This week, I want to spend four of these days looking at the four points of my sermon on Sunday, and draw it out a bit more than I was able to then. Today’s blog is on what it means to be submit to God.
The Greek word for submit is hupotasso. It simply means under (hupo) place (tasso). We place ourselves under. So when James wrote that we are to “submit yourselves therefore to God,” we could rightly translate it, “Therefore, place yourselves under God.” This word is used throughout the New Testament toward various people. Children are to submit to parents. Slaves are to submit themselves to their masters, citizens are to submit themselves to government, wives to husbands, and church members to leaders. It is a military term, though not always used militarily. Soldiers submit to their generals. One could use its synonym as well: subject.
There are two writings that help me grasp this concept a bit better. One is from Scripture and the other is not. In Second Maccabees 9:12 it is written, “And when he could not endure his own stench, he uttered these words, ‘It is right to be subject to God; mortals should not think that they are equal to God.'” Here the writer is giving an account of the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In his last-ditch effort to make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews, this once great ruler was brought low by God. He was in such pain, and his flesh began to rot away. There was such a horrible stench that no one could get near enough to him to carry him away to safety or help. This is the verse preceding the one just read: “Then it was that, broken in spirit, he began to lose much of his arrogance and to come to his senses under the scourge of God, for he was tortured with pain every moment,” (2 Mac 9:11, italics mine). Humility and repentance, brought the confession that he was mortal. Until this time he claimed to be a god. Now he realized he was mortal and had no right to think he was equal with God, but should submit/subject himself to God.
What a lesson for the Christian to learn! When we receive Jesus, we become sons of God. We become slaves to righteousness. We become citizens of heaven. We are the bride of Christ. We are the body of Christ, part of the universal church with Christ as the head. We are not equal to God. We are not autonomous, nor are we sovereign. God is. To submit ourselves to Him, is to place ourselves under his leadership.
Which brings us to the second passage. “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live,” (Hebrews 12:9, ESV)? In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is referring to the discipline of God being painful and difficult. But it is because he loves us. But the case that is being made is that we submitted ourselves to our earthly fathers who were flawed and would discipline out of anger at times, and sometimes were too harsh and other times too lenient. God is just and only disciplines out of love and care. If we were willing to submit (put ourselves under the authority) to sinful fathers, should we not submit all the more to the perfect Father?
One of the amazing things about Jesus that is so often overlooked, is when He would say things like: “What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me,” (John 12:50, ESV) or “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father,” (John 14:31, ESV). That’s submission right there. Saying and doing what the Father has instructed. We cannot be like Jesus 100% of the time. We can, however, grow in our submission. We can get better at it. We have gone from being a rebel to a son/daughter, and so our rebelliousness diminishes little by little as submission grows. The more we willfully go against our rebellious nature (and thus willfully submit), the weaker our rebellious nature gets and the easier submission becomes. Another way of saying it is that God’s desires become more and more our desires, and the desires of this world–our sinful flesh–become less and less.
God is higher and greater than we are. He is our King, our General. We follow Him as soldiers. He gives the marching orders and we march. He gives the strength and grace and we utilize them. In such a way, we submit to God and have the power to resist the devil. The very idea of putting ourselves under God’s authority carries with it the very truth we can resist the devil. Satan lost all authority over us when we came under God’s authority. As long as we live by that authority, we have God’s power to resist the devil when he attacks. Our Father is the one with the weapons to fight and the instructions as to how to rightly fight. Remember, we have been given complete armor, a way out of every temptation, and a battalion of fellow-believers for reinforcements. All those are available to us as we submit to God. So let us submit therefore to God.