Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the Archives . . . 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


  1. That was beautifully said, Sarah. I was so blessed by your post. The story of Queen Esther is one of my favorites from the Bible. A friend gave me the movie that she bought from Christian Book Distributers and I really enjoyed watching it with my daughters. God bless, Rose

  2. Thank you, Rose, for your encouraging comment! We were glad that it was a blessing to you.