What is Grace-energized Submission?
March 16, 2012
By John Barnett
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When God looks down upon us humans who live on Earth He only sees two kinds of hearts: saved hearts and lost hearts. God's Word classifies everyone as either: having Christ or not. Listen to John:
1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. NKJV
There are several types of behavior that distinguish between God’s people (the saved) and Satan’s people (the lost), but none is more clearly contrasted than: submission to authority (the saved) and a casting off of authority (the lost).
As we turn a couple of short books towards the end, in Jude v.8 God reveals that key characteristics of Satan’s realm. God tells us that Satan’s team “rejects authority” (NKJVNASNIV). That is just another way of saying—resisting submission.
Jude 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority (NAS/NIV), and speak evil of dignitaries. NKJV
These are two interesting words “reject” (atheteo means “despise, reject, cast off”) and “authority” (kuriotes means “Lordship or dominion”). So at the deepest level, lost people cast off or reject, or even despise the Lordship or rule, or dominion of Christ.
In fact, when Paul is guided to record the decline and fall of the human race in Romans 1, one of the clearest elements is seen in humanity’s constant desire to cast of all restraint (again resisting submission to any authority other than self).
We could simply summarize God's Word by saying that God’s people are submissive and Satan’s people aren’t.
Since we were born, as Isaiah 53:6 says, wanting our own way—only a second birth can change that.
Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." NKJV
Remember that Jesus reduced life to one simple goal—seeking God’s rule over each day of my life. Christ's simple yet powerful words:
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you". NKJV
But when we submit to God we begin to trust in Him with all our being, we stop leaning on finding our own way, our lives start reflecting God—and He directs our steps.
Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." NKJV
That is the ultimate life: empowered by God, to follow God as our Guide through life. It all starts with submission and that is exactly where we begin our study. Paul is explaining to Titus that…
Wives Energized By God Will Submit to Their Husbands
This comes in God’s final lesson for younger women in the church, which is a lifestyle and attitude of Biblical submission. That is our lesson to learn in Titus 2:5.
As we saw last time, both the NIV and NASB render this word correctly, as it is translated everywhere else it shows up in the New Testament:
Titus 2:5 "to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored." NASB
God’s Spirit led Paul to use a word (hupotassumenas) translated “be subject to” which means that a grace-energized woman accepts the relationship of marriage that God has designed, and willingly subjects herself to God’s order for her marriage.
But why is this grace-energized submission so important? Because Paul said when grace-energized submission or any of the other six elements of Titus 2:4-5 are lacking God is not glorified and His Word is discredited. Look back at those words that conclude v. 5.
Titus 2:5 …"that the word of God may not be blasphemed." NKJV
Submission in Biblical terms is when we submit to wanting God’s way.
Biblical submission in marriage can only be understood and practiced when seen in the wider context of God’s plan. We want to go God’s way and not our own (Isaiah 53:6); then we trust His way not ours (Pr. 3:5-6); and we surrender daily to God and seek first His rule over our lives (Mt. 6:33). That is the grace-energized life of submission for all believers. But specifically, what happens when wives do not heed God’s call? They begin to exhibit what I like to call the:
Danger Signs of Women Not Energized by Grace
Grace-energized lives submit to God’s Word—if not, what will happen? Without a commitment to faithfully follow Christ’s Word, wives can end up with one or several of the following five common regrets:
• Without the grace-energized foundation of God’s Word, she will become an irresponsible wife. This wife is nothing but a little girl in search of a daddy, and she seems to have found one in her husband. She is thoroughly self-centered, but manages to appear to others as a loving and devoted wife.
• Without the grace-energized power of God’s Word, she will become an emotionally-detached wife. *This woman may be recognized as one of the most stable and even-tempered women in her community. She is frequently asked to serve on the boards of numerous ministries because of her organized mind and methodical way of making decisions. However, in her home, she is about as detached and emotionally unavailable as a woman can be.
• Without grace-energized obedience to God’s Word, she will become a dictatorial wife. This woman’s idea of wifehood means that nothing happens without her approval. When her husband dares to question her decisions, she resorts to manipulation or intimidating tactics and, if that doesn’t work, goes into a blind rage.
• Without the grace-energized pattern of God’s Word, she will become a workaholic wife. This woman never quits working mentally or emotionally. She lives under pressure, and sprays her family with her frustrations.
• Without the grace-energized nurture of God’s Word, she will become a spiritually- apathetic wife. This woman is a believer and church attendee. But beyond that, she’s generally unresponsive to spiritual matters; she therefore never exercises a sound spiritual testimony in her home. And that void blocks the relationship a godly husband longs to have.
The idea of wifely submission is therefore not a very popular topic in our day. Some resistance to submission is simply sinful rebellion against the will of God; but sometimes it reflects a wrong understanding of what the biblical wife’s submission really involves. Therefore, to clarify a wife’s role in biblical submission, we need to correct common misconceptions, and then discuss what Scripture really says about submission.
What Biblical Submission Is Not
Eve was a precious gift to Adam—to fulfill him as a person. And the Lord said that this was “very good.” (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:23), and Galatians 3:28 all assert the spiritual, mental, and physical equalitarian status and dignity of women and men. However, in spite of this, there are still five common misconceptions about submission:
• Misconception #1: Submission is only for women.
• Misconception #2: Submission is bondage.
• Misconception #3: Submission means muting.
• Misconception #4: Submission means invisibility.
• Misconception #5: Submission means inferiority.
So, if those are the errors, what is the truth?
When Energized by Grace—We Obey
A wife’s proper relationship to her husband is as a lovely act of worship of Christ in our heavenly Father’s eyes. Submission “as to the Lord” provides daily opportunities for the wife to show the Lord’s “worth ship” through service to her husband. The Lord has prescribed for women, wives, and mothers, a gender-specific role within three realms: the church, the marriage, and the family. This wonderful act of worship is reflected in the following truths in Ephesians 5:22:
Truth #1: Submission is a choice. Believing wives are asked by God to submit as an obedient response to God. God never makes us obey—He asks us to obey. Husbands are not commanded to demand submission, but to win it by love (Eph. 5.22; I Pet. 3.1).
The Holy Spirit applies submission for a godly woman by the structure of Scripture. Submission was inspired as a present tense (that means “ongoing”) imperative (that means “non-optional”). So submission is a not a choice of whether to obey or disobey a husband, but a choice to obey or disobey the Lord.
Truth #2: Submission is unto the Lord. Submission is really between a woman and her Lord God Almighty. It is a choice to do what He says, whether it is agreeable, understandable, or even possible.
It is also only presented in a positive way (what she should do), and never negatively (what she should not do). It is “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). The same One who said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, NASB) goes on to say, “[Be subject] to your own husbands …” (Ephesians 5:22).
Truth #3: Submission multiplies the blessings of our marriage. When Genesis 2:24 says that two become one, this merging is a public declaration that all the gifts, talents, strengths, goals, dreams, hopes, and desires of two lives are poured into one vessel. That results in a multiplication. Each is doubled.
And contra wise, any weaknesses, cares, concerns, and deficits which are lacking are all poured into that larger sphere, and are now reduced greatly.
Truth #4: Submission draws us closer as a couple. A unity candle is often used in weddings to symbolize two becoming one. First, the two outside candles are lit to indicate that the bride and groom were two individual lives, just like the two individual candles.
Then they merge their two individual lights into a single center candle, and once it is lit, they extinguish their individual candles. That is the precious truth that unifies a couple as they share all of life, or as Peter calls it (1 Peter 3:7) “…being heirs together…” NKJV
Husbands and wives are called to be “heirs together.” When wives willingly accept submission and the husband’s gently give then loving consideration, they are both in submission to Christ, following His example, then they enjoy God’s best, His plan for their marriage.
Anything less than that shared and mutual submission leads to a marriage that misses out on God’s best, and produces a spiritual life robbed of blessing and growth. “The grace of life” may refer to the opportunity to have children, which are certainly a gift from God (Ps. 127:3); but couples who have no children are still promised spiritual riches if they will obey God’s plan. Why not pause and take inventory of your marriage today?
Here are some great questions we can ask ourselves, based on what Peter wrote.
1. Are you partners or competitors in your marriage?
2. Have you settled into the dangerous rut of taking each other for granted?
3. Are you helping each other to grow more spiritual?
4. Are you focused on your partner’s external looks and behavior or on their eternal direction?
5. Do you want your partner to become more and more artificial or more and more real?
6. Do you seek every day some way to understand each other better?
7. Are you practicing becoming more sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas?
8. Are you praying as a couple, keeping a ledger of prayer deposits, and watching for God’s answers to your prayers?
9. Are you becoming more and more spiritually enriched because of your marriage, or is the way you are treating each other robbing your lives of God’s blessing?
Stop and honestly think about your answers to these questions. If you will, and then take some simple actions, little by little your life and marriage will change into what God has designed for us to have!
Truth #5: Submission liberates us to be what God made us to be. When we see submission as God designed it to be, we are amazed. It is not a dungeon, but a delight. It is not bondage, but liberty. It is not a bitter pill to swallow, but a lifelong meal prepared for our enjoyment by our Creator: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34, NASB).
Did Jesus just dutifully obey? No, He delighted in obeying His Father. When we truly submit, we shall also delight.
Truth #6: Submission opens all of our lives to each other. A godly wife gets to share every part of the life of the one she loves most on earth. That is what Paul said in Ephesians 5:24, NASB: “Wives ought to be [subject] to their husbands in everything.” Of course, wives are still first of all believers, so God would never ask them to sin or dishonor Him to fulfill their husband’s wishes (Ac. 5.28-29).
But any wife who loves God, offers herself in every possible way to willingly be her husband’s helper, completer, and companion—one who delights him at all times.
What Happens When a Wife Submits to Her Husband?
A grace-energized wife will lovingly and respectfully submit to her husband’s direction. Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, she will evidence a servant’s heart toward her life partner. What are some ways that a wife can display a servant’s heart? What are the characteristics of such a woman? Look with me back there in that beautiful description of a grace-energized woman of submission in Proverbs 31.
1. A grace-energized woman of submission draws her husband. A Grace-energized wife realizes how hard it is for her husband to live and work in the world. Temptations swirl around him all day long. Weariness and discouragement come at him from all sides. So a wise wife decides that home will be a magnet for him—a shining beacon on a hill that beckons her husband to come. It should be the place he would rather be when he is at work and at play.
It should be his place to refocus, be refreshed, and be renewed. She is the guardian of that place. When activities and the urgent overrun this priority, all must be stopped and the home reset to be the place of refuge her husband needs: “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:11).
2. A grace-energized woman of submission pleases and honors her husband. What man can ever resist this kind of a woman? She has a lifelong desire to do what pleases him:
“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12).
She also honors him in her words, attitudes, and actions: “Let the wife [see] that she respects [her] husband” (Ephesians 5:33b).
Only the Lord has a higher place for this Grace-energized wife. No house, no job, no child, no ministry can hold her; she wants to please and honor the man God made for her. That is her calling and role given by the Lord himself.
3. A grace-energized woman of submission blesses her husband. The Lord said that our words flow from our heart. That means a godly wife, full of the Holy Spirit, would never speak wickedly about her husband or to him. She gives her mouth to God and meditates upon:
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers… And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29, 32).
4. A grace-energized woman of submission serves her husband. The Lord designed the men to be out “sweating” to provide, and the women to be inside making his entire world ready for his homecoming. A grace-energized wife directs the house, the children, the schedule, and the meals to all make her husband’s life a joy:
“She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband [also], and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all’ ” (Proverbs 31:27-29).
The reason the Proverbs 31 woman is so amazing is that her marriage was at the center of all she did. It was her primary ministry!
5. A grace-energized woman of submission forgives her husband. Christ’s love causes a Grace-energized wife to forgive her husband’s failures, weaknesses, and struggles. God’s grace allows her to look at him with eyes of love and to think the truth. Love him as Christ loves you is her motto.
“Love suffers long [and] is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails …” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
6. A grace-energized woman of submission waits for her husband. Many wives are miles ahead of their husbands and can get so frustrated at their plodding. Don’t discourage your husband; don’t push him—wait for him.
“Walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1b-3).
7. A grace-energized woman of submission trusts her husband. If you are married, it is God’s will. And since it is His will, you need to trust God with the details. The Lord can get your husband to shape up in an infinitely greater way than you ever could. All the Lord asks is this: “Trust Me with your husband.” So what should you do? Trust your husband as God’s man for you—for life!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
8. A grace-energized woman of submission inspires her husband. Husbands can’t resist godly wives. That is what Peter said. So, maintain a spiritual life full of devotion to God. A dynamic ongoing relationship with Christ is the key to being enabled to lovingly and respectfully submit to your husband’s leadership.
“Wives, likewise, [be] submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct [accompanied] by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Submission is a Divine Calling
Wives, you are called by God to be in submission to your husband— to be his unique and suitable helper. In this section we have seen what that means. But knowing what it means is of little value unless it is applied to your relationship with your husband. Knowing these facts will not promote oneness in marriage. Performing them will. I therefore ask you to examine your relationship to your husband in the light of these truths. Are you really practicing submission with a servant’s heart? Are you really practicing being your husband’s helper?
Grace-energized living means our personal, daily application of the spiritual disciplines.
A Grace-energized wife genuinely believes that her primary ministry is her marriage. She willingly moves out in obedience to the Word of God, making any necessary changes the Holy Spirit brings to mind (Phil. 2.12-13; Js. 1:19-24). A Grace-energized marriage is a small snapshot of the delights of heaven—a living portrait of the perfect love of Jesus!
Marriage is God’s training ground to prepare husbands and wives for greater service for Christ. Ever changing, each unique personality is used by the Lord as heavenly sandpaper on the other. It is in the nitty-gritty events of daily living that our true character comes out—not the one we present to others, but the real us. Learning how
to biblically handle that day-in-day-out give and take is essential if we are to have a successful marriage. I suggest that where you find yourself to be failing, prayerfully consider this checklist:
• Confess those failures to one another (James 5:16).
• Accept the washing and cleansing that Jesus wants to bring to us through His precious blood, as Revelation 1:5 reminds us.
• Ask the Holy Spirit of God for the power to be different (Galatians 5:16, 22-23).
APPENDIX: Titus 2 is Part of God’ Plan
Paul puts it best in his epistle to the Thessalonians: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Women who are highly useful to God have these characteristics. The long-term goal of their lives is geared towards being useful to God. Parents who want their children be useful for the Lord begin early on to point their children towards the high calling and great joy of being a Titus 2 woman and the Titus 2 man.
The whole goal of a Titus 2 woman is to train younger women in Biblical, simple-to-measure, Spirit-empowered, love-based living.
1. Titus 2 women have in their wake a grateful army of husbands who feel deeply loved by their wives. What was the first thing that the Holy Spirit chose to have taught to the young married women believers? LOVE THEIR HUSBANDS. Can you imagine what a deep and lasting impact upon this local body of Christ's church to have men coming home to a wife who is earnestly being taught how to love her own husband. In a world where women are being pressed into the mould of the worldly, self-seeking, independent, do-their-own-thing women. If nothing else, every family at TBC would be enriched if every younger woman was taught in a practical, simple, and personal way how to love their own husband.
2. Titus 2 women train younger women in one of the hardest and yet most rewarding investments in life—children who feel deeply loved by their mothers. The key the Holy Spirit emphasizes very clearly that the key to children is LOVING them. Titus 2 women train, teach, model, and mentor moms into the deepening of love for their children that can be felt. One of the most common complaints of 21st century children is that don’t feel loved. Most mothers love their children, but many children are not feeling that love. Titus 2 women are coaches that tutor and mentor young moms in ways to show love that can be felt.
3. Titus 2 women train younger women to be discreet, sensible, wise in the decisions and choices they make. What a rich resource for new marriages and families to have a young woman walked through those days side-by-side with a godly, Spirit-filled woman who will regularly, personally, individually mentor, mother, coach, and cheer on younger women in skillfully living as a wife, mother, and woman of God on a day to day basis. A Titus 2 woman isn’t found in a classroom or lecture hall—they are in the kitchen with a younger woman, in the dining room, in the nursery, at the grocery store. Titus 2 women are hands on tutors; and they nurture younger women in the laboratory of life--walking through life together praying, sharing, learning, and loving.
4. Titus 2 women train younger women in the holiness and purity that pleases God and unleashes the power of the Spirit. The training that a Titus 2 older woman gives is a seven-part package, that is immensely practical not theoretical. Modesty, purity, chaste behavior must be learned, modeled, and practiced. The power of a godly, Spirit-filled woman of Biblical maturity sitting over a cup of tea discussing what pleases God in dress, in behavior, conduct, and so on. Modesty is understood through Bible study that applies God's Word to daily life.
5. Titus 2 older women teach younger women the centrality in God’s plan of a woman’s priority being her home. Home making is a learned art and so many women never have the hands on training that is needed. Life is so full, our culture has moved away from homemaking and few young women get mentored in the godly, Biblical art of home making. If the highest calling in the Titus 2 list is to love husbands, and to love children, and younger women are called to be homemakers then that is exactly what the grace-energized woman, in step with God’s Spirit wants to be.
6. Titus 2 older women teach younger women the utter necessity of kindness being the law of her tongue and the flavor of her life. Since everything will be measured by Christ as whether of not it was done for His good, and for His glory—she learns that means being done in Christ-like goodness and kindness. Her husband, her children, and her friends see a growing kindness that spreads through all her life.
7. Titus 2 older women teach younger women the supreme joy in life and ministry that comes from voluntarily embracing submission as God’s plan for our role in the home and church. Submission to husbands is a learned way of life that godly older women model and train younger women to embrace and display. Since God designed both men and women, husbands and wives for His Divine purposes, the more we follow His plans the more we know Him, His power, blessings, and favor in our lives.