Submission Seems to Be the Hardest Word 1 Peter 2:11–3:12
The world today ignores many traditional beliefs, values, and mores. But none has endured as much erosion as the concept of submission. Years ago most people respected and submitted to the authority over them. But all too many no longer do.
An airline pilot I spoke with recently defined the problem: “People are just not willing to obey anyone. There is no respect for any kind of authority. They won’t listen to flight attendants or pilots. They act like they are a law unto themselves.”
The workplace is infected with the same malady. Many employees don’t feel they have to obey their bosses. Some steal materials and often pilfer time from their employers by conducting personal business on company time. Yet they feel justified because the corporation is big and powerful and ostensibly can afford the loss.
Neither has marriage escaped this serious affliction. Many people have stood before ministers and pledged their lives to each other, vowing to “love” and “submit to” each other as long as they both shall live. Once an integral part of the marriage ceremony, this section today is generally mocked and abandoned. It seems the vast majority of people are not willing to submit to anyone. They tend to ignore the laws of the land, the value of human life, God, and the Bible.
Submission to Government
The Word of God speaks of submission not as a suggestion but as an obligation. The apostle Peter stated, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims,…submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (emphasis added, 1 Pet. 2:11, 13). Believers should be model, law-abiding citizens. We are required to submit to “every ordinance of man,” not merely to the ones we agree with. Respect and submission to authority are compulsory.
Now, submission does have limits. We are never to obey any law or authority contrary to the revealed Word. The Bible is extremely clear on this subject. When the apostles faced persecution for preaching in the name of Jesus, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).
God ordained and instituted government. Governments enforce laws, collect taxes, and in turn provide stability and protection. The child of God is to submit to government and its God-given authority, “whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him [the governor] for the punishment of evildoers…for this is the will of God” (1 Pet. 2:13–15). God expects submission to such authority. Although doing so is not always easy, we are to submit “as bondservants of God” (v. 16).
Submission at Work
Christians are also expected to be the finest employees—the best workers possible: “Be submissive to your masters [employers] with all fear [respect], not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable” (vv. 18–19).
The Lord expects us to be diligent, hard workers who submit to the authority over us while on the job. Most work is not easy, and we repeatedly face tough choices and sometimes harsh conditions. Many Christians labor in difficult, insensitive surroundings. The Lord understands. Nevertheless, we are to submit and do the best job possible.
Conditions may be adverse and the authority may be unsympathetic, but the Bible says to “take it [suffering] patiently, this is commendable before God” (v. 20). Why should we submit, especially when it is difficult? Because “to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow” (v. 21).
We are to be followers of Christ. That is what a Christian is—a follower of the Messiah of Israel. And He set the example of complete submission: submission to His Father and submission even to death, as He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (v. 24).
Jesus is our example, our standard. He was willing to submit. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Phil. 2:5–7).
Jesus was 100 percent deity and 100 percent humanity, in a single human body: “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus]. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). Yet Jesus—the Second Person of the triune Godhead—did not clutch onto His uniqueness but willingly submitted to the will and plan of God the Father.
We are to follow His example. And though submission often seems the hardest word, it is God’s Word. And believers are to obey it.