The Purpose of Submission
When examining a concept or practical principle, a good place to begin is to discover the original purpose or intent. In the case of submission, this is vitally important because if we don’t understand the purpose of submission, we will resist it and thwart its wonderful work in our lives.
Genesis 1:28 says, ‘Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.””
We see in this portion of scripture that God blessed Adam and Eve and gave them a sphere within which to exercise that blessing. The blessing of God is what empowers or enables us to prosper. The purpose of submission, therefore, is to position oneself within our unique spheres of God’s blessing. As long as Adam and Eve remained in submission to God by obeying Him and working out His blessing within their given sphere of influence, they got to enjoy both His presence and His divine enablement.
This is why submission is so important in our lives and why the enemy works so hard to keep this powerful truth hidden from the hearts and minds of God’s people. If he can deceive us through prideful independence that our own ways are best for us, he can keep us from walking in and experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing in and through our lives.
Working It Out
Once we get a handle on the principle of submission, the question arises, ‘how do I work this out in my life?’ Once we have been believers for any length of time and set our hearts to the study and apply of God’s word, we soon realise that the principles of the kingdom are seldom worked out in isolation between us and God in our private prayer time. The fruit of that precious time spills out into every area of our lives, changing the way we think and the way we behave. James articulated it so clearly when he said that ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26).
In applying the principle of submission to God, there is a place where the proverbial rubber hits the road. That is in our relationships here on earth. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” In order for Christ to work out His obedience to His heavenly Father, He had to willingly humble and submit Himself to mankind.
We see this principle at work throughout Christ’s life; He was subject to His parents (Luke 2:51), He submitted himself John the Baptist to be baptised (Matthew 3:15), and ultimately submitted Himself to those who would crucify Him. We see that His submission to God found a very real and tangible expression through His submission to man.
If we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ, we must embrace the truth that our submission to God is worked out through our willing submission to man. Not only that, I believe that our submission to God is tested and proven through our submission to man.
How is it that God tests our hearts and our motives? How does he develop our character? Jesus Himself even articulated this principle in Luke 16:12 when He said, “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” God looks at how we serve and are faithful stewards of what belongs to others before we can enter into the fullness of our own inheritance. The key that unlocks that blessing in our lives is our submission to those God has placed in our lives to exercise a measure of authority over us.
The best analogy of this principle at work is to look at the role of a coach. Suppose you’d like to run the 100 meters in under 10 seconds. One of the first things you would look for is someone who has a track record in coaching others to achieve this. Once you find him, and if he feels you have the potential and agrees to coach you, virtually your entire life becomes subject to his instructions.
He will tell you what to eat, when to go to sleep, when to wake up, what drills to do and how often, and will ultimately expect you to build your life around the regime he sets for you. You may feel that you would do things differently, that the regime is too demanding, or not considerate enough of your life circumstances, but ultimately your coach will say, ‘I know how to unlock your potential and get you to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, but if you want to achieve that then you are going to have to do things my way.’
You see, the choice is always ours. We can either choose to submit to those God has placed in our lives to coach us into maturity and realising our potential, or we can choose to do things our way.
We must realise, however, that the price we pay for hanging onto our pride and doing things our own way is more than simply missing out on our full potential. It’s not that we just settle for running the 100m in a time of 12 or 15 seconds. The price we pay is the same as the unfaithful steward in the parable of the talents: “Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.” (Matthew 25:28)
In the working out of this principle of submission, we not only have it all to gain … we also stand to see the potential intended blessing and purpose of God for our lives completely thwarted!
Submission’s Full Circle
I have heard many people say, “I will submit to you, but only if I agree with you.” This statement is somewhat erroneous in that submission doesn’t even come into the equation until there is disagreement. If we agree on something, there is no need for submission; but where there is disagreement, somebody has to submit their will to another.
As we grow in this practice of submitting our wills to God and to His delegated authority in our lives, we find that our thinking and, eventually, our own wills are changed. As we lay down our own opinions and take up those of another, we move from a place of submission to a place of complete agreement. When this happens, the work of submission in our hearts has come to maturity and the power of the principle of agreement begins to work in us. We are transformed from our carnal level of glory to a higher level of Glory in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Psalm 133:1&3b says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! … for there the Lord commands the blessing—life forevermore.” Do you see how we have come full circle and arrived back at the original intent of submission? The blessing is that we experience the fullness of His life in and through our own lives. This happens when, through the submission of our own thoughts, wills and opinions, we come into full agreement with the thoughts, will and opinion of God. There is no higher or greater experience that man can attain!
All for His Glory
The most remarkable thing about the outworking of this principle in the life of Jesus is the end result. Although it was his submission to man that led to his death, it was that very same act that ushered in the power of God, glorifying Himself through His Son’s resurrection.
Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore [as a result of His submission to man God and to man] God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The ultimate purpose of lives that are submitted to God is that we can become vessels through which God can glorify Himself any way He chooses. This kind of life may seem costly, but the rewards are, not only great, they are eternal. When living a life that seeks to glorify God becomes the primary motive of our hearts, submission ceases to be something that is seen as costly or sacrificial, and becomes an avenue through which our deepest desires find life and Holy Spirit empowered expression.
I pray that through willing surrender you will position yourself in the middle of God’s amazing grace, blessing and purpose for your life, living out the fullness He promises those who love Him and walk according to His ways!
God bless you,