Saturday 18 April 2020

Questions and Answers (Thirty Five): Submission and Obedience


Friends in the "wisdom for the living classes" we have been discussing issues that border on Family, precisely Husband and wife relationship: one topic of Note is Eph 5: 22 (Submission of Christian wives to their husbands). The word "submission" and its attending misconception are what I am afraid needs immediate clarification and correction. What is the Biblical at the juncture of this verse and how do we apply that to our marital union? What is the difference between "Submission and obedience?"
Let me start with your second question. Submission and obedience are not the same. However, one has the propensity to lead to the other.


Submission is the act of yielding to another; the act of allowing oneself to come under the influence of another. It means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. A simple illustration is seen when two people go for a walk. Somehow, they adjust to each other's speed. They, in essence, submit to one another if they find an average speed; or one to the other if one is matching to the other's speed.

Submissiveness is not timidity. It is not servility. It is not subservience. It is not docility. It is not degrading. It is not being humbled. It is not a weakness. It is a sign of strength. A greater degree of submission requires a greater degree of strength of personal character. Submission is a position of honor and completeness. It is a beautiful thing when approached with the right heart and the right understanding. Submission is a choice, made not because you are any less, but because you love and want the best for the other person. It comes from one who understands the power of humility and meekness.

Scripture does require us to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord. [Ephesians 5:21] This is irrespective of whether you are married or not. To submit in that context means to respect, love, and honor one another. That is irrespective of sex. [Romans 12:10] It means to prefer one another. It means to give the first place to one another. It means allowing the other person to take the lead. It means to avoid competition with one another. It comes from the understanding we are on the same team/side, and not on opposite teams/sides. It comes from a heart that is submitted first to God, and faith in His sovereignty. This is a truth you will find reverberating all through the epistles, for that is what love does. That is the way the kingdom of God operates, each joint/part preferring one another in love.

Obedience, on the other hand, is simply doing as instructed. One who does has instructed could either be submitted or not. It all depends on the heart of obedience. The obedience could either be out of reverence and respect; or merely for what is to be gained; or some other reason. One who is submitted might not necessarily obey in all things, especially when the essence of the obedience contravenes issues of principles and/or ethics. The person involved can LOVINGLY and RESPECTFULLY disobey.


In the context of marriage, there is an increased emphasis on parts of the word's meaning, without disregard for the first (above). Now that which is operational in the kingdom is brought into perspective in a marriage setting using a metaphor of Christ's relationship with the church. Note marriage does not sever the original “body of Christ” relationship between the two. Submission in marriage always begins with MUTUAL submission to one another and to Christ. Rather than decrease it, it is heightened and empowered is a whole new way.

A woman is required to submit to her husband in the context of giving him the lead. That is to allow him to be the leader in the home. [Ephesians 5:22-24] In this context it means she should respect and give him honor as the leader in the home. [1 Peter 3:5-6] This in no way makes him better than her in any way, or sense of the word. It is simply respecting, showing regard and honoring his person and the part he is called to play in the home. [Ephesians 5:33] And, this she is expected to do willingly and without coercion, or force.

A man also submits in the context of marriage. The focus of his submission is that he pulls himself together to love his wife. He submits by loving his wife. That is to say, he allows himself, by an act of the will, to be under the influence of his wife. [Ephesians 5:25-29, 33] In so doing he is supposed to provide cover for her. This is the way he exhibits his submission in the marriage context. And, that includes respecting her. [1 Peter 3:7]

Note, the Submission of the wife, and the love expected of the husband are both voluntarily done as acts of obedience to God, not in response to each other’s performance. Your wife’s performance in the area of submission is no excuse not to love her. And, the reverse is also true.

Hoping this helps.

Links to Related Topic:
Questions and Answers (Nine): Quarrels & Ego?
The Leader in The Home

Links to Questions and Answers:
Questions and Answers (Thirty Four): Our Father, Our Confidence
Questions and Answers (Thirty-Six): Money Skills for Children

More Thoughts on Love:

"The basis of my marriage is that I have been called of God to lay down my life for a certain daughter of God." (Paul Washer)

"Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home." (John Piper)

Sandy Ralya's Daily Marriage Action Plan – Free Download

More Thoughts on Submission:

"Marriage is an opportunity to die." (Paul Washer)

"The purpose of marriage is that through your marriage you might be conformed to the image of God." (Paul Washer)

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