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Taking a Second Look at Submission (1 Peter 2:13 - 3:7)

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution [creature],110 whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 [Act] as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but [use it] as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this [finds] favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer [for it] you patiently endure it, this [finds] favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

1 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, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 And let not your adornment be [merely] external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 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. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

7 You husbands likewise, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Introduction

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, commented on legislation recently passed by the Florida State legislature. The bill did not deal with violence on the streets or racial injustice, nor did it address the economy or the many pressing problems of crisis proportions in that state. Although unable to pass any significant legislation on these matters, the legislature did manage to pass a law with almost no opposition. The new law requires that all legislation in Florida be purged of any sexist language. The legislature has demanded that the laws of the land be emasculated, so to speak. This means that countless hours of labor and a considerable amount of money must be spent to expunge male words from the laws of that state.

One does not have to wonder what that legislature would do to Peter’s words about submission in his first epistle. They would hardly be content with rewording these divinely inspired commands; they would ban them altogether. The tragedy is that the Florida law will do absolutely nothing to solve the incredible problems facing the state nor will it benefit its citizens or tourists in any tangible way. Conversely, Peter’s instructions could radically transform relationships, the church, and even benefit society in general.

Beginning at verse 13 of chapter 2, Peter has been dealing with submission. He has instructed believers to submit themselves not only to the governing authorities of the day and to one another, but even to submit to all men. Submission has been required in general and in very specific terms. He has particularly addressed citizens, slaves, wives, and husbands. From his instructions, we see that every Christian is to submit to others on a variety of levels. We also see how submission works itself out in a broad range of circumstances and settings. Further, Peter speaks of submission in the context of suffering. It is clear to Peter, as it should be to his readers, that submission to others should particularly be practiced in times of innocent suffering.

The saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts,” is certainly true of submission. We have considered submission in the last several lessons piece by piece. We have looked at the submission of citizens (2:13-17), of slaves (2:18-25), of wives (3:1-6) and of husbands (3:7). Before pressing on, we should pause to consider the broader context of what Peter has said. We generally think of Paul as the apostle who most emphasized submission, but Peter contributes some very important insights on submission which are unique and important.

The Importance of the Subject of Submission

I want to reflect further on the subject of submission because I am convinced it is a vitally important part of the Christian life. Consider some of the reasons submission warrants such careful consideration:

(1) Submission is the key to unity and harmony in human relationships. In the Godhead, in the church, in marriage, and in any relationship, submission is the basis for unity.

1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

(2) Satan’s fall and his on-going rebellion is a manifestation of his refusal to submit to God; he likewise tempts men to follow in his footsteps. This same spirit of rebellion is evident in Satan’s spokesmen, the false prophets, even to this day:

9b … and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in [its] corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord (2 Peter 2:9b-11).

Satan abused his power and position, acting independently of God (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-15). When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he sought to get them to act independently of God, seeking what appeared to be their own self-interest in disobedience to God’s command (Genesis 3:1-7). In the temptation of our Lord, Satan once again sought to induce our Lord to act independently of the Father, seeking His own interests instead (see Matthew 4:1-11).

(3) Submission is at the core of man’s relationship with God. In the Garden of Eden, man was to submit to God, trusting in His Word and keeping His commandment. Adam and Eve’s sin was a revolt against God, a refusal to submit to Him. Jesus represented the sin of Israel’s religious leaders as the sin of “insubmission” (see Matthew 21:33-46). They continually challenged Jesus to prove His authority (see Matthew 21:23). They refused to submit to Him, mocking His authority at the foot of His cross (see Matthew 27:37-44).

Submission and sin are almost antithetical. Each is almost the exact opposite of the other. Salvation is the solution to man’s sin. When we are born again by faith in Christ, it is a submission to God, to the authority of His Word, and to Christ as His means of salvation. As man’s refusal to submit to God brought about the fall of man, so man’s submission to God brings about salvation (see Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9-10).

Submission is also at the heart of discipleship. Jesus called men not only to believe in Him but to follow Him. A disciple is a learner and a follower, a student who has submitted himself to his teacher. Submission is therefore one of the prominent themes in the epistles, whether the technical term for submission occurs or not.111

(4) Submission is the will and command of God. It is the good which God requires of Christians to imitate and emulate Christ and to silence some of the accusations of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).

(5) Submission is the cure for legalism. Think of this in terms of your children. If they really do not want to obey but only comply to the degree they must, they are not submissive. In such a case, very minute and meticulous rules must be set down to cover every conceivable situation. If, however, your child is submissive, he or she really wants to do what they believe you want, then you only need a few guiding principles. No wonder Judaism had (and still has) such a mountain of legislation. No wonder our nation and every other nation has laws without number. People really do not want to obey; they are not truly submissive. Where true submission exists, legalism disappears. To teach about submission, and then embrace it, prevents a multitude of legalistic rules. Submission is a fundamental ingredient of the believer’s spiritual life.

Submission Defined

Not only do unbelievers fail to understand submission, even among the saints the concept of submission is poorly understood. We typically think submission is required only in relation to those in a position of authority over us. We are told the origin of the meaning of the underlying Greek word for submission is derived from military imagery of one “ranked under” the one in authority over him.112 This is true, but only partially. Christian submission goes far beyond obedience to those in authority over us. To understand biblical submission, we must go much further, which we will do by exploring the biblical definition of submission. To define biblical submission, we will contrast secular submission with scriptural submission.

(1) Secular submission is as limited as men can make it; biblical submission is as broad as mankind. The natural man tends to measure his worth by his status. His status is determined by the ratio of those who are over him compared to those under him. The goal is therefore to reduce those in authority above you and to increase the number under you. We see this in the disciples who continually argued with one another as to who was the greatest. In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. But in the kingdom of God, the greatest is the one who has everyone over him:

33 And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which [of them was] the greatest. 35 And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” 36 And taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:33-37).

42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Biblical submission is universal submission. The Christian is first subject to God (Ephesians 5:21, 22; 6:1, 5, 9; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:17); then Christians are mutually subject to each other (Ephesians 5:21; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:1-8). Husbands and wives are to be mutually in submission to each other (1 Corinthians 7:3-5; 11:11; Ephesians 5:21-22; 1 Peter 3:1-7). And finally, Christians are to be subject to all (1 Peter 2:13-17).113

(2) Secular submission is compulsory, imposed from without; biblical submission is voluntary, from the heart. Why do people have radar detectors in their cars? They are not truly submissive to the speed laws or the police whose job is to enforce them. They “submit” when supervised but not when no one is watching. Christian submission comes from the heart. Whether a policeman is around or whether we are supervised, our obed-ience should be from the heart, seeking to please Him who saved us and knowing that He will reward us.

(3) Secular submission is motivated by self-interest; biblical submission is motivated by faith, hope, and love, resulting in self-sacrifice. The world submits to speed laws because they do not wish to pay a fine. Men keep other laws because they do not want to go to jail. Still other “submission” is practiced as an assurance that it is best for us to do so. Secular submission seeks to avoid pain and suffering. Christian submission willingly endures suffering, motivated not so much by present benefits and rewards as by our heavenly hope and by the love God generates within us. And because these future benefits are not seen at present, we must submit in faith, trusting in God and in His word (see Hebrews 11:1-6).

(4) Secular submission is given to those in authority who expect (and sometimes demand) that we act in a way that benefits them; biblical submission is given to Him who gave up His rights and privileges in order to bring blessings to us. In the major texts which deal with submission, Christ is the model, the means, and the standard for submission. 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 2:1-8). Peter also makes Christ the model for those who submit themselves to those who cause them suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25).

(5) Secular submission is mainly a matter of authority; biblical submission is more a matter of priority, putting the interests of others ahead of our own. Secular submission is granted, albeit reluctantly, only to those who have authority over us. Biblical submission is granted to our peers and to those under our authority because submission is not simply a matter of authority but of priority. It is not just a question of who has power over us but who has priority over us. It is a question of whether our own interests are subordinate to the interests of others. Biblical submission requires that we place the interests of others above our own personal interests, that we serve others sacrificially:

1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not [just] please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification (Romans 15:1-2; see also Philippians 2:3-8).

Pressing further, biblical submission gives others priority by seeking to enhance their glory rather than our own. Submission enables us to give up our drivenness to be preeminent. This preeminence can be a matter of status, of power, of position, of proclamation (speech), but there are other ways to be preeminent. For a woman, her clothing, her adornment, and even her demeanor can cause her to be on “center stage” with the attention of all. This is why both Peter (1 Peter 3:1-6) and Paul (1 Timothy 2:9-12) address a woman’s appearance and apparel, as well as the taking on of roles of authority. When a woman uses that which is to bring glory to her husband in such a way as to bring glory to herself, she has spurned the principle of submission (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-17).

(6) Secular submission seeks to minimize dependence on others and to maximize our own independence; biblical submission recognizes our dependence on others and surrenders independence. Satan acted independently of God and urged Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-7) as well as the Lord Himself (Matthew 4:1-11) to do likewise. Biblical submission emphasizes our inter-dependence on one another (see Romans 14:7; 1 Corinthians 11:11; 12:1ff.). Submission makes us a servant to others; thus submission is the surrendering of our independence.

(7) Secular submission is legalistic, outward compliance with the letter of the law when observed; biblical submission is inward agreement with the spirit of the law. Because secular submission is not a voluntary matter of the heart, it results only in a legalistic kind of obedience to the letter of the law. Biblical submission goes much further as it seeks to fulfill the spirit of the matter.

To illustrate, let’s assume one of my children is not submissive. The child asks if she can go next door to play with Sarah. I tell her no. I later find my child is next door, and when I begin to punish her for her disobedience, she insists she did not go next door to play with Sarah; she went next door to play with Stephanie, Sarah’s sister. The letter of the law may not have been violated, since I did not specifically forbid going next door or playing with Stephanie. But if my child were submissive, I would only have to express to her that I did not want her going out today, and she would apply that general principle to every specific question based upon what she knew I wanted rather than upon the exact words I chose.

Is it any wonder that the Judaism of Jesus’ day was so legalistic? Not at all, because God’s people were not submissive to Him. They rejected His authority and even His own Son. They challenged His authority, and finally nailed Him to a cross. Those who have the “law written on their hearts” need not be given a long, detailed list of rules. They need only be told, in general principles, what pleases and displeases God. Legalism is evidence of a lack of submission. Submission seeks to please God.

(8) Secular submission may act in the way one authority demands but seldom silently; biblical submission is often evident in the silence which accompanies innocent suffering. Do you notice how much emphasis Peter places on silence in these verses on submission? Slaves are urged to suffer silently as Jesus did (2:18-25). Wives are to suffer in silence as Jesus did (3:1-6). Peter’s quote from Psalm 34:10-12 again emphasizes silence.

Our culture does not agree with Scripture here. In our day, silence is not golden. Indeed, silence is often disparaged as though it were a weakness, even a “sin.” Our culture says we are to communicate; we are to express our feelings, to let it all out, to ventilate. Husbands are criticized for not being more open (sometimes rightly so, sometimes not). In Scripture, if not in “Dear Abby,” silence is more often commended than condemned. There are times to speak out, and sometimes we fail to speak when we should. But most of my regrets are not for what I have failed to say but what I have failed to refrain from saying.

The speech we should express should edify the other, even at the cost of some pain to us (see Ephesians 4:25, 29; Colossians 3:8; 4:6). We should not “confess” a fault to someone other than the one we have offended, and we should not confess to the one offended just to make us feel better. Not saying something when we have been wronged is not wrong, unless we have failed to forgive the one who has wronged us. The command to “Not let the sun go down on our wrath” (Ephesians 4:26) does not give license to vent our anger; it is an exhortation to grant forgiveness and deal with our anger in a way that edifies the offending party and promotes unity and harmony.

Problems With Submission

The biblical principle of submission is not always simple nor easy. When we endeavor to obey our Lord’s command to live in submission to others, several problem areas confront us.

The first might be called “misplaced submission.” Sometimes we are submissive to the wrong people. The wife, for example, is commanded to be submissive to her own husband. She is not to submit to any other man as she does to her husband. Worldliness is submitting to the wrong people, to the wrong system of values and standard of conduct. Submission is an act of love, and we are commanded not to love the world (1 John 2:15). The world hates us because of our identification with Jesus Christ (John 15:18-19). We are no longer to be conformed to the world’s thinking, values, or actions (Romans 12:1-2). Nevertheless, “peer pressure,” regardless of age, is a very powerful force, one to which we all too often submit. The Bible clearly warns us against submitting to it (see Proverbs 1:8-19).

The second problem area could be called “conflicts in submission” because of the multiple levels of submission. We are to be subject to more than one person, to more than one level of authority. Because of our multiple obligations in submission, we may become confused about how we can submit in a way that pleases God.

We need to recognize that when submission to one authority conflicts with submission to another, we are obliged to submit to the highest authority. The highest authority is God. And so when political or religious authorities seek to compel us to act contrary to the Word of God, we, like Peter, must say, “We must obey God, rather than men” (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29).

Some years ago, a well-known seminar speaker seemed to teach that a wife’s submission to her husband was to be without exception. He used the example of Sarah’s obedience to Abraham as assurance that God would protect the wife from adverse consequences when she submitted to her husband’s instructions, even when doing so was wrong. I believe this is wrong on several counts. Submission is not synonymous with obedience. One can still be in submission to one’s authority without always blindly obeying every command. In other words, one can submissively disobey. Daniel and his three friends illustrate this. Also, we need to recognize that submission recognizes levels of authority, so that a wife renders submission to her husband in ways that she will not do for any other.

The exception arises when we cannot obey the one to whom we are in submission because of a higher authority. The norm is that we can work out submission so that we submit on several levels, without conflict. The scribes and Pharisees seemed to assume that submission could not be carried out on more than one level at a time. They challenged Jesus with the question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17). The assumption was that one could not submit to Caesar (or to civil government) and God at the same time. Jesus’ answer was that one could submit to God and Caesar at the same time. The solution was that you must submit to Caesar what is rightfully his, and submit to God what is His. This means that the obligations of our submission depend upon to whom we are submitting.

The Bible gives examples of multiple levels of submission. Daniel submitted to the authorities over him in Babylon, while at the same time he maintained his submission to God and to His Law (Daniel 1). Perhaps the most difficult situation was faced by Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. She was obliged to submit to God, to her husband, and to David, who had already been indicated as Israel’s future king. Both David and her husband were acting foolishly, and yet she wisely demonstrated submission to both. She spared her husband’s life in spite of his foolishness, and she spared David from acting in a way that would be detrimental to his reign as Israel’s king. In both cases, she turned both men from their intended course of action in a way that did not violate the principle of submission to either of them or to God.

These examples show how occasionally it may become necessary to disobey those in authority over us. It is never necessary to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). We must disobey only to be submissive to a higher authority. And we must do so in a way that shows a submissive spirit. Generally, we should be able to submit to a level of authority without conflict with others. To do so takes wisdom, which God promises to grant (James 1:5), and the wise man loves to seek it out (see Proverbs 10:23; 14:6, 8; 19:8; 23:23; 24:13; 29:3).

The third problem area is reconciling or harmonizing our duty to submit with other biblical commands. I cannot tell you how common it is for Christians to think that the command to submit overrides all other commands. For example, the Christian wife may believe that since she is obligated to submit to her husband she must never speak in a way that seeks to correct him if he is wrong. It is my conviction that the biblical commands related to discipline in the church (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) apply as much to marriage partners as to anyone else. If all of us are to submit to one another, we must somehow carry out the discipline commands in a way that does not violate the principle of submission. As citizens, the Old Testament prophets were subject to the kings under which they served. They also were sometimes required to speak a word of rebuke to them, which they did in a submissive way. Submission and rebuke are not incompatible.

The fourth problem area is how those in a position of authority should deal with those who refuse to submit as they should. Here much of what falls in the category of “abuse” might arise. What does a parent do when a child fails to “submit”? What does a husband do when his wife won’t submit? Some resort to physical force. A certain measure of force might be appropriate, such as when dealing with children (especially smaller ones). But all too often, parents feel that they must prevail over the child, that they must obtain precisely what they want. And so, when the child persists in crying, even when told to stop, even when punished, some parents, unwilling to suffer defeat, beat, scald, injure, or even kill. Some husbands deal similarly with their wives, resorting to physical force and violence to obtain the result they think they must. Something is dreadfully wrong when this happens.

Several principles should guide us in cases where the submission we desire is not obtained.

First, biblical submission comes from within a person, as a voluntary act of obedience and faith. We can no more force one to truly submit than we can force one to convert to faith in Christ. Every command which calls for submission requires it of the person who is to submit. Never are those in authority commanded to forcefully bring about the submission of those under them. A parent may be obligated to require a child to obey, but one can only encourage a child to submit. We are to lead in a way that is faithful to our task.

Second, Christ is the model for our leadership. How does He deal with our failure to submit? Does He immediately use force to compel submission? I think we can see He usually does not deal with us this way. He has placed His Spirit within us, and He works patiently to bring us to what we should be. When a wife refuses to submit to her husband, the husband should turn in faith to Him who can change hearts. We should not seek to bring our wife to her knees in submission, but should fall to our knees in prayer. Christ brought about our submission through His own sacrifice on the cross; we should seek to bring others to submission by faithfully serving them, by God’s power and grace.

Misconceptions and Misrepresentations of Submission

Submission is not a natural response. People do not naturally respond by submitting, even to those in authority over them. It should come as no surprise then that many will resist and oppose the biblical teaching on submission. Some opposition will be direct; other opposition will be more subtle and indirect. We need to look for it in a variety of forms and stand for biblical submission in both theory and practice.

The concept of submission is directly opposed by those who hold to women’s lib, self-assertion, and popular movements like EST. We should not apologize or shrink back from the teaching of Scripture on submission, whether welcomed by others or not.

More subtle forms of resistance are now appearing, and often these arise within the church. Submission may be embraced in theory but rejected and denied in practice. Often, those who submit are labeled as “enablers” or as “co-dependent.” It is possible that some Christians might be such in error, because of a dis-torted understanding of true submission. But in the process, true submission may be attacked and disdained because it is not “in” in this age of addictions, therapy and support groups. Far fewer Christians are struggling to understand and apply the biblical teaching on submission than those who are trying to cast it aside like an old, unwanted shoe.

True submission is undermined by sincere, well-meaning Christians who practice stereotypical submission, a submission defined by very precise rules and practices rather than a matter of the heart. True submission thrives best on principles and is not helped by endless rules. True submission is not always making the one we submit to happy, but seeking his or her best interest at our own expense. True submission is not building up the ego of another with flattery, but building up another with truth, truth that is proclaimed and practiced in love. True submission is not a guarantee that we will thereby avoid pain and suffering, but an attitude and outlook which can govern our attitudes and actions when we are suffering innocently for Christ’s sake.

Conclusion

I must say to those who have chosen not to submit to God, to the provision of Christ for our salvation, and to the Word of God that while God presently allows men to rebel against Him, He is going to subject all creation when He comes again. We can submit now or be subjected by force later. Either way, we will bow the knee to Him who is over all. The difference is that Christians willingly and joyfully do so now and in heaven, while unbelievers only reluctantly do so in the future as they prepare to enter into eternal doom:

9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe [them,] glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12).

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then [comes] the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Now, my friend, is the day for submission, submission to God through faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, faith that Jesus Christ died for your sins, bore your eternal punishment, and has provided the righteousness which enables you to stand justified before God.

1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away [from it.] 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard (Hebrews 2:1-3; see also 3:1-19).

Submission is the attitude with which men and women turn to God in faith for eternal salvation. It is also the attitude which underlies servanthood and thus the ministry of believers to outsiders and to one another in the church. We hear much more about servanthood than submission, but submission is the basis for servanthood.

Submission is the basis for servant leadership. J. Oswald Sanders wrote an excellent little book on spiritual leadership in which he speaks of three key elements in leadership: suffering, servanthood, and the sovereignty of God. He is absolutely right. I would also suggest that the one word “submission” is fundamental and foundational to these three concepts. Peter speaks of submission as the proper response to suffering. We have already seen that submission is foundational to servanthood. We should also see that we submit first to God and then to others because we know God is sovereign, He is in control, and He will fulfill all of His purposes and promises.

I submit to you that a man cannot truly be a spiritual leader until he has come to submit himself to those whom he leads. He does not follow those whom he leads, but he does subordinate his interests to the interests of those whom he leads. When he seeks to further his own interests, he will do so at the expense of others. When he subordinates his interests to those of the ones he leads, he sacrifices his own selfish interests for the interests of others. And here the paradox of Christianity becomes evident. When we die to self, we live; when we give up our lives, we find them; when we abandon our pursuit of fulfillment, we are fulfilled. And so submission is the path to blessing as Peter is about to demonstrate in verses 8-12.

Let us commit ourselves to further study and meditation on this vitally important subject of submission. And may we, by God’s grace, practice true submission from the heart to His glory.


110 I am more convinced than ever that the meaning of the term Peter used here is “creature,” not “institution” (NASB) or “ordinance” (KJV). The term is found 19 times in the King James Version of the New Testament. It is rendered “creature” 11 times, 6 times it is rendered “creation,” “building” once in Hebrews 9:11 (which the NASB changes to “creation”), and “ordinance” one time here in 1 Peter 2:13. The normal translation would thus be either “creation” or “creature.” “But why,” someone might ask, “does Peter use this expression for people?” In that day, as in our own (I speak of the unborn), not all human beings are considered as such. Just as the unborn fetus has been judged to be a non-person by the Supreme Court, so slaves and others (such as the outcasts in India) are considered non-persons. Since Peter requires us to submit to every human being, he must carefully choose his words to include every divinely created human being. His expression, “human creation” does this, perhaps better than any other.

111 The words used of submission occur in these texts: 1 Chronicles 29:24; Psalm 62:1 [61:2, LXX]; Luke 2:51; 10:17, 20; Romans 8:7, 20; 10:3; 13:1, 5; 1 Corinthians 14:32, 34; 15:27, 28; 16:16; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 2:5; Ephesians 1:22; 5:21, 22, 24; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11; 3:4; Titus 2:5, 9; 3:1; Hebrews 2:5, 8; 12:9; James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13, 18; 3:1, 4, 22; 5:5; The theme of submission is also prominent in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and Philippians 2:1-8.

112 The same term was also used in secular Greek of a literary work which was appended to another.

113 See footnote 1.

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