In our American culture, the word submission implies pressure and force. A form of slavery. It conjures up a wrestler’s stranglehold or the capture of a prisoner.
But in the bible, it is a positive term illustrating humility and acknowledgment of authority. Many believers have heard the Pauline command in Ephesians that wives should submit to their husbands. However, not nearly as much attention has been focused on the principle of submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ.
This is a spiritual principle worthy of consideration. The main scriptural battle is the contest between the spirit and the flesh. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The flesh profits nothing, but the Spirit gives life. One leads to death and the other to resurrection.
There is a cute story of a stubborn young boy who finally sat down, being forced into submission by the threats of his mother, but later it came out that he was still standing up on the inside. This, of course, is not the definition of submission. Though the flesh was complying, the heart and mind were resisting to the point of bloodshed. The mother would much prefer the heart of her child to be submissive rather than merely the outward expression of supposed obedience.
Therefore, we must be careful in approaching this topic. Jesus said not to judge by mere appearances, but make a right judgment. There is no better example of submission then Jesus Christ. He willingly submitted himself to the complete will of His Father, including the crucifixion of His flesh. It is unthinkable that God the Son could die, but for love’s sake, for salvation’s sake, He did.
It takes trust to submit. It does not matter in God’s economy whether the object of trust is trustworthy because the believer is ultimately looking to God for deliverance, not the person to whom the submission is due. God is greatly honored in this type of trust and His resurrection power begins to operate when a saint trusts in this way. Glory goes out in every direction, though only the submitter may be aware of the Source. Of course, the real place of submission for Jesus was the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden of prayer where drops of blood were shed first before Calvary.
Without Gethsemane, Calvary would not have happened. First prayerful submission to the Father, then laying down your life. That is the necessary order of the Spirit. It is almost always difficult at first to submit. Our flesh resists the painful implications. Our identity is given over to the one with whom we submit. Yet God commands us to submit one to another in the Body. This test of submission reveals our level of love, our level of oneness, and consequently our level of a witness for the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is a matter of trust between God and us with another person in the middle acting as a trust barometer.
Submission: A Test of Love
In 1 Corinthians 13 it is clear that love always trusts. This is beyond understanding. There is no condition on the trust. It does not say if you are treated kindly, and lovingly, then you should trust. The flesh says, “If she changes, or if she proves herself, or if she is willing to communicate a certain way, then I will trust her.” This is not a biblical Christ-like love. Jesus never places performance conditions on salvation but accepts repentant sinners as they are. Likewise, when we trust others unconditionally, then loving submission reigns in our hearts. We find ourselves believing, respecting, and trusting.
Spirit-filled saints that desire to be like their Master give this type of trust. It brings immediate notice to the Heavens. God is pleased and a measure of authority is gained. If this submission to others is not fulfilled, then there is a definite limit on how much authority one can wield in the Heavens.
But when this submission occurs, a new power, a power of resurrection begins to flow. The prayer life is catapulted to new heights and the Lord’s speaking comes into sharper clarity. But how does this
trust play itself out in a practical way? Since we are to trust God at all times and submit to Him, the practical implication are daily and produce an overcoming life filled with love, humility, and grace.