Submission lives in hope: hope that by submitting, we will find more goodness and reward and joy than had we pursued our own ends selfishly. As we yield to his authority, giving our loving attention, hoping in his promises and power, it must culminate in the act of seeking to please God in obedient choices. By making God’s will our own, we are demonstrating love.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. (Prov. 8:13)
The fear of the Lord begins with the humility of otherness. It continues with the honesty of openness. The third component of the reverent, fearful love of God is submissiveness.
“In brief: whether a man be good, better, or best of all; bad, worse, or worst of all; sinful or saved before God; it all lieth in this matter of obedience”, said the author of the Theologia Germanica.
Reverent love for God submits to God’s will. It acknowledges God as the supreme authority. Not only is He ultimate, not only is He omniscient and omnipresent, but he is sovereign. He is Lord.
In an age of personal autonomy and glorified rebellion, we might struggle to understand biblical submission. What exactly is it? Submission is coming under another’s will. Another word for will is desire, for what a man wills is what he desires. Whoever submits to God desires to match his own desires to God’s, to bring them under God’s, to give God’s desires final veto over his own. The life of faith is a life of re-moulding our desires to be Christ’s. While communing with God, we are conforming to his loves, and making them our own.
An Old Testament law provides a helpful illustration. The Hebrew indentured servant had the option to depart after his sixth year. But if he had come to admire, love and respect his master’s authority, he could publicly pledge his voluntary submission:
“But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ “then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. (Exodus 21:5-6)
Here is the picture of our submission. We willingly and cheerfully give up self-direction, to dwell under the leadership of the Good Shepherd. Love is at the root of it, and it expresses itself in love.
The Hebrew servant came to trust in his master’s rule more than self-rule. He had come to place his hopes in another. The believer does the same thing with God. God has both the might and right to rule us, direct our lives, and lead us.