The Way of Submission


18Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:18-21 NIV

The passage continues to include slaves and masters. At the time of Paul’s writing of this book, those were also included in the management of a home. I am choosing to work with slaves and masters separately, as in our culture these will fall into an “employment” understanding.

These verses are critical as we seek to know the ways and thoughts of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these verses has volumes of understanding that I believe the Lord wants us to receive. However, one blog post can only suggest a few things and then leave the Lord to fill in all the questions and blanks. No one gets this right easily or naturally. We all live in measures of it and as more and more is handled in our prayer closet with the Holy Spirit – then we can release more and more of the Lord’s goodness through this.

Submission is an attitude of heart that is learned in Jesus, and it is a gift that we choose to give away. No one can demand it – it can only be freely given. It is voluntarily choosing the will of another. We see this in the total life of Jesus Christ as He walked this earth. Every action, every teaching, was only what the Father showed Him or said. He did nothing on His own, but always under the authority of His Father. The prayer in Gethsemane was only one of many that brought Him into the arms of the Father. He was well practiced in this action, “Not my will but yours be done.”

So we see obedience proceeding from submission. However, they are two separate things. Obedience is merely doing the will of another. Christ’s obedience was empowered by His heart attitude. That will happen in a covenantal relationship. However, when we confuse obedience with submission, it gets really messy. We can be forced or manipulated, to do what another wants us to do – that is never the action of submission – but instead, it is abuse. It is hoped that true obedience will produce obedience, but they are not the same things.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Please understand this does not say “woman submit yourselves to man” statement. Nowhere in the Word do we ever find that last statement! Paul is dealing within a covenantal understanding for a marriage where it is a covenant between three entities: man, woman, the Lord. So, the Lord has every right to arrange it as He wishes. This only applies within the covenant of marriage! Learning His ways – that is what Paul is talking about.

Authority is to be understood in Christ. Our Lord Jesus always lived in submission to the will and life of His Father. If we do not recognize His ways and authority then His delegated authority to the husband, wife, church, church leadership, state, …then understanding and learning submission in the home is not likely. If abuse or mistreatment, of any kind, enter the situation, then there can be no submission from anyone, because the primary submission to Christ has been eliminated. Only as the covenant partners are walking in submission to the Lord can this verse began to work.

As we learn to submit (GK: to place oneself under+) to our Lord Jesus Christ in all things, then we embrace His attitude of heart. We learn the joy and the freedom of allowing the Lord to be in charge and in control of our lives. We learn to obediently listen and make adjustments in ourselves that work for the love relationship between us. He takes care of us, and we do His will through our bodies. So it is in every area of submission.

We learn to “come under” our husband’s wisdom and his wishes, as we choose to love and to respect him, as the scripture teaches. It is not easy – for we can think we are submitting to Christ when we are really doing our own will. Likewise, we can fight our husband’s will so hard that we never have any peace in the home. We are called to love and to peace. The only way that can happen is for both of us to submit to the Lord, then to one another in the Lord (Ephesians 5:20-21), then the love-covenant has an opportunity to present a way of life for the woman that is lifegiving, supportive, and productive in a covenant before the Lord. This attitude of heart is necessary for love to thrive. If only one partner is in the Lord, or just one partner working together in the Lord – these verses will not be profitable.

This passage was not given in the Word to produce chains and bondage. Not at all! It was expressed to produce well-being and peace. If we see it any differently, then it probably isn’t Biblical submission we are emulating.

Ladies, take this to heart and allow the Lord to teach you Himself. As we learn His ways, then we can become the wives we have been intended to be.

May I suggest that after reading the next post regarding the role of the husband in the covenant, this post should be re-read and placed alongside. One without the other is of small value. Together, I pray they can impact us profoundly.


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