We believe that the presumption of faith is borne of a lack of humility, and this passage helps demonstrate why. Of course, an evil spirit was using this woman and this caused her deception. However, while many today may not be possessed by a demon, they may have been taken captive to do his will nonetheless (2 Timothy 2:26). This plays out as us presumably submitting ourselves to God, but in reality, we are just using God like a taxi driver, hoping He will get us from one point to another, with the fare being lip service.
In this passage the woman was used to having power, and the only way to keep her demonically inspired self-importance intact was to tell everyone else that she knew the truth. So even though she wasn’t the “men from God”, she would be their herald: a John the Baptist role, if you will. Can you imagine the response to Paul’s rebuke, if given today? Sure you can, you’ve heard it before: “I was only trying to help!”
Rather than letting God work as ordained through the Apostles, her psyche needed to be involved somehow. She must have thought she was doing the right thing, by being “helpful”; she was telling the truth, after all. But hers was a presumption of faith, and Paul saw through this; he understood that this was only a distraction to God’s work, not a benefit. Just because we know truth does not mean we know how to use it correctly. This example of presumption shows the ability of our sinful nature to be “rightly” doing wrong.
It would seem that some think to surrender to Jesus, but have the mistaken notion that they can do what they want as far as service is concerned. But God wants us to be humble enough to admit that we aren’t right to have the mentality of, “If I decide to serve I get to do it my own way”. That isn’t service that is selfish. You may sacrifice time, money, talent, or whatever but still not sacrifice your will. “Okay I’ll serve but you still aren’t going to tell me what to do”, is the intent of the heart.
Service without submission can be well-intentioned, but will be ineffective, it is often professional, paternalistic, problem solving, and wanting to do good by “sharing” from a position of superiority. The Bible deliberately pushes us into the area of discomfort, forcing us to accept a posture of submission until our pride is exposed, and our desire to be controlling is revealed. Instead we have no control over our own lives and yet we want to and think we can help others.
Acts 8 tells the story of Simon, another who was accustomed to being important. He presumed that when he became a Christian he could “use” his supposed relationship with Jesus to further his own selfish ends, all in the name of God. How often we turn Christ into just another means of getting what we truly want. Many claim Christ, but whether they see it or not, they are using Jesus as a vehicle to achieve their own fleshly desires. We may come to Him as financial broker, family counselor, job hunter, personal doctor, and all these things, yet He doesn’t have our heart. We treat Him as our servant instead of our Master. He is to us but a tool for our personal gain. He becomes one of the fleet of methods used: the convertible model, if you will.