Healing Help 29: The Power of submission

Get in the flow!

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:5-7 NKJV

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17 NKJV

We believe that God wants to heal every sickness and every disease. Honesty forces us to admit that it doesn’t always happen. We have all known good, Christian people who have not been healed. We started this journey by identifying three general areas where we often have “holes” in our doctrine, our understanding, or our practice concerning healing. We looked in some detail at how we understand our identity as children of God and how we live out what we believe by using our faith. In the last few lessons we have been looking at the third area: Community and communion. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are a community, a family, even. That is true whether we know it or not, yet we often seem to be doing this thing alone.

There are at least three benefits that come to us when we are properly connected to other believers:

  • The power of agreement: (Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:1; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14)
  • The power of submission: (1 Peter 5:5-9; James 4:6-8; Hebrews 13:17)
  • The power of covenant, covering prayer: (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:12; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 1:17-23; Hebrews 13:20-21)

We’ve looked at the power and purpose of agreement. Now we turn to the concept of submission. The very word makes most of us a little uncomfortable. It sounds like servile obedience to an overlord of some kind. For many of us it reeks of weakness or oppression. We’ve all heard stories of spiritual authority being misused, even to the point of cultish behavior or spousal abuse. Many of these stories are true. Some of us have experienced these things personally and have become leery of leaders in general. The question is, “Is this what the New Testament means when it speaks of submission, or is this a perversion of some kind?” Let’s find out!

Before we see exactly what submission is supposed to be, let’s be clear on what it is not. When I first came into the Kingdom, there was a large international movement that emphasized what they called, “discipleship.” Many of the leaders of the movement were well-known Christian ministers. One of their beliefs was that every believer needed a “shepherd,” someone who would speak into their lives prophetically, and that they were to submit to that person’s direction. One man I knew well told me he was forbidden to buy a car with only 2 doors because his “shepherd” might need to use it for church. Another friend was told who she could have as a roommate, and what job she could take. Another was told to marry a person he barely knew. I could go on. In every case, they were to “submit” to a “shepherd” who spoke for God. Failure to do so could lead to being ex-communicated and shunned. Thank God, my friends all came to their senses and left those churches, but they struggled to recover the ability to trust those in authority. Power-drunk, self-centered, unaccountable leaders are not of God.

In another instance, a lady with two adolescent children began visiting our church. She was very timid, sitting in the back row, and leaving as soon as service ended. My wife made it a point to seek her out, and over time we learned her story. She had been a pastor’s wife. In their denomination, they were taught that the wife was to be in “submission” to her husband. Her pastor-husband thought it wise to beat her when she didn’t please him. She appealed to her denominational leaders for help, but their response was, “You should praise God while he’s hitting you and God will eventually work His will.” They referenced Ephesians 5:22 telling wives to submit to their husbands. God help them when they face Him. The wife and the children were horribly damaged in their ability to trust a God who would endorse such nonsense. Cruelty, physical or otherwise, in the name of the God who is love is evil.

These things are wrong! While the word “submission” is sometimes used to describe obedience that comes from the threat of force or judgment, the word is not used that way in the New Testament regarding Christians. The most common Greek word translated as “submission” was originally a military term meaning “to arrange under one’s authority,” as a general arranges his regiments for battle. The soldier submits in service to the mission and in resistance to the enemy. He arranges himself in the best order to carry out the function of the tribe or group. When we offer submission to authority, we do so willingly for the furtherance of the purposes of God. We are not intimidated into obedience.

Christians are asked to submit themselves in 5 areas. In all these things, we look at the setting of the original writings and strive to find principles that can be translated to our very different circumstances. A key to this is finding the purposes given for these instructions. The Bible tells us to practice submission:

  1. To God. (James 4:7; Hebrews 12:9).
  2. In the Church. (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
  3. In the home. (Ephesians 5: 21- 6:5; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-8))
  4. In the workplace. (1 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22- 4:1) Note that all these references were spoken into a culture where slavery was a given. Bringing these things into other cultures requires intelligence and wisdom. What principles do we see? What are the stated purposes in these admonitions?
  5. To the government. (1 Peter 2:11-17; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Timothy 2:1-4) Again, these statements were given to people accustomed to living under monarchs of one sort or another. Democracy as we understand it, did not exist. We find principles and purposes, not commandments here.

In all of these cases, submission is something that is given willingly as a reflection of reverence for the Lord. This kind of submission can’t be forced or demanded. In every case there is a statement of the reason for offering submission. In every case the primary purpose of submission is the furtherance of the Gospel. The goal was to bring others to Christ, adopting attitudes that fostered connection and demonstrated love. In the public square it was important to maintain a godly testimony that would enhance the message. In homes and churches the goal was to reflect the loving nature of God. In instructions to the church and to the Christian homes, submission birthed in love and humility was to be the attitude that ruled in every relationship, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Notice that in the relationships in the church and the home, there are two sides to every instruction: husband and wife both have responsibilities in a mutual submission relationship. The same is true of parents and children. In the church, both leaders and followers have responsibilities to one another and to God. I think it worth the effort to look at Peter’s admonition to elders and then to the younger. Notice the reciprocity in these relationships:

And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

1 Peter 5:3-5 NET

New Testament Christian submission is an attitude of the heart characterized by a meek and quiet spirit which avoids contention and rebellion. (1 Peter 3:4) It maintains obedience to the Lord out of reverence for Him, and is to characterize the believer in his or her interaction with every person. When obedience to God comes into conflict with the demands of other authorities, the submissive person may well disobey, but they do so with respect and humility. Think of Daniel when he respectfully asked to be exempted from eating unclean animals or meat offered to idols (Daniel 1:8-16). Remember Peter and John when they were ordered to cease preaching and teaching in the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:16-22).

As a believer, submitting to authority is to willingly surrender my plans, desires, and preferences to the furtherance of a higher cause, the Kingdom of God. I find my place and submit myself to those God has set over me in order to glorify Him and advance His work. By the grace of God I am able to defer to the needs of others rather than demanding my own way. New Testament submission is not domination, but cooperation to further the plan and rule of God. Through the leading of the Spirit and taking care to find leaders of good character, I can place myself confidently in a position that will bring great blessing in my spiritual walk.

So why is finding a place of submission to the leadership of a local church body helpful in receiving healing?

  1. Submission allows me to tap into healing grace. Submission requires humility. It’s only through humility that I access grace. Healing comes by grace through faith. Submission to godly authority positions my heart to receive by faith. (1 Peter 5:5-8; James 4:6-7)
  2. Submission provides me with an eldership that watches for my soul. God intends that someone be watching out for your soul. My spiritual leaders pray for me, give godly counsel in the face of life’s tough calls, and provide instruction in the Word specifically tailored for me as part of the local body to which I am assigned. (2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:17)
  3. Submission provides me with spiritual leaders to whom I can turn in the face of sickness that lingers in spite of my best efforts. Whom do you call for prayer reinforcement when you’re sick? There is power in personal confession and prayer. In fact, calling for the elders of your local fellowship is the only method of ministry specifically addressed to Christians needing healing. (James 5:14-16)
  4. Submission releases authority. In order to exercise authority, I must be under authority. Submission to delegated authority places me in a position to exercise authority over the work of the enemy. (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:5-9; Matt 8:5-10)

Here’s the Point: Developing a heart of submission is important. Peter tells us that “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” The context of that statement is a discussion of leadership and submission. He is talking about submitting to a local church eldership that reflects a humble and Christlike nature. Finding that place is part of putting yourself in a position to flow with God so that He is not resisting you. Please, don’t try to do this alone.

NEXT STEPS: Review the Scriptures in this lesson. They are powerful, though often glossed over. Let’s face it, most of us just don’t like the subject. But if God thinks it’s important, then it is. Evaluate your own attitudes (read the passages for their instruction to you, not to find criticism of people you know). Write down places where you can see you are out of the flow of godly submission. Ask God to show you what changes you need to make, both in attitude and in behavior. We’re going to help you make the necessary adjustments.

Next time: 4 truths about authority and submission that will help you live a life under the protective cover of God’s authority flow.

Previous lessons from “Healing Help” along with video teachings are available at www.pastorvirgil.com. God wants you healed and so do I.

Pastor Virgil

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