The Third Emissary: Cohort Chronicles | Book II


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A network of agents known as The Cohort is run by the powerful Roman politician Senator Tatius. In 41 A.D., Emperor Caligula is assassinated by his own bodyguards and “Uncle Claudius” is propped on the throne by the Praetorian Guard.

Rome’s plan to conquer Britannia requires an important naval base in Mauritania at the Pillars of Hercules between the Mediterranean and Atlantic can be secured by an Army legion before a political delegation to the region can tribute from the local Berber tribes, by force if necessary.

Two novice operatives of The Cohort are placed into the Mauritanian delegation to report back to Senator Tatius about naval and trade negotiations. Legatus Linius Crispus Valerius, head of The Cohort in Asia Minor, (see The Quiet Centurion | Book I), gives the two young men their orders and sends them into a web of diplomatic and military intrigue. Linius Crispus and his assistant, Ming, run into their own dangers in Roman provinces across norther Africa and Syria.

The Third Emissary | Book II continues a fictional series that traces the lives of a Christian centurion, his family, and a host of characters during the period 35-74 A.D. The rapid spread of Christianity intertwines with the ruthless expansion of the Roman Empire.


Redeem the Time

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light [Sun] to rule the day, and the lesser light [Moon] to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” Genesis 1:14-19

God (who is transcendent and apart from time) created time for human beings to use. He created the sun, moon, and stars for time measurements. Morning and evening as a  one “solar day” has been in existence since before the creation of Adam and Eve.

12-month/4-season Julian agricultural calendar

Around the founding of the Republic in the 8th century BC, the Roman calendar consisted of ten months beginning in spring with March; winter was left as an unassigned (variable) span of days. Feast days marked the passage of time during the year without regard to any fixed date. Julius Caesar realized that his far-reaching empire could not function according to a timekeeping calendar centrally controlled from Rome by priests and astrologers who defined feast days. In 46 BC Julius Caesar created what we know today as the Julian calendar and ordered its use by everyone in the empire. It consisted of 365 solar days with an annual correction. With minor other corrections from time to time, this calendar served the Eastern world for fifteen centuries. Different calendars by new governments proved confusing after the Roman Empire fell and the Julian calendar was finally changed in 1582 AD by the Roman church to add one leap-day every fourth February. God’s original plan since Creation

has been for the heavens to be “signs and seasons, and for days and years.”

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5-6

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians  5:15-16

Time in the Bible is more than just counting solar chronology (from the Greek word for time, CHRONOS) in hours, days, months or years. In the verses above, our life (our walk) is to be continually redeeming the limited, finite time we have. The word redeem means to take full possession of something, to hold it and make it our own. The Greek word KAIROS used in Colossians and Ephesians refers to an opportune time, a “moment” or a “season” such as “harvest time.” God will give us opportunities, KAIROS times, this coming year to make His Name known, to testify of His greatness, to tell others about salvation through His Son, and to serve Him in the local church. May we make the most of every opportunity, no matter what God has in store for us in 2021.


“…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,

therewith to be content.”

Philippians 4:11b

The Centurion Chronicles ends this week and this centurion thanks all soldiers who have followed along and given me words of encouragement.

My studies during 2020 have convinced me that I have a lot to learn about how to be content. I would like to share some of those lessons with you in 2021. Our study guide (besides the Bible) will be a little book written by the Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) titled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, published in 1648.

Please join me as we learn about Christian Contentment together.

Michael Vetter


The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

God’s timing is perfect in all that He does! Starting back in the Garden of Eden, when sin entered a perfect creation, God mentioned a Savior who would come one day to rescue mankind and restore God’s kingdom on Earth. (Genesis 3:15) Since that time millennia ago, the human race has looked forward to that moment when God would send His Son to be born in human flesh. The prophet Isaiah predicted of the birth,

“For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

But history seemed to drag on for centuries. Hope still kindled in spite of wars, exile, slavery, and a slow return of God’s people back to the Promised Land. Nobody knew when God’s promise would be fulfilled until Daniel received a revelation from God:

“That from the going forth of the command

To restore and build Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince,

There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

Daniel 9:25a

A “week” here indicates “a group of sevens” and the context interprets it as meaning a time period of seven years and the fulfillment in 69 “weeks”. The prophecy of Messiah’s coming was fulfilled exactly  483 years later. The Greek Empire had come and gone in history and the Roman Empire was at its peak. The Messiah was born in Bethlehem and, by God’s sovereign reckoning, the timing was perfect!

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

Jesus came exactly when God planned! In His wisdom, the “fullness of the time” was at the peak of the Roman Empire in out-of-the-way province that chafed against the iron hand of far-off Rome. Thus the world that cradled and then crucified Jesus of Nazareth was also the civilization that would help a sprouting Christianity to blossom. By God’s design, the “fullness of the time” was characterized by a wide civilization with a common language (Greek), relative peace (Pax Romana), cross-empire transportation, and enforced laws and rules for citizens and non-slaves.

The baby born in the manger grew up and demonstrated His divine person many times over three and one-half years. The same Roman government—soldiers followed the orders of a governor appointed by another emperor—crucified the promised Messiah. On the cross, God demonstrated “…His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) There, He died for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2) Jesus explained to his apostles in the upper room at His last Passover, “…whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

What about us in 2020? For many, this has been a year of sadness, frustration, and desperation. What are we to do when our world seems to be crumbling around us?  A man so desperate that he was about to end his life asked the apostle Paul and his companion Silas a question and their answer was simple, yet profound: “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (Acts 16:30b-31)

Jesus the Christ came to Earth to save the world from our sins at the perfect time in history. Wouldn’t now be the perfect time to believe on God’s Son and ask Him to save you? If you do, He promises to save your soul from eternal condemnation. This is His promise:

“For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’… For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:11, 13)


Heavenly Colonists

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV)

Readers of Paul’s letter to the Philippians would have appreciated the same term as their citizenship in the city as a Roman colony. Philippi of Macedonia was made a Roman colony after the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. when generals Mark Antony and Octavian released some of their veteran soldiers, probably from Legion XXVIII, to colonize or “Romanize” the area. The Macedonian city was proudly known as “Little Rome” by its inhabitants.

One historian defined a colony as:

“A community of people who share common roots, pursuits, meanings, and values. Even though colonists settle in a distant and sometimes hostile place, they continue to live under the control and in the spirit of their home country. No matter how far away the residents of a colony may be planted, they continue to remember, respect, and repeat the standards and stories of their native land.”

James Moffatt, in his commentary on Philippians 3:20, suggested that Christians should think of themselves as living in “a colony of heaven.” Paul’s application seems to be this: Because of our new birth in Christ we have a new citizenship. We are heavenly colonists placed here by God to live a certain way even though we are in the midst of an unholy culture that is hostile to all that we believe and hold dear. As representatives of another “country” we are ambassadors called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ before our neighbors, coworkers, and anyone we meet.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” II Peter 3:10-13 

Believers are citizens, colonists, of heaven now. Our heavenly passport is genuine, stamped, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Are we ready to travel as soon as God calls us to our real home?

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world…Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” John 17:14; 18:36

Roman Citizenship in the New Testament

Roman citizenship ceremony

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”

When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”

Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”

He said, “Yes.”

The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”

And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Acts 22:25-28 (NKJV)

During New Testament times there were many ways to become a Roman citizen (civitas) with the most common being acquired by birth if both parents were Roman citizens. Emperors and generals could also grant citizenship and especially for a price. Soldiers who were not citizens (either conscripts or foreign-born auxiliaries) were awarded citizenship, a land grant, and an annual pension after twenty-five years of service. The official document certifying citizenship was called a diploma, a bronze tablet, composed of two parts, sealed together. On the outside of the front panel was written that the individual had obtained citizenship and on the back were notary seals with the names of witnesses. Inside, to avoid counterfeiting, both tables carried the text of the outside of the plate. Only a magistrate could break the seals and any tampering invalidated the document. A copy of the diploma, also in bronze, was sent to Rome and kept in the Campidoglio archive.

Roman diploma

Beginning in the reign of Julius Caesar (c. 48 B.C.), Roman colonies and free cities were established outside the Italian peninsula and all residents were granted citizenship. Roman civitas had also been extended to provincials of client states who swore allegiance to Rome. Finally, granting Roman citizenship to soldiers and native populations in provinces hastened the pace of Romanization in the Empire.

The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, and Tarsus in Cilicia, where Paul was born, was a free city (Acts 21:39). The Emperor Pompey made Cilicia a Roman province in 64 B.C., and the capital, Tarsus, was a free city from the time of Augustus. Although it is unknown exactly how his parents became citizens of Rome, Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, which was a privilege many did not have. Some could buy Roman citizenship, but it was pricey (see Acts 22:28). The privileges of citizenship explain how Paul escaped flogging in Acts 22:25–27 and was able to appeal for a hearing before Emperor Nero in Acts 25:10–11.

Acts 22:25–27

God used the Apostle Paul’s background for His glory, and Paul testified that “God . . . set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). With his Jewish upbringing and knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy from his time in Tarsus, Paul was prepared for ministry to both Jews and Gentiles throughout the Roman world. Paul’s status as a Roman citizen by birth benefited him greatly as he traveled on his missionary journeys to fulfill Jesus’ words that he would be a “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15).

As believers we have dual citizenship – an earthly domicile where we have temporary residence and a heavenly home where Jesus promised that we will spend eternity with Him.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

NEXT WEEK – Heavenly Citizenship


Fight the Good Fight

Fight the good fight of (the) faith

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

II Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

Fight the good fight of [the] faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

I Timothy 6:12

Whether or not the Apostle Paul meant a military metaphor in the verses above is debatable. He often uses the Greek word “fight” for a literal conflict or struggle. Clearly he means it in both verses above in a figurative sense, but the verse in II Timothy likens the Christian life to a wrestling match because the second half of the verse is about running in an athletic event. The verse in I Timothy is also figurative, but the allusion is less clear.

I believe it is possible for “fight” in both verses to be interpreted as military conflict or battle if Paul is mixing his athletic and military metaphors. An example where he does exactly this is Ephesians 6:12-13:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:12-13

The writer of these verses in Ephesians, Paul in his own words and literary style under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compares spiritual warfare to wrestling (v. 12) and in v. 13 tells his readers to take up belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword to wage this warfare. Two metaphors are used to convey the same idea.

Spiritual warfare is a struggle which requires all our energy and strength. God has given us defensive and offensive weapons to fight such as truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. Paul tells Timothy how to fight the good fight of the faith  in I Timothy 6:12 when he follows his command with, “lay hold on eternal life…” Our eternal life began when God saved us by faith alone in His Son. That is a static truth and the result of faith.  But it’s not enough simply to possess eternal life. To fight the good fight, and wrestle our foe to the ground, we have to grasp hold of eternal life with both hands.  “Taking hold” requires faith plus obedience ( 1 Timothy 6:14).

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” I Timothy 6:17-19

Stay alert! Lay hold of eternal life! Fight the good fight!

Fellow Soldiers

…my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier

“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;”  Philippians 2:25 (NKJV)

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:”  Philemon 1:1-2


Roman military soldiers, especially front-line infantry, closely identified with their units; many were “branded” with their legion number or name. Veterans could immediately identify another veteran after they left service by the legion number or name branded on their arm. The historian Stephen Ambrose coined a term for soldiers—“band of brothers.” Today’s military describes unit cohesion as “…the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress.”

As Christian soldiers we are spiritually united to other believers through an unbreakable bond—we are all one in Christ! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Members of a local assembly call one another “brethren” because of our unbreakable bond – not just as family, but as an indivisible, organic unit who work together as a spiritual body. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

This was the bond that the Apostle Paul had forged with many men and women who helped him in his ministry. He named many of them in his epistles as an indication that the bond between them mirrored that of soldiers who fight side-by-side, share a foxhole, march in the rain, and sleep in dark forests. People like Epaphroditus and Archippus were called fellow soldiers; Titus, Timothy, Clement, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas were fellow workers; Epaphras and Tychicus were fellow servants; Aristarcus a fellow prisoner. The Apostle Paul was close to these believers with whom he shared special bonds of friendship and suffering.

Today, the bond among believers is stronger and deeper than those formed by soldiers or people who work together. Our bond is secured by the Holy Spirit and cannot be broken. (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; II Corinthians 1:22) Our common, binding tie with other believers is the fellowship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)

Stay alert! Stay together! March on!



The Military Trumpet

Sound the trumpet – prepare for battle!


“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

I Corinthians 14:6-9 (NKJV)


Both the Old and New Testaments contain a total of sixty references to a “trumpet.” In the Hebrew Bible the context makes it clear that the trumpet is either a ram’s horn (shofar) blown for holy days and feast days; a coronet for special events like royal coronations; or a musical instrument to accompany a choir in Solomon’s Temple. The fall of Jericho recorded in the Book of Joshua mentions the ram’s horn trumpet being blown as the ark and the army circled the city before the walls fell. (Joshua 6:3ff)

A trumpet in the New Testament has a mostly prophetic significance as either a ram’s horn or some other type of loud instrument. It is used to announce key future events such as the Rapture of believers (I Thessalonians 4:16); the gathering of the elect at Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 24:31); the last trumpet at the resurrection of the saints (I Corinthians 15:52); revelations in Heaven to the Apostle John (Revelation 1:10; 4:1); announcement of the last three trumpet judgments (8:13) and specifically the sixth trumpet judgment. (9:14)

All of this is by way of prologue to say that in I Corinthians 14:8 the distinct sound of a “trumpet” (or “bugle” in some translations) is not like the blast of a ram’s horn that marks the beginning of an important event like a festival, feast, coronation, or judgment. The trumpet here is a military signaling device [see illustration at top] that a field commander would use to send instructions to his distant troops during a battle. It was loud and the dozen or so different sounds were distinct enough to be understood amid the chaos and tumult of the fighting.

Two bugle signals that many of us might recognize are “Reveille” and “Taps.” Reveille is a loud, energetic tune sounded in quick time to wake sleeping soldiers. The sound says, “Wake up! Get moving!” Taps is a slow, melancholy tune to honor the death of a soldier and ends in a sorrowful note of tears for the fallen soldier. Each trumpet sound marks a completely different mood or tone that is easily identifiable.

The metaphor of a Roman military trumpet makes the Apostle Paul’s point in I Corinthians 14:8 that speaking in tongues is not some gibberish or monotonous sound that conveys no real information. Biblical “tongues” to which Paul refers here and Luke mentions in the Book of Acts, were distinct languages that people understood clearly.

“And when this sound [speaking in tongues] occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” Acts 2:6-12 (NKJV)

Any so-called “tongues” which impart no information or which nobody can understand are not Biblical and not to be allowed. Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) used a military trumpet to illustrate something about Biblical tongues that can be understood and applied today.

Sound the trumpet! Grab your weapons! March on!


A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ

Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ


“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” II Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV)

As the United States honors its military veterans on November 11th, two words stand out as characteristic of all soldiers: service and sacrifice. We salute these men and women for their service to our country and for their sacrifice. We enjoy freedom in the United States because of them. May God bless our troops!

The Greek word for “soldier” (strateuomai) used metaphorically in II Timothy 2:3 is mentioned in a literal sense twenty-five times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts where it refers to a Roman infantry-soldier. Since the exact word is only used once here in a figurative sense, we must grasp its meaning from the context.

Paul’s second epistle to Timothy exhorts him to hold fast to what he has been taught, to teach others, to be strong in the faith and in God’s grace, and to endure hardship because he will face difficulties and trials as a pastor. Paul’s military metaphor in vv. 2-3, likens Timothy’s pastoral service to that of a soldier in the army of Jesus Christ.

The first similarity to a literal soldier is enduring hardship. Paul mentions his own hardships in 2:9-10 as a prisoner chained in jail for the cause of Christ. Like a soldier marching in the cold rain or a warrior struggling for hours against an enemy in the heat of a battle, Timothy may have to endure physical deprivation and spiritual heartache in service to his Lord.

The second similarity is the personal sacrifice a soldier must make by setting aside a home, a family, leisure time, and normal day-to-day pursuits. A soldier turns away from things we take for granted as part of an ordinary life and commits himself to focusing on one mission: carrying out the instructions of his commander. Timothy “enlisted” in the Lord’s army when he was born again. At that moment, he became a soldier of the Lord whose only goal was to please his “Commander.” Paul’s desire was for his spiritual son to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Every believer is a soldier in God’s Army. Let’s purpose in our hearts to be good soldiers who serve and sacrifice for Him!

Stay alert!  Grab your weapon! March on!


Submission to Rank

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God” Ephesians 5:19-21

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (I Peter 2:13-15)

Strong’s Concordance says that the Greek word for submission is hupotasso. It is a military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions or ranks] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was, “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” A commentator said that the word hupotasso translated submission: “… is actually a military term, and in the military there is a strong sense of submitting to someone of higher rank. A soldier must arrange himself in order under his sergeant…Everything is ‘arranged in order under.’”

When I was a new lieutenant in the military, I had a commander who made some poor decisions and I was critical of him for doing so. A master sergeant old enough to be my father gave me two pieces of advice that have stuck with me through the years. “Don’t forget that he puts his pants on in the morning just like you do.” Our commander was human, just like me, and could make mistakes, just like me. His other observation was, “We salute the uniform (position), not the man.” Those who wear the uniform (or work in a shop, drive a bus, teach children, or wash dishes) have to follow some orderly structure or rank. We salute (submit) to authority even if the person is not of sterling character or ability. No matter who we are, we’re all human beings who have to rank ourselves under and/or over someone else. Nobody in that line of order is any “better” or “worse” than the other—we each have different ranks and with that rank (position) comes certain obligations and duties.

Sometimes it’s difficult to perceive the difference between submission and obedience. There is a difference, and it lies in subtleties that are apparent to the one who is either obeying or submitting.

  • To obey simply means “to follow a command”; “to conform”; or “to comply with an order.”

  • To submit, though, means “to yield, or defer out of respect, superior authority, affection, persuasion, or even compulsion.”

God has a plan for order in the world today:

Submission to God

There can be no question about God’s “rank” over all of His creation. God is Supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega. We submit to God because He is God! “Therefore submit to God.” (James 4:7-10, NKJV) The best example of submission to God was when Jesus cried these words before He went to the cross, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39b)

Submission to God’s Word

Submission to God and to His Word are indistinguishable. If we submit to Him then we submit to what He says. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Knowing God’s Word and submitting to it will put our lives in the order He intends, “…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…” (II Peter 1:3)

Submission to Authorities

Jesus submitted to His earthly mother and father when He was young. “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them…” (Luke 2:51) Romans 13:1-7 is a call for us to submit to human government:” “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (v.1) The passage tells us why God calls for submission and not mere obedience—God’s authority (see above) is behind governmental authority. Resisting authorities means resisting God! (v.2) In addition to civil government, God’s order extends to church leadership: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Hebrews 13:17a)

Submission of Wives to Husbands

God’s plan for order in the home is a clear line of authority from Jesus Christ “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22-23) This is not popular today, but a Biblical order of submission in the home is the key to spiritual growth for the whole family. This is God’s plan for a husband and wife in the home. Note: It is NOT Biblical to say that women must submit to (or obey) men in everything. We are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:38)

Submission to One Another

Submission in the local church extends to each member of the body. As explained in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, each member of the Body of Christ needs the others and has a role in God’s program for the church. Ephesians 5:19-21 is a beautiful picture of harmony in the church when everyone submits to one another: “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

The difference between submission and obedience is is a matter of our will. We submit to government, to one another, and wives submit to their husbands because that is God’s plan for orderly living which we choose to follow. The military term for submission to rank can teach us a lot about how we interact with God and with one another. God’s divine order for family, church, and community is not difficult to understand when we know what submission means.

Stay Alert! Fall into your ranks! March on!