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The Way of Submission

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The Way of Submission

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Submission is based on a humble and meek attitude, actually esteeming others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
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). It is a viewpoint turned away from the self and toward others. A submissive spirit is not strong-willed and opinionated, but willing to listen to and consider the opinions of other people. It does not want its own way so badly that it cannot give in to the needs or desires of others. It endeavors to be a peacemaker.

The primary Greek word for “submission” is hupotasso—a military term meaning to rank under, to arrange under, to submit, to be subject, to assign beneath. Hupotasso means to place ourselves under or beneath. It is voluntary—we must choose it. No one can impose it on us.

The opposite of submission is selfishness, being opinionated, having a strong self-will and only looking out for one’s self. This often leads to biting and devouring one another (Galatians 5:15 Galatians 5:15But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.
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). Without submission, our relationships suffer—in our marriages and families, at church, at work and in our communities. We cannot have healthy relationships without submission—it must be an essential ingredient in all our relationships.

A submissive spirit does not mean we never stand up to a wrong or evil. There are times to stand up for what is right: for example, when Jesus on two separate occasions drove out the animals and moneychangers at the temple (Matthew 21:12-13 Matthew 21:12-13 [12] And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, [13] And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.
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; John 2:13-16 John 2:13-16 [13] And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: [15] And when he had made a whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; [16] And said to them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
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). The apostle Paul also, when he was falsely accused, stood up and appealed to Caesar’s judgment seat (Acts 25:10-12 Acts 25:10-12 [10] Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as you very well know. [11] For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar. [12] Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Have you appealed to Caesar? to Caesar shall you go.
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). The way of submission does not mean weakness—quite the opposite. When we must stand up, we should do so with a right attitude and a right spirit, never with hatred or hostility. We regret in our heart that it has become necessary to stand up; we would much rather sit down and reason together, and to agree and be friends.

The Value of Submission

There is a lot about submission in the Bible. Of course, first of all we are to “submit to God” (James 4:7 James 4:7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
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). He is our Creator, and therefore we readily submit to His rule in our lives. We submit to His will for us, even when it is not necessarily what we want or expect.

Scriptures also instruct us to submit in our numerous relationships with our fellow man. We are to submit to civil government, unless there is a conflict with God’s laws (1 Peter 2:13-14 1 Peter 2:13-14 [13] Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; [14] Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
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). Employees are to be submissive to their bosses, even if the boss is harsh (1 Peter 2:18 1 Peter 2:18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent.
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). In the family, there is to be a lot of submission between husbands and wives and children (1 Peter 3:1-7 1 Peter 3:1-7 [1] Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [2] While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. [3] Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; [4] But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. [5] For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: [6] Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. [7] Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
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; Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 [22] Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
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; Ephesians 6:1-3 Ephesians 6:1-3 [1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. [2] Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; [3] That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.
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).

In the Church, there is to be submission to leadership God has appointed (1 Corinthians 12:28 1 Corinthians 12:28And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
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; Hebrews 13:7 Hebrews 13:7Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
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, Hebrews 13:17 Hebrews 13:17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
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). Younger people are admonished to be submissive to older people (1 Peter 5:5 1 Peter 5:5Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
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). And all the members are instructed to “be submissive to one another” (1 Peter 5:5 1 Peter 5:5Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
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), “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
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).

But it goes further—there is submission even to our enemies. Jesus said to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44 Matthew 5:44But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
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). Paul wrote that if your enemy is hungry and thirsty, give him food and drink (Romans 12:20 Romans 12:20Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
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). By submitting to the needs of our enemies, we are imitating our Father in heaven, who sends His rain on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45 Matthew 5:45That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
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), and is kind to the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35 Luke 6:35But love you your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil.
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).

Altogether that’s a lot of submission—to God, to civil government, to the boss at work, in our families, in the Church and even to our enemies.

Biblical Examples of Submission

The Scriptures provide many excellent examples of the way of submission.

In Genesis 13, when there was strife between Abraham and Lot’s herdsmen, Abraham solved the problem by exhibiting submission. Abraham said to his nephew, Lot: “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brethren” (Genesis 13:8 Genesis 13:8And Abram said to Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brothers.
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). Abraham then proposed that they separate and go in different directions—and uncle Abraham let his nephew choose which direction he would go. So they separated and preserved their relationship. What a beautiful example of submission!

Another good example is Joseph with his brothers in Genesis 50. After their father died, the brothers feared that Joseph would seek revenge for the evil they had done to him. When they came asking forgiveness, Joseph broke down and wept. He told his brothers: “Do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:21 Genesis 50:21Now therefore fear you not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.
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). Joseph comforted them and spoke with kindness to them. By submitting to his brothers even though they had wronged him, he helped to heal the breach in their relationship.

In the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, we see the way of submission. Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, to be willing to suffer wrongfully and to be willing to come up on the short end (Matthew 5:38-42 Matthew 5:38-42 [38] You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: [39] But I say to you, That you resist not evil: but whoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. [41] And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. [42] Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not you away.
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). He said that we are to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44 Matthew 5:44But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
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). He exhorted us not to seek to be the greatest, but instead to be a servant to our fellow man (Matthew 20:20-28 Matthew 20:20-28 [20] Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [21] And he said to her, What will you? She said to him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on your right hand, and the other on the left, in your kingdom. [22] But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say to him, We are able. [23] And he said to them, You shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not my to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. [24] And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brothers. [25] But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority on them. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
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). Then Jesus submitted in the greatest possible way, yielding His life on the stake for our sins. Jesus taught and exemplified the way of submission perfectly.

We also see the excellent example of the apostles and elders in the early church. In Acts 15, at the Jerusalem conference concerning circumcision, a spirit of submission is evident among the apostles and elders. After “much dispute” they listened to the experiences of Peter, Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:6-12 Acts 15:6-12 [6] And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. [7] And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said to them, Men and brothers, you know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [8] And God, which knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did to us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [11] But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. [12] Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles by them.
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). Then James said, “Men and brethren, listen to me”—and he gave a recommendation concerning circumcision which “pleased the apostles and elders” (Acts 15:13-22 Acts 15:13-22 [13] And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brothers, listen to me: [14] Simeon has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. [15] And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, [16] After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [17] That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, on whom my name is called, said the Lord, who does all these things. [18] Known to God are all his works from the beginning of the world. [19] Why my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: [20] But that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. [21] For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. [22] Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brothers:
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). As the apostles and elders submitted to one another, led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28 Acts 15:28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things;
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), they reached a spiritual consensus on circumcision. What a wonderful example of submission in the leadership of the early church.

We have often seen the same collaborative spirit in the modern era of the Church of God as in the early church, both in the ministerial leadership and in the membership of the church. The way of submission works. May it continue in the years ahead.

Submission is a very important biblical doctrine. Let us learn to defer in humility to one another, loving others so much that we readily submit to their needs and desires to preserve peace when doing so does not break God’s law.

In all our relationships, let’s be living and practicing the way of submission!

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