Why Biblical Submission is Both Essential and Lovely

One subject which never fails to stir up emotions and differing opinions is the topic of biblical submission. In its historical context, this was not a controversial subject, but a widely understood one. So why do we have such a hard time with the concept? I think it has much to do with our sin nature – that natural desire to rebel against God. I also think a large part of our initial hang-up is that the doctrine of submission has often been distorted by some who twist the concept to suit their agenda. 

It is also particularly controversial because of the society in which we live, where Americans herald their independence above all, making freedom their king and viewing submission as an ugly thing of the past. But the Scriptures point to a deeper and more beautiful way of looking at submission. The concept is actually quite near the heart of Christianity.

For instance, we see this when Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and submit to the will of God. “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24 ESV).'”

Unfortunately, when people hear “submission” they automatically think of doormat wives attending their husbands’ every whim. On the contrary, that’s not at all what submission looks like. To get a more well-rounded view, we’ll look at a few places in the New Testament where submission is seen in a variety of contexts. 

Marriage

The context in which submission is perhaps most often thought of is the instruction from Paul in Ephesians 5:22 for wives to submit to their husbands. God in His infinite wisdom structured the family unit so that husbands should act as the head of the family. Because of that, for things to flow properly, wives must be on board with their husband’s leadership. It does not mean he should unthinkingly plow over her opinions and suggestions. Any wise and loving husband will listen to his wife, value her thoughts, and heed her advice at times.

Following this instruction for women to submit, husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ did for the church. Both of these responsibilities are loving and honorable tasks, that benefit both parties and exude the glory of God. They are kin to the way that Jesus submitted the Father when He laid down His life on the cross.

Church

What people often forget is that in the verse just before these, we see Paul admonishing all Christians to submit to one another. After giving various instructions regarding holy living, he seems to summarize in Ephesians 5:21 by writing, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This cooperation does not deem either party as less valuable or more worthy than the other. Rather, it displays unity to the utmost degree, one of the most essential traits of a healthy body of Christ. Therefore, it seems logical to conclude this passage of Scripture also applies within marriage, where a kind of mutual submission necessary for a healthy dynamic. 

Jesus

While our efforts to live by the previous instructions often fall short, Jesus fulfilled all this in the loveliest way possible. We see Him submit to the Father throughout His life and in particular through His death. Jesus expressed His pain in submitting to the cross when He prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39 ESV).”

Praise God it wasn’t His will to let it pass, for Christ’s crucifixion is the atonement for our sins. So as we see in all these instances, submission is not only essential but lovely. It is not chucking your mind at the door, but it is the essence of following Jesus. It is a difficult thing, but His ways are higher, better, and more wonderful than anything we can think up of our own accord. 

Note: If you or someone you know has been hurt by distorted teachings on biblical submission, I recommend reading “No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God” by Aimee Byrd. Though I haven’t read it myself, it comes with high recommendations from trusted sisters in Christ.

5 thoughts on “Why Biblical Submission is Both Essential and Lovely

  1. Therefore, it seems logical to conclude this passage of Scripture also applies within marriage, where a kind of mutual submission [is] necessary for a healthy dynamic.

    I disagree the mutual submission is for brothers in Christ within the church, because no man is lord of the church, which is Jesus Christ’s bride. Each man submits directly to Christ, not necessarily to any church leader.(1 Corinthians 11:3)
    Wives are specifically addressed in the following passage:
    Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

    I’d recommend your readers just focus on following God’s All-Wise book, and not some lady’s book, which you admit you haven’t read. plus there is a lot less material they’ll have to master. They can start off with Ephesians 5, Titus 2, 1 Peter 2-3, and Colossians 3:18.
    If women don’t want to attend to “their husbands’ every whim”, then they really shouldn’t marry and become selfish and rebellious wives to unfortunate men, who deserve better. Too bad they didn’t learn to deny themselves, and are ashamed of God’s word where it conflicts with Feminism. If they really believed and followed God’s word, they’d be preparing to submit to their own husband in everything, and not concern themselves with whether or not the world will call them a “doormat”. If submission is actually “lovely” then they will know you are a Christian by your love, not excuses for rebellion. Yes, a wise husband will listen to and consider his wife’s opinion, but, he won’t fall into the sin of Adam and follow his wife, when God instructed him to lead in paths of righteousness. Righteous God put the right sex in charge. Women are weaker vessels(1 Peter 3:7) and natural defilers(Revelation 14:4) it is only fitting in the Lord that they should be subject to their own husbands in everything. That wasn’t a typo in the Bible.

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    1. @Sharkly, I am not a feminist, and nowhere does this article promote feminism or rebellion against one’s husband. I promoted a biblical complementarian view of marriage, but that’s not even the main focus of this article, so you obviously missed the point.

      It’s ironic that you mention 1 Peter 3:7 in reference to pointing women out as weaker vessels (which is true), but ignore the overarching meaning of the verse, which is to show honor to your fellow heirs of grace. Women are weaker in some ways, but they are not lesser in the kingdom of God. Men and women, with different roles and strengths, are equal in worth and dignity. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

      You not only used Revelation 14:4 out of context but conflated who was defiled versus the defiler. The reason the men weren’t defiled with women, was because they themselves didn’t DEFILE women as many men do. It is not that the women defiled them by being women. “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,” Revelation 14:4. Your interpretation of this text shows a gross misunderstanding of Scripture and will inevitably perpetuate misogyny within the church.

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  2. Thanks for replying, Taylor.
    I got the point of your post, I was just correcting an error.
    We all live in a Feminism saturated culture, and have been infected by the “leaven” of Feminism. God’s design for us is patriarchy. God Himself is a Father turning over power to His Son, a united patriarchal kingdom. Complementarianism and then Egalitarianism are just the two stepping stones away from God’s prescribed patriarchy towards full fledged Feminism.

    Men and women, with different roles and strengths, are equal in worth and dignity.
    That is half way to Feminism already. God does not tell us that, but this:
    1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

    [Women] are not lesser in the kingdom of God.
    Perhaps not in heaven, where some who were last shall be first. But here on earth women are a secondary creature created for men, to serve and reverence their own husbands.(Ephesians 5:33) And God says women should not usurp man’s dominion over them:
    1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
    Allowing women to claim equal dignity or equal rank here on earth, is not living with them in an understanding way, but in a way ignorant of God’s word to us.

    You not only used Revelation 14:4 out of context but conflated who was defiled versus the defiler.
    God said those who engage in sexual immorality were to be put to death, and that those who, once under Jesus Christ’s grace, are sexually immoral, no longer have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. King David was only under the law, and able to later make more sacrifices for his sins. Revelation 14:4 shows that men who maintain their virginity until marriage, are still defiled by their wives. The image and glory of God becomes joined into one flesh with man’s own defiler. And she is to adorn herself with due shamefacedness because of her defiling nature. She sinned rebelliously, usurping both God and her husband, even though she lived in paradise, and there had never ever been any wrong done to her. It was by her direct rebellion against God and His image, that she brought transgression into this world, and then, taking over the task of Satan, she led Adam to be defiled too. It is you who, because of Feminism, refuse to see who is the defiler and who is the image and glory of God, becoming defiled by a woman, when a man and woman are joined. Notwithstanding she shall be saved, by showing her faith, through acts like bearing her own husband’s children for him, and showing him love and holiness, with modesty.

    The greatest misogyny in the church is teaching women lies that might doom them to hell. Teaching women that they are defilers who should be shamefaced has been the doctrine of the church from the beginning:
    Tertullian wrote this about women: And do you not know that you are [each an] Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, Adam. Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die.
    It isn’t misogyny, that is the doctrine that Christ’s church was founded on, prior to the intervention of the Great Whore of Rome around 400 A.D. The early church fathers unanimously wrote that women are not, by themselves, the image of God. The Mother of all Harlots became a worldly kingdom and forcibly converted people including many goddess worshippers. The church of Rome offered them Mary as a substitute by deifying her and making her co-redemptrix with Christ and “Queen of Heaven”. And how could they make her a deity, if she wasn’t even in the image of God? So all women were then switched, and claimed to be God’s image. The churches of today are the daughters of that whoring mother, and they idolatrously worship the creature(women) rather than the Creator. Who would they fear more to offend, God or a woman? They chose to be ashamed of God’s word(Mark 8:38) rather than to preach it boldly where it might offend women. Complementarianism is an attempt to come up with something more palatable to women than what God has actually said. They choose to offend God to keep from offending their real god, women. Women are given the worth-ship to go unoffended rather than God Most High. It is idolatry, the worth-ship of women, the exact sin of Adam, by attending to any woman’s desire above God’s desire. When is the last time you heard what I’m expounding preached in a church? Not in your lifetime! But it was all clearly in God’s inspired word, all this time, for those with eyes to see, and ears to hear.

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