Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:13–16, esv).
To some people, submission sounds like a dirty word. The very concept has been hijacked by cruel, selfish authoritarians who have twisted and distorted the truth for their own purposes. But true submission, when properly understood and applied, replaces the pain and strife of rebellion and greatly increases human happiness.
Submission is not just for a few. It’s for all people. According to Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Every single believer is to practice, on a regular basis, this principle of submission. It’s not just for children—it’s also for parents. Not just for church members—also for pastors. Not just for wives—also for husbands. Not just for employees—also for bosses. It’s for everyone. In fact, we are to be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). So before we ever ask or expect someone else to submit, we must first submit—all of us, to one another.
Submit is a military term that refers to placing oneself in order under established authority. Operating within the chain of command. Yielding to authority without resisting or rebelling. Finding one’s place of humility and cooperation under the influence of others.
No one is to force you to submit; God’s Word specifies “submit yourselves” (1 Peter 2:13, nkjv). Nowhere does the Bible teach forced, top-down submission. People in authority should never demand or command submission. Leaders receive that from those under their authority. Leaders should win the favor of those under them through selfless, servant leadership. A godly response to that servant leadership is the choice of submission. Submission is a choice—not top down but bottom up.
If you are in a role in which you should submit, that’s a choice of heart God asks you to willingly make—“for the Lord’s sake” (2:13). Those are such sticky words! If Jesus, in all His glory, were to stand before you and ask, “Would you please do this for Me?” you wouldn’t hesitate. In fact, you’d likely answer, “No problem, Lord. I’ll start now. And I’ll spend the rest of my life getting that done for You!”
The problem is that we can’t see the Lord. He’s behind the scenes. Those we see—bosses, parents, elders—are human, frail, and imperfect. Often we use the imperfections of human authorities to dismiss our responsibility to submit. What a flawed attitude, which God will not bless. We are to submit, not because the authorities are perfect or even consistent, but “for the Lord’s sake.”
If your boss is unfair and demanding, easy on herself but hard on you, you can rebel, or you can submit. If you rebel, you’re actually refusing to submit not only to your boss but also to the Lord. If you submit, you invite God’s blessing.
Submission is not slavery. God does not want His children living or acting like slaves. Though Paul called himself a slave (or bondservant), he was not a slave to human authority but a slave to Christ (Ephesians 6:6). We’re not slaves. Wives are not to act like slaves—except to Christ. Workers are not to act like slaves—except to Christ. Other than that holy servitude, we are free people. The obedience we give to human authorities, we give freely—“for the Lord’s sake.”
Lord God, I need Your help. Please help me put off my pride and rebellion and put on deference and humility. Teach me to live in submission—ultimately not to human authorities but to You and for Your sake. I offer myself afresh to You as a servant of God and a person who’s free. In the name of Jesus, who set me free, amen.