Submission is a common theme in the Bible. At times it is interpreted improperly, causing a reaction of repulsion in many. Does the title of this article make your stomach turn a little? This is a theme we must explore.
Is submission only about wives submitting to husbands as Paul commands in Chapter 5 of his letter to the Ephesians? Do you immediately see that domineering husband pounding his fist on the table calling his wife to submit? I hope you’ll readily agree that there is so much more to submission than just wives submitting to husbands, but often this is the only picture non-Christians have of Biblical submission. I want to propose to you that there is a form of submission – the ultimate act of submission – that makes Christians unique in the world.
Even the words “submit” and “submission” have such a negative connotation in the world today. They carry a negative connotation because the concept (or misconception) stomps on our self-centered independent spirit. We don’t WANT to submit, because we are self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-righteous, self-centered, selfish…it is all about us – me, myself, and I. We reject the idea of submitting to another, even if we don’t admit it, the reaction is tucked deep into our hearts. How can I submit to another when my focus is locked like a tractor beam on ME!?! I don’t have to submit to anyone else, some might say. I am free and independent.
Are we free and independent? Or are we to submit to something greater? So, what is the ULTIMATE act of submission for all of mankind?
We know we are to submit to the Government and authorities that God has put over us (1 Pet 2:13-17, Rom 13:1-7). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Children are to submit to their parents (Eph 6:1-3). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Slaves are to submit to masters…or more realistic today, employees are to submit to employers (Eph 6:5-8). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Wives are to submit to their own husbands (Eph 5:22-23). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
As believers, we are all to submit to each other (Eph 5:20-21). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Husbands are to submit to Christ (Eph 5:23-33). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
We must do all these. Its not negotiable. But there is still something greater. If all these Biblical commands are not the ULTIMATE act of submission, what is?
Man giving into dependency on his creator is the ULTIMATE act of submission. Simply praying.
Prayer is the ultimate act of submission for mankind because it forces us to look away from self and look to another in dependency. We must set our self-sufficiency and self-reliance down in the hallway before entering the prayer room to face our maker and find sufficiency in HIM and reliance on Him and dependence on HIM.
Jesus tells us: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 ESV)
You get no fame when praying in secret. You get no accolades from those who hear when praying in public like the Pharisees. It can’t be an act. I’m not talking about public prayer, which is often a time when we show off and pray so men can hear us. I’m talking about the secret really prayer. It must be true submission to our God. We find yourself face-to-face with God in the Throne Room of Heaven and faced with the decision to submit to Him or to treat Him as our cosmic vending machine. Do we face Him and pray for what we want and then expect God provide because He is submissive to US? Or do we fall on our face in desperate reliance on the one who holds the stars in the sky (Heb 1:1-3)?
What does it look like for you? Is prayer for you just a chore or a laundry list of wants delivered as fast as possible? Or is prayer a time when you fall on your Abba, Father in complete reliance, dependency, worship, joy, and conversation. Is prayer cold and distant? Brief and lacking passion? Or are your regularly moved to tears and daily plead with God for His mercy and grace? What does it look like for you?
Paul and the other writers of the New Testament bring prayer to the forefront often with the following commands:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)
Rom 12:12 – be in constant prayer
1 Cor 7:5 – devote yourself to prayer
2 Cor 1:11 – help us by prayer
Eph 6:18 – praying at all times in the spirit
Phil 4:6 – don’t be anxious…but in everything by prayer
Col 4:2 – continue steadfastly in prayer
1 Thes 5:17 – pray without ceasing
2 Thes 3:1 – pray for us
Heb 13:18 – pray for us
Jam 5:13 – if anyone is suffering…let them pray
Jude 1:20 – building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit
Rev 5:8 and 8:3 – we see the prayers of the saints in heaven
And from the Gospels:
Mat 6:5 – and when you pray you must not be like the hypocrites
Mat 6:9 – Pray like this…our Father
Mat 21:22 – and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive
Luke 6:28 – pray for those that abuse you
Luke 10:2 – therefore pray earnestly to the lord of the harvest to send out laborers
Luke 22:40 – pray that you will not enter into temptation
Obviously Jesus, who was obedient and submissive to the Father, prayed in secret as our example. Jesus made prayer a priority:
Mathew 14:23 – And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Mark 6:45-46 – Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Mark 14:32 – And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Luke 6:12 – In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Prayer is the air that the Christian must breath. If we come with a laundry list of wants and desires and not with a heart of true and complete submission, are we even praying at all? If we come self-reliant and self-sufficient, have we really come at all? I doubt it. How can we enter the Throne Room of Heaven with anything less than hearts on fire?
If we were faced with what Isaiah saw in his vision of the Lord on the throne in Isaiah 6, would we pray the same way we pray every day? Or would we respond as Isaiah did, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!” We need to get on our knees and prostrate in full submission and hear from our LORD.
Prayer is the ultimate act of submission for mankind, and I say mankind because there was another form of submission that has already been fulfilled. It is the true one and only holy and righteous act of submission that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ on the cross. God himself, in the form of man, equal to God but stripped of his majesty and glory was submissive to the Father to the point of death on the cross (Phil 2:5-8) having been made to be the sins of the elect adopted children of God (2 Cor 5:21). The Son of God submitted to the full punishment and death for all the sins of his adopted siblings. This can never be duplicated and will never be repeated because it is finished. Finished in Christ, who submitted for us once and for all.
Are we able to submit to our God in the truest sense? To submit to Him through prayer? Or will we hold onto our self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-centered disbelief?
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus….
…and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5, 8)
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:9-10)
His righteous submission is credited to our account, through the faith of Christ, and the fellowship of His sufferings is ours. As we submit in prayer and obedience, we are only working out, living out, that which has already been imputed to us.
Thank you for the article and the reminder, ATG.
Amen, Jon. Well said.
excellent! this is the set of passages that repulsed me just before I was saved. I read the bible trying to find out HOW to DO and practice this submission and walked away for a week feeling so very hopeless knowing I could not live up to this standard. I couldn’t live this life called submission. But after the week passed that’s when I was so utterly abject that God drew me to Christ and I saw for the first time out of utter horror how ugly and wicked I was to Jesus. When Christ saved me,, Submission to my husband became very easy because I was so thrilled to serve Christ and please HIM.It became like walking on air, and as light as a feather.. I realized that I was so selfish and self-centered….
I read an article recently about these verses that I’d like to share: It’s too long to post even the great points so I’ll just post the link here if anyone would like to read it.. It’s well worth the read but I’d like to get input from others to know if it’s pretty solid
Linda, thank you for the kind words. I glanced at your link, but didn’t have time to go through it all. This is actually a post about submission to God through prayer and our self-sufficiency…so I’m not sure that the article in the link related to submission not being the same as obedience is a direct fit with my topic. My hope here was to move past the human to human submission (which is commanded) and to deal with where are our hearts when we pray…what is our attitude towards prayer.
In the love of Christ,
oh, I see what you are saying. I didn’t mean to sidetrack your post abiding… Thanks for clarifying this. I sometimes get something fixed in my mind and overlook what is actually being said…
Linda, I read your link, and didn’t love it, sorry. 🙂
And what I’m going to post is partially relative to that link, but also relevant to the original post.
Submission is not obedience. It is MORE than obedience. It includes obedience, the acknowledging of authority and intentionally placing ourselves under that authority. But it is no reluctant obedience, but a willing obedience, an obedience that obeys before a command even has to be given.
When we submit to a human authority (and yes, there is authority in the marriage relationship just like in everything else God has instituted), we are trusting. We trust the human authority to use their authority well, but even more, we trust God to take care of it when they fail to do so, because we’re ultimately obeying Him. We are placing ourselves in His hands, in a position where we can’t protect ourselves, trusting Him to do so.
And this is the connection to prayer. Prayer is asking God to do something that we can’t do ourselves. We’re placing ourselves in His hands. We’re acknowledging His authority in the situation. We’re trusting Him to say “No” if that’s what is best for us, to use His authority over the entire situation. We’re not telling Him what to do, pushing the buttons on a machine so that we get the desired result which is in our control. We’re expressing our dependence on Him, trusting not merely His power to answer according to our desires, but also His wisdom and His love, to answer for our good.
But to trust His wisdom and His love is to submit, to say, “Father, this I desire, but not my will, but Thine be done.”
And so submission, while it includes obedience, goes far beyond merely obedient actions, to an acceptance of the will of our authority, whether it be a human authority or, ultimately, God Almighty.
And, by the way, this is why we’re not told to make our wives submit. It’s something they have to do. Husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church — which ultimately makes it a lot easier for a wife to trust, and submit. But I can’t “submit” her to me, even if I could manipulate her or make her obey. That wouldn’t be submission.
Likewise, the Lord doesn’t make us submit. He draws us with His love and teaches us to trust. The more we learn to trust, the more He challenges us to submit.