SUBMISSION IS THE MISSION
Children, obey (submit to) your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants and Masters 5 Bondservants, be obedient (submissive) to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him (Ephesians 6:1-9).
Submission: the most abused of all the spiritual disciplines. Nothing creates bondage like religion and nothing in religion has done more to manipulate and destroy people more than an improper understanding of submission.
According to this passage, submission relates to our families and our jobs, not just our marriages and faith. What Jesus did for children and women was unheard of. Rabbis just didn’t say: Let the children come to me. Don’t forbid them for of such is the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Jesus words set in motion a revolution that changed the worlds attitudes toward kids.
Jesus time period did not value children. They were not allowed to speak in public. They were considered insignificant. All newborn Roman children were laid before their dads for judgment. He alone had power to decide whether to keep the child or to kill it. Inferior children were often drowned or sold in the marketplace. People who bought children kept them alive to sell as slaves later in life. Jesus gave value to children.
During the last days of Jesus life on the earth, He exemplified His submission to be a servant in a remarkable way when He and His disciples arrived at the Upper Room and someone was missing. The servant who would wash their feet. Then Jesus, taking the basin and the towel, did for them what the servant should have done: washed their feet.
This is the revolutionary quality of correct biblical leadership and it centers on a new quality of life. We are called to serve Jesus by serving one another and the world. This is the real base of every revival that has ever graced mankind. Without it, we become autocratic overlords, who demand being served through our personal drive and vision.
The real underlying power of submission is seen in its ability to allow us to acknowledge the ultimate value of others, to listen to them, to receive the LORD through them, and to grow with them. The secret of the Kingdom isn’t that Christ died for the church for her to love Him. It’s that He died for the church because He loved her.
Submission also employs an essential Kingdom strategy: an alternating leadership. The Greek word for submission, hupokouete/hupotasso ὑπακούετε, is a compound word. Hupo or under, and kouete listen or tasso meaning to arrange, line up, to accomplish a task. So we are supposed to be people who are “arranged under.” In military terms, it means to put troops under a commander to march or work together in battle or on a project.
In Christian submission, sometimes we are the leader, at other times, we are washing the feet of someone, as “the servant is not greater than his master.” This fits into the idea of leadership that Paul teaches in Ephesians. Leadership isn’t given to grant position, it’s given for ministering to others. It is a huge mistake to think that Scripture desires to create a rigid hierarchical system of relationships based on position.
Most of us don’t like this. We like autocratic leadership. In other words, because I’m the leader, you have to do what I say or else. That’s abuse of the leaders responsibility to be a submitted brother or sister.
Being the pastor doesn’t give me the right to lead without me earning the right to lead daily. If I am not willing to listen, pray, submit to the Word, and allow others to share in the process of what ministry is together, I am in denial of the biblical principle of submission. It isn’t proper for me to just say, do it because I am the pastor. First and foremost, I am a brother in the LORD, called and given gifts to share in the leadership of FloodGate.
But what about Hebrews 13:17, Obey Your Leaders and Submit? The original makes it clear that this is not blind obedience, or a surrender of one’s personal responsibility to obey Christ as Lord. We can catch the sense of the Gk. in this paraphrase: Remain responsive to those God has given you as guides and let yourself be persuaded by them. This is appropriate, for leaders are commissioned to watch over us and must give an account to God. Those who prove by their exemplary life and sound teaching to be worthy of respect most certainly deserve it.
The writer does not suggest blind, unquestioning obedience to everything a leader says, like changing jobs, making purchases, taking a trip, who to marry. The NT teaches the necessity of discernment (1 John 4:1), personal accountability to God (Rom. 14:12; Gal. 6:5), and mutual submission (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3, 4). Leaders are servants who exercise authority with concern and care.
Real happiness in the Kingdom is found in our helping Jesus get what He wants.
Let me also say that submission as self denial doesn’t mean loss of identity, self contempt, or any other form of internal torment.
Real believers who are aggressively seekers of God’s heart have to understand their identity and to be confident in their calling. Jesus didn’t lose His identity when He set His face toward the cross. Peter had to be in firm control of who he was when he responded to the injunction: follow Me (John 21:19). Paul knew who he was when he committed himself to the one who said: I will show him how much he will suffer for my name sake (Acts 9:16).
This leads to authentic authority. We live in an era that desperately needs to see authentic authority. Most of us resist authority. We have usually had too little of the right expression of authority or too much of the wrong application of authority. This is why it’s so hard to grow in our relationship with Christ. We give Him part of our lives, thank Him for saving us and for giving us eternal life, but when it comes down to it, we only trust ourselves when it comes to the management of our lives. We run our own lives and then wonder why we don’t have power.
There is a direct correlation between receiving the power of Christ and submitting to His authority and control. The Christian life is a Christocentric life. You cannot get around this issue. He is either LORD of all, or LORD of not at all.
Jesus is the ultimate example of correct submission as he stipulates in Philippians 2:5-8, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
In class, we are reading a book titled: The Celebration of Discipline. In it the author says that the aim of all disciplines of the faith reach for one end: freedom. The book identifies submission as a discipline.
When the discipline itself becomes the focus or aim, it becomes bondage stripping the practice of all value.
Every discipline has a freedom that relates to it. Submission has the freedom from always being right and getting our own way.
We obsess over our desire to make things benefit us. This is one of the greatest bondages in society today. People spend years grieving over little things that didn’t go their way.
Biblical submission usually focuses on the spirit with which we view others.
Mutual submission is the real point of proper biblical relationships. A lot of people obey when they are told to do something externally but inwardly seethe with a stew of anger and rebellion.
When we learn the fine art of mutual submission, we find the freedom to be able to value others. Their dreams, goals and ideas become meaningful and non-threatening.
Paul gave us a revolutionary concept when he called us to a place of mutual submission, “submitting to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21).” The oldest manuscripts have Christ, not God, which is in keeping with the authority God has given Christ to rule over the church. The word fear doesn’t mean cowering trepidation. It means awe, wonder and reverence. He’s our LORD, King of our lives and master of our discipleship.
Paul is saying that because we love Christ, and as a result of the dynamic impact His love has had on us, we are to live life loving and submitting to each other, first in the church then in the family. We are to be mutually submitted and submissive to each other.
Submission does have limitations. Like when it becomes destructive. Improper calls to submit violate the law of love (Mtt. 22:37-39), Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”