The Bible has a lot to say about it, some of it I’m sure we’d rather not hear (and definitely don’t heed). To be honest, I have to say that. Mark Twain once quipped that it wasn’t what he didn’t understand in the Bible that bothered him, it was what he did understand. So it is with me, too.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1).
“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).
“Wives, be subject (or “submit”) to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).
“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5).
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).
That’s just a small sampling of what God has to say in His Word about submission and submitting. I need to submit to those who are in authority over me, because by doing so I’m submitting myself to God (who placed those people over me). That doesn’t for a minute mean that it’s easy. In fact, sometimes it’s excruciatingly hard, because those who we are to submit to are sinful and fallen. We should be reminded that if we ourselves are in authority over someone else, we fit that definition (sinful and fallen), too.
I can’t get around submission by saying, “I submit to God and God alone!” That sounds real spiritual and real holy, but it isn’t – it’s the height of rebellion. If we don’t submit to human (and imperfect) authority, we’re not submitting to divine (perfect) authority. That’s hard to take, but it’s true and I need to hear it. (The one exception is when we’re commanded to do something God forbids or forbidden to do something God commands – which I believe is rare.)
Submission isn’t really submission until a disagreement takes place. Up until that point, we’re not submitting, we’re agreeing. I do my best to drive the speed limit because I agree with it. I wear a seatbelt in the car because I agree with the law that says I have to. However, I don’t like to wear a helmet when I ride my bicycle, but I do because it’s the law in the town where I live. That’s submission – I don’t agree it with it but I do it anyway because it honors God, ultimately.
Before I entered the ministry (and even before I entered seminary), I discussed the possibility of my being called to the ministry with my then-pastor. I didn’t like what he told me. I disagreed with him strongly, in fact. He told me that before I went to seminary, I should work for a year or so at a “secular job” (I use the term even though neither he nor I like it, but for ease of understanding) which involved “punching a clock” so that I would be better able to relate to those I ministered to who have to “punch a clock” themselves. He thought it unwise for a young man to move from college to seminary to ministry without having experience in the world of work (which would have been me if I hadn’t heeded his advice). I was convinced that I was called by God and was ready to go – right now! My wise pastor added some teeth to his counsel by saying that because he felt so strongly about the matter that he wouldn’t give me a recommendation unless I complied (the recommendation was required by the seminary). I could have bolted and went to some other church, or went ahead with my own plans without his blessing. But, by the grace of God, I submitted to my pastor and did what he recommended even though, at first, I didn’t like it, and received his good recommendation. The postscript is that I’m eternally grateful to him. His counsel has proven wise many times over. Just a personal illustration for what it’s worth.
I can’t forget the Bible, either. I have to submit it because it’s the Word of God. There are things I don’t understand and don’t like, but the Bible stands in judgment of me and not me of it. Why didn’t God reveal some truth or information to us which would have finally and fully solved a problem? I don’t know, but I submit to Him because I love and trust Him.
More could be said, but that’s enough for a good start.
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