Return to Index Page



By Richard Gunther


Despite the many instances of obedience seen within the Church, there is always a general unwillingness by individual Christians to obey the Lordship of Jesus in every area of their lives. This is because, as sinners, we have all inherited an urge, or inner response, to withhold a proportion of our lives from God’s control. (A)

For example, we may surrender our physical energy, but keep back some of our finances when we know that by doing so we are disobeying our conscience. Or, we may surrender our time, but not get rid of certain CDs or videos, which we know contain material offensive to God. Or we may think that, because we are healthy and all is going well for us, that we are ‘walking in the light’ - whereas the truth is we are carefully avoiding the Bible because we suspect that it may have something critical to say about out our lifestyle.

A fine example of this reluctance to submit entirely to God is seen in the way Pharaoh, king of Egypt, repeatedly told Moses that the People of Israel could leave, BUT (said the king) only this or that may go, and never quite everything which Moses demanded. (Gen. 10:9 Moses listed who was to leave : "We will go with our young, old, sons, daughters, flocks, herds". But Pharaoh’s response "Go, you who are men.")

The irony of all this is that there is a misconception which says that submission to God equals either unhappiness, or restriction of freedom, or a sort of ‘dulling down’ of life. This is usually because people do not understand what the Bible means by ‘submission’.

It helps to know, first of all, what submission does not mean. It does not mean slavery, or the emptying of all rights and privileges. One may (outwardly) obey but not (inwardly) submit, as in the case of the soldier who obeys the sergeant but at the same time utterly despises the sergeant. And one may also submit for the wrong reasons, as in the case of the grovelling coward, who wants to either stay uninjured, or earn some sort of favour from a bully or overlord.

Submission and obedience are not synonymous.

The sort of submission which God requires is that which comes from a true understanding of how things are. A child, out of sheer appreciation, understanding what his parents do for him, may submit to his parents. A Christian, out of understanding the true situation (i.e. relationship of creature to Creator) may submit to God as an act of free will. This second response may be called the love-response - but then again, it is not some sort of 'payback' to God, as in the case of the ‘primitive’ whose life is saved, and from thereon pledges servitude to the one who saved him. God does not look for 'payback' submission, as it is not done with the correct attitude.







Examples of submission in Scripture :

1. The Angel of the Lord told Hagar to return and submit to Sarai Abram’s wife. Hagar obeyed, deliberately placing herself in a very unpleasant, hostile situation. As Sarai’s maid, Hagar obeyed God first, and Sarai second.

2. Another kind of submission is that which is brought about through fear of domination, or because of great respect, or awe, as when David said that strangers would submit to him (2 Sam.22:45, Ps. 18:44) and to God (Ps. 66:3, 68:30).

3. In this case Paul mentions the new converts of a certain family, and commends them for their devotion to "the ministry of the saints", i.e. the work they do in helping other Christians. Paul says to "submit to such, and to everyone who works and labours with us". The principle here seems to be 1. Identify those in the Church who are fully committed to Christian work, and 2. Obey their lead, go along with them, support them, obey them. These are the ‘power-generators’ in the church, the people who get things done, who organise outreach events, who make displays, who run holiday clubs and so forth. Without these valuable people, the Church would not grow, change, adapt and move with the times. 1 Cor. 16:16.

4. Wives are to submit to their own husbands. More on this to follow. "Submission" = Greek "hupotasso" comes from two words "hupo" = under, and "tasso" = get in order. Therefore it means "to place in an orderly fashion under something". Eph.5:22 and Col.3:18.

5. Christians are expected to submit to those in the Church who assume leadership roles (Heb. 13:17) - that is, as long as those in leadership roles are within Scriptural limits themselves. (There is always a great temptation within the Church for individuals to abuse their power. Usually with ‘power’ come the sacerdotal clothes, the building, the rituals, the willingness by many to be led about, the prestige of having the title Pastor, Reverend, or Minister attached to their name. The main reason why this power-abuse occurs is because the leaders themselves fail to submit to God.)

6. Christians are told to submit to God. (James 4:7) In the same verse they are also told to resist the devil. It is interesting that the devil is the exact opposite to a submissive Christian. The devil’s motto (if he had one) is "Do your own thing". The last thing the devil would do is submit to God, therefore, by the very act of submitting, the Christian does two things : 1. He becomes an opponent to the devil and all that the devil controls, and 2. He resists the devil, that is, aggressively opposes him. Warfare and submission go together. The Christian who refuses to submit to God is actually behaving like Satan.

7. In general, Christians are expected to submit to all the rules and regulations made by fallen Mankind - the traffic rules, the building rules, the Tax rules, the pedestrian rules, the library rules, and so on. The only time Christians are not expected to obey Man-made rules is when these rules contradict those already given by God. (Acts 5:29)

8. Younger Christians are expected to submit to older Christians, and all Christians are expected to submit to each other. (1 Pet.5:5) If this were followed, there would be no room for the individual who thinks that authority equals importance.

Animals have no choice when it comes to submission. What we call instincts are really the absence of free will or choice. If humans were instinct-driven, there would be reason for a Redeemer, or for the Bible.


9. Wives are to submit to their husbands. (1 Cor.7:3,4. 14:34, Eph.5:21-24, Philippians 2:6-10, Col. 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1-6) For many women this command sticks like a fish-bone in their throat. The world does not teach Biblical submission, neither do the Public schools, and television rarely portrays correct submission - frequently the women are portrayed as free agents in some sort of power-manipulating role.

There are several good reasons why submission (specifically and generally) is a wise way to behave.

1. Submission is a heart attitude, which shows itself by our behaviour. But it is a very difficult thing to yield to the Holy Spirit in everything, because, like it or not, every time we yield to Him, we have to fight a battle against either the world, the flesh (our physical desires) or the devil. But the more we submit, the more useful we are to God, and the more like God we become. (This is not always a good thing of course, because then we may even be persecuted by other Christians!)

2. Submission is not the same as bondage or servitude, although to the woman of the world it certainly looks like that. For the Christian woman, submission means that she gains increased blessing, protection and covering from God. Under the best circumstances, she goes through her childhood under the blessing, protection and covering of her father, and then, when she marries, she passes under the blessing, protection and covering of her husband - who, under the best conditions, is a Christian man already submitting to God. Num.30 expands on this.

3. Submission is not something which Satan knows much about. As the ‘god of this world’ - 2Cor.4:4, and Ephesians 2:2 "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:" Disobedience is the mark of those who refuse to submit. The world is full of defiance, of a desire to be ‘independent’, and to ‘have it my own way’. A distilled summary of evolutionism is the banishment of God from the affairs of Man, and therefore of His authority over Man.

Exodus 5:2 "And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go."

Acts 7:39 "To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,"

4. Submission is a picture of the relationship between the Father and the Son, the Son and the Church, the husband and the wife. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, even to the point of tiredness, hunger, criticism, loneliness, weakness, pain, death, and isolation, and he also submitted in resurrection, elevation to glory, and headship.

In the example of Jesus, we can see that there are always two sides to godly submission. Its ‘downside’ is the struggle to let go of ‘rights’ but its upside is the magnificent reward of holiness, inner peace and the knowledge that we are in harmony with God. Philippians 2:5 - 11.

5. Submission often appears to be weakness, as in the case where the wife has a better plan than the husband, but having made the suggestion she then retreats from an argument and lets the husband make a poor decision. This battle between submission and disobedience is especially obvious in marriages where the husband is not a Christian, and therefore he lives as a worldling, perhaps drinking, smoking, swearing, and probably spending a lot of time and money on worldly pursuits. His influence over any children he may have can also be destructive. In this case the wife must live with her eyes on God, and submit to her husband in everything except when the unsaved husband expects her to contradict what the Bible says.

6. Submission takes faith. 1 Pet.3 speaks of women who submitted to unsaved husbands, and this is mentioned in the Bible because God would have these women know that their lives are not unnoticed by Him.


Despite the many instances of obedience seen within the Church, there is always a general unwillingness by individual Christians to obey the Lordship of Jesus in every area of their lives. This is because, as sinners, we have all inherited an urge, or inner response, to withhold a proportion of our lives from God’s control.

This urge to be free of constraint and external authority is a strange thing, because it can be seen as both pro-God and anti-God.

Because God created us, we humans all carry the divine image, though greatly marred by the ‘fall’. In many ways we reflect the One who made us - in our ability to be creative, in our desire to be independent from our environment, in our drive to control things, and to communicate, and to understand, and to procreate, and so on. In many ways, just by ‘being’ we are a testimony to the One who created us. Yet, on the other side, this ability to be self-aware and to individualise can become our greatest problem, because it can lead us away from God.

It has been pictured in terms of a scientist who makes a highly intelligent robot, and then adds to the machine the ability to either love or hate, then, to the scientist’s horror, the machine decides to not only hate the scientist, but also to destroy itself.

So by creating free will agents, God risked rejection, and although all the failure is completely on the side of the created beings, God loses something every time He is rejected. This is a mystery of course, a sort of ‘divine contradiction’, because God is totally self-sufficient, yet in some way, He has made it possible to increase Himself, by making shadows or images of Himself.


9. Wives are to submit to their husbands. (1 Cor.7:3,4. 14:34, Eph.5:21-24, Philippians 2:6-10, Col. 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1-6) For many women this command sticks like a fish-bone in their throat. The world does not teach Biblical submission, neither do the Public schools, neither do many mothers to their daughters, and television rarely portrays correct submission - frequently women in the media are portrayed as free agents in some sort of power-manipulating role.

(a) "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." 1 Corinthians 7:3

This instruction refers to physical, sexual love. By placing this in His Word, God acknowledges that humans normally have a strong physical attraction for at least one other person. This desire is God-given, and, used in the right way, can be a wonderful blessing to both the man and the woman. But it is this sexual blessing which Satan regularly distorts, often portraying it as ‘love’, or the natural culmination of a friendship - for example, how often does the ‘hero’ in a movie have sex with a woman. Any ideas of modesty, chastity, immorality or adultery are swept aside, and justified by the lie that all must fall before "love’.

(b) "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

For if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church." 1 Corinthians 14:34,35

This verse and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." In both cases, the context is about orderliness in the fellowship. Often, when a group of people gather, there is a lot of talk, and sometimes someone has to clap their hands or call for quiet. Interruptions, and chatter do not help to make a good fellowship.

That women are certainly allowed to speak in a mixed fellowship is shown by the following verses :

1. "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." Acts 8:4 (Men and women went everywhere preaching the word.)

2. "But every woman who prays or prophesies (teaches) with her head uncovered, dishonours her head . . ."1 Cor. 11:1-16. The context shows that there is a structure of ‘headships’ in the Church. The Father is head of the Son, the Son is head of the Man, the Man is head of the woman. This is not a structure of inferiority, but of orderliness. As a token of this structure, the Christian Man is to have his head uncovered - and few men ever object to this. (It is a custom to remove one’s hat on entering a church building even today.) And also as a token of this structure the woman is to wear something (small, modest) on her head - but many Christian women object strongly to this.

Having said this, Paul goes on to say that IF a woman has her head covered, she is free (logically) to "pray" or to "prophesy" which means speak forth, or teach. This means that female Sunday school teachers are OK, and women who join the prayers, or read from the Word, or teach with permission, or share a testimony, or sing, are all OK. The only rule after that is that they should not " usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." 1 Timothy 2:12. It is when women try to ‘take over’ that they are transgressing.

If we were to take this verse literally, we would be condemning all the women who have gone out as missionaries, all the school teachers, all the women who instruct in the military, in business, and in social programs, and even our political leaders such as Gold Meir or Margaret Thatcher. The narrow, legalistic Brethren view has hugely diminished the fellowship within hundreds of churches, and reduced the women to mere listeners.

The first evangelist was a woman - Mary Magdalene, John 20:1,2, and it was a group of women who announced the disappearance of the body of Jesus to the 11 disciples - Luke 24:10.

3. The coming of the Holy Spirit heralded the way for women as well as men to preach the gospel. Joel 2:28,29 says " . . .I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . And also on my menservants and my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."

In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived and manifested as "tongues of fire" and in the room they were all filled with the Holy Spirit". The women joined the men in announcing in the different languages the good news of salvation, as the crowd itself said "are not all these who speak Galileans?" and then Peter referred to Joel and said that what was happening was a fulfilment of Joel’s words.

4. "And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy". Acts 21:9 In other words, this man had four daughters who were evangelists.

There is division over the role of women in the church, to name just one area! One way to resolve apparent contradictions is to apply this rule : if there are (say) 10 verses on a subject, and 8 of them agree, while two seem to contradict, then the two which seem to contradict must be seen in the light of the other eight. The main reasons why people have difficulty understanding the Word is usually because: 1. They are too lazy to study the Word thoroughly, and 2. They are too lazy to study the Word thoroughly. (There is a third reason but it is the same as the first two.)


(c) "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:21-24

For some wives, submitting is all very fine as long as the husband gives them what they want, but when the husband makes a ruling which the wife disagrees with, she may show her true colours, which can sometimes be rather ugly.

(d) "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Philippians 2:6

Here we see the two sides of submission. For Jesus there was a grand purpose behind his submission. He had a redemptive work to accomplish. For the wife (or church) there is a similar case involved. The more Christians, or wives, submit to what God wants, the more successful will be the work.

For example, I have read testimonies where the husband is converted simply because of the godly, forgiving, patient witness of his wife. In everyday life, the impulse to ‘hit back’ is suppressed, and in this way the world is overcome. In marriage, the husband may positively ‘glow’ when he finds his wife working as his helper rather than his rival. In a family, the submissive wife sets the best example to the children of God’s headship over the husband. In this way the boys learn leadership from their father, and the girls learns godly obedience from their mother. One of the main reasons why children today are turning to wrong role models is because many Christian parents are either abandoning their proper roles, or reversing them. There is many a man who lacks self-esteem and feels redundant because of his proud, dominant, unsubmissive wife ‘ruling the roost’ so to speak - his children do not respect him, and his plans for the family are constantly subverted. In some ways its like adopting Satan as a boarder.

(e) "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord". Colossians 3:18

A submissive wife is a glorious and beautiful thing. Happy and fortunate is the man who has one. She is a heavenly adornment to him, and her witness speaks as loudly as a public address system.

(f) "To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." Titus 2:5

(g) "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. (respect)

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; (this means women should avoid ostentation, worldly fashions, seductive cuts, flashy jewellery and so on)

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement". 1 Peter 3:1-6

It is interesting that Abraham should be mentioned here, because of all men he was one of the wealthiest in the world at the time ("And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. Genesis 13:2), so it was possible for his wife to dress like royalty, but she was a godly woman, so she wore no flashy ornaments or obviously rich garments.

Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary - "woman" was "taken out of man" (Gen. 2:23), and therefore the man has the pre-eminence. "The head of the woman is the man;" but yet honour is to be shown to the wife, "as unto the weaker vessel" (1 Cor. 11:3, 8, 9; 1 Pet. 3:7). Several women are mentioned in Scripture as having been endowed with prophetic gifts, as Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4, 5), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36, 37), and the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8, 9). Women are forbidden to teach publicly (1 Cor. 14:34, 35; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12) For notes on these two verses see below. Among the Hebrews it devolved upon women to prepare the meals for the household (Gen. 18:6; 2 Sam. 13:8), to attend to the work of spinning (Ex. 35:26; Prov. 31:19), and making clothes (1 Sam. 2:19; Prov. 31:21), to bring water from the well (Gen. 24:15; 1 Sam. 9:11), and to care for the flocks (Gen. 29:6; Ex. 2:16).

The word "woman," as used in Matt. 15:28, John 2:4 and 20:13, 15, implies tenderness and courtesy and not disrespect. Only where revelation is known has woman her due place of honour assigned to her.

Notes on 1Cor.14:34,35 and 1 Tim. 2:11,12. Taken literally, and by themselves, these three verses seem to indicate total suppression of female input in all Christian fellowship, but seen in context, and seen in the light of other passages, it is clear that :

1. Men only are to be the leaders in the Church

2. Women may share in almost all ways in any fellowship

3. Women are not permitted to take leadership roles unless the men allow it

4. Women are not permitted to chatter or interrupt a fellowship

One very good reason why God places the Man at the head, is because of the ‘maleness’ of the Godhead. The Father is designated Head of the Son. The Son, a Man, is designated Head of the Church, and the Church is pictured as a Bride. The Man is designated Head of the wife. To have a woman in a headship role in the Church would be to upset the order of Scripture, which means that it is not right to have female Ministers, Pastors or Priests. Men represent God to the world. Women, however sincere and holy, do not.

Back to Index Page