A Plea For Submission

 

Introduction

In order to get right to the point of this article, which is a call back to submission to the Scriptures and submission by the Scriptures, a few principles are in order. One of the central obligations of the church is to be holy. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). We recognize that what God has done for us in Christ, and the giving of His Spirit, is the great act of spiritual resurrection in the heart, whereby God’s claim upon us as His people, to be a holy people, is now met with life giving power from the Spirit of God to be a holy people (Ephesians 5:1,18). Holiness is thus intrinsic to the people of God by God’s own declaration of His people as a holy people and God’s own giving of His Spirit to do so. Yet, the call for God’s people,  then, is to walk in such holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

A particular aspect that is tied to holiness, and will be tied to our point of discussion, is that of humility. While we often do not make the connection between holiness and humility, Scripture upholds the two as inseparable. 1 Peter links both holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16) and humility (1 Peter 5:5-6) as closely related actions. Christians are to prepare themselves for the task of holiness. The particular way Peter wants those Christians to prepare themselves is to learn humility during the soon coming trial they are about to face. But the command however is not one in which they learn about humility. Rather, they are to “clothe themselves” in humility (1 Peter 5:5). That is, they are to display their humility in a way that is noticeable and tangible. It should be humility, exhibited.. This is their holiness with clothes on.

 The emphasis for Peter could not be stronger. He lays down a governing principle that reveals the importance of humility. “For ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). It is that simple. God’s operation, as it relates to humility, is to oppose those who stand proud and unwilling to bend a humble knee, while the promise for the humble is that a great river of life giving grace will forever flow to them. So, you can be sure then that the call to humility is as real and serious as the God who gave it.

 

A Call to Submission

This gets right to our point. If holiness and humility are so interconnected, then Peter presents before us his main command in the whole book: submission. What Peter is calling Christians to is a holiness and a humility that is governed and displayed in biblical submission. To put it another way, the way we are to clothe ourselves in humility is by our display of submission to one another and our submission in accordance with the word of God. To take this call lightly is to take holiness and humility lightly and therefore put ourselves in the place where God opposes us.

 

Submission To The Scriptures

The Bible instructs us to submit to each other in mutual submission (Ephesians 5:18,21), and from that mutual submission, to an ordered submission (1 Peter 2:18, 2:21, 3:1, 3:7, 5:3) that is rooted in submission to God (1 Peter 5:6). That is, Christians ought to be a people submitting to one another out of love and reverence (mutual submission) and then submitting in particular ways related to their station in life because they are submitted to God and His ways (ordered submission).  Biblical submission upholds both a principle of mutuality and a principle of hierarchy. Yet, both principles are only understood and properly displayed when the Scriptures are the determining factor for what a proper display of submission looks like.

 

Submission By The Scriptures

This is exactly the point where things get bumpy and I would ask you to keep your arms and hands inside the ride at all times from here on out. Our culture hates submission. It utterly despises it. The world will not hear the call to submission because it has no heart that is already submitted unto God. Submission as the Bible holds out is rejected because at the root there is no heart submitted to the God who calls us into submission. While I grant this should come as no surprise to us we need to recognize it in our moment for what it is; rebellion. Rebellion of the highest order. Our culture is one big, nasty experiment as to what happens when you reject all biblical categories of proper submission. This is why we find ourselves in such a mess.

 Yet, the church seems to have rejected any serious commitment to biblical submission as well. We may give it lip service but as God told Israel in her vain worship while she held onto her idols, “their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). While our words may have the ring of submission, our hearts are far from it.

 

Let’s Be Honest

How do I know it? Well, let’s start with some variables and then propose a theory at the end. Let’s call it a thought experiment. How many evangelical leaders are quick to discuss proper roles of submission for men and women within the family and culture? You know like telling men to act like men, and women to cherish motherhood at the home. Can we recall the last time one of our big evangelical conferences even pressed churches to proper roles of submission within the church? Maybe something to do with how men (not women) are called to lead and shepherd the church. How about the latest family book reminding Christians that  their children’s obedience  is a staple of biblical fidelity for Christian parenting? I am thinking of that pesky statistic where 70 percent of our youth leave the church once out of the home. Or when was the last break out Christian podcast released heralding the glory of God-given differences between men and women? Call me old fashion, but maybe roles where men provide for the home and women submit to their husbands and cultivate the home is just a pastime. 

 I theorize that maybe, just maybe, we have not actually submitted ourselves to God in humility because we have not submitted ourselves to the Word of God in humility. In all our efforts to appear humble, all we have accomplished has been  to strip ourselves of the glory that humility brings. We have no humility, and we have no glory, because we have cast off how we are to submit to God and thereby rejected the glory that follows. In our rejection of God and his word, what we have done is not only submitted ourselves to the world’s standard of submission, but have displayed to the world that biblical submission is something that can be trifled with. We have discipled the world in this way of folly. Which is why we stand against so much opposition. The world opposes us. Yet worse, God opposes us. We have reaped the whirlwind of failing to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God: the whirlwind of God himself standing opposed to us because we are proud. 

So my proposal begins this way: we need to repent in a hurry. We need the grace of humility in a bad way. We need real repentance back towards submission, and back towards humility. Lady wisdom stands at the gate uttering her words. It’s best we turn and listen. It is for our good and for our glory.

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