Submit to One Another

August 23, 2008

Submit To One AnOther

Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Opening Discussion:

Why is the topic of submission often such an emotionally thorny topic?

How has the concept of submission been abused in the church? In society?

What is the difference between the biblical view of submission and society's view?


The concept of "submission" is used by biblical writers to describe a variety of Christian relationships Paul exhorted all Christians (both men and women) to "submit to one another" (Eph. 5:21).

Examples of submission in the Bible

  • Peter exhorted young men to "be submissive to those who are older" (1 Peter 5:5).
  • All members of Christ's body are exhorted to "obey"' their "leaders and submit to their authority" (Heb. 13:17).
  • Servants are instructed to submit to their masters (Titus 2:9; Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; I Peter 2:18) which applies when serving either Christian or non-Christian masters.
  • Children are admonished to obey and submit to their parents (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20).
  • Furthermore, Christians are also instructed to submit to other authority figures in their lives who are not Christians-particularly those who are leaders in government (Rom. 13:1; I Peter 2:13)

Servant Leadership

The Bible makes it clear that Christians who are in positions of authority must also function with a submissive attitude.

  • Husbands are directed to love their wives "Just as Christ loved the church" (Eph 5.25).
  • We cannot love like Christ without being servants, and we cannot be servants without being submissive. This may sound paradoxical but this is what Christ did for us when He became flesh and dwelt among us
  • Fathers are to deal sensitively with their children, understanding and meeting their needs (Eph. 6:4; Col 3:21). This we cannot do without serving them.
  • Elders or pastors are commissioned to be "servants." As leaders, we are to be "eager to serve" (I Peter 5:2)
  • We are not to lord it over other Christians, using our position as a means of unjust gain either financially, socially or any other way. (I Peter 5:1-4).

Mutual Submission

When Jesus Christ was on earth, He said to His disciples one day when they were arguing among themselves regarding who was to be the greatest in His kingdom:

Matthew 20:25-28But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

  • Being able to submit to one another no matter what our position of authority is a distinct concept made possible by Jesus Christ Christianity is unique.
  • When Christ came into this world, He brought into being a whole new approach to functional relationships between people in the "Gentile world," as Jesus called it, there was no such thing as mutual submission.
  • Danger: Even acts of obedience and submission became a means of selfish ends

Negative Examples

  1. Selfishness

Unfortunately not all Christians in positions of authority have the mind of Christ. Some men use the concept of submission and headship to lord it over their wives and others, to force them into subservient roles.

  • In reality, they have used the Bible as a "club," a means to get their own way
  • This is not "loving as Christ loved."
  • It's selfishness.
  • When we do this, we have not learned that we cannot earn respect by demanding it. For it to be real and meaningful, it must be earned.
  • Insecurity

I remember one incident when I was just a young husband I made it clear that we were going to do it my way-and we did Later, I had to admit that my wife's idea was far better. I also had to admit that I made my decision nor out of love but because I wanted to defend my position as head of the household. As a young husband, I wanted to establish myself as the leader. Though my wife knew better-and was hurt in the process-she willing submitted. Unfortunately, I didn't win much respect that day. I later had to ask forgiveness. To my wife’s credit, she forgave me and never brought the issue up again In that sense, she handled it far more maturely than I did.

But, in Christ, all believers have the potential to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

What to do if you have found yourself failing at Biblical Submission

When was the last time you gave the gospel in your class? How about today?


Fortunately when Jesus Christ came and provided salvation and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we can experience a wonderful restoration in our lives as husbands and wives, as parents and children, as pastors and people, and as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

  • Submit to the Word

We can carry out our God ordained roles as leaders and, at the same time, be servants to one another. This, of course, involves submission in certain instances. Furthermore, as followers, we can submit to those who are in authority without attempting to manipulate and resist. In other words, we can "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ "


The following steps are designed to help all Christians submit to one another.

Step 1

Mutual submission must begin with the leadership of the church.

What Paul was teaching must be modeled before all other members of the local body If there is contention and lack of harmony in the pastoral staff and among elders and deacons, it will become obvious to all other members of the local Christian family Just as tension between a husband and wife cannot be hidden from children, so lack of oneness among leaders of a church cannot be hidden from the rest of the congregation.

The converse is also true. A group of leaders who are truly one in Christ becomes a dynamic example for those for whom they are responsible. The love and unity they experience and demonstrate at the leadership level will filter through the whole church.

Step 2

All believers must clearly understand the teaching of scripture regarding the subject of submission.

This is not only a directive for wives, children, and employees but for all members of Christ’s body we must realize that it is possible for husbands to submit to their wives without giving up their headship; for elders to submit to others in Christ’s body without giving up their position of authority; that parents can listen to the children's viewpoint without giving up parental status; for employees to give employees careful consideration without losing respect.

The key is for all Christians to develop the mind of Christ, to be willing to lose their lives in order to find them again.

Step 3

Meditate on the following Scriptures that teach submission and obedience to others.

Note the variety of relationships in the context of each directive. Use these Scriptures as a criteria for evaluating your own attitude toward other members of Christ’s body circle these areas where you feel you are strong. Underscore the areas where you feel you need to improve.

Elders to Other Members of Christ's Body

1 Peter 5:2-3 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Christians in General to Elders

1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

Hebrews 13:17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Younger Men to Older Men

1 Peter 5:5-6 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

Husbands to wives

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

Ephesians 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

Colossians 3:19Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

1 Corinthians 7:3-4 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Wives to Their Husbands

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

1 Peter 3:1-4 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Parents to Children

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Children to Parents

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

Colossians 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

Christians to Government Officials

Romans 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Romans 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Romans 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

Step 4

Evaluate and prioritize the areas where you need to improve.

Now that you have isolated your strengths and weaknesses, go back and number the areas where you need improvement. Give yourself a number one in the area of greatest need; a number two in the next area, etc.

Step 5

Set some specific goals.

To begin, select the area where you need the most improvement.

  • Set up one specific goal and an action step you are going to take to become more obedient to Jesus Christ in this area.
  • Select one new area each week and set a new goal until you have covered them all.

Keep reviewing and remind yourself of your previous goals. Pray continually that God will help you obey His Word in these areas.


  1. In what ways did Jesus model submission? How does His example shape your perspective of what it means to submit? How does it affect your personal attitude toward being a submissive person?
  2. In what circumstances, if any, can a person call for others to submit to him or her? In what circumstances should a person urge others to submit to someone else? What should you do if the person to whom you are called to submit abuses that authority?


How can you hold yourself accountable?

Set up a simple means of supporting and holding one another accountable (for example, each person might have a partner to call during the week, and pray for one another.