It has occurred to me that many do not understand the difference between submission and obedience. We obey (often with gritted teeth and an angry interior) and think we are being submissive. As a woman often haunted by the “submission” necessity in marriage and often carried into the church, I have wrestled with this and the scriptures for many years.
Many years ago, another Bible teacher whose name is Janice Wise, taught that “submission” and “obedience” were two separate items. As I pondered this, it became a beacon of light into the Scriptures and into my Lord’s empowerment in my life. I praise Him for giving her that revelation and it has become an ever deepening revelation inside me.
I find that most of the time, we regard them as synonymous. This causes much condemnation and anxiety in hearts as we search for areas of disobedience to correct them. All the while, the problem with disobedience is not the action so much as the heart behind the action.
Let me explain. Submission is commanded for all Christians. “…submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Eph. 5:21). (By the way, the next verse is not separate in content from this one as in the Greek the word “submission” is not written, but referred to only as connected to this verse. More on that in another post). Submission is for all who belong to our Lord Jesus. It is not action, but rather the deep heart motivation for the action. Submission implies that I am regarding another’s will above my own. If I do the action, but disregard the will, there is no submission. So submission is the work of and with the Holy Spirit in our closet of fellowship with the Lord.
Obedience is seldom the problem. Disobedience stems from a core that we label rebellion. That is because the heart has not accepted another will, but is insisting (inside) on its own. All of us live here – some more than others. I am very grateful for totally forgiveness and lavished grace as I live in my Lord and discover the areas in my heart that remain “upright” instead of bowed to Him and therefore to others.
Submission is a freedom word and is often the “eye of the needle” where we are invited to enter and find an openness, wideness and freedom in the Spirit we have longed for instead of constriction and condemnation.