Service is not submission

This seems to be a common theme coming out from both egalitarian and complementarian camps. I was reminded of this from the recent Dalrock post on hierarchy equals abuse.

Service in Greek is diacon (diaconia/diaconos), which is also the word for Deacons. The Scripture has this to say on being a servant and how to serve:

Mark 9:33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and [b]you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

However, serving is not the same as submission. Submission is being under the authority of another. The fact that a husband is called to serve his wife does not mean that he is to submit to his wife. Jesus serves the disciples by washing their feet, but in the same chapter gives them a command:

John 13:31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus *said, “Now [d]is the Son of Man glorified, and God [e]is glorified in Him; 32 [f]if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Service is to meet another’s need. Submission is to be obedient to authority.

Husbands are called to serve their wives to meet their needs. Eph 5 shows us that meeting a wives need is to “to sanctify them” (make holy by pointing out areas of sin and repentance), “love their wives as their own body” (do anything for her that you would also do for you) x3, and to “nourish and cherish” (provide for internal and external needs like food, clothing, sex, etc.). Wives are called to submit to their husbands and be obedient to their commands.

Also, it’s easy to get needs confused with wants. The Scripture defines the requirements of the marriage relationship. For example, for the wife the marital needs are leadership, provision (clothing, food), sex, and honor as a coheir in Christ from the husband. For the husband, submission, respect, chaste and respectful behavior, gentle and quiet spirit, and sex from the wife. Beyond that are solely wants. If you don’t get what you want, you shouldn’t be angry if you don’t get it. Yes, things like Bible studies and prayer together are good, but they are also wants. They aren’t requirements. It may be one way a husband can lead, but he may choose to do it a different way.

Yet there are so many ‘pastors’ who warp service into submission. Ostensibly because of deceptive thinking that if a husband is godly then a wife will be godly and if a husband is ungodly then the wife will be ungodly. This has been shown to be false.

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8 Responses to Service is not submission

  1. Oscar says:

    I’ll repost here what I posted at Dalrock’s.

    Let’s look at the parts of the scripture that Powell deliberately, deceptively left out.

    John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

    7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

    8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

    Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

    9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

    10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

    Jesus wanted to wash Peter’s feet. Peter said no, “never”. Jesus told Peter to let Jesus wash his feet or else “you have no part with me”. Peter obeyed.

    THAT is submission. Submission is marked by obedience. Peter obeyed Christ, not the other way around. Peter submitted to Christ, not the other way around. This is the example we’re supposed to follow, as Christ himself said.

    John 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

    Note that Powell also leaves out verse 16; “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”.

    Clearly, there is a very obvious hierarchy there. The master is above the servant, and the one who sent the messenger is greater than the messenger. If “headship isn’t hierarchy”, as Powell claims, then what Jesus modeled for us is not an example of headship. But Powell claims it IS an example of headship and even used it as an example of headship.

    The scripture Powell quoted proves him wrong. He just left out the verses that most obviously prove him wrong.

  2. Lost Patrol says:

    “Service is to meet another’s need. Submission is to be obedient to authority.”

    This is a good thing to remember, and a good way to say it.

    I enjoyed that analysis of an event misused by many.

  3. Oscar says:

    @ LP

    Thank you.

    People who misuse that passage are being deceitful, plain and simple. It’s not that difficult to figure out. I sometimes change my 2-year-old daughter’s poopy pull-up. Sometimes she doesn’t want me to change her. She wants Mom to change her. But we have a newborn, so Mom can’t change her. So, my 2-year-old daughter submits to my authority and I serve her by changing her poopy diaper and wiping her poopy butt, which is just about the lowliest, most servant-like thing one human can do for another.

    I don’t submit to my 2-year-old daughter. She submits to me.

    My 2-year-old daughter doesn’t serve me. In fact, she’s incapable of serving me yet. I serve her.

    They’re not the same thing.

    This is one reason why God gives us children. Raising children reveals all kinds of mysteries to us about our relationship to God, and then some. Most of these pastors who preach “mutual submission” and that submission equals service are both husbands and fathers. They know the truth. They just don’t want to preach it.

  4. donalgraeme says:

    Great post, and great comments by Oscar.

  5. This properly clears up the claim that Phoebe was a deacon and therefore she is a leader and women can take up leadership positions in church when she is a servant.


  6. Anonymous Reader says:

    There is a lot of deep water in the simple statement that “needs” and “wants” are not the same.
    From the micro, very personal, out to the macro societal level, mind you.

    Plenty of well meaning people do not get that at all.

  7. @ chokingonredpills

    Correct. The “deacon” position is one of service to meet the body of Christ’s needs.

    It’s elders/bishops (e.g. presbuteros) that have classic authority in the Church for various duties.

  8. Pingback: Marital needs, marital wants and maturity | Christianity and masculinity

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