What About Submission To Authority?

by Rayola Kelley

Q:  “I am struggling with the concept of submission when it comes to those who are in positions of authority over me such as a pastor. Could you help me to understand what my responsibility really is towards those who hold such positions?” 

A:  You are not the first person who has asked me this question. There is a lot of confusion concerning the concept of submission. Personally, this subject has to be studied in light of coming into submission and holding a position of authority in regards to people’s souls.

       In order to understand our responsibility in light of authority, we must come to terms with the concept of authority in light of both subjection and submission. What constitutes authority has to do with position. There have been certain positions established in God’s kingdom. The reasons for establishing such positions in God’s kingdom are as follows: To ensure order, protection through boundaries, and proper influence in regard to conduct. Without such order, chaos rules, insecurity drives and prideful competition takes center stage. However, all real authority comes from God, and can only be considered in light of His character and purpose.

       Subjection has to do with lining up to the will and intent of a matter. In other words, it has to do with subjecting one’s will as a means to line up to the will of another to carry out a work or deed. A good example is a subject coming into line with the will of a king when it comes to the matter of carrying out a responsibility or abiding by the law or rule of a leader. As Christians, we can only come into subjection to that which upholds the will of God for our lives. This is why if there is any question as to who or what we obey, we must always obey the heart, mind and will of God to ensure the integrity or intent of a situation.

       Submission is different in that it gives way to something that is greater, worthy or honorable for the benefit of something that is necessary or excellent in character. When it comes to leaders, we must discern whether we can become subject to their will or whether we will find ourselves following the lead of our Lord down a different path. The Apostle Paul put it best when he said, follow me as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

       Godly submission has to do with giving way to that which is worthy of all consideration, as well as what is honorable in light of godliness, and what must become preferred because of godly love. Such submission understands that without self-denial and the proper application of the cross to that which is associated with perverted tendencies, worldly thinking and the self-serving ways of the unregenerate disposition, such submission will be missing from the equation. It is with this in mind that we are told to submit to one another out of fear of the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). This requirement applies to leaders. If leaders do not know how to submit to that which is worthy and godly, they will fail to know how to lead properly God’s sheep in the matters of life and godliness. Clearly, subjection has to do with authority and submission with the Body of Christ giving way to that which is worthy and honorable in light of godly examples and responsibilities towards one another.

       If a matter is not worthy, honorable or excellent, as God’s people, we must not submit or give way to it. We must demand excellence first from ourselves in order to avoid being caught up with that which would rob us of our sense of purpose, kill the credibility of our testimony and destroy our resolve to maintain righteousness in our lives that will bring a clear contrast to others.

       I do hope this answers your question about this matter.