Stephen P. Beck relates a time when he was driving down a country road and came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge a sign was posted: YIELD. Seeing no oncoming cars, Beck continued across the bridge to his destination.
On his return, he came to the same one-lane bridge and to his surprise was another YIELD signed posted.
“I’m sure there was one posted on the other side,” he thought. Sure enough when crossed he looked back and realized yield signs had been placed at both sides of the bridge.
Drivers from both sides were requested to give the right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head on collision.
In the same way the Bible commands us to practice submission in various relationships.
In today’s Bible reading James exhorts: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7)
The Greek word rendered “submit” is used over 40 times in New Testament. It is sometimes translated subject, subdued, or submission. Dr. Thayer says it means “to arrange under, to subordinate. To put into subjection. To obey. To yield to one’s admonition or advice.”
It’s a military term referring to arranging troops according to division, under the command of a leader. In a non military use it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
Submitting to God requires submission in various relationships where one is under the authority of another. Consider these three applications.
#1 Submit to governmental authorities.
Peter commanded Christians to “ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13).
In Bible times both the Emperor and/or the Governor might be evil men. Immoral. Ungodly. And cruel. Yet, to show respect, Christians were required to submit as long as their edicts did not violate God’s law (Ax. 5:29). Freedom in Christ was not a license to disobey, nor was their liberty to be abused as a cover-up for evil.
Today, we are all challenged to submit to laws we don’t like. In the USA, it may be even more difficult given our spirit of individualism, and the freedoms we enjoy under our Democratic Republic.
Yet, we must submit to laws that may seem silly or unfairly oppressive of our rights. Why? It is the will of God. And it “puts to silence the ignorance of foolish people” who may oppose us and our values. (1 Pet. 2:15)
#2 Submit to one another.
Our Christian fellowship calls for a mutual, voluntary submission in matters of opinion, conscience or personal preferences.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” Paul commanded in Ephesians 5:21.
Regarding this verse Colly Caldwell offers this commentary.
“We can all learn from any Christian. We can serve any fellow Christian. We can be corrected by any Christian. It is the selfish, insecure follower of Christ who cannot recognize God’s arrangements for peace and well being and who insists on his own will.”
Colly also adds this insight. “If an elder does not recognize this principle, he will not be the faithful, loving shepherd God wants him to be.”
#3 Submission in the home.
While this command collides with today’s culture, the Bible says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).
Some incorrectly charge Paul with being a male chauvinist. Others claim the Bible degrades and disrespects women. Neither is so.
The apostle Peter also taught the wives were to submit to their husbands (1 Pet. 3:1-6). Furthermore, God Himself decreed to Eve in the beginning, “Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).
The wife’s’ submission is out of respect for and in harmony with her subjection to the Lord. It also illustrates and demonstrates the submission of the church to the Lord as its head.
Incidentally, the concept of mutual submission forbids the husband to run roughshod over the feelings and sensibilities of his wife under the guise of authority. Just like Christ loved the church, we are to sacrificially love our wives.
Not a very popular word today. But a command, when properly followed, will advert many head-on collisions in our relationships.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman