God is good!
Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.Hebrews 5:8-9 NLT
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:Psalms 103:2 NKJV.
This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God.Martin Luther
When Jesus “learned obedience” through His suffering, it wasn’t’ that He didn’t know the definition of obedience. He was the divine Son of God, He knew what it meant. But until His incarnation and the offering of Himself for our sins, He had never had the experience of being obedient. When He faced the cross, He was so shaken by the task that He asked the Father, “if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.” That was new, indeed. Yet Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” He knew there was victory on the other side. He knew intimately the nature of the One who asked Him to obey, and He knew the promise that lay ahead. He obeyed and victory resulted.
When God asks us to “submit’ in some particular area, He is doing so with His goodness as the impetus. He is always and forever good. He wants the highest and best for you as well as for this Kingdom endeavor of which we are all part. Though we often find it hard to see the immediate good in what He asks of us, we can trust in His goodness. This is true even in the area of submission. It is intended for our good. There are many benefits promised to those who are submissive to the authorities God endorses. In a previous lesson we listed 4 of them, and I want to revisit those as we finish our study of submission. All His promises are good and true, and these outcomes are worth the effort. Don’t shy away, press in.
1. Submission requires humility. Humility accesses grace:
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.”1 Peter 5:5 NKJV
When I hear someone say, “I obey God, not man,” It always gives me pause. There are times when it’s appropriate. If I’m on the job and my boss asks me to do something illegal or immoral, then I obey God, though with a respectful attitude toward the one in authority. My attitude is submissive though my actions will be obedient to a higher power. Usually, this type of comment is made in an attitude of rebellion. It means I don’t want to be accountable to any human agency. Some even say, “I’m a Christian but I don’t like Church. My relationship with God is personal.” That is not a bible attitude.
Notice in the verse above, Peter attaches grace to humility. James makes this same connection in James 4:6-7. All the promises of God are given to us by His grace. We can never earn any of them. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Our healing comes through the same sacrifice that purchased our salvation. Healing, too, comes by grace through faith. (Isaiah 53:4-5; Matthew 8:16-17). If we humble ourselves and trust Him instead of our own strength, grace and healing flow. If not, Peter says that God resists us. If God is resisting you, then you are not going to move forward.
Peter also said that we should be submissive to one another, especially the elders of our assembly. Then he made the key connection: this requires us to be clothed with humility. He attaches humility to submission. By contrast then rebellion would be attached to pride. We may claim to be submitting to God, but if we’re rebellious toward the authorities He has set in the church, we are kidding ourselves. If it feels like God is resisting you, it may be time for an attitude adjustment toward the leadership God has established.
2. Submission provides me with an eldership that watches for my soul.
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
God intends that someone be watching out for your soul. My spiritual leaders pray for me. After my wife, they are the first place I turn when I need prayer. They have a special, God-given place of authority to pray for me and my house. Remember, those who have responsibilities in your life are in a position to exercise greater authority, especially in prayer. These are people whom God will prod to pray for you when you don’t even know you have a need. It’s a divine connection. It flows from covenant relationship, and you need it.
The leadership where you are submitted will also have special, God-given insight when you need counsel, correction, or direction. Because of their position in your life, God will give them information that He will not share with others. For this reason, it’s vital that you learn to seek counsel from your leaders before you make the big decisions of life. If you’ve chosen well in finding your place of connection, you will find wisdom you never imagined. Let them do what God called them to do. When you stand before the Lord, you will bear the ultimate responsibility for your decisions, but God has set authorities in your life as safeguards to give you Holy Spirit input.
This supernatural counsel will also come from the pulpit. God gives specific messages to pastors because He knows the needs of the flock. Your corporate meetings are the primary place God will use to “reprove, rebuke and exhort” you and the rest of the church. This is not done by name, but through the Word and the conviction brought by the Spirit. When I go to my home church, I expect God to straighten me out if I need it. I listen, I take notes, and I refrain from critiquing. I came to hear from God, and I always do. (2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:17)
3. Submission provides me with elders to pray over me.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.James 5:14-16 NKJV
James is writing to Christians in these verses. In fact, this is the only healing passage directed specifically to believers. The call for “elders of the church” is a clear reference to those who are recognized in the local assembly as having leadership responsibilities. (Remember Peter’s instruction to “elders” of which he was one in 1 Peter 5: 1-4) These elders have a particular place of responsibility, and therefore authority, to pray for the sick in the assembly.
This passage is addressed to Christians who, for whatever reason, are unable to receive healing on their own faith. It may be they are spiritually depleted or their lives may not be in order. It doesn’t matter. God has provided an eldership to pray in a specified way that they may be healed. When sickness lingers in spite of my best efforts, whom do I call for reinforcement? God said to call for the elders of my church. No church, no elders. No elders, no prayer. God designed it this way to help you when you can’t help yourself. Don’t try to do it alone.
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.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.James 4:6-7 NKJV
If you recall the story of the Centurion in Matthew 8, you’ll remember that Jesus commended him for having such great faith. He had faith that if Jesus spoke a word to the illness of his servant, that the illness would have to go. The Centurion understood authority because of his own military experience. His soldiers acted when he spoke to them: “And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” He knew that they did this because “I also am a man under authority.” His soldiers obeyed him, not because he was a man who had authority, but because he was a man under authority. They obeyed him because of Rome and its governing power. That was the higher authority that stood behind the words he spoke. (1 Peter 5:5-9; Matt 8:5-10) He recognized Jesus as a man who had a higher power standing behind His words. He was under the authority of the Father.
When I’m submitted to the authority of God, I can resist the enemy and he is obligated to flee from me. If I’m harboring rebellion in my heart, then Satan is under no obligation to obey me. Submission to God means that I acknowledge His authority over me. His Word is true; it’s my authority. If it says my healing is paid for (1 Peter 2:24), then I submit to that truth. If it says that I should be submitted to a local leadership, then I humble myself and submit to that truth. Wherever I have prideful or rebellious attitudes, I have holes in my authority. If I’m speaking to the devil, or to the symptoms he is causing in my mind or body, but they refuse to move, then it’s time to take a quick inventory. Am I out of line somewhere? If so, I repent and change. If not, I stand!
Here’s the point: God has placed authority in our lives. In the home, on the job, and in the church, He lays out his plan: we live in submission to one another. Each of us has responsibilities and rewards in those relationships. First and foremost, when we are in the correct attitude and position, submitting to one another in the fear of God, the Kingdom is advanced and God is glorified. Second, and very important, being in correct position allows us to receive the benefits that the God who is Love intends for us. When difficulties arise in life, we can endure hardship for His sake, because we know He has our best interests at heart. We can see beyond the problems because His promises are true. As usual, Peter said it better than I can:
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. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 5:6-11 NKJV