Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: hü-po-tä’s-sō
  • Strongs Concordance: #G5293
    • to arrange under, to subordinate
    • to subject, put in subjection
    • to subject one’s self, obey
    • to submit to one’s control
    • to yield to one’s admonition or advice
    • to obey, be subject
  • Appears 43 times in 31 verses the Greek concordance of the
  • Common translations:
    • “subject” (16x)
    • “subjected” (7x)
    • “subjection” (4x)
    • “put in subjection” (5x)
    • “submissive” (3x)
    • “submit” (2x)
    • “subjecting” (1x)

Where and how hypotassō is used in the New Testament

  1. Luke 2:51  – “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

  2. Luke 10:17, 20  – “The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” … “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.””

  3. Romans 8:7, 20  – “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, … For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope”

  4. Romans 10:3  – “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

  5. Romans 13:1, 5  – “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. … Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”

  6. 1 Corinthians 14:32, 34  – “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; … The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”

  7. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28  – “For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.”

  8. 1 Corinthians 16:16  – “that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.”

  9. Ephesians 1:22  – “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,”

  10. Ephesians 5:21, 24  – “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. … But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

  11. Philippians 3:21  – “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

  12. Colossians 3:18  – “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

  13. Titus 2:5, 9  – “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. … Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,”

  14. Titus 3:1  – “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,”

  15. Hebrews 2:5, 8  – “For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. … YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.”

  16. Hebrews 12:9  – “Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?”

  17. James 4:7  – “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

  18. 1 Peter 2:13, 18  – “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, … Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”

  19. 1 Peter 3:1, 5, 22  – “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, … For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; … who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

  20. 1 Peter 5:5  – “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

My observations and perspective

There are many ways in which hypotassō is used in the New Testament. The majority of the instances occur as some form of “subjection”. In the gospels, Jesus is said to be in subjection to His parents, and the spirits are said to be in subjection to Christ.

Moving on to Romans, Paul uses hypotassō to describe various forms of being under subjection  – often to God or sin, but also creation being subjected to sin, and instructions for saints to be subject to governing civic authority. Important to note here is that Paul uses this word to describe those who have not placed themselves under the subjection of Christ. This is important because it shows us the context in which Paul has used this word, which can help clarify usages elsewhere should the be difficult to contextualize.

In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul repeats many of the  usages used in Romans. This time he also provides additional instruction for women in the church to remain silent and subjected. Again, this does not appear to be to a leader, but likely their husbands, as other scriptures indicate. See Appendix for unrelated comments regarding the submission of women.

Further, Paul uses the word to describe that the spirits of those who prophesy in meetings have full control over their own spirits. The gist there is that no prophet can speak something and afterward proclaim they had no idea what they were saying.

Also in 1 Corinthians (16:16), we see Paul instruct the Corinthian saints to be in subjection to Apollos.

Some might be tempted to think this is an example of submitting to a leader. In part, that is true – Paul is encouraging submission to Apollos, However, he doesn’t stop with Apollos, but adds to the list many others. We don’t know how many.

Paul parenthetically mentions the household of Stephanas and then goes on to lump them (household, not Stephanas himself) in with Apollos and ‘everyone who helps in the work and labors’.

I don’t think it’s rational to believe that all the above are church leaders and not just a broader list of saints whom are passionately and sincerely laboring in the good news. Entire households are mentioned, as well as ‘everyone that helps in the work and labor’. That’s potentially a lot of people. This would include women, children, etc.

Using the interpretation principal of allowing scripture to interpret scripture is helpful here.

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” – Ephesians 5:17-21

Letting Paul’s other writings comment on one another, it becomes clear that Paul’s view was one of mutual submission.

But what kind of submission? Is this an obedience kind of submission? Is it giving control of one’s self to everyone else? Viewing these verses in light of the rest of those in this blog regarding authority, obedience, disobedience, etc – one should start to see that in this case, it is best to understand ‘subject to one another’ as ‘to yield to one’s admonition or advice’ (See Strong’s Dictionary for support).

Note that Strong’s includes the following information in the definition for hypotassō:

‘This word was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] 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“’.

Most other uses of hypotassō refer to the kinds of subjection spoken of above with additional admonishments for the saints to submit to civic government and for slaves to submit to masters.

There is one final verse to consider – 1 Peter 5:5.

1 Peter 5:5 is often used to support the notion of obeying or submitting to elders within the local church. Let’s examine this more closely.

A challenge with understanding this verse is that the word ‘elder’ can mean many things. ( See ‘presbyteros’ in the section on Elders)

As already outlined, the word ‘elder’ can mean several things – one of which is an elder of age, or the advanced in life. It would be unfair to assume this to be the proper meaning of ‘elder’ in 1 Peter 5:5 if it were not for terms that appear in 1 Peter 5:1.

In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter begins “likewise, you younger men”. The language there is definitely one of “recently born” and “youthful” or alternatively ‘new’. Peter begins in 1 Peter 5:1 by addressing the elders – not those whom are church leaders, but older in age or spiritually older. He them offers the ‘likewise’ to the younger members. ‘Likewise’ here is the Greek word homoiōs and means ‘equally, in the same way’. So Peter is saying, just like I have instruction for the older ones, I have some instruction for the younger ones too. Peter does not appear to be talking to specifically leaders and younger men.

It would appear that Peter is exhorting the older men in the local church to be mentors and shepherds. That they should be eager for such, not for reward, but voluntarily. They are exhorted to be examples with their lives. No word for obedience is used in this context.

In summary, let me be clear… the New Testament absolutely teaches (voluntary) subjection to other saints. In fact, all saints are to live lives of mutually submitting to one another. Leaders are no exception and no additional level of submission to leaders is required, nor is such taught in the New Testament.

Mutual submission and a hierarchical, one-way, saint-to-shepherd submission cannot co-exist. The latter would invalidate the former, never placing any onus on a church leader and freeing them from the biblical instruction to submit to one another. Paul made no special exceptions for submitting to leaders.

It is my belief that yielding to one another is more easily done the more we know one another. Those we know, we’re more likely to yield and subject ourselves to more easily. Ideally, these would be the shepherds among us, in which case those persons would be more often yielded to. Nevertheless, I can find no scriptural basis for yielding to a church leader due to their role or office.


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