ASK Commentary
April 22, 2004 

Subjection in 1 Corinthians 15

Commentary for April 22, 2004 — Words Have Meaning

The concept of subjection is something that is somewhat foreign to Western thought processes, yet it is understood without difficulty by other peoples around the world. The apostle Paul uses subjection in the proper manner in several verses, but particularly in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

The verb “to subject” in Greek (hupotasso) means to “set under.” The usage and meaning usually implies a voluntary subjection. In the book of Romans Paul speaks about the subjection (or lack of it) by the carnal mind. Paul explains about your carnal mind and mine:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Romans 8:7–8

This “enmity against God” Paul talks about occurs because, as Paul explains later, “the creature [the creation] was made subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20). Paul notes that not just humanity, but all of creation is so subject. This even involves “spiritual” people. Even the prophets were “subject” to passions and emotions as we are (James 5:17). The King James Version expresses the matter of subjection of all creation to God several times in 6 important verses:
“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end [Greek: “the consummation”], when he shall have delivered up [giving up] the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule [sovereignty] and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he has put [subjects] all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put [subject] under him [quoting Psalm 8:6], it is manifest [made evident] that he is excepted, which did put [subjects] all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued [subjected] unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject [subjected] unto him that put [subjects] all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

1 Corinthians 15:23–28

The subjection is an ongoing process, in fact it is progressing and continuing at the present moment.
“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”

1 Peter 3:22

Let me present the consistent rendering of the Concordant Version (http://www.concordant.org/version/html.html). It makes clear this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. The meaning of subjection in all its forms comes out plainly as Paul intended. After all he used the same Greek word throughout. Such repetition means that we should pay attention:
“Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ’s in His presence; thereafter the consummation, whenever He may be giving up the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying all sovereignty and all authority and [all] power. For he must be reigning until He should be placing all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy is being abolished: death. For He subjects all under His feet. Now whenever he may be saying that all is subject, it is evident that it is outside of Him Who subjects all to Him. Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him,that God may be All in all.”

1 Corinthians 15:23–28

The verb is “to subject,” the middle voice is “be subject,” and the passive is “be subjected.” It is used in the following verses by Paul:
Romans 8:7, 20, 10:3, 13:1, 5, 1 Corinthians 14:32, 34, 15:27f, 16:16 Ephesians 1:22, 5:21f,24 Philippians 3:21 Colossians 3:18 Titus 2:5, 9, 3:1 Hebrews 2:5, 8, 12:9
The noun, “subjection” is used by Paul in these verses:
2 Corinthians. 9:13 Galatians 2:5 1 Timothy 2:11, 3:4
The verb form is used by Luke, James and Peter. Read them all, in context:
Luke 2:51, 10:17, 20 James 4:7 1 Peter 2:13, 18, 3:1, 5, 22 (given above), 5:5 (used twice)
Investigating the various nuances of “subjection,” “subjecting,” and “subject,” will greatly enlighten your understanding of what God requires regarding who you, as a Child of God should be subject to, when you should be subject, and how you should be subject. You will look at life differently, and perhaps your expectations in life will be easier if you understand the contexts in which these responsibilities of being subject are presented. Allow me to set out this passage to emphasize major points:
“Yet each in his own class:
[1] the Firstfruit, Christ; [2] thereupon those who are Christ’s in His presence; [3] thereafter the consummation,
whenever He may be giving up the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying
all sovereignty and all authority and [all] power.
For he must be reigning until He should be placing all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy is being abolished: death. For He SUBJECTS all under His feet. Now whenever he may be saying that all is SUBJECT,
it is evident that it is outside of Him Who SUBJECTS all to Him.
Now, whenever all may be SUBJECTED to Him,
then the Son Himself shall be SUBJECTED to Him Who SUBJECTS all to Him,
that God may be All in all.”

1 Corinthians 15:23–28

Understanding this passage properly will help you go to more sophisticated concepts of subjection, such as that in Ephesians 5:21–24 and you can understand what Paul means regarding mutual subjection in the context of marriage and the ekklesia of God. Even now we are instructed to be properly subject to “higher powers” or superior authorities (Romans 13:1–5).

The passage that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 (and this is the glory of God’s Word throughout most of the Bible) used simple words to explain sophisticated concepts. He did not use nuanced theological terms, but rather they are everyday words. Paul did this because his audiences are not composed of philosophers but rather were common people.

Unfortunately people often made Paul’s meanings more difficult than they should be. While some matters Paul deals with are hard to understand, particularly in Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Hebrews, this is often because people read into the text what Paul never intended, as Peter said:

“Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist] , as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

2 Peter 3:15–16

The subjection of all to God the Father through the agency of Christ Jesus will occur in the proper sequence of time. You will be part of that subjection. It will be voluntary, not forced. You will rejoice in it. All of us — together — will participate when God becomes “All in all.”

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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