Many problems in life can be traced back to a misunderstanding of submission to authority. We thought we could do it our way and it messed up our life. Many ruin their relationships and wreck their faith because of rebellious attitudes. Many want to equivocate on the clear teachings of the Bible regarding the nature of submission in relation to obedience. Obedience is about our actions toward authority, while submission is about our attitude toward authority. Christian submission, whether a policeman, parent, or person in charge is around or not, should be from the heart, seeking to please God and knowing that He will reward us.
Submission is required for sanctification – Romans 8:7, 13 – we do not naturally submit to God, but believers we have the ability to submit. Our flesh fights against it, but the Holy Spirit can lead us to victory over our flesh the through the process of submission.
Heaven has an authority structure, with God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, then the archangels and other angels who all submit to those above them. Satan’s kingdom has a hierarchy (Ephesians 6:12), and he and his minions war with God’s children (1 Peter 5:8).
James 4:7 – Submission involves resistance to Satan. Isaiah 14:12-15 – Lack of submission is the reason for the fall of Satan. By not submitting to authority, we are in rebellion (1 Samuel 15:22-23), and this is why so many suffer so needlessly. There is tremendous freedom in submission. We are set free from the anger and bitterness of wrong actions toward us, and free to obey Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
The world teaches us to strive for independence, but biblical submission is concerned with interdependence (Romans 12:4-5 / 1 Corinthians 12:14-27). Submission makes us a servant to others; thus submission is the surrendering of our independence. In submission we place the interests of others above our own personal interests (Romans 15:1-2 / Philippians 2:1-4), which enables us to humble our thirst for recognition.
In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. In the kingdom of God, Jesus said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 9:33-37, 10:43-44). Being a disciple of Jesus means talking up our cross by denying ourselves (Matthew 10:38-39 / Mark 8:34-35 / Luke 9:23-24 / John 12:24-25). Submission is the attitude which underlies servant leadership. When we subordinate our interests to those of the ones we lead, we die to self. In this way we become models of submission to the church (1 Peter 5:1-7).
God is the key and Christ is the model and the means for submission. In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we are to be subject to all authority because God has orchestrated it (Romans 13:1-7). In Ephesians 5, the husband and wife relationship is patterned after the relationship of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:21-33). In Philippians 2, the submission we are to have one to another is to imitate Christ’s submission (Philippians 2:5-13). Peter also makes God the focus of submitting to governmental authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), to workplace authority (1 Peter 2:18-20), and to those who cause them suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19). Respect for and obedience to authorities is important because it is an expression of God’s authority over us.
The Bible teaches unconditional submission, but not unconditional obedience. Submission would include those times when we don’t agree with those in authority over us or feel that they are wrong. Even though the Bible differentiates between submission and obedience, the only time we are not to obey is when we are told to do something that is in direct contradiction to God’s written Word. That contradiction must be based on fact not feeling. Submission doesn’t mean we can offer no opinion, or that those in authority don’t need our opinion.
Acts 19:13-16 – You can only exercise authority to the extent at that you are under authority. The policeman saying "Stop in the name of the law" says that because he is standing in the place of the law and speaking on behalf of it. To the degree that he speaks for the law, then he can enforce the law and he has authority. When he steps outside of the law, he has lost his authority even though he still says, "Stop in the name of the law." Praying “in Jesus name” is not some magical incantation, it is representative of our being under His authority. It says we come in the name of our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), on the merits of Jesus, not on our own merits. We must pray consistent with His character and His will, which is what in His name means.