Called to Order

What does Scripture say about following God’s established order of authority?

Where there is no authority, there is confusion, chaos, and fear. Yet in our culture today, we prize independence and resist anyone who tells us what to do. Often, if matters don’t go as we please, we’re quick to stand up for our rights—even when they haven’t been violated. Though many people today think negatively of having a submissive spirit, it’s what God desires to see in His people.

Let’s read James 4:4-10 to see what God has to say on the subject.

“Authority is a tremendous thing in the universe—nothing overshadows it. It is therefore imperative for us who desire to serve God to know the authority of God.” —Watchman Nee

[D]o you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

The Bible uses two Greek words to convey the idea of “submit” or “subject.”

  • Hypeikō is composed of two root words, hypo (“under”) and eikō (“to yield”), and means “to submit to another.”
  • Hypotassō is a combination of hypo (“under”) and tassō (“to arrange”) and means “to subject oneself to another.”

Implicit in both these words is the idea of obedience. With regard to God, we are to arrange our lives under His guiding principles and submit to His authority over us.

Judson Van De Venter penned the hymn “I Surrender All” 19 years after he submitted to God and entered full-time ministry. One of the many places he served was Florida Bible Institute, where he inspired a number of young preachers—including Billy Graham.

Submission to the Lord involves deferring to authorities He has established over us in four areas of life. They are:

  • Government. It is God who establishes governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7). As Christians, therefore, we’re to submit to them—even if we didn’t personally vote for them.
  • Work. Obedience to our superiors is not to be contingent upon our employer’s character (Col. 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-21).
  • Home. In Ephesians 5:22-33 and Ephesians 6:1-4, the Lord has ordained His order of authority for families. Even if the one in authority lack godliness, that does not alter the command to submit (1 Peter 3:1).
  • Church. We believers are commanded to obey and submit to our leaders because they keep watch over our sould (Heb. 13:17).

There are limitations to submission. Our primary submission is to the Lord. Therefore, obedience to God must supersede any directive or request that is against His moral standards or commands. If we must refuse to comply with a superior’s order, then we’re given the opportunity to suffer with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving that we have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ (1 Peter 3:13-17). For instance, when Peter and John were commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name, they obeyed God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20). Like them, believers should never compromise moral standards in order to obey an authority. As God’s beloved children, we’re commanded to be imitators of Him (Eph. 5:1). Lying, stealing, immorality, impurity, or greed should have no place in our lives.

“God built into the creation a variety of cultural spheres, such as the family, economics, politics, art, and intellectual inquiry. Each of these spheres has its own proper ‘business’ and needs its own unique pattern of authority. When we confuse spheres, by violating the proper boundaries of church and state, for instance, or reducing the academic life to a business enterprise, we transgress the patterns that God has set.” —Abraham Kuyper

God fulfills His purpose for believers through their submission. The Father’s goal is to conform us to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29), and submission is one of the tools He uses. If we reject the authorities He’s placed over us, we are resisting His sanctification, removing ourselves from the umbrella of His protection, and failing to be a godly example to the unbelieving world.

 

Questions

  • Is there any area—government, work, home, or church—in which you are resisting submission to God?
  • How does your perception of submission change when you realize God uses it to make us like Christ?
 
Related Topics:  Obedience

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4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;

4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.

7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),

3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

13 Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?

14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;

20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

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