Bible uses this word in several different passages, and we will take a look at these verses in depth and figure out the true definition of submission.  

The original word comes from the Greek, hypotasso, which can be used several different ways depending on the context in which it is used. The first definition is “to cause to be in a submissive relationship” and the second is “to become subject, subject oneself” (BDAG). With these definitions in mind, let’s notice how scripture uses this word. 

James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Who must submit? Everyone. Who are we submitting to? God. What is the outcome? The Devil will flee. In this text, submission is the act of putting God in charge of our lives. In doing so we no longer chase after sin and Satan will flee from us. 

Col. 3:18: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Who must submit? Wives. Who are they submitting to? The husband. For what reason? God has commanded. In this text, submission is what the wife must do in her marriage in order to be approved of God.  A submissive wife is fitting in the Lord. 

Eph. 5:21: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Who must submit? The Christian. Who are we submitting to? Other Christians. Why are we submitting? Out of reverence (deep respect and awe) for Christ. If we say that we revere Christ, we must submit to each other and place our brothers and sisters above self. 

Eph. 5:24: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Who is submitting? The church, as well as the wives in the same way we (as a church body) submit to Christ. A submissive church looks to Christ for every spiritual decision. They do this because they are no longer in control. A wife submits to her husband by looking at the example of the church or “the bride of Christ.” 

Titus 2:5, 9; 3:1: “to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” Who is submitting? Wives, bondservants, and those who have experienced Christ (2:14). Who are they submitting to? Husbands, masters, rulers and authorities. Why are they submitting? So the Word of God won’t be criticized or abused, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God (10), and because we aren’t who we used to be (3). 

1 Peter 2:18; 3:22; 5:5: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Servants are called to submit to their masters. Why? “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (19). In chapter 3:1, wives are to submit to their husbands so that they may win their husband by their actions. In 3:22 the angels, authorities, and powers have been placed under Christ. In 5:5, the young are to submit to the elders. 

Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Who is supposed to submit here? Every person. To whom? The governing authorities. Why? Only God can give authority, those that are in place have been instituted by God. If we refuse to submit (break their laws), “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Submission is the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. In scripture several groups are commanded to have this attitude:

  • Christians 
  • Wives
  • Servants 
  • Every person 

Submission is not weakness. It takes strength to make this choice. We aren’t forced into submission, but it is a choice each one of us must make. 

Have you made that choice? If you have, understand that there will be times where you fail. Thankfully God is willing to forgive those who have sinned. 

Submission means we give up what we want, and act the way God wants us to act. 

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