In all the New Testament incidences where the word submit occurs, the word is translated from the Greek word hupotasso. The hupo means “under” and the tasso means “to arrange.” This word and a root of it are also translated by the words subject and subjection. The word’s full meaning is “to obey, put under, be subject to, submit oneself unto, put in subjection under or be under obedience or obedient to.” The word was used as a military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” This word is a wonderful definition of what it means to “submit” to God. It means to arrange oneself under the command of divine viewpoint rather than to live according to one’s old way of life based on a human viewpoint. It is a process surrendering our own will to that of our Father’s.
The Scripture has a great deal to say about being in submission to the “higher powers.” This has reference to the establishment principles that God has ordained in our world—the government and the leaders, in whatever capacity, that God has placed in authority over us on this earth. Passages that teach this principle are Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13-14; and Titus 3:1. The principle is that being in obedience to the authority over us, whatever that authority is, will bring a temporal blessing in real time here and now and, for the believer, reward later. The highest authority is God, and He delegates authority to others; so, in order submit to God, we submit to the authority He has placed over us. You will notice that there are no caveats that distinguish between good or bad authority or even just or unjust authority. We are just to humble ourselves and obey as “unto the Lord.”
We are also told to submit ourselves to God (James 4:7). In Ephesians we read the wife is to submit to her husband as unto the Lord and the husband is to “love” his wife (Ephesians 5:22-25). The Apostle Peter writes, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). The theme here is one of humility. One cannot submit to God without humility. Obedience requires us to humble ourselves to surrender to the authority of another, and we are told that God resists pride—the opposite of humility—and the arrogance that fosters that pride.
Therefore, having a humble and submissive heart is a choice we make. That means as born-again believers we daily make a choice to submit ourselves to God for the work that the Holy Spirit does in us to “conform us to the image of Christ.” God will use the situations of our lives to bring us the opportunity to submit to Him (Romans 8:28-29). The believer then accepts His grace and provision to walk in the Spirit and not after the manner of the old nature. That work is accomplished by choosing to apply ourselves to the Word of God and to learning about the provisions that God has made for us in Christ Jesus. From the moment we are born again, we have all the provisions we need, in Christ, to become a mature believer, but we have to make the choice to learn about those provisions through study of the Word and to apply those provisions to our daily walk.
We have to choose to submit to God for the process of learning in order to grow spiritually. It is a process begun at salvation and ongoing with each and every choice that we make to submit ourselves to God. This process will continue until the Lord comes again or He calls us home. The wonderful thing about this is that, as the Apostle Paul so aptly states, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God does not require us to submit because He is a tyrant, but because He is a loving Father and He knows what is best for us. The blessings and peace that we gain from humbly surrendering and submitting ourselves to Him daily are a gift of grace that nothing in this world can compare to.