Submission is a virtue in the Bible. But it is not one that is greatly appreciated, or perhaps even regarded as a virtue, in our day. You won't hear any Board of Directors proclaiming that one of their company’s core values is submission. Far from it. The fact that that sounds ridiculous merely underscores just how far we have come from seeing the true importance of submission.
And yet, our society’s perception of the word notwithstanding, submission is one of the most treasured virtues that we find in the Scriptures. Everywhere there is perfect unity, there is submission: in the home, in the church, and even in the Trinity.
Take the Godhead as a specific example of perfect unity, perfected by submission. Jesus Christ, Who was co-eternal and equally existent with His Father and with the Holy Spirit from ages past, willingly subjected Himself in submission for 33.5 years, not only to His Father in heaven (John 5:19, 30, 6:38, 8:28, 14:31), but also to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1, Mark 1:12).
Have we seen the precious value of submission as manifested in the life of Jesus Christ? Do we see it as a virtue worth pursuing ourselves, and seek to cultivate a heart of submission?
I fear that in this day and age, with the values of the world pressing in on us, we refuse to acknowledge, or at least easily overlook, the true value of this precious virtue.
Lest we fear that submission will make our live somehow less enjoyable, we need only to look at the life of Jesus Christ to see whether this is true. Was there a more blessed life in the history of the world? A more fulfilled life? A more powerful life? A more joyful life? A more rewarding life?
I cannot imagine a more exhilarating life in the history of the world than the life of Jesus. There is nothing more thrilling that looking to our Heavenly Father for life and rest and joy and peace and strength and everything else that we need in our life. We will find that the pathway of submission is the pathway of blessings, and submission is the key to receiving all that we truly want, and need.
A subtle deception can sneak up once we have seen the value of submission: the belief that “I only need to submit to God.” While I do believe in “the priesthood of all believers,” and that no one needs any intercessor other than Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25), it is also important to note that, even in the New Covenant age, we are commanded to guard our hearts from “the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11).
Korah’s rebellion was one of resisting the authority that God had placed over him. After all (according to his logic), he was a Levite, and as one who enjoyed such a special designation by God, he should not have to further subject himself to any other man. And there can be that same thought that creeps up in our hearts too: I have Jesus Christ, and so I have no need or command to submit to any leader, in my church or otherwise. But Korah was swallowed whole into hell for this attitude, and so Jude warns us to guard against the same result. God has placed leadership in a church for the protection of the flock, and rejecting the notion of submitting to anyone other than Jesus Christ is to reject the pattern God has given for His Body.
This is why Peter warns in 2 Peter 2:10 that, “the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous who despise authority under punishment until the day of judgment” (my paraphrase). In fact, he puts “despising authority” on the same level as “indulging the lust of defiling passion.” Have we seen that resisting being under authority is every bit as destructive to our souls as “indulging in lustful passion?”
The Bible says that the last days will be marked by deception even within the church (Matthew 24:24, Luke 21:7-9), and the notion that “I don’t have to be under authority” is a dangerous deception that we must especially guard against. We must fight to make submission a virtue that is growing in our esteem and lives.
So when the topic of submission comes up, let us judge the knee-jerk reaction to take offense or bristle at the word. When the passages of scripture are discussed which praise the virtue of submission (or command submission outright), let us see these also as promises which provide the key to a blessed life of joy and rest. Let us not balk at the command, but rather consider ourselves blessed, for the opportunity to receive all that an attitude of radical submission will surely bring us.