Wait . . . Did She Just Say ‘Submission?’

The silence was deafening.

I looked around the room and into the eyes of some of the godliest high school aged girls that I had ever met. But tonight, my gaze was met with blank stares and uncomfortable fidgets.

It has become increasingly clear to me that we as women often do not have a good grasp on what submission is really all about.

Every summer I held a Bible study at my home for high school girls where we would discuss passages of Scripture that spoke directly to women. Tonight, we decided that we would tackle Ephesians 5: “Wives . . . submit to your husbands.” I had paused after reading this sentence and posed a question:

“What is submission?”

One girl finally broke the silence and then answers started pouring out . . .

  • “It means that we have to do what we are told.”
  • “It is something made to put women down.”
  • “My mom said that it means we are weaker then men.”
  • “It is offensive.”

And then the answer that later influenced me to write an entire book on the subject . . .

  • “I don’t know anything about it. But who cares? It doesn’t apply anymore anyway.”

It has become increasingly clear to me that we as women often do not have a good grasp on what submission is really all about. We hear the word and some 1950s woman vacuuming and feather dusting pops into our minds, and we quickly get offended and push it away. But what if I told you that the Bible is not only clear that submission still applies today, but that it paints a beautiful picture of what submission is really all about . . . a picture that will change our lives if we really allow it to?

Before we look at what submission actually is, first I think it is important that we see what it is not.

Submission is not just for women.

The Bible clearly calls both men and women to submit. For example, both genders are to submit first to God (James 4:7), and the authorities He places in our lives (Rom. 13:1). Although it is true that there are some authorities women are called to submit to in a different way than men, the call to submit is for both genders.

Submission is not about one person being weaker or of lesser value then the other.

Just because God calls you to submit to an authority does not mean that He values that authority more than you. There are numerous places in Scripture that confront this “favoritism” issue head on. The Bible is also clear that both men and women are of equal importance and worth to God. We will soon discover how submission is designed for an incredible purpose where the genders work together, not fight for importance (See Gen. 1:27–28).

Submission is not about doing what you’re told, no matter what, no questions asked.

Make sure to check back tomorrow as we look at a clear picture of how Jesus is the perfect example of what submission looks like. He submitted fully, but made His opinions known in an appropriate way.

God does not need us to submit to Him.

God doesn’t ask us to submit because He needs us to. In fact, He can work His plan with or without us (Acts 17:24–25). Instead, His call to submit and trust that He knows what He is doing is for our benefit. He understands that we tend to make life so hard because of sin. If we follow Him, He can give us a life more incredible than anything we could ever ask or think (Eph. 3:20). God doesn’t just want us to follow a list of rules, He wants to give us an abundant life through following His plan.

So what does it mean to submit? The word submission is actually used more than twenty times in the Old and New Testaments. Here is how it is used in the Greek.

Hupottasso: To place or rank under, to subject, a voluntary attitude of giving in and cooperating. It is a military term meaning to arrange troops under the command of a leader.

I love this definition! It paints a picture of a soldier who is trusting and following his or her commander. In our case, we submit first to a God who not only loves us, but promises us a full and abundant life if we follow Him. So with all of this in mind here is the definition I love to use when talking about submission.

Submission: The act of loving and trusting God so much that we willingly choose to follow Him and the authorities He places above us because we know that He is worth it.

Okay, so we have a definition, but what does it look like? Will you come back tomorrow to find out? In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Imagine you are in that girls’ Bible study I mentioned at the beginning of the post. How would you answer my original question, “What is submission?”

Leave me a comment below with your answer.

About Author

Kelly has been involved in full-time student and children’s ministry for many years. Kelly is passionate about seeing young women embrace who God created them to be even in the midst of a culture that tries to steal their attention with lies. She and her husband, Chris, have two children who fill their lives with joy while constantly keeping them on their toes.

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