Understanding Submission

The Greek word for submission is a military term and it means to “arrange under.” If we are submissive to God, we will also be submissive to civil government (1 Pet. 2:13-17), parents (Eph. 6:13), husbands (1 Pet. 3:1-4) and wives (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:7), employers (1 Pet. 2:18-23), and church leaders (Heb. 13:17). The charge to be submissive to governing authorities always comes with a promised blessing. It is for our own spiritual protection that we should be submissive. Scripture warns us that on earth we are in hostile territory, and admonishes us to get in ranks and follow God.

It is a mature act of faith to trust God to work in our lives through something less than perfect leaders who are in positions of authority over us. We submit to them, because of their position in authority, and because of who they are as a person. Should governing authorities demand that you do, or not do, something that is contrary to the will of God, then you must obey God as the early church did (Acts 4:18-20). If possible offer them a better alternative as Daniel did (Dan. 1:8-16). You also don’t have to obey someone who has overstepped the scope of their authority. Policemen can direct traffic, but they cannot come to your church and order you to worship a certain way.

Submission never means surrendering who we are. In fact, being submissive is essential for being all that God intended us to be. Our identity and freedom is found in Christ, and they are unrelated to who we report to in this world. Nobody can keep you from being the person God created you to be. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). We may be ridiculed for being Christians, but “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15). Should we suffer unjustly while serving under an earthly master for doing good, it is commendable before God. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps” (vs. 21).

Dr. Neil

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