We live in a world of “rights” and self-promotion. In such a world the whole concept of submission is foreign to the way we operate. The consequence though of such an approach to life have been disastrous. Workplaces are disrupted, society is fractured and families are in chaos because people are no longer willing to submit to one another out of respect for one another.
The exhortation to the Christian stands, though, that we should Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). This is basic ground-rule for Christian relationships. The whole idea behind this exhortation is that I place myself under you. I rank myself in a position where I reckon you to be more important than me. This is a universal principle that should apply between all Christians. So your agenda is more important than mine. Your wishes are more important than mine. The church then becomes a place of respecting and honouring one another rather than asserting our rights all the time.
Notwithstanding this general principle though there are times when, for the purposes of good order someone has to be submitted to because of the position they hold.
In society. Paul says that Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Rom 13:1). Why are there so many problems in society today? Surely it is because so many will not submit themselves to honour those who administer the law of the land whether it be the police or the judiciary. Rather as Peter says we should Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (1 Pet. 2:13-14)
In the workplace. Christian employees should be those who respect their employers and willingly submit to their orders. Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord (Col. 3:22b). At work then we heed our line mangers instructions and implement them. We may discuss them if we think that there is a better way of operating. But if, in the end the line manager says this is the way it should be done then we should willingly obey.
Family-life. The call upon children is simple and yet profound. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Eph. 6:1). Children are to express their submission to parental authority through their obedience.
Marriage. Authority structures are also to be found in the marriage relationship. Paul states it as follows: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Eph 5:22). The Husband is the “chief-executive” in the home. He is given executive authority by the Managing Director; God Himself.
Church. God places elders, also called overseers, in His church. And He says: Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you (Heb 13:17). For the sake of Godly order in the church those who are constituted as elders should be obeyed.
Having established the realms in which submission applies we need to conclude by asking ourselves three questions:
Should a wife ever expect her husband to submit to her?
In the generality of life the husband and wife as two Christians are submitting to each other in accordance with Eph. 5:21. However, there are times when a decision has to be made on something. At these times the husband has to exert his position as husband and therefore head of the marriage. The wife is obliged to submit to her husband and his decision in such cases. This principle also applies in all the other spheres mentioned above such as in the church.
What if a worker is asked to do something wrong by his employer?
In such a case we might say a higher principle comes into play. We must follow Peter and the other apostles and say: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29b). It must be emphasised that this is NOT a get out clause for us when we feel hard done-by, rather it is for those exceptional times when we are asked to do something that directly contravenes God’s Word.
Is my husband therefore allowed to be nasty to me?
No not at all. Abusive behaviour by those in authority which exploits those “under” them is obnoxious and totally indefensible. And God in His Word provides the necessary correctives. So a husband should love his wife (see Eph. 5:25a). Employers should not be threatening (see Eph. 6:9). Elders are not to Lord it over the flock (see 1 Pet. 5:3).
In all our acts of submission let us be aware that such acts are NOT just for the sake of it. Rather they are acts which are as to the LORD. This gives submission a delightful aspect. It is something that pleases Him and that should encourage us in what is often a hard act.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of January 2008)