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


  1. Dear Sarah,
    Beautiful post!This is true, but the people in this world think that we're crazy! Thank you for writing about it!

    I have a lot of work this weeks, but I hope I'm going to write you soon.

    The Lord blesses you.
    With love in Christ,

  2. Thank you for commenting, Elisabet, and for the encouraging words! Yes, the world does tend to look at women who seek to practice scriptural submission as rather crazy. :) But as we strive to be obedient to our Lord, we can take joy in knowing that we are pleasing Him by the way we are living our lives. With that, it matters not what others might think of us! :)

    I look forward to hearing from you, but certainly understand busyness . . . take your time!

  3. Thank you for posting, Sarah. Submission is also something I need very much to learn about. I look forward to your next post.

    Blessings in Christ,

  4. You're welcome, Anna! And thank you so much for commenting!

  5. Greetings Sarah!

    This post is particularly convicting! I know that it is important to submit but even more so true submisson comes from the Lord! I have little to say and much to learn!

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  6. Thanks for mentioning the fact that the headship of Adam over Eve was established *before* the fall, not after. The entrance of sin into the world did not somehow make us "lower" than men.

    I don't believe the part of the curse that says, "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," means male leadership is part of the curse. I once heard a preacher say that the CURSE was not that the husband should rule over the wife (that was already the way things were), but the curse was that her DESIRE would be towards her husband's position. She would not be content with God's plan. She would desire to be the leader she wasn't supposed to be.

    I thought that view of the curse made a lot of sense!

  7. Thank you so much for commenting, Ashley! Yes, true submission is from the Lord . . . it is only through Him working through our yielded hearts that a submissive spirit can be attained.

    I, too, have much to learn in this area!

  8. Those are excellent points that you shared, Amber! Thank you!

    Yes, when looking at the first several chapters in Genesis, it does appear that part of the curse was indeed the autonomy that the woman would then desire to have . . . instead of delighting in the position that the Lord had created her for (being a helpmeet with a heart of submission), she would yearn for independence, leadership and authority (which is quite similar to Eve’s heart when taking the apple and eating – she was stepping outside of her role).

    Thank you for sharing!