Submit! But only if you want to?

February 22, 2012

in Headship/Submission

Submit? Yes, no maybe. © Harshmunjal | Dreamstime.com

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” [1 PE 3:1 ESV]

If we accept that the Bible tells us submitting is a part of the Christian life, we still have to understand what it means to submit. Here again there are all manner of battles about words and meanings.

The Greek word translated “submit” in Eph 5 and 1 Peter 3 is hupotasso. It is a Greek military term meaning “to arrange in a military fashion under a leader”. In this sense, it seems pretty clear we are looking at leading and following. However, there is also a non-military meaning for hupotasso which indicates a voluntarily rather compulsory submission. I’ve seen some say the non-military meaning is something like “be available” or “care about”, but I’ve not found any good support for that.

So should we use the military or non-military meaning? There are places in the New Testament, including passages by both Paul and Peter, where context requires the military meaning be understood. This does not prove we should use the military meaning in the passages about marriage, but it does effectively kill the argument that the original readers would only have understood the word in its non-military sense.

Since Paul and Peter are commanding submission, it would be accurate to say it is a choice. However, if we are repeatedly commanded to do something, it’s only a choice if we have chosen to pick and choose what part of God’s commands to follow. We either obey God, or we do not; partial obedience is not really obedience at all. So submission may be a choice, but it seems we are commanded to choose that choice.

But wait, what about slaves? Paul and Peter both tell them to submit. Aren’t slaves forced to submit? Isn’t telling them to submit redundant or insulting? I think this shows the submission we are called to is something more than just blind obedience. More on that Thursday.

This is a seven part series: 

Headship? Me? Maybe not … Why men shy away from being the head.
Submit to each other? Wait, how does that work? Does it work?
Submit! But only if you want to? It’s a choice?
Who submits to whom, and why? God has a plan here, really.
Being the head What it means, and how it’s to be done.
Sexual submission New we’re talking … or not.
How we do headship and submission How it works in our message.

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9 comments
The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

All - great discussion. I'm hitting most of this with the next post, so I will save it for then.

Tony
Tony

That's what I was talking about. I clearly said at the judgment, all will be forced to obey. They will be forced to bow down and call Him Lord. Just because we don't see what we think we should see today, doesn't mean we will not someday see it. Think eternally, not our temporal mortal existence. But for more scriptural support for that line of thinking, Habakkuk 2:3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay." The context is the prophet complains about all that God is allowing to go on. (A real paraphrase.) God's response is essentially things will change in His (God's) timing, not man's. Just because we don't see someone obey doesn't mean God will not eventually force them to obey. It may be at judgment, but even then some will be forced to obey.

Ol' Will
Ol' Will

Sorry, I meant "great work". Sometimes my fingers get dyslexic.

Ol' Will
Ol' Will

Paul, You and Lori are doing a great word in this series of posts. Can't wait for tomorrow's post. God bless, OW Sonofagun there's even a 'Submit' button.

saved sinner
saved sinner

Tony can you please point out in scripture were GOD forces anything on anyone other than the judgment that will come when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess JESUS as LORD and we all have to give an account of our lives and what we did for GOD with the life he gave us. I think the Bible is clear on the fact that we have truly one choice to make and thats believing or not believing in GOD and confessing JESUS as LORD. After that choice is truly made following GODS commands is not optional as we would like to think. Paul in Romans,Philippians, and Titus calls himself a bond servant (slave). In Philemon (prisoner). James also calls himself a bond servant (slave). Peter in 2Peter also call himself a bond servant (slave). The picture is portrayed very clear, we are not our own once we come to CHRIST, we have been bought with a price, therefore we MUST glorify GOD in our bodies. Christian marriages are a picture to the world of CHRIST and the CHURCH. When a non believer sees a husband loving his wife as Christ loved to CHURCH and gave himself for it. When a wife is seen submitting and respecting her husband as to the LORD, thats the picture that non beleivers should see in EVERY christian marriage. Can you imagine if all christian marriages were like that how many non believers would see GODS picture through our marriages and give their lives back to the one that gave it to them. But unfortunately the statistics show that we tear that wonderful picture up just like unbelievers. GODS commands are there for our good because he loves us. Every time we disobey we clearly state that we don't trust his love, and every time he whispers why don't you trust me. Every time a christian husband or wife denies the other anything that is not against GODS commands or immoral, were not trusting him. Every time we put ourselves before our spouse, we are not trusting him. So if we truly believe then our obedience is to GOD, our submission is to GOD, and his commands are not burdensome and our spouses reap what GOD has sewn in us by his grace,mercy,love and the blood of the lamb. Let's all hear the whisper of his voice to trust him and not to believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs.

Saved sinner
Saved sinner

I would respectively disagree with obedience being forced. If you believe the other side of the coin is obedience. Scripture says that the demons believe and they shudder but do not obey GODS commands. As believers we obey because we first believe then comes submission. They are all tied together. JESUS showed it perfectly as only he could on the cross. He believed so he obeyed and submitted to GOD the fathers will not his own.

John
John

Sometimes we confuse obedience and submission but there is a real difference. Obedience can be forced but submission cannot be because when you understand submission, submission operates only out of love from our hearts. We willing do what we probably would not want to do because we love. If we do it because we have to, then it is only obedience. That is why God says that we are submit ourselves under His mighty hand and then He will lift us up. This might raise some discussion but the way we are to submit to each other, including our brothers and sisters in the Lord and our wives is the same way God submits to us. God does not force His will upon us, He patiently waits until we are willing to submit to Him. That does put a different perspective on the marriage relationship and does align it with the fact that men are to LOVE their wife as Chirst loves the church.

John
John

I think you missed what I said - "obedience CAN BE forced, but submission can NOT be..." Not that we only obey out of force, but rather we CAN BE forced to obey. Spiritual God does not force us, when we obey, it is because we believe Him and want ot please him because we have begun a love relationship with Him. However, just because we obey does not mean we submit to God. Since submission can NOT be forced and only comes as a result of our love, 0ur submission is therefore a reflection of our love for God. The more we love, the more we submit. Not suprisingly this is true in human relationships also because God made us in His image. If love God so much that we are willing to do what we would otherwise not be willing to do (submission), then we will be more willing to submit to not only to people God places over us in authority, but in our relationships with one another. The reverse is also true. Our submission to earthly authorities will be a reflection of our submission to God. I think we all would like to be more submissive to God, including me. I am finding out that when I make decisions to love God's indirect authority (people God has placed over me), I find it easier to submit to them and then I find it easier to submit to God. I have also found that if I focus on submission, I get frustrated, but if I focues on "agape" love, then submission follows.

Tony
Tony

Is that because the demons have not yet been FORCED to obey? I think once they are judged, they will be forced to obey and be subjected to eternal punishment. Just because someone (or something) is not currently in obedience doesn't mean they will never be forced to obey.

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