Men are Not Exempt from Mutual Submission

Drawing inspiration from Wayne Grudem’s book entitled “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth,” complementarians claim that while women must be submissive to men, the reverse is never true.

For example, one complementarian blogger states the following:

-The word “submit” or “be subject to” (hypotasso) is always used for submission to an authority. The submission is always one-directional.

-No one has produced an example in ancient Greek literature where hypotasso (“submit”) is applied to a relationship between persons and it does not bear the sense of “be subject / submissive to” an authority.  (Sam Storms, Enjoying God Blog, September 12, 2016)

It is not difficult to test the validity of these statements by looking at what the Bible has to say for itself about “submission/hypotasso”:

…be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

In this passage, who is to be submissive? Everyone who is “filled with the Spirit.”  To whom are all of these people to be submissive? One to another, out of reverence for Christ.  All Christians are called upon to relate to one another with Christ-like humility and a willingness to serve one another in love.

In one biblical passage alone, the two claims made in the complementarian blog are proven false; but this is not the only passage that teaches all Christians—male and female—to relate to one another with an attitude of Christ-like humility and service.

We find the same principle in Philippians:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)

As he did in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul points out that those who “share the Spirit” will have the “same mind” that was in “Christ Jesus.” He took upon himself “the form of a slave,” “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death.”

Who is supposed to have this heart of humility and service? Everyone who “shares the Spirit” of God. To whom are they supposed to demonstrate this attitude of humble submission? One to another.

We find the same principle in 1 Peter, chapter 3:

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

Complementarians like Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms appear to be reading their Bibles very selectively. They take note of the submission of wives mentioned in Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1, but then overlook the commands directed towards ALL Christians—male and female—to similarly serve and submit one to another. In 1 Peter 3:7, for instance, after discussing the submission of wives, husbands are explicitly told to relate to their wives “in the same way,” honoring them as fellow “heirs of the gracious gift of life.”

Submission in the body of Christ does not go in one direction from one group of submissive followers to another group of appointed leaders. In fact, when addressing his disciples, Jesus said, “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ” (Matthew 23:10).

If men want to follow the teachings of Christ, if they wish to be “filled with the Spirit” of God, they will not claim to have a position of authority over women in the church or in the home. They will follow the example of Jesus and take upon themselves the form of a servant; they will “submit one to another, out of reverence for Christ.”