Submission Is Difficult and Misunderstood

Submission is difficult, misunderstood, and used against women and wives. It is misunderstood when used to try to force a change in behavior. 

Actually, submission is a great protective word when used as God desires. It is not only protective for women but also for men. Additionally, what you may not know is that no one can force someone to submit. That sounds strange, but it is true when you use the right definition of the word.

Submission is a topic that is near and dear to most women’s hearts. Yes, that was meant to be a joke!

The Order for Life

What is your attitude about submission? How would you define it? Submission tends to be placed at the same level as a curse word, so you may not understand what a benefit this word is to both men and women. (Submission is covered in depth in course 9A titled “The ‘S’ Word – Submission")

Submission is part of the order for life that God has set up, and it applies to God the Father and God the Son.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God – 1 Corinthians 11:3

Notice the order:

  • God the Father
  • Christ the Son
  • Man
  • Woman

This order is a foundation for all relationships.

Now before you tune this out as “sexist,” please remember this critical point. The order is not based on value, worth or deserving – it is simply God’s decision. For some perfect reason, He decided that life would be best using that order for men and women.

You can know this is not about “value” because God the Father and Christ the Son are equally God, yet the Father is the head of the Son. They chose this order to fulfill their different roles. The same is true for men and women or husband and wife. It is NOT about value or worth; it is about roles and order.

Even better, this order is actually a way that God provides protection. Remember the primary needs of women and men? Women’s primary need is “security,” and for men, it is “significance.” Think about God’s order stated above and notice that the woman is most protected – when the order and roles are followed. Submission is God’s way of providing a woman with protection!

The problem in relationships is certainly not from the Father or the Son. It is always because either or both the man and woman are not willing to follow the order and do their respective roles. When a man does not submit to Christ, he will not adequately protect a woman. And when a woman does not submit to man, then she is removing herself from the protection of man, Christ, and God.

By the way, notice the use of “man” and “woman” instead of husband and wife. There is a strong implication that this is another way that God solves the judgment for women and partially the judgment for a man (see course 04A and course 04B about the judgments on men and women).

The last part of the judgment on women is that men will “rule” over them. That word “rule” implies harshness or abuse, and history is filled with women being mistreated and abused, right? That is why I think the use of “man” and “woman” is so important. Men that submit to Christ will not be harsh, using or abusing women. They protect women.

Of course, this also applies directly to husbands!

A Fundamental Problem

A more fundamental problem with submission is that most people do not know what it means. For instance, do you think a person can be forced to submit?

No, a person cannot be forced to submit because submission is…

…a “voluntary act,” a decision of the will, an inner attitude of giving up rights to yield to another

It does not generally mean agreeing with or going along with someone, though sometimes it may.

Because submission is misunderstood, too many men are focused on the wrong thing. For example, men, are you trying to make your wife submit? Hopefully NOT! If you are, you are focused on the wrong person’s behavior, your wife’s, instead of your own. The same is true for your wife. If she is demanding leadership from you, she is focused on the wrong person’s behavior.

Submission is only possible when making the fundamental choice or decision of life. Will you depend and trust on God or yourself? Of course, submission will be abused and will seem wrong at times because of sin and selfishness. When you are not depending on God, you will have problems with hard things like this that He asks of you, and it leaves you in the judgments: men focusing on controlling work and women focusing on controlling relationships.

As to the Lord

…submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22

But shouldn’t you only submit to God? If God wanted the submission only to Him, He would have stated it that way. Submission here is to your own husband, but that submission should be the same as you would give the Lord Himself. Submission is to God primarily, but it is through your husband. Submitting to God is your primary choice, and submitting to your husband is a secondary choice you make as a step to get there.

Submission will be easier if you respect the person. In Ephesians 5, when Paul talks to the husband and wife, for the husband, he starts with “love” (5:25) and ends with “love” (5:33).

For the wife, he starts with “submit” (5:22) but ends with “respect”:

 …see that she respects her husband… – Ephesians 5:33b

More definitions! Respect…

  • Webster’s “to feel or show honor or esteem for.” 
  • KJV uses “reverence” – “Respect shown to some important or distinguished person.”

The Greek word used here is phobeo which actually means to fear, venerate, or treat with deference. It is the same word used for fearing God, and it is not the same word used in Ephesians 5:22 for “submit.”

When you give your husband respect, you take a step away from your judgment. That, in turn, is a help to your husband to not live in his judgment. You decide to submit rather than control, which allows you to stay in your relational design. And you are also connecting with the design or nature side of man, relating to him in the way he best understands. Men are designed to work, lead, and desire significance, so when a woman respects a man, it relates directly to his design.

Of course, most importantly, you are trusting and obeying God.

Scripture gives no conditions or exceptions to “submit” or “respect.” There is no time or circumstance when God asks you not to respect your husband. Apparently, even if your husband is not respectable. As Yoda would say, “Respect him, you must!”

In the NIV it states that a woman “must respect.” Please wrestle with the difference between “have to” and “want to.” (More on this in course 8B). When you are told you “must” do anything, your sin nature tends to rebel because you sense some of your freedom is being removed. Is that your response?

When you have that reaction, it is an indication that you are not willing to trust God. And God is constantly inviting, He is not demanding that we choose His way to the BEST life. Reacting / Responding is an indication of trusting in yourself, your opinion, not God’s truth. And only God, through His perfect ways, can make you a real woman.

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