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The Struggle of Submitting to Scripture

J.M. Diener

June 2023

Submission is hard. I see it every day in my own life as I struggle to submit to laws and regulations I find stupid. I see it in my struggle to accept and apply the principles found in the plain reading of the Bible text.1 My sinful bent just does not want to do what the Bible says. I want to do what I say. I realize it is that way for all of us in Christianity. The most recent place I saw this clearly was in Rick Warren’s mea culpa regarding his position on women preaching to mixed groups and taking up local church leadership. He claims his position changed because the doctrine is supposedly built on only one passage of Scripture (it’s not; there are two: 1Co. 14:33-36 and 1Ti. 2:9-15), and because of having read “over 100 books on the early church and the history of the Great Commission”2 . He chose to change his position on a book inspired by God because of 100 books written by men. In another example, I read an article where a Christian leader changed her position on biblically sound doctrine, because of the way proponents of that doctrine were unkind to her in their defense of it.3 If the description of the treatment she received is accurate, it was truly cruel; but unkindness or cruelty by God’s people should not result in a change of personal submission to the clear meaning of Scripture.

It all comes down to what we perceive as our authority. Many of us pay lip service to the Bible and its plain teachings. We say we believe it to be the truly inspired Word of God in every jot and tittle; and then we proceed to reinterpret whole swaths of Scripture to suit our theological systems, culture, or personal preferences and feelings. We do not want to submit to God and what he has decreed, so we change his Word to be able to avoid it.

There are things in Scripture I do not agree with, such as the plain text readings of 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15.4 I wish women were allowed to preach, because many that I know are extremely skilled at it. I immensely benefit from the women in my life5 and their God-given wisdom and insight. And any man who does not listen to the women around him is, in my opinion, a fool. However, that does not mean that we should go against the plain meaning of the text. We are called to submit to it, whether we like it or not.

The word “submit” as used in the New Testament (and especially the Pauline writings) carries with it the connotation of voluntary submission.6 We are called to submit of our own free will. And we must count the cost of it (see Lk. 14:25-31); there is a reason that to follow Christ is described as taking up one’s cross. Our Lord Jesus, in his voluntary submission to the Father (Lk. 22:41-44 and parallel), was reviled, mocked, arrested, tortured, and slain; but it was in that submission that he attained glory (see Php. 2:5-11).

If we submit to Scripture wholeheartedly, we too must be prepared to be reviled, mocked, and scorned; even by our Christian brethren and sistren. We will be unpopular; we will be pressured to change our ways to conform to the culture, to the hermeneutic, to the popular view; we may even be cast out of the local church for our loyalty to Scripture and Christ. But it is worth it. For, as James writes, “But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (Jas. 4:6-10 – HCSB; emphasis mine). The “submit” here is once more voluntary. Glory only comes through submission.

Does God use not-submitted people? Certainly. Does practice that is pragmatic rather than biblical work for the growth of the church? Frequently. Does God use people who practice doctrine that goes against the clear meaning of Scripture to grow his Kingdom? Definitely. His Kingdom grows despite us. However, God is never pragmatic; that is the Devil’s bailiwick.7 God does it the right way every time, even though we cannot see it. That is what George Verwer calls “messy-ology”. We are called to submit to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in everything, even if we disagree with it. He is God; we are not. And so, I will submit to what is in the plain reading of Scripture no matter how unpopular, painful, or how much I do not agree with it. For he is God, and I am not.

  • 1For clarity, in my definition, “the plain reading of the Bible text” will take into consideration the genre of the text (narrative, poetry, law, gospel, epistle), as well as to whom it was written, when in salvation history it was written, and where it fits in biblical theology. It accepts the standard historical-grammatical meaning of the text, understanding its original context, and applying it to ours through the lens of the completed revelation. This means that NT passages will receive greater weight in exegesis than OT ones and supposedly “culturally irrelevant” passages will still be exegeted and applied to today, no matter how popular or unpopular they may be.
  • 2Rick Warren [@RickWarren], “My biggest regret in 53 years of ministry…”, Twitter, 2023-06-10 < > (accessed 2023-06-14).
  • 3Michael F. Bird, “CBMW’s Latest Hit Job on Aimee Byrd”, Word from the Bird, 2022-03-15 < > (accessed 2023-06-14).
  • 4Every article and book chapter I’ve read, whether written by proponents and opponents of women preaching and female eldership, agrees that the plain meaning of 1Co. 14:33-36 and 1Ti. 2:9-15 forbids women to preach to or lead mixed groups in the church.
  • 5Among these are also teachers like my mother, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, June Hunt, Nancy Pearcy, and my Christian Ed teacher at Columbia International University.
  • 6Alexander Souter, “ὑποτάσσω”, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 271.
  • 7“Pragmatism” here means the concept that if it works, we do it, without considering whether it is pleasing to God or not; i.e. the end justifies the means.

How to cite this document (MLA):

Diener, J.M. “The Struggle of Submitting to Scripture”. J.M. Diener’s Writings: Pondering the Master. June 2023. <http://default/ptm/the-struggle-of-submitting-to-scripture>. Accessed: Today’s date.

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