Submission and obedience for a Christian

Sometimes we mix up the meaning of submission and obedience. According to English dictionary, they are defined differently.

Submission: The act of submitting or yielding; surrender. It is synonymous with acquiescence, capitulation, concession, giving in, submittal, obedience, yielding.

Obedience: is the quality of being obedient. To be obedient is willing to comply with the commands, orders, or instructions of those in authority.

The bible enjoins all believers to be submissive and obedient first to God Almighty and to the people in authority whether ecclesiastical or secular. In the Old Testament, it was obedience issue that brought the ten commandment and it is enshrined in it boldly that the blessings of God coming upon people is directly proportional to their obedience to His commands.

Deu 28:1-2 KJV 1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

Lev 26:3-5 KJV 3 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; 4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

Deu 7:12 KJV Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:
Several times disobedience to the laws were punished severely. There was a man that went to collect sticks on the Sabbath day, his case was brought to Moses. Moses did not know what to do and had to seek the face of God.

Num 15:32-35 KJV 32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

There was another man that cursed and spoke abominably about God. His case was determined.

Lev 24:10-14 KJV 10 And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; 11 And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) 12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them. 13 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

Other cases of individual that violated simple instructions were determined with laid down rules. Achan was stone to death and not only him, he brought his problem on his entire family.

Jos 7:25 KJV And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

King Saul was removed because he will not obey God’s instruction about the war plan provided by God. He went into the battle, actually fought the war but they ended up bringing the things they were supposed to destroy and that was brought him down. He had earlier violated instruction to wait for Samuel and he decided to perform sacrifice which was not expected of him but of priest.

1Sa 13:13-14 KJV 13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. 14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

1Sam 15:22-23 KJV 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Still talking about rebellion which Samuel said it is like a sin of witchcraft, Korah, Datan, Abiram and their company rebelled and the consequence was devastating. Two hundred and fifty men that joined Abiram perished. They rebelled against Moses and Aaron.

Num 16:32-33 KJV 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

The whole tribe of Israel were sold into slavery as punishment because they will not submit to the laws of God. They were scattered everywhere, many were killed in the war. God rejected His own people.

Jer 15:1-4 KJV 1 Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. 2 And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. 3 And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy. 4 And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.

The kings of the heathens where they were sold to demands submission and obedience. This was another problem for the Jews. Many have realized the genesis of their problem and would not want to submit to the authorities of these kings, this put them in opposition and were punished.
Mordecai will not bow to a fellow man who sees himself as god and because of that, there was conspiracy to not only eliminate him but kill all the Jews entirely. It was God’s intervention that saved them from Haman’s plan and desire.

Est 3:5-6 KJV 5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. 6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.

Why will they throw Daniel into the lion’s den? He violated the king’s command that was sealed that cannot be changed or altered by praying unto his God. There was a command to that effect that nobody should ask anything from any other person other than from the king. Daniel knew that the plan was made against him and yet he went into his house, opened his windows and prayed.

Dan 6:16 KJV Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.

The issue of obedience and submission came to light after the death, resurrection and accession of the Lord Jesus. His disciples took over and started preaching in His name. The Sanhedrin did not like it at all and they warned the Apostle to refrain from preaching in the name of Jesus.

Act 4:18-20 KJV 18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

The Apostles left there and continued to preach in the name of Jesus. They were arrested and brought before the Jewish leaders who accused them of disobeying the explicit orders given to them. If they were Christians indeed as they are tying to make people to believe, they ought to obey the instructions. How did Apostles responded?

Act 5:29 KJV Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

It is very clear that the Apostles were submissive to the Sanhedrin and this was shown by their not abusing them or rebel at them but they were not willing to obey them when they forbid them from preaching in the name of Jesus. That was why Peter asked them whether it is good to obey God or obey man.

What did we deduce from Peter and the rest of Apostles’s statements is that submission and obedience are different. When an order or law is contrary to the laid down order of God in the Bible we are not expected as Christian to obey it. But we are not going to rebel against the authority by causing riots and disorderliness. Even to the point of death, we are to submit ourselves but we are not going to disobey God in order to obey man.

The three Hebrew boys submitted themselves to the punishment of been cast into burning furnace but were adamant in their persuasion that they were not going to obey King Nebuchadnessar because his law was contrary to the law of God in Ex: 20 that they should not bow down to any idol or images.

Dan 3:16-18 KJV 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

AS we go deep into the New Testament, we found out that the Apostles taught the early Christians to obey their rulers and submit to the authority above them. Family members were enjoined to submit to one another.


Eph 5:21 KJV Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

In order to forestall problem in the church, Paul enjoins them to submit to one another


Eph 5:22 KJV Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

The issues of wives submitting to their own husbands has been variously debated. Firstly, Paul did not teach that wives should submit to men but to their own husbands. Some feel that wives should only submit to the husbands that loves them and take good care of them, meet their need and satisfy them. In fact others say Christian wives should only submit to Christian husbands. These are not the opinion of the Bible but opinion of men. Bible did not say submit only when your husband is good and he is a Christian. He said wives submit.

Most men also misinterpret this place by saying my wife should submit to me and if any wife have a different opinion, they will say “you see you are not obeying the Bible”. It must be noted that submission is not what you force a wife or any person to do. it is an act of the will. It comes from a willing mind who for certain reason like here where we are talking about Christians, people submit because of the fear of God.

There is a story of a preacher who ask a boy sitting in the front part of the Church to stand up, the boy actually stood up but said “you can make me stand up on the outside but i am sitting on the inside” In order words, the boy obeyed the command but was not submissive.
What will motivates submission from wives apart from the fear of God is what Paul commanded the husbands to do in the next verse; and that is they should love their wives. Men want respect and it doesn’t matter who they are; short or tall, rich or poor men need respects and Paul enjoined wives to give respect and submission to their husbands.

If the husband asked his wife to do certain things that are not consistent with the Bible, what should the wife do? Should the wife go ahead and do it after all Bible says wife submit yourself to your own husband? Just like Apostles and the three Hebrew boys did, we are to obey God than men. Where the will of the husband contradicts the will of God, the wife should submit to her husband but should not obey him. She should respond in love and respect by telling him that she loves him and will do whatever is good and whatever will make the family to progress but in the situation that is contrary to the already known will of God, she will be disobeying God by obeying what the husband is demanding. Take for instance if the husband is asking his wife to sleep with the creditor or boss in order to get a favour, the wife should turn it down but should not disrespect the husband by shouting at him, making scenes out of it and turn the house upside down.

Submission is earned and it must be stated that trust comes before obedience. You cannot force submission on your wife.
Can the husband submit to the wife? I know many people will say not at all, the man is the boss and priest of the house.If you read verse 21, Paul says “submit yourselves to one another” and that includes husband and wives. In a situation where a thing is to be done in the family, both offered their opinion and concerns, if the opinion of the wife is adjudged better and Godly than that of the husband, the husband should cloth himself with humility and submit to the opinion of the wife. He should not remain adamant and because of pride resist the wife and rejects her opinion. The wife should also not stick to her opinion and say if you don’t follow my direction i won’t follow yours. It should n’t be like that, there will be confusion. the wife should simply submit and let it go, when the case turn rough, the husband will come to his senses and come to appreciate the wife the more.


Heb 13:17 KJV Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Paul here admonished the church members to submit to the leadership of the church for two major reasons; they watch over them in prayers and intercession and secondly, they will give account unto God as shepherds. Many people in the church don’t see it that way and are ready to fight, cause schism and talk negatively about their leaders. It is not profitable for you to engage in destroying the image of your Pastor. Must you condone his ‘excesses’? No, but talk to him over it and it will be nice if you respect the anointing over him and his office.They were to show them respect and submit to their authority. It will not be right to speak back roughly to your head of department or leaders in general. However obedience to laws contrary to the demands of God are not to be adhered to.


1Pet 2:13 KJV Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

While the writer of Hebrew 13: 17 was admonishing Christians to submit to church leaders, Peter in this verse admonished the people to submit to civil authority. The people here are Jews and the gentiles believers. The Jews has history of rebellion and seditions. They considered themselves as people of God and they hold their allegiance only to God and should obey only Him. They will not obey any man. This has put them into trouble several time. Now that they were under the Romans emperor, it became challenging to obey the heathen ruler and this has cause sedition and civil unrest any time. There was a time when Jews were banished from Rome. The gentiles believers also see their new status of Christianity as freedom, Jesus made them free and so they should not submit to human ordinances.

Act 18:2 KJV And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

Peter in correcting these assumptions teaches that we Christians are to submit to the authority above us. He said in previous verses that God placed them there. They may deviate from God’s righteousness, but that office and laws were ordained by God. He governed the universe by laws through the kings, otherwise there will be anarchy. It is a different matter entirely if those kings are tyrant and oppressive but we are to submit to them. Peter did submitted but he never obeyed the wrong instructions that went contrary to God’s laws.


1Pet 5:5 KJV Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Submission is further preached to all segments of the society, the younger ones were asked to submit to the elders and everyone submit to one another, i believe the elders too can submit to the opinion of the younger ones when it seems to be better. This is humility at its best. Children are to submit to their biological and spiritual parents.


1Pet 2:18 KJV Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

The word used for servants here is different from the one commonly use by Paul. Here it means domestic servants or people who are hired labourers. The term is also given to domestic servants that served in the house. Pater knew that some of them will be thinking that now that they are Christian, they have greater status in the sight of God than their heathen bosses and so they should not be serving them. However, Peter said it doesn’t matter whether your boss is a Christian or not, but for conscience sake towards God, you should submit to him. This will encourage harmonious relationship between employees and employers.


Many Christian finds it very difficult to obey and submit to God. They resist God’s ordinances both for their lives and for the society generally. Moses has said His commands are not grievous and yet people find it difficult to obey.

1Jn 5:3 KJV For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

God’s word is the physical expression of His will; thus disobedience to the word which is manual for life is a d direct confrontation at God.

Jas 4:7 KJV Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Submission to God also means to submit to his government and authority, to his preceptive and commanding will, and to his providential and disposing will: submit yourselves to the guidance of his word, to the direction of his Spirit, to the conduct of his providence; submit your whole selves to the whole law and will of God; let all your thoughts, affections, words, and actions, be guided according to the strict rules of the word of God

Submission is the first step of the sinner’s return to Cod; and the same spirit of submission accompanies the believer in every succeeding stage. Submission is the parent of patience, contentment, freedom from petulance, trust, hope, and other blessed and peaceful graces; whereas the want of submission gives rise to ungoverned desires, envy, hatred, and all those passions which are the cause of bitter contentions.

Submission to God implies submitting to His arrangements for obtaining his favor. Yield to what he has judged necessary for your welfare in the life that is, and your salvation in the life to come. The duty here enjoined is that of entire acquiescence in the arrangements of God, whether in his providence or grace. All these are for our good, and submission to them is required by the spirit of true humility. The object of the command here, and in the succeeding injunctions to particular duties, is to show them how they might obtain the grace which God is willing to bestow, and how they might overcome the evils against which the apostle had been endeavoring to guard them. The true method of doing this is by submitting ourselves in all things to God.
A very good illustration of submission is in the book of Jeremiah.

Jer 18:1-6 KJV 1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

We are expected to yield to God, submit our free will unto Him. God will not force us to do anything. You can’t pray that God will make you do something. Only the devil force people to obey him and submit to him. We are to delight ourselves in the Lord.

Psa 37:4 KJV Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

The word “delight” in Hebrew is “‛anag” and it means: to be soft, be delicate, be dainty. In order words it means to make ourselves pliable with God that he can do whatever He consider right with us. Our heart should be soft and tender because issues of life emanates from there. Our desire and joy should be in the Lord. There are things that belong to God and we should give Him that honour.
When the disciples asked Jesus if He was going to restore the kingdom to the Isralites now, Jesus gave them an awesome answers:

Act 1:6-7 KJV 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

What the Lord was saying just like James said was that these were things that god has fixed by His own power and in His own way and there is no need to be anxious about it. When you cease to worry about that kind of a thing, you are submitting to God.

We need to also submit to God’s will for our lives. The book of proverbs says there are many plans in a man’s heart but the purposes of God shall be done. Sometime we resist the will of god for our lives. We don’t want to marry whom He wants us to marry, we don’t want to embark on mission trip when he has called us into mission field, we don’t want to wait for His timing; it is like God is not working on our frequency. We feel our prayers are delayed and so we want to act swifty and immediately. We need to learn to let go and let God. our prayer should be “Thy will be done oh Lord”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *