Friday, November 10, 2006

The Sublime Strength Of Submission

…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:21 – ESV)

The idea of submission is a misunderstood and misapplied doctrine today in the church as well as in the secular world. It would seem that the world, with its mantras of “look out for number one”, “don’t fence me in”, and “you can’t tell me what to do”, and so on, has crept into the church. The power and blessing of submission, the protection it affords and its various purposes go unnoticed and unheeded.

Certainly this is the case with the world. With the rampant lawlessness of parents, runaway divorce rates, the excess of corporate executives, and the promulgation of perversion by Hollywood, it is no wonder children are becoming more and more rebellious with each passing generation.

The Christian community often fares no better than the rest of society when it comes to obedience and submission to authority. Perhaps this is because our leaders are not under authority themselves. Many in the Christian world have forgotten or have not been taught the sublime strength that can be had by being submissive.

Christians, by nature of their relationship to God through Jesus Christ have agreed to abide in Him and obey His authority. This includes those parties invested with delegated authority on this earth. All authority starts with God, and from the Supreme authority we recognize delegated authority.

In Romans 13:1-2, the Apostle Paul states this clearly when he says “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Peter echoes this when he says to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake (1 Peter 2:13a).”

Christians are to be submitted to their employers (Colossians 3:22-25 / 1 Timothy 6:1-2 / Titus 2:9-10), to governmental authorities and policemen (Titus 3:1-3), and spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Wives are to be submitted to husbands, and children are to obey their parents (Colossians 3:18-20). The younger are supposed to submit to the elder (1 Peter 5:5). All people who claim the name of Christ are to be involved in submitting themselves one to another. Many more examples could be given, as the Bible is pregnant with the order of obedience to authority.

Many Christians want to equivocate on the clear teachings of the Bible by asking questions regarding the nature of submission in relation to obedience. Obedience is about our actions toward authority, while submission is about our attitude toward authority.

The Bible teaches unconditional submission, but not unconditional obedience. Full submission would include those times when we don’t agree with those in authority over us or feel that they are wrong. Even though the Bible differentiates between submission and obedience, the only time we are not to obey is when we are told to do something that is in direct contradiction to God’s written Word. That contradiction must be based on fact not feeling.

Understand that authority structures in human relationships are designed by God to accomplish His purposes, and that the authority rests in the office, not the one who holds it.

Heaven has an authority structure, with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, then the archangels, cherubim and seraphim who are all submitted to those above them. Satan’s kingdom has a hierarchy (Ephesians 6:12), and he and his minions are at war with God’s children (1 Peter 5:8).

Within the church, God has established an order of leadership (1 Corinthians 12:28), and given qualifications for leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-13 / Titus 1:6-9). The purposes of those called to lead are manifold. They are to equip the saints for service, engage in the work of the ministry, and edify the body of believers in unity and with knowledge so that they are not carried away with false doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-14). Our submission to God’s ordained leadership will help further God’s Kingdom and is our part in this process. This system also provides training and a proving ground to those who desire to lead. Understanding Kingdom authority will keep us from getting into serious trouble (Acts 19:13-16).

The ultimate reason for authority structures is to give us a chance to be like Jesus in self-denial by means of submission. God’s ultimate purpose for His people is to conform them to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29). We cannot be disciples of Jesus unless we follow Him, and this means talking up our cross by denying ourselves (Matthew 10:38-39 / Mark 8:34-35 / Luke 9:23-24 / John 12:24-25). Submission is self-denial. Jesus was totally submitted to the Father’s will (Luke 22:42 / John 5:19). He said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 10:43-44). When we submit to authority and are persecuted anyway, we are following in the footsteps of Jesus, and fulfilling the purposes of God in our life (1 Peter 19-21).

The blessings of submission are numerous. Power is discovered in submission, it places us in position for Christ to be made manifest in our lives (Galatians 2:20), and we find deep joy in the position of submission within the pursuit of obedience. Isaiah 1:19 declares, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”

There is tremendous freedom in submission. We are set free from the anger and bitterness of wrong actions toward us, and free to obey Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. By the disobedience of not submitting to authority, we are in rebellion. Rebellion is like witchcraft, and this is why so many suffer so needlessly.

Obviously preaching and teaching on the subject of submission should not be neglected. As a leader in the church, it is of utmost importance to get the members to understand these vital truths and to apply them to their lives. However, the people we are trying to reach will not believe what the people delivering the message don’t believe themselves. The question now becomes, how should leaders model these principles to their congregations?

Leading a flock is about helping others glorify God by imitating Jesus. The true shepherds humble themselves under God’s will and see themselves not as rulers but as servants and stewards of those whom are in their charge. Humble church leaders stand behind the spotlight and keep everyone focused on giving God the glory. In this way they become models for the flock as the Apostle Peter instructed (1 Peter 5:1-7).

In serving the people we should be careful to serve God first, and a key to this is to be thankful in the position God has placed us. This attitude will cause you to win in any situation, it will bring you strength, and this strength will minister to everyone around you. Free submission to ordained authority will create an intriguing appeal and proclaim the excellence of Christ. It is the will of God that we are thankful in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and thankfulness reveals a submissive spirit.

Having a servant’s heart is a key to modeling submission to the flock. When we as leaders obey the command to be submissive to one another, we are following the example of Christ (Philippians 2:3-9). In this way we set ourselves apart as a leader who practices what he preaches.


Jared said...

Excellent post. I find that the attitudes of most people I run into, Christian or otherwise, fall directly in line with your remarks. Lest I run the risk of sounding like a pharisee, I often times find myself suffering from the same attitude as well. I think it has a lot to do with being raised under the ideal that life is about my pursuit of personal happiness. Nothing could be further from God's truth. I pray that He would show me when I fail to submit and obey.

Even So... said...

Yeah, how many times do we all have to learn this would seem it is one we never fully get, but must keep learning as we are being conformed to the image of Christ..I think there is a direct correlation between the two...

Even So... said...

We would rather quit than submit...

People often will only submit as long as you are going along in a way they like...

It's like those whom with their actions and absence (from church) are saying to God, "I’ll serve Him as long as he serves me". That is what we see we too often, we go to church when it is all good, when God is giving us what we want, otherwise...