THE PRINCIPLE OF HUMILITY/SUBMISSION

We have looked at four biblical priorities. We now begin to look at biblical principles. ‘Priorities’ identify the most important things, the core issues, the things that matter most. ‘Principles’ are the broad value packages which set the boundaries of what kinds of thoughts, attitudes, words and actions will help to implement biblical priorities. It is from these broad underlying principles that specific rules and commands are derived, and of which biblical commands are particular expressions.

Expressing the priority of God and of the other is the over-arching principle of humility/submission – a broad principle which defuses and invalidates our quest for personal power and prestige, and in which we consider both God and the well-being of the other more important than our own personal agenda and reputation. It directs our lives away from our sinful self-seeking and self-promotion and towards God’s honour and the well-being of the other.

God has always required humility and hated pride. It is, after all, only the humble, only the poor in spirit, who have no confidence in their own ability to keep his commands, and who are willing to submit to his Lordship, who will ever truly acknowledge him as God. A person full of himself does not easily turn to the Lord. The following texts express this principle:

Jesus taught the necessity for humility in Matthew 5:3,5; 18:3-4; 20:20-28 and John 13:1-17.

In Philippians 2:1-8 Paul explained the humility/submission principle by describing the self-denying attitude of Jesus Christ in becoming human and in dying for us.

In Ephesians 5:21 Paul taught that a life fully under the control of the Holy Spirit will be characterised by 'submitting to one another', then in 5:22 – 6:9 defined how this submission must be expressed in six common human relational roles. He gave almost identical, but shorter, definitions of how the word of Christ should generate submission to one another in Colossians 3:13-4:1.

Similarly Peter's teaching from 1Peter 2:13 through to 5:6 commands submission in a wide range of contexts, beginning each command with the words 'in the same way'.

These Scriptures are just a few of the many texts that command humility and submission.

But we must give humility and submission their biblical meanings. Submission is not weak, passive servility but pro-actively seeking the other's good. Humility is not weakness, nor is it uncertainty. Humility is deliberate submission to the will and the rule and the priorities of God.

John Piper, in Brothers, we are not professionals, points out that in our pluralistic, relativistic society there has been an astonishing change in the use of words:

Arrogance is used to refer to confidence.
Humility is used to refer to uncertainty.

We must guard ourselves against such twisted thinking that makes uncertainty a cultural virtue and confidence in God's word a social crime.

Both biblical humility and biblical submission are strong, certain and deliberate. The person who knows who God through knowing Christ, and who knows who they are in and because of Christ, no longer needs to seek to promote and preserve themselves, but is free, like Christ, to embrace the principle of humility and submission, serving both God and their neighbour.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016