Blog / Just Submit!

Submission—I’ve always flinched at the word. Maybe it’s because I grew up in one of the early generations of little girls born after the women’s suffrage movement. Maybe it’s because my mother was a strong, intelligent woman who didn’t appear to bow to anyone or anything. Maybe it’s because I was born a human, prone to follow the desires of the sinful flesh rather than submit to anyone or anything.

I’ve wrestled with the concept of submission my whole life. In 7th grade my school implemented a rule that no one was allowed to chew gum anymore. I guess they were finding too many gooey, colorful blobs of sticky delight stuck to the bottoms of desks or someone’s shoe. But I was a responsible, mature 13-year-old “woman” and I had the right to chew gum if I wanted to! I was not the problem. Those rules were made for those immature and irresponsible Junior High-ers who couldn’t just enjoy a piece of gum after lunch and properly dispose of it in a wastebasket when they were done. 

I ignored the rule on principle and landed myself in detention seven times as a repeat offender. While chewing gum may have been a small act of rebellion, the consequences for my refusal to submit to the authorities in my life at the time were not small. My repeated discipline write-ups cost me not only the time in detention, but ultimately the end of year field trip to our local amusement park. While the sin seemed small and innocent, the cost was much greater than I ever expected when I unwrapped that first piece of Doublemint.

While sitting in Eric Barton’s recent Womenary class discussion on the Holy Spirit, my 7th grade rebellion flooded back into my mind. It was a conviction that even from my earliest years of spiritual formation, my flesh has desired to rebel against God.

The Scriptures are full of commands (not requests) for believers to submit. In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs the church in Ephesus to be wise and watchful, filled with nothing other than the Holy Spirit, because the “days are evil”. He then goes on to instruct us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The verses that follow (5:15-6:9) expand on the idea of the necessity of submission among the believers. Wives are to submit to their husbands, as the husbands love their wives by their own submission to Christ. Children are to submit to their parents. Laborers are to submit to their masters. All of this is to ultimately point us away from the natural push of the flesh to submit to nothing and no one other than ourselves, and to teach us how to submit fully to Christ. 

In Galatians 4 Paul again is rebuking a body of believers for choosing to follow the way of the world rather than submitting to Christ. In 4:19 Paul anguishes over the church in Galatia’s struggle to be transformed into Christ’s likeness: my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! The church had been walking in sin and rebellion. Paul is literally anguishing in frustration, praying they will submit themselves to the Holy Spirit that is forming them into the image of Christ!

In John, Jesus himself not only outlines the call on believers to submit to God our Father through His living example; He also tells us exactly how we, in our sinful flesh, can reject our repulsion to the idea of submission and live a life that is fully free and formed in the spirit of Christ.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16).

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid” (John 14:26).

Jesus speaks repeatedly throughout the gospels of His complete unity and submission to His Father. His Father sent Him, and the work He does while on earth is ALL in submission to the will of His Father. He was humble and obedient to the one who dwelled in Him, even to the point of His sacrificial death on the cross: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

Eric Barton pointed out through this class that according to the Scripture (see especially John 14-16), we are all given the fullness of the Holy Spirit as our Helper in this life. As Jesus was in the Father, we are in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is in us (John 14:20). So what does the will of the Father, of Christ, require of us? It requires us to walk more fully in the will of God. It requires submission to the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. It requires surrender to the will and calling He has assigned for all believers. Submission is sweet and perfect when it is placed in the hands of our holy, righteous God.

Just Submit.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).

All Scripture quotations are from the ESV, Crossway 2001.

Tami Spencer

Tami is a freelance writer, marketer, blogger, Womenary board member, and member of the children’s ministry and women’s Bible study teams at Bethel Bible Church in Tyler, Texas. Tami and her husband, William, have been married for 15 years and have 5 children, Becton (12), Addie Leigh (9), Norah (7), and twins Slone and Sophie (2.5).
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