About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Mutual Submission


When someone dictates submission, we don't like it.   With submission in mind, the Greek word "hypotasso" is often translated as "submit" in our English New Testament.  In its general first-century, Greco-Roman cultural setting, hypotasso was often cold-hearted, harsh, and dictatorial submission.  A soldier, for example, was commanded to submit to his superior or else pay the penalty.  In light of this, how are we to understand submission when the New Testament tells a wife to obey and submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), children to parents (Ephesians 6:1), slaves to masters (Ephesians 6:5), Christians to pastors (1 Peter 5:5), to government (Romans 13:1) and to Jesus (John 14:15)?


The common understanding of a word or concept in a culture may differ from an individual's understanding of that word or concept living in that culture.  I learned this when I moved to Virginia in 1980.  When asked if I'd like a cup of tea, I answered "yes."  I was surprised when I was given a glass of ice tea, not hot tea as I expected.  In Canada, by default tea is hot.  In Virginia, by default tea is cold.  My concept of tea differed from the Virginian concept of tea where I lived.       


A linguistic study of the New Testament's usage of hypotasso or submission as it applies to Christian relationships differs from its general Greco-Roman usage.  In fact, submission as applied to Christian relationships is warm-hearted and caring.  It's a mutual yielding to one another.  It's premised on a free flow exchange of respect in the hope of securing healthy productive relationships, something dictatorial style submission can never provide.


In today's western-world culture, a hedonistic, arrogant individualism is becoming the social norm.  A lack of mutual yielding is creating cultural chaos that is leading to cultural death.  Remember, pride precedes destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  Ephesians 5:21 speaks to this issue.      


"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."


Our English verb "submit" in the above verse is a present passive Greek participle.  In my thinking, this suggests that what appears to be a command to submit in our English text can be understood as an admonition to be submissive ones.  This places the emphasis on us inherently being submissive and not simply acting submissively.  We submit, then, because submissive people are who we are.  We just don't submit because we are commanded to submit.  If we fail in this matter, we shame Jesus and destroy our Christian witness, which, sad to say, is often seen in church.          


How different our world would be if we exercised godly submission.  How different church would be if we were transformed into submissive ones, where a mutual yielding to one another was commonplace.  A free flow exchange of respect, premised on a desire for healthy productive relationships would result in a healthy productive church.  I believe this is possible without any violation of Biblical truth.      


Post Script


For a more detailed explanation of New Testament submission you can purchase my book entitled "Submission To Authority" on all Amazon web sites.     


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