When I first arrived in Osceola, I was saddled with the responsibility of doing a wedding. The woman getting married had been associated with FPC in the past and she had no real pastor. So the elders there agreed that their pastor would conduct the wedding once he arrived. I was the man.
I met with them once or twice before the wedding and did the best I could. But at one point during the wedding, I began to speak to the idea of “submission.” And the moment I said the word, there came a shocked gasped from the back of the room where the ceremony was being conducted.
Come to find out, there were several ladies in the back of the room who were absolutely livid with me for bringing up such a topic during a wedding ceremony. They were incensed… “how dare the pastor bring up that topic during such a joyous occasion.”
I heard all that through the grapevine and never really had an opportunity to make a defense, which was probably good because at the time I probably would have said something like, “so, you don’t like the idea of submission? Too bad!”
The point is that this idea of submission, in many quarters within society has really fallen under bad press of late. To even bring up the subject of submission is to show a complete disregard for submitting to the politically correct culture that has deemed this an unapproachable topic.
In our egalitarian culture, there is the thought or belief that we are all equal in our worth AND roles, therefore any idea of submission of one to another is completely absurd and rejected by those in a politically-correct crowd. This is how things are presented, but in reality…we live in an emasculated culture more than one that is equal. Our culture points to the fact that men, should never be true men. And women, should be. To go against this belief, is not to submit to the popular dogma. Just ask Oprah.
But the reality is that as Christians, this topic of submission must be dealt with. Submission for us is a reality simply because of the fact that if we are Christians, then we had to submit to Christ in order to become a Christian. At some point, we had to come the realization that we have nothing at all to offer God. Not our good works, not our good looks, nothing and that we are readily admitting we are in a need of a Savior. Therefore we submitted our wills to God’s will and believe upon Christ for salvation.
Submission is at the heart of the gospel. It is as the heart of faith. You cannot have salvation without submission, because essentially you are coming to the point where you have to agree with God. We are agreeing with God on two levels. The first agreement is that we are agreeing that we are sinners and in need of salvation. The second level of agreement is that God is right about Christ being the only way. Essentially we must submit to His will and decrees for salvation. Now to our text.
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.
Submission: The topic defined
Before we get any further into this, we need to define the submission. What is it? Submission is the idea that means to be subject to something else, or to be placed under something or to subordinate to someone. The idea comes from a military term.
When a citizen of Rome decided to help his country, he would join the Roman army. And in doing so, he would willingly submit to those who were placed over him. In other words, the one submitting would willingly give us his will for the will of the one he was submitting to. In Rome, this was considered a high honor. It meant that you were willing to lay aside your will and sometimes, your life, for the sake of the Empire.
The same is true for us. It is a high honor for us to submit. Of course, we are not submitting ourselves for something temporal like the Roman Empire. Remember, the Roman Empire is no more. It’s gone.
We are submitting ourselves for something much more lasting and honorable than the Roman Empire. We are submitting to others on the behalf of One who submitted to them as well.
Listen to Peter’s words… Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. We are to submit ourselves to all these human institutions and God ordained institutions for the sake of Christ, because it reflects a Christ-like attitude. He of all, submitted to the same institutions and governors as we do.
We come to this text after being shown who we are in Christ. Peter is shifting gears a bit. He is going from telling us that we are to be holy, to who we are to submit to.
He must do this. After being told we are a royal priesthood, it would be very easy for us to conclude that since we are royalty, then there is no one on earth that we need to submit to. After all, the thinking goes, should not the world and all those in it, submit to royalty?
The answer is yes it should, in due time. But for now, we are going to learn to behave like Christ and submit to the authorities placed over us by Christ for the Lord’s sake. He has us submit because that is what Christ did.
Remember, He willingly submitted to the authorities in Jerusalem on our behalf. He did so because He had to do so. His children needed a mediator and He is the only one who qualified. He submitted to rulers who were bent on killing Him when they had no just cause to do so.
We have plenty examples of Christ’s submissiveness in Scripture.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not His mouth.
Of all to open His mouth, He had every right to do so. But He didn’t. He knew it was the Father’s will that He would submit to all authorities, even though those authorities were corrupt.
And we also know that He submitted when He had the power to over throw those authorities. It was not as though He was weak. He had all the power He needed at His disposal in order to throw off the wicked rulers of His day. But He did not.
When He was being arrested, He told Peter to put away his sword, and then said “Do you not think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scripture be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53ff).
Jesus had the power and authority to turn back from the cross, but still submitted to it, for the sake of fulfilling Scripture, and on our behalf. Those who object to submission should think about that. If you object to it, and you are a Christian, on what basis do you object to it? Your Lord submitted… the King submitted… are you higher in authority than He is? Of course not.
Therefore, we too, should submit to authorities placed over us, as long as we don’t have to do something that is contrary to God’s expressed will, we must submit.