“A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 HCSB).
The word “submission” is highly unpopular in many respects. For some, this word is indelibly linked to the idea of a weakling. For others like wrestlers or those who participate in the mixed martial arts, the concept of submission is associated with a maneuver that renders an opponent helpless and leads to his or her defeat. Then there are those who view the word submission with the same disdain reserved for other words like timidity, cowardice, or inferiority.
While these word associations are common among modern-day cultures, they overlook an important point: everyone submits to someone or something at various points in life. For example, young children are typically responsible to submit to their parents. Later when those parents grow old, that situation is often reversed as elderly parents submit to their children as caregivers.
Then there are employees who must submit to the rules of an employer while that same employer must submit to the ordinances that govern his or her business. The same holds true even for those who fancy themselves as anarchists or libertines, for even the most rebellious and lawless among us must eventually submit to death.
Many of us are also involved in relationships where we are required to lead those with lesser authority while simultaneously submitting to others with greater authority. Finally, those who serve in subordinate positions now may assume leadership positions later. Much like the parent-child relationship mentioned above, students may become teachers, soldiers may become officers, and hourly employees may ascend to management positions.
With these things in mind, we can say that the concept of “submission” is far more complex than it may appear. As used here in 1 Timothy 2:11, “submission” carries the idea of bringing something under order. (1) Unlike some of the negative concepts of submission mentioned earlier, this has nothing to do with human value or status. Instead, it refers to a person who defers to and obeys a legitimate authority.
One source expands on the universal nature of such relationships with the following insight…
“Submission does not mean that one is inferior in being to another. Elsewhere, Paul applies the concept to wives (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34), husbands and wives (Eph. 5:21), children (3:4), slaves (Titus 2:9), prophets (1 Cor. 14:32), Christians (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Cor. 16:16; Titus 3:1), the church (Eph. 5:24), and even Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:28).” (2)
(1) G5292 hupotage, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/dictionary/viewtopic.cfm?topic=VT0001953
(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2157). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.