What does the New Testament teach us about submission?
In a world where authorities are constantly questioned and where rebellion constantly opposes those in charge, this question couldn’t be more appropriate.
People are tired with the corruption and lies from leading figures. One political party replaces another, but at the end dishonesty and bribery are discovered in their ranks as well.
Teachers have a touch time disciplining students, although many of them are dedicated. Students are suspicious and question everything.
Police brutality, abuse among war detainees, planned murders … everything leads to question authorities, especially as dissatisfaction grows. Work dissatisfaction and favoritism set employees against their employer. Wives and husbands become targets as well and domestic violence is on the rise as well. Is there security anywhere?
God’s Word is clear though concerning authority.
Rom 13:1-2 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” NIV
Any Westerner would have a hard time getting the meaning of this verse. However the verse is plain and simple.
“Everyone” includes me and everyone else!
We as Christians are not to resist the legitimate authorities in our life!
“There is no authority except that which God has established.” The president, king or prime minister in our country has been established by God.
But what if the authority is corrupt and dishonest?
King Saul, although chosen by God himself, became corrupt and jealous and his only desire at the end of his life was to exterminate an innocent life: David’s! Authorities who are mishandling their appointment will be judged by God Himself. Saul died a horrible death:
1 Sam 31:4 “Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it.” NIV
God is responsible for appointing people to positions of authority, but is not responsible for how these people in authority act.
For example, Adam and Eve received authority over all of God’s creation on our planet.
Gen 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” NIV
However when they abused their power, they lost their paradise habitat.
Gen 3:23-24 “So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” NIV
All authorities are from God, but not all authorities are Godly! It isn’t for us to topple over authorities. Vengeance belongs to God!
Rom 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” NIV
Those placed in authority will be judged more harshly!
James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” NIV
The apostle Peter also encourages us with the same message as Paul’s:
1 Peter 2:17-18 “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” NIV
It is as if Peter is saying: “How can anyone respect God, whom they have not seen, if they cannot respect the people who have been placed over them, whom they can see?”
In the first century A.D. there were many slaves who were Christians. Although slavery is always repugnant, in these days it was like being an employee today. Some of these slaves were superior to their masters, as some of them were doctors, teachers and musicians. But they were encouraged to respect the ones who were over them.
When Peter wrote this text, King Agrippa I was in charge over the region that Peter was residing. This king was far from being honest and kind. In fact he harshly persecuted the Christians and desired their death. Peter was encouraging believers to honor that despot King named Agrippa I! The only way Peter could do this is to look beyond who Agrippa I was and recognize the authority given to him by God.
It doesn’t make sense to subject to a cruel authority. However it always makes perfect sense to obey God.
Our attitude should not be: “You have to earn my respect!”
Instead it should be: “You have my respect already because I recognize the One who placed you there.”
“Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect” (verse 18a) could be substituted today by “Submit yourselves to your boss with all respect” no matter how gentle or harsh he can be:
“not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (verse 18b)
Wait a minute, could it be that the word “harsh” was not mistranslated?
The original Greek word is “skolios” and means “crooked, perverse, tyrannical and unfair.” Not very encouraging, is it?
How can I submit to a tyrannical despot, even if he may be my boss?
It is hard to swallow. Every fiber and every bone of ours shudder at such a thought. “This is wrong!” We may reason. The reason why we should do so, no matter how revolting this may be, is because God told us so and we will trust Him!
I know He loves me and that He paid the price for my salvation.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” NIV
Jesus died willingly in my place. No greater love have I found on this planet. If He recommends me to take a certain action, I will obey. In Him I trust!
Now we may wonder if there are times we can disobey authorities?
The answer is yes.
Gal 2:4-5 4″[This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” NIV
Any time authority commands us to do something that contradicts God’s Word, we need to respectfully say “no”.
For example, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were ordered by the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar to bow down in front of an idol (see Daniel 3:8-30). They respectfully refused! When confronted by their transgression, they responded to the king:
Dan 3:16-18 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” NIV
They respectfully said “no” to the emperor.
David also demonstrated what to do when confronting illegitimate use of authority. David was being persecuted by King Saul, whose ambition was to destroy David. David ran for his life, but continued to respect his king. At one occasion, David had the opportunity to slay down the king, when he entered unawaringly into the cave David and his men were hiding to relief himself. However David refused to kill his king, although he was persecuting him:
1 Sam 24:6-7 “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.” NIV
What if a husband mistreats his wife?
This is one of the most difficult situations in today’s society. The Bible does say:
“Eph 5:22-24 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” NIV
Now that does not mean that wives should let themselves be abused, neglected and be beaten. Far from that!
We need to remember how husbands should be treating their wives according to God’s Word:
Eph 5:25, 28 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” NIV
Husbands ought to love their wives the same way Jesus loved us! If this isn’t the case and abuse is reigning in a home, wives can respectfully run away for protection, just as David did when he was abused by King Saul.
There is a huge difference between submission and obedience! God’s Word does not teach unconditional obedience to any authority! Instead it teaches unconditional submission!
Blind obedience will lead to abuse! However respectful submission can lead to salvation!
1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” NIV
God loves us and He will be there for us when we are facing our share of trials. We can decide to face these alone or can we can trust Him and accept His guidance. I and my house will trust the One who willingly died for us. He is the only One who gives us inner peace amidst today’s turmoils. I will follow His recommendations, even if I am being mistreated. I will always remember what Jesus underwent to bring me salvation and will fix my eyes on the One who makes a difference to my life.
Heb 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” NIV
May I invite you to do the same? Accept His invitation of friendship. Do so by answering the Saviour’s Call!
We cannot be an effective servant of Christ unless we are submitted to Him. Romans 12:1-3 are quite adequate to cement this point.
12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Following the example of Christ, Himself, Philippians 2:5-11.
2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal
2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Can we do any less than to follow the example of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ?
Does the Bible teach submission to Christ? IT CERTAINLY DOES!
It teaches us Jesus Christ is the Only way to Heaven and it takes not only believing but by following HIS rules with no adding or subtracting to suite ourselves….if we do we turn Christ into a religion.
That we should be submissive to God, it teaches that wives should be submissive to their husband and likeness the church or the body of Christ to a bride/wife hence as the wife is supposed to submit to the husband likewise the church is supposed to be submissive to God.