Love and submission are inseparably entwined. The common teaching that husbands love and wives submit fails to understand that there is no love without submission.

Love is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5)
When you love someone, you want what they want, more than what you want. You cannot help yourself. So when you love someone, you find yourself submitting to their will more often than to your own will. If you don’t, you probably do not love as much as you think you do.

Likewise, Christian submission is freely given out of love. Submission that is demanded by someone because they are superior or higher in the hierarchy is not true submission. True submission is a free response to love and wisdom. Demanded submission is domination.

Submitting to someone who loves you is easy, because they want what is good for you. This is why it is easy to submit to Jesus.

Jesus was the wisdom (word) that was there at the beginning and created all things (John 1:1-3). He did not need anyone to tell him what to do. Yet he loved to submit to the will of the Father (John 5:19). Love and submission are different sides of the same coin.


Love and submission are inseparably entwined.

It is obvious that husbands and wives should love each other. This means that they will also submit to each other. Which is what Paul said.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
So why does Paul say that wives should submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22), but that husbands should love their wives (Eph 5:25)?

I believe that Paul’s presentation reflects their weaknesses, not their strength. Many men tend to be so task focussed that they can easily become so absorbed in their calling that they begin to sacrifice their wives and families to the cause. They need to be reminded to love their wives. They often get puffed up about their wisdom, so they think they know what is best for their wives. The solution is love. Because they are strong, the natural sin of men is to slip into domination. In the worst case, this becomes violence. The antidote is love.

Women usually understand much better how relationships work, so they can slip into manipulating a relationship to get what they want. The antidote for manipulation is submission. Women love their children, so they can be inclined to put their needs before God’s work. If they love God and their husbands, they will sometimes need to submit to what God is doing, even if it has a cost for their family.

Active not Passive

Submission in the New Testament is active, not passive. The Greek word “upotasso” means to place yourself under another. The person submitting actively places themselves under the person that they have chosen to submit to. This is a free action. This gives the person that they submit to authority in their life. It also means that they can remove the authority, if they decide not to submit.

Christians often present submission as passive. They assume that a person with authority can demand that others submit to them, but this is a distortion of true authority. Submission is a choice. If a person has to submit, then they do not have a choice, and they have lost the freedom that God created in them.

True biblical submission is voluntary. If the person with authority is unreasonable, immoral, or unlawful, the people who have submitted to them are free to withdraw their submission.

Submission has to be earned with love and service. If the person with authority stops loving and serving, they will lose their authority, because people will stop submitting to them.

The person who submits creates the authority of another person. This gives them the power to destroy the authority, if it goes wrong. Allowing people with authority to demand submission, eliminates this protection, and enhances domination and control. This is wrong. Authority must be controlled by the people submitting. This is the best protection against tyranny.

Elders and Husbands

The scriptures do not give elders authority. Elders are commanded to watch over people, serve them and protect them. But they are not given authority to control them.

Because we are engaged in a spiritual battle, new Jesus-followers are encouraged to submit to elders. This free action gives authority to the elder (an elder does not have an innate authority). They only have authority that is created when someone submits to them. If the people submitting lose their respect for the elder and withdraw their submission, the elder loses their authority.

Elders often demand that people in their church submit to them. This is a false understanding of authority. If people must obey them, they are exercising domination and control, which is a distortion of true authority. True authority is given freely by submission, it cannot be demanded.

The same applies to husbands and wives. Wives are urged to submit to their husbands (just as husbands have to submit to the will of their wives, because they love them). Husbands do not have an innate authority that allows them to demand that their wives obey them. Demanded obedience is actually domination.

Submission that cannot be freely withdrawn at any time is domination and control, not true authority. Christians should stop claiming that they have authority, because they are male or mature, or have been appointed to a particular role. They should earn authority, by loving, serving and demonstrating wisdom. A person with authority can issue a command and know that it will be acted on. This can occur for two reasons.

Fathers and Sons

The relationship between a father and a son begins with love, not authority. When a baby is born, all the father can do is love and provide for his son. He has no authority to tell his baby son what to do, because the son cannot speak or understand commands.

As he grows, the son submits to his father's authority, because he recognises his father’s love. The father can reinforce his authority by picking up the son and carrying him where he wants him to go. He can also strengthen his authority with sanctions, such as timeout or loss of privileges. If the father threatens force, he might obey his father out of fear, but that is not ideal.

Physical discipline creates imposed authority, because the resulting submission is due to fear, not love. When the son gets older, he realises that he does not have to obey his father, if he does not want to. The father’s authority can disappear, if his son does not understand his father’s love.

Adult sons usually leave their father’s home. They will continue to appreciate their father’s advice, so the father still has limited authority in his son’s life.


Business authority is free authority. A business begins when some people with skills and spare assets hand authority over them to a business organisation that they create. Pooling assets increases their effectiveness.

Businesses have limited and temporary authority. Investors can sell their shares in the business, at any time. Lenders can terminate their loans when they fall due. Employees can resign from their employment. No one has to buy the goods and services produced. The temporary authority over wealth and life that has been submitted to the business can be withdrawn at any time. If the business is liquidated, the authority it exercised evaporates.

Employees have to submit to their employer’s authority, but that is the condition of their accepting employment with the business. They agree to submit to their employer for a specific part of their week in exchange for a specific wage or salary. The employer pays for the submission of their employees, so the employees do not have to love their employer. If the employer gets violent, or loses their respect, employees can resign from their position.

Many people feel like their employer has imposed authority over them, but that is not true. An employee can end their employer’s authority in their life at any time, by resigning. This is the difference between an employee and a slave. Slaves cannot resign from their owners. They are stuck under their authority. An employee can resign. It might be economically painful, if they have difficulty getting new employment, but they do have that freedom.

Businesses operate under Free Authority, which is the best type of authority. They can give instructions to their staff, but they cannot use physical force to make them do things against their will. Only governments have that power. A business can only exercise Imposed Authority if it is empowered by a government.

In the modern world, businesses have colluded with governments to gain additional authority that God has not given. Limited liability and other corporate laws have allowed businesses to become very large with enormous hierarchies of power. These huge conglomerates provide great opportunities for the powers of darkness. They concentrate their efforts on the senior management, because it gives them control over vast resources. These people tend to have big egos, so the power plays are usually successful.

God prefers family businesses. As the Kingdom of God advances, large businesses will be chopped up and spread around. Smaller family-owned businesses will abound.

Father and Son

Many people see authority as prior to submission, ie authority requires submission. The Father has authority, so the Son must submit.

If they really understood authority, they would put it the other way around. Relations of submission and authority would be quite different.

Authority can be obtained in two ways.

Authority is not something innate in a person’s character.

If the relationship between the Father and the Son begins with the authority of the Father, it cannot be something innate in the person of the Father. The Father would only have authority over the son, if he could force the Son to obey him. This would be domination of the Son by the Father, or Imposed Authority. The Son would be subordinate to the Father, so not truly divine.

The only way that the Father can have authority over the Son is if the Son freely submits to the Father, creating the authority of the Father. Free submission creates the authority of the person submitted to. This authority is temporary and limited. The person given authority only gets authority over the aspects of life that are submitted to them. If the person submitting withdraws their submission, the authority created disappears.

The relationship between the Father and the son must be a relationship of submission and authority, in which the Son gives authority to the Father by freely submitting to him. The submission of the Son would come first and create the authority of the Father.

If there is something innate in God the Father that means that Jesus has to obey him, then that is not really authority. That would be domination of the Son, which would mean that he is not equal with the Father, but subordinate. There is no place for Imposed Authority in the Trinity. The Father would never impose his will on the Son. He would not threaten him, if he chose not to obey.

If the Son submits to the Father, it will be because he loves him. Therefore, at the point where the Father tells the Son what to do, he has no authority. Rather, the Son creates authority for the Father by freely submitting to his command. There is no need for the Father to “exert authority” or “express authority”, because the Son loves him. Instead, the Father receives authority from the Son, when he freely submits to his will.

See Kingdom Authority