Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Submission - Part 2: What is it?

Through examining Scripture, we have already determined that submission is something that should be a part of a godly woman’s character. We have also seen who the submissive heart should be directed to . . . fathers if we are unmarried and husbands if we are married.

But what is submission?

The word “submit” as used in Scripture is taken from the Greek word “hupotasso” which means to subordinate; to obey. This word (and its derivatives) is used in reference to relationships such as:

--Believers in subjection to governmental authorities
--Believers in subjection to each other
--Believers in subjection to Christ and God the Father
--Children in subjection to their parents
--Young men to elders

And as used in this discussion:

--Women learning with all submissiveness
--Wives in subjection to husbands (which is also applicable to the daughter-father relationship as was seen in the earlier post on this topic.)

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament furthers the definition of "submit" by defining it as: “to subject one’s self, to obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice . . . obey, be subject.”

All of these give a fairly good understanding of what submission is, but when looking up this word (and others similar to it) in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, I was blessed and convicted by several of the definitions. To summarize, submission is cheerfully yielding one’s will to the will and authority of another accompanied by humble and suppliant behavior without murmuring.

Yielding the Will

This is the heart of submission, a yielding of one’s will. Within that will are our desires, plans, ideas, likes, dislikes, goals and other such things. We have this idea that these things are ‘ours’, but we must remember, when we repented of our sins and gave ourselves over to Jesus Christ believing in His name, we surrendered all of our rights. We are not our own . . .

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because of the beautiful and incomprehensible purchase of ourselves by God through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we have no rights for they have been relinquished. We are the Lord’s and are to give ourselves for His glory. That should be our heart’s longing and calling to bring glory to His name by living in obedience to Him. It is not our will that we are seeking to satisfy and follow, but the will of the Lord.

In 1 Peter, it is written “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). We have been called to follow Christ and the example that He set for us. When examining the life of Christ, the direction we are to follow is shown to be expressly clear when He declares:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38; there are similar verses in John 4:34 and 5:30)

Christ’s whole purpose was to do the will of the Father . . . and so should ours be. So the heart of submission is seen to be a surrendering of our will to do the will of the Father, and then in turn, surrendering it to those whom the Lord has placed in authority over us.

Once we recognize that we are not our own and we have no rights, submission to another comes much more easily. We are no longer fighting to satisfy our own wants and desires, but we are seeking something higher . . . to please the Lord and lovingly submit to and honor the man who is our head. And through submitting to and following the leadership of the men whom the Lord has placed in authority over us, we are in actuality submitting to the Lord.

Examples in Scripture - Esther

There are many practical examples that can be given to illustrate how submission is to be lived out in our lives, and Scripture gives just that. Through reading and studying the accounts of the women who have come before us, there is much that can be learned as Paul in writing to the Romans shares: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction,” (Romans 14:4a).

An example of this very topic of discussion was found one morning a few weeks ago as I was reading in the book of Esther regarding Esther’s relationship with Mordecai, the man who had taken her in and raised her when her parents had died. Esther had just been taken captive and brought to King Ahasuerus’s harem, when the first indication of her heart in this area is shown:

Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.” (Esther 2:10)

Here, it is seen that Esther was following the counsel and guidance of the man who was in authority over her. She did not question his direction, seek to circumvent it, nor to outright oppose it . . . she simply followed. Her heart of submission is even further expressed in verse 20 of the same chapter:

“. . . for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” (Esther 2:20)

Despite the frightening and difficult circumstances Esther found herself faced with, she continued to respect and submit to Mordecai just as she had when directly under his care. Her deeply founded heart of submission eventually brought her into the King’s court at the very real risk of her life. 

The circumstances that follow are well known—they are basically summarized with Mordecai’s wise instruction, followed by Esther’s submissive obedience.* And this is what brought about the preservation of the lives of many, many people as well as the Jews’ victory over their enemies.

Submission is truly a beautiful attribute of a godly woman . . . a beautiful attribute that we are commanded by God to adorn ourselves with. Much as we may wish it to be, it is not something that just happens instantly. It is grown by dying to self instance by instance and day by day. It is a continual submitting and yielding of the will and desires to our Lord, and then to our fathers or husbands. 

Having a submissive heart is not easy (in fact, it can be very difficult), but as we submit to and yield our will to those whom the Lord has placed as head over us, we will be pleasing in His sight. Remember, just as Christ submitted to the Father, so should we submit to our fathers or husbands . . . cheerfully, humbly, and with love. What joy it must bring to the Lord when women love Him and serve Him within the bounds and guidelines that He has established!

*It is important to note that Esther’s obedience to Mordecai’s instruction does not conflict with the headship or authority of her husband (this is for many reasons; for example, the king had not forbidden Esther from coming into his presence; also, through Esther's words to the king, we see that her heart was humble and submissive before him.)

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Submission - Part 1: Why?

In Scripture, there is a specific command given numerous times to women that is not often spoken of, and even less, lived out in the true meaning of the word in the Christian culture of today. Within this specific command, there is a great promise, and by obeying it, wonderful things can come forth. This command is for women to submit to the men whom the Lord has placed in authority and headship over them.

As mentioned, this attribute is spoken of several times in Scripture, but perhaps one of the most beautiful passages that teach it is in 1 Peter (another is found in Ephesians 5:22-33):

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:1-6; submission of the wives to their husbands is also taught in Colossians 3:18 and Titus 2:5)

While this passage is directed to wives, the application of it is just as true for us who are not married. In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, it is shown that submission is for all women:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

In the book of Numbers, the authority and headship of both the husband over the wife and the father over his unmarried daughter are seen. The passage is rather lengthy so it will not be shared here, but I encourage you to read Numbers 30:3-15. 

These verses basically state that if a daughter or a wife makes a vow to the Lord, the vow can either be upheld or negated by the father or the husband; thus showing the authority of the man over the woman. (It is interesting to note, that no other relationship is mentioned in this passage save for the father/daughter and husband/wife relationships [the former being a direct precursor to the latter]).

1 Corinthians 11 illustrates the different roles that the Lord has distinctly established for men and women:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

God has set in place an order of headship and authority of: God the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, and man the head of woman. Christ Himself submitted to the will of the Father; so should we, as women, submit to our head which is the man.

This order, of man as head over woman, was created at the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [or helpmeet] suitable for him.’” As we know, the account continues with Eve being fashioned from Adam’s rib—taken from the man and brought to the man as a helper. Not as a leader or a co-equal, but as someone who would aid Adam in his endeavors and the calling that the Lord had given to him.

The commands and order of headship (as well as the specific roles of men and women) established and given by God can be difficult for us to understand, and/or they may even be something that our heart rebels at, or perhaps, passively resists. 

There has been (and no doubt will continue to be!) much debating, discussion and argument against the scriptural teaching of submission . . . it is often said: “But it is cultural!”, “We are all supposed to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21)”, “This is degrading to the woman!” 

Regardless, and despite the arguments against it, in His word, God has commanded woman (and not just once, but a multitude of times) to submit to the man that He has placed in authority and headship over her, and we are to obey Him. If we choose not to obey, regardless of our argument, we are walking contrary to the very commands of God and by that disobedience, are indicating a lack of love for Him. 1 John 5:3 states:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

And again in the book of John:

If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

(Note, this does not indicate that we must be perfect in order to love the Lord; the Greek word used for ‘keep’ in the above verses is tereo which means: to guard, to hold fast, to attend to carefully, to observe, etc.; none of which indicate perfection in obedience.)

As women who love the Lord and desire to be obedient to Him, we should be striving to be submissive to those who are in authority over us; namely our fathers if we are unmarried, or our husbands if we are married. For this is pleasing to God and brings Him glory as we seek to follow His commands to have hearts adorned with the beautiful quality of submission.

Coming soon . . . Submission – Part 2: What is it?

This topic of submission is one that is so very broad and deep . . . and it is an area that I am continually learning more about and seeking to develop more in my own life. I have striven to (and continue to!) develop a scriptural understanding of submission, but being a young, unmarried woman, my experience in this area of submission is relatively small, and is not without the potential for misunderstanding and misapplication. With that, I would like to ask those of you who are older, if the Lord should lead, for you to share your understanding of this vital area. Much can be gleaned from the experience and wisdom of you older women!

Also, as an unmarried woman, the focus of this writing is for women in general and not specifically to wives, thus many passages such as Ephesians 5:22-33 will not be specifically expounded upon, but I encourage each one of you to read and examine this passage and others similar to it. And as this area of submission is so vast, what will be shared in this small series will in no way be complete, but my hope and prayer is that it will stir thought and convict the heart to scripturally examine this area of submission.

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Crown Him with Many Crowns

The below hymn has been on my heart the past several days and was also one that we sang this past Sunday morning . . . I pray that it will be a blessing to you as it has been to me!

Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! how the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him Who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Thru all eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of love:
Behold His hands and side -
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his wond'ring eye
At mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of life:
Who triumphed o'er the grave,
Who rose victorious to the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died and rose on high,
Who died, eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of heav'n:
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit thru Him giv'n
From His eternal throne.
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days
Adored and magnified.*

"For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?" (Psalm 71:19)

"Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. Blessed by the name of the LORD from this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised." (Psalm 113:1-3)

*Words: Stanzas 1, 2, 4 by Matthew Bridges, 1800-1894; Stanza 3 by Godfrey Thring, 1823-1903
Music: George J. Elvey, 1816-1893

-Posted by Sarah