Submission: The Christ-like Virtue (Almost) Nobody Wants


Doug Phillips:

It’s the ‘S’ word for contemporary Christianity  — ‘submission.’   Submission is a crucial (radical!), Christ-like virtue that figures prominently in Biblical teaching – but it’s a virtue (both an attitude and habit of action) that very few Christians today actually aspire to and work to develop.  But again, it is at the very heart of what it means to be Christ-like, for Jesus himself said, “…I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  John 6:38     “Not what I will, but what You will” was the guiding principle for Jesus’ life and ministry.  And the same spirit of submission was expressed when he said, “My food is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.”    In fact, the same attitude of submission is seen in the Spirit’s relation to the Son (see Jn. 16:13-14).

Paul reminds us that in his earthly life and ministry, Jesus “humbled himself in obedience to God”(Phil. 2:8 NLT) and the writer to the Hebrews goes so far as to say that the (sinless) Son “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8)

It’s no wonder then that the New Testament makes clear that authentic, Christ-imitating, Spirit-filled living is all about submission and obedience.  And it is clear too, that it is pretty hollow to claim a commitment to submission to God, if you’re not willing to submit to other people in all the ways the Lord commands:

— in our fellowship and interactions with fellow believers (Phil. 2:3-4)

— in our home and family live — wives to husbands, children to parents (Eph. 5:22; 6:1)

— in relation to pastoral leadership (Heb. 13:17)

— in relation to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1ff.)

— and in our work lives (Col. 3:22-25; 1 Pet. 2:18-10)

But embracing and pursuing this central, Christ-like virtue does not come naturally to us at all, because of our own sinful self-centeredness, because of the culture and values of the world (cp. Rom. 12:1-2), and because today’s church is so saturated with worldliness.   It is a real blind spot, even for people who are ‘at church’ and ‘in the Word’ all the time.

We like our religion ‘a la carte’ – a smorgasbord and menu of choices – so that we pick and choose how and when and where we will ‘obey’ – but almost always on our own terms.  And that is just the point: if we’re ‘doing Christianity’ on our own terms in an individualistic way, unsubmitted to the actual authorities that God himself has put in our lives (to teach us submission), then we are not really obeying or submitting at all.

One key indicator in all of this is whether or not we’re really and practically open to correction and admonition.  As the Book of Proverbs says,

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
     reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
      teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.  (9:8-9)

So whatever claims we make to being spiritual and passionate about following the Lord, should be examined in light of this exceedingly practical test:  how do I respond to counsel, advice and correction?  (Someone else has suggested this very practical test: you can tell if you’re really committed to being a servant/slave of Christ by how you respond when someone treats you like one.)

True submission to God’s Word isn’t merely about hearing and talking and reading and discussing (cp. James 1:22-25).  Real love for God and God’s people is about doing, not talking (1 Jn. 3:18).

And again, true spirituality is centered in submitting.  Maybe the most powerful proof of this is found in a verse like 1 Cor. 15:28, where Paul says that at the end of the age, when Christ has brought his redeeming work to its climax, fully carrying out the will of the Father for him, even then, with sin fully overcome, “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”  Are you imitating Christ in your commitment to submission?

(Via: Rick Ianniello)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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