Christian Biblical Counsel: SUBMISSION


Yielding from a Spirit of Strength

by June Hunt

Cautiously maneuvering through the jagged, broken rails of his enclosure, a spirited young stallion slipped out into a new life of self-direction and unbridled independence. Although free to chase the wind as he pleased, he would no longer feel the warm touch of his master’s sun-wrinkled hand. His rebellious nature was liberated … unconfined, yet never again would he taste the tender sweet corn so generously provided from a fertile valley on the master’s farm. Sadly, his great escape from all the protective reins of authority brought about a burdensome responsibility for his own safety and sustenance. With the passing of time, a rocky crevice hidden on the side of an eroding bluff became the only solace for this storm-weathered steed.

“For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

(Proverbs 1:32–33)

I.     Definitions

Like a young stallion, most of us yearn to be free of the restraining rails of authority. From the nursery school to the nursing home, our hearts rebel against having someone “telling us what to do”! Yet, the Christian life is one of faith and trust in the loving care of God, and wise are those who see Him providing direction and protection through those He places in authority over us.

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’ ”

(Matthew 8:8–10)

A. What Is Submission?

•     Submission is a voluntary yielding to the power, authority or desire of another … in obedience to God.

•     The Greek word for submission is hupotasso, which means “to subject oneself,” literally “to rank under” (from hupo, “under” and tasso, “to arrange”).

•     Biblical submission is yielding your own rights or will to another out of respect for God or respect for the position of another.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

(Ephesians 5:21)

Q “What if I don’t respect the person in authority?”

You are not called to respect the personality of another, but you are called to respect the position of authority.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.” (1 Peter 2:13)

B. What Is Obedience?

•     Obedience is mandatory compliance to the commands of one in authority

•     The Greek word for “obedience” is hupakoe, which means “to hear and obey a command” (from hupo, “under” and akouo, “to hear”).

•     Biblical obedience in the Old Testament meant to listen to God’s commandments and to obey them.

“This is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” (2 John 6)

“Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (Deuteronomy 5:27)

Q “Is there a difference between obedience and submission?”

Both obedience and submission are clear directives from God. However, consider the difference between conformity to the letter of the law and yielding to the spirit of the law. Mere outward compliance does not reflect God’s heart. God’s desire is that submission to His ordained authorities be done with inner attitudes of respect, loyalty, gentleness and ultimate trust in Him for the outcome.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)


In order to advance in his job, a husband may decide that a move to a different city would benefit his career. His wife may outwardly submit to the move yet inwardly remain bitter and resentful for having to leave. Sometimes it can be very hard to give up a cherished home or to start over making new friends. The wife with a submissive heart will support the move, seek ways to make it easier for her mate to adjust and trust God that the move is God’s will for their life.

•     Submission is to voluntarily yield to the will of another.

•     Obedience is to comply with the commands of another.

•     Submission is an inner attitude of the heart.

•     Obedience is an outer act of conformity.

C. What Is Authority?

•     Authority is the right to command or make decisions, including the power to enforce obedience.

•     The Greek word for authority is exousia, which means, “lawful; the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others.”

•     The authorities in each person’s life are given power by God to be an instrument through which He can …

—  apply pressure for your growth and development in the character of Christ

“A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.” (Proverbs 15:5)

—  provide you with protection, direction and confirmation of His will

“Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right.… For he is God’s servant to do you good.” (Romans 13:3–4)

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ ”

(Matthew 28:18)

God-Given Authority Structures

“He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

(Romans 13:2)

•     Christ, the Son of God, submits to God the Father.

Each Person of the Trinity is equal—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally God. At the time of the Incarnation, when God took on human form, the Son became submissive to the will of the heavenly Father. The heavenly Father planned for our redemption, and the Son paid the price for our redemption. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was submissive to His heavenly Father’s will.

“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28)

•     The Holy Spirit submits to God the Father and the Son.

Jesus announced to His disciples that when He left this earth, He would not leave them comfortless, but that He would send them another Comforter, another Counselor, whom He called the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father, speaks only what He hears and guides each true Christian in the faith.

“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

•     Men are to submit to the headship of Christ.

“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

•     Wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1)

•     Children must submit to and obey their parents.

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)

•     Single adults, widows and the divorced are to submit directly to God while being responsive to the counsel of their parents and godly advisors.

“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5)

“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22)

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

•     Employees are to submit to their employers.

“Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:22–23)

•     Everyone is to submit to the governing authorities.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.” (1 Peter 2:13)

Q “What should I do if the one in authority requires me to take part in something that is wrong?”

You are not to submit in blind obedience or do that which would violate God’s Word.

“We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

You can, however, present an appropriate appeal that is based on your authority’s personal accountability to God.

“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1)


II.    Characteristics

A. Biblical Submission

Jesus, who was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), is our example. His life demonstrates submission to the Father, to His earthly parents and to the governing authorities. Jesus’ life reflects a heart of humility.

“Who [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

(Philippians 2:6–8)

The Prideful Heart Rebels against   Authority.


The Humbled Heart Is Biblically   Submissive.


•     haughty


•     humble


•     selfish


•     unselfish


•     impatient


•     patient


•     controlling


•     self-controlled


•     immature


•     mature


•     manipulative


•     meek


•     critical


•     compassionate


•     quarrelsome


•     quiet in spirit


•     ill-tempered


•     even-tempered


•     independent


•     dependent on the Lord


“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

(Proverbs 29:23)

B. Unbiblical Submission

For many people submission is a negative, offensive word that results in a misunderstanding of God’s basic intent. Biblical submission is not blind obedience or fearful acquiescence, but a position of strength that trusts in the sovereignty of God. In light of the world’s distorted view, it is helpful to know what submission is not!

•     Submission is not … bowing and cowering.

•     Submission is not … subservient or second class.

•     Submission is not … inferior or self-effacing.

•     Submission is not … degradation or humiliation.

•     Submission is not … nonassertive or nonconfrontational.

•     Submission is not … indecisive or indirect.

•     Submission is not … flattery or manipulation.

•     Submission is not … peace at any price.

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

(Proverbs 29:25)


III.   Causes

A. Surface Causes

Many of the problems that surround submission are a result of an unhealthy bondage to fear. The independent, rebellious spirit fails to recognize that freedom from fear comes through a submissive, obedient heart.

“Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good.”

(Romans 13:3–4)

False ideas about submission

•     “I’m afraid if I submit to him, I’ll be his personal doormat.”

•     “I’m afraid I’ll be so dominated that I’ll lose my own identity.”

To have a submissive heart, claim—

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Experiences that have destroyed trust

•     “My mother was so abused by Dad; I can’t let that happen to me.”

•     “He’s broken so many promises, I’m afraid to put my trust in him.”

To have a submissive heart, claim—

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?… It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:6, 8)

Absence of adequate leadership

•     “I don’t trust his ability to make the right decisions.”

•     “He won’t do what needs to be done, so I have to take control.”

To have a submissive heart, claim—

“He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” (Proverbs 28:26)

Reluctance to release control

•     “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.”

•     “He’s not under God’s authority, so why should I submit to his authority?”

To have a submissive heart, claim—

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

B. Root Cause

The root cause of resistance to leadership and authority lies in not understanding or failing to trust the sovereignty of God.

Wrong Belief:

“I’m afraid to lose or give away control of my life by trusting someone else to know what is best for me.”

Right Belief:

Ultimately, the Lord is in control of those He places in authority over my life to accomplish what is best for me. Since Christ was submissive to others and since Christ now lives in me, I too can be submissive through His strength.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)


IV.  Steps to Solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

(Ephesians 5:21)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Submission … A Call to Godly Suffering

1 Peter 2:13–3:22

•     For the sake of the Lord, submit to every authority instituted among men.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.” (1 Peter 2:13)

•     For the sake of the Lord, do what is good to quell the criticism of those who are lost.

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:15)

•     For the sake of the Lord, do not use your freedom in Christ to indulge disrespect for authority.

“Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (1 Peter 2:16)

•     For the sake of the Lord, submit to those who are harsh, as well as to those who are kind.

“Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (1 Peter 2:18)

•     For the sake of the Lord, endure the pain of unjust suffering.

“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2:19)

•     For the sake of the Lord, follow in the footsteps of Christ, who submitted to authorities and suffered unjustly.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

•     For the sake of the Lord, never use threats or seek retaliation.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” (1 Peter 2:23)

•     For the sake of the Lord, seek to repay insult with good.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” (1 Peter 2:23)

•     For the sake of the Lord, be willing to rely on the ultimate justice of God.

“He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

•     For the sake of the Lord, wives are to have a reverent, submissive spirit, so that a lost husband might be brought to salvation.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (1 Peter 3:1–2)

•     For the sake of the Lord, suffer for what is right, and you will be blessed by God!

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1 Peter 3:14)

C. Know When Not to Submit

Establish your Boundaries

Submission stops at the threshold of God’s moral principles. Establish your personal boundaries based on Scripture, never feeling you must submit when pressured to step over into sin.

“Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.”

(Psalm 119:134)

•     Do not submit when asked to violate God’s Word.

Q “Should a wife submit to her husband if he asks her to sign a false tax return, to lie to his boss or to commit adultery?”

No. You are to submit first to God and are never to violate a scriptural command.

“We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

•     Do not submit when asked to violate your conscience.

Q “Should an employee submit to a boss who requires participation in an unethical business practice?”

No. Your conscience is God-given, and you should obey it when you are in doubt.

“I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:5–6)

•     Do not submit to physical or verbal abuse.

Q “Should a wife submit to physical abuse or threats of abuse to herself and to their children?”

No. Physical abuse is illegal. Help can be sought through the civil authorities. It is important to remember … God hates violence! He encourages us to be wise and seek shelter from personal danger.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

[Contact Hope For The Heart for specific steps in dealing with wife abuse.]

•     Do not submit to an action that does not glorify God.

Q “Sarah is a good example of a godly wife (1 Peter 3:5–6), yet was she right to join Abraham in deceiving the Pharaoh of Egypt (Genesis 12:10–20), as well as King Abimelech (Genesis 20:1–10)?”

Abraham and Sarah were not trusting God for their safety. This kind of lie and deception brings personal dishonor and does not glorify God.

“Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, ‘What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.’ ” (Genesis 20:9)

Evaluate Your Convictions

We are often called to suffer in the name of submission, but occasionally you may have to endure the consequences of refusing to obey when asked to violate your personal convictions and God’s principles. This action carries a crucial responsibility to be certain you are acting in the Spirit of God.

“Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”

(Psalm 119:34)

•     Examine your attitudes to see if they demonstrate respect and deference to others.

“Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

•     Evaluate your motives and determine the real reason for your refusal to submit.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

•     Engage godly counsel for wisdom and advice.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

•     Eliminate error through searching the Word of God.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

•     Explore creative alternatives that will not compromise your convictions.

“If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3–5)

•     Explain your position respectfully, with carefully chosen words.

“Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)

•     Expect the Lord to put pressure on the one in authority over you, and then allow time for a change of heart.

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)

•     Endure the suffering you may encounter for refusing to do what is wrong.

“It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)

D. Choosing Submission Is an Act of Strength

Submission is not weakness, but is a position of strength. It is a choice to act on faith, choosing to trust God to work His will through the authorities in your life. As Jesus faced the agony of the cross, His words, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), demonstrate the strength required for your heart to be fully yielded to God.

•     Choose to live under your God-given authorities.

“The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

•     Choose to pray for those in authority over you.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2)

•     Choose to respect the position rather than the personality.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” (Romans 13:1)

•     Choose to sacrificially submit to others out of reverence for Christ.

“Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

•     Choose to please others rather than seeking your own way.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

•     Choose to put your future in the hands of God.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

•     Choose to be submissive, even if it means suffering.

“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3–4)

•     Choose to thank God, regardless of the end result.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

E. Securing Freedom through Submission

Human reason concludes that happiness is achieved by escaping the chains of accountability. Freedom to pursue personal desire is evident from the time we are toddlers, giving testimony to the truth that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Submission to authority is a vital principle that God has established so that everyone can experience the real freedom that brings a victorious life.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 14:12)

Submission Secures for You …

     freedom from having to make decisions on your own without God’s guidance

     freedom from responsibilities for which God does not hold you accountable

     freedom from falling into temptations that are too strong for you

     freedom from feeling you have to manipulate others

     freedom from always having to have your own way

     freedom from the constant need to be in control

     freedom from the need to always be right

     freedom from seeking to change others

     freedom from conflict and frustration

     freedom from a guilty conscience

Many years ago, I heard this statement:

“Fear knocked at the door … Faith answered. No one was there!”

Let me ask you this:

Is the idea of submitting your will to another a fearful thought? If so, claim 1 John 4:18.

“Perfect love drives out fear.”

You   will have freedom from fear if you yield your will to the Lord, if you yield   to those in authority over you—as unto the Lord.

June   Hunt




Right   of Way




Genuine   submission is possible only when you are fully yielded to God, resting in His   sovereignty. By giving deference to others and considering their needs first,   you will cultivate a humble heart that reflects the gentle spirit of Christ.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am   gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

(Matthew   11:29)

Yearn to   reflect the character of Christ.

“Your attitude   should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

Increase your   knowledge of God’s Word.

“Your word is   a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Endure   suffering as a source of blessing.

“But even if   you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1 Peter 3:14)

Live to glorify   God.

“Whatever   you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Die to   self-rule and let Christ rule in your heart.

“I   have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in   me.” (Galatians 2:20)


Selected Bibliography

Arterburn, Stephen, Fred Stoeker, and Mike Yorkey. Every Woman’s Desire: Every Man’s Guide to … Winning the Heart of a Woman. The Every Man Series. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2001.

Cloud, Henry, and John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Groom, Nancy. Married without Masks: A New Look at Submission and Authority. 2nd ed. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1989; Grand Rapids: Raven’s Ridge, 1996.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Patterson, Dorothy Kelley. “A Study in Submission: 1 Peter 3:1–7.” The Theological Educator 13 (1983): 70–79.

Wilson, P. B. Liberated Through Submission: The Ultimate Paradox. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1990.

Zodhiates, Spiros. Should Women Keep Silence in Church? An Exegetical Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:33–40. Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 1997.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Submission: Yielding from a Spirit of Strength (1–17). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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