I would like to attempt to clarify a common misunderstanding about biblical submission.
For me to submit to someone in a position of God-given authority does NOT mean that person is “always right.” No human is always right. NOT EVEN ME!!!! 🙂 I know! It is a shock, isn’t it?
There are many kinds of God-given authorities in our lives:
- kings, presidents, government leaders
- military – over the citizens
- military officials over the officers under them
- teachers, professors, principals, administrators
- bosses, managers, supervisors
- pastors, deacons, elders, church leaders, Bible teachers, older men in the church (younger men are supposed to submit to the older ones)
- older Christian wives are to teach the younger (Titus 2:2-5)
- parents (for children who are not adults yet)
When disciples of Christ do not submit to God-given authorities over them, the word of God is maligned (Titus 2, I Peter 2,3)
Appropriate submission and authority are everywhere
A bus driver
A bus driver has authority to drive his bus, the passengers do not have that authority. They submit to his authority and trust and respect him to drive the bus. They don’t push him out of the driver’s seat and take over. If they do, that is called a “hijacking” and it is a criminal offense.
A nurse in a hospital has the authority to give medication to specific patients, other people don’t have that authority – even a nurse from another hospital in the same city does not have authority to give medication to patients unless she is given authority by the hospital administration.
Her patient must submit to her authority and she must submit to the doctor’s authority over her. The nurse also submits to the Board of Nursing and the doctor submits to the Medical Board of his/her state.
The nurse and doctor also must submit to those in authority above them in the hospital in administration. There is a line of authority in place to keep patients safe.
A passenger vehicle driver
Only the licensed driver in the driver’s seat has authority to drive in a car. The person in the passenger’s seat may be an awesome driver and have a license to drive, but it would be insanely dangerous for the person in the passenger’s seat to grab the wheel and try to drive.
They would likely wreck! The only time it would be appropriate for the passenger to take control would be if the driver fell asleep and wouldn’t wake up quickly enough or was unconscious and the passenger was trying to get them to safety.
God put husbands in the “driver’s seat” in marriage. 1 Cor. 11:3 The husband cannot remove himself from this position as long as he is in the marriage. God holds him accountable.
The wife cannot move him either. God says, the husband IS the head of the wife as Christ IS the head of the church. It is not that he “should be” or “could be” the head. He IS. God put him there.
If I try to grab the steering wheel from the passenger’s seat, I will most certainly wreck the marriage.
People in positions of authority are not perfect or “better than” others.
- All people are plenty capable of sin, mistakes and error. (Romans 3:23)
- There is no human leader or person in an authority position who is always right or who is perfect. (Only God is good. Luke 18:19)
- If a human authority asks us to clearly defy God, “We must obey God rather than men!” Acts 5:29
- Authority has NOTHING to do with a person’s value. All people have equal value in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28). God created men and women in His image.
- Authority is not earned – it is granted by God or by God-given authorities. Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above.” John 19:11
Authority in the workplace
I had a job as a pharmacy manager one time at a grocery store chain. My staff pharmacist, we’ll call her, Jane, was “under my authority.”
She checked with me before making decisions because I was ultimately held responsible for the decisions in that pharmacy by my company and by the Board of Pharmacy in SC.
I always listened to her great ideas and then tried to make the best decision I could. She was a dear friend and a wise advisor. I cherished her insights. Many times I did what she suggested, sometimes I didn’t. She wasn’t upset about that, she respected my authority as the manager.
A few years later, both of us were working for a different retail pharmacy chain. Jane was the pharmacy manager and I was the staff pharmacist “under her authority” this time!
So I always checked with her and did things the way she thought was best because she was the authority in that situation and I submitted to her authority.
- Was one of us “better than” the other? Nope.
- Was one of us perfect or “always right?” Nope.
The question was – who had been granted the position of authority by our company and who carried the responsibility and accountability of being the manager?
Unfortunately, there are sometimes leaders and people in positions of authority who abuse those who are under them and who mistreat those they are sworn to protect. That is not ok!
God will repay those people. They will stand before Him and give an account and He will dispense justice unless their sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus.
If a leader is abusing his/her authority, there are supposed to be be other leaders and authorities in place in the church, work environment, government who will discover this abuse and punish the guilty.
Is authority about the person being right?
I have heard many wives say,
“I can’t submit to my husband! He’s not always right!”
Your submission to his authority is not about him being right. It is about trusting God and submitting to Him.
My understanding of Ephesians 5:22-33 is that a wife submits to her husband IN THE LORD.
The Bible teacher I studied under at my church teaches that it is a principle of the doctrine of spiritual authority in the Bible that if a spiritual authority attempts to force a believer to severely violate God’s commands, we are to obey God rather than men.
But, if we choose to obey God rather than men, we must be prepared for the consequences of our actions.
Some examples of this are
- Daniel, who refused to bow to the king’s idol, and faced the lion’s den and his three friends who refused to worship the king and were thrown into the fiery furnace.
- The apostles all refused to stop preaching in the Name of Christ, and 11 of them were martyred, all of them we severely persecuted by the Jewish religious authorities.
Resisting our husband’s God-given authority does not mean we will experience capital punishment, thankfully. But we had best be VERY sure that we are in line with scripture before we dare to go against our husbands.
I would certainly not personally resist my husband for something minor like whether we tithe or not. I would personally have to believe my husband was asking me to commit very egregious sin for me to be willing to refuse to submit to him.
(Such a situation has never happened in 10+ years in our marriage since I have been practicing biblical submission.)
If your husband asks you to blatantly defy God’s Word and clearly sin – then my understanding is you must obey God. Only God’s authority is absolute. (Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Saphira, she was killed by God, too, because she followed her husband into lying to the Holy Spirit.)
ie: if he says to kill, steal, commit idolatry, commit adultery, lie, do something illegal, molest children, cover up a crime for him, lust with him by watching porn, have a threesome, worship him as god, you would have to refuse and obey God instead.
This should be in very rare cases where what he is asking you to do is very obvious sin.
If it is just that you don’t agree with him, or it is a difference of interpretation in Scripture you share your heart, your perspective and feelings and then trust God to lead him to make the best decision.
Just because I don’t agree with my husband does not necessarily mean he is wrong. And if I don’t agree with him, that is not an excuse for me not to obey God’s Word to submit to my husband’s leadership.
Submission does not mean you must agree with him and change your mind and not have your own opinion. If you always agreed – that wouldn’t be submission, now, would it?
You are your husband’s most important advisor, and he will likely cherish your ideas, feelings, insights and suggestions if you respect him and cooperate with him.
We as humans are not in a position to always be able to see clearly what decision “is right” at a given time. Our wisdom and vision is flawed. Only God can see the whole picture.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding Proverbs 3:5
In God’s economy, exercising God-given authority is about:
- responsibility for those precious people entrusted to the one in authority
- accountability to God
- seeking God’s wisdom
- protecting God’s people
- providing for God’s people
- defending God’s people
- providing order instead of chaos
- accomplishing God’s purposes, His will and His glory
Biblical submission to any God-given human authority is primarily about respecting, reverencing, honoring and trusting God in His sovereignty and living in obedience and submission to Him.
THE TRUTH IS:
- No human being is always right.
- God alone is always right.
Those little details and individual little decisions often aren’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes we try to make little issues more important than the marriage, or more important than honoring and obeying Christ.
Submission and God’s Sovereignty:
- Submitting to our husbands in a biblical way is the biggest test of our faith in Christ, in my view, as godly wives.
- Do I really trust God’s sovereignty enough that I believe that He is able to lead me through my human husband? Even if he messes up? Even if he sins?
- My goal is not “to have my way” or to prove how “right” I am anymore. It is all about Jesus. Life is not about me anymore. It is not about what I want. It is about Him.
*** I am not called to follow my husband into clear sin that expressly violates God’s Word. We are to submit to our husbands “in the Lord.”
If a husband is committing major sin, infidelity, has an active alcohol/drug addiction, has an untreated mental disorder, is physically abusive – those serious issues go WAY beyond the scope of my blog. PLEASE seek godly, experienced help ASAP!
We are all human and fallible
MY HUSBAND WILL SIN AND MAKE MISTAKES AT TIMES AND GUESS WHAT?
I WILL BE WRONG AND MAKE MISTAKES AT TIMES, TOO!!
We will both need lots of grace, forgiveness and mercy from one another.
It takes TIME for a man to learn to be a godly leader. One decision is not a true measure of my husband’s leadership. Learning to be a godly leader is a long process – just like learning to be a godly follower is.
He will mess up sometimes. (We BOTH will!) That is going to have to be ok. God will help him learn from those things and he will grow as a leader – especially if I can continue to support him even in those difficult times.
If I turn on him, give him the 3rd degree, and heap contempt upon him – he may just become paralyzed and stop trying to lead.
MY RESPONSE when my husband’s decision doesn’t turn out the way he had hoped is CRITICAL to him learning to become a better and more godly leader.
If I can support him, respect the good in him, stand with him, show faith in him, continue to trust him, and not take over – my husband will probably get back up and learn and become a stronger and stronger man of God and grow in wisdom.
It is REALLY important that I DO NOT TAKE OVER but show him that I know HE can do this. (Unless he is very unwell, out of his mind, or dangerous.)
Sometimes my husband will be right and I will be wrong!!!!!!! But I may not be able to see that until later. This is part of trusting God’s sovereignty.
First, I honor Christ’s authority
Every disciple of Christ is called and commanded by God to submit their lives 100% to Christ first. We are all (men and women) to die to ourselves (THIS REALLY HURTS!), and our old nature.
We are to put on our “new man in Christ.” We are not to be controlled by the sinful nature any longer, but by the Spirit of God. (Galatians 5:19-23)
Because I have died to my old self – I am dead to what I want, my will, my rights, my goals, my dreams, my plans, my priorities, my wisdom. That is all nailed to the cross. Now, I live as a living sacrifice for Jesus. I am alive to His Spirit, His will, His wisdom, His goals, His dreams, His plans, His priorities.
My only purpose in this world as a disciple of Christ is to honor Him and bring Him glory.
My life is not about what I want. It is about what Jesus wants. That is what it means that He is not just my Savior, but He is my LORD. I do not say “no” to my Lord. He is my Master now. My whole life is about Him. More than that…
Jesus IS my Life.
Nothing else matters.
What Is the Purpose of Marriage?
A Real Life Example of Respect and Biblical Submission
How a Wife’s Submission Inspired Her Husband and made him a better man
A Wife’s Great Faith and and Old Truck (God worked little miracles in this situation)
My Husband Wants to Go Where?? (AWESOME example of real life biblical submission and how God intervened and changed a husband’s heart and plans!)