Submission is Glory
My son, Evan, and I were talking about what it means to glorify God. That’s an oft-used phrase in Christendom, but I wonder if we know what it means or how it is achieved.
To glorify God means to bring Him honor, praise, worship. In a sense, “to make God look good.” We do so as salt and light, by “letting our light so shine that people will see our good works and…glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That is, in seeing or “tasting” our good, they will know God to be good since we represent Him.
In a beloved passage, John 21:15-22, Jesus restores Peter in a charming three-fold manner echoing Peter’s three-fold denial in the courtyard of Caiaphas the night before Jesus was crucified. His denials of Jesus on that terrible night remain, no doubt, bitter, guilt-ridden memories of failure for Peter.
Yet, as Jesus strolls with Peter along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He asks him three questions and simultaneously gives him three instructions for future service. In so doing He begins Peter’s “rehabilitation” to service and faithfulness. Then Jesus describes the character of Peter’s future in verse 18: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you and bring you where you do not wish to go.”
Following this curious saying John’s Gospel provides the interpretation in verse 19. “Now this He said signifying by what kind of death he (Peter) would glorify God.” This means that in the manner and circumstances of Peter’s eventual death, God would be made to look good! He would receive honor, praise, and worship. How?
Verse 18 is the key. It’s backwards.
We would never say what Jesus said. That’s not the way we live our lives. We would say: “When you are young (a child) you must do what you are told, follow the rules, obey, submit. When you are older (an adult) you get to go, do, and say whatever you want; you are free to make your own decisions.” But Jesus says it backwards.
He is saying, “Peter, before you knew Me, you lived your life as you pleased. Now that you are Mine, you will be asked to do MY will, not your own. You will obey me rather than following your own passions or fears, as you did in Caiaphas’s courtyard. That path will include your final death in a way that magnifies Me.” (It is tradition that Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome. Hence the reference to “stretch out your hands.”)
Here’s the point: Peter’s ready submission to the will and plan of Christ, his obedience to the commands and principles of God, IS a vital means by which God is given honor by his life. So, too, in ours. When we choose to submit and obey, we experience a death of sorts – somewhat like Peter. We are subjugating our will, our desires, our plans, to those of Another – even if necessary to the sacrifice of our very lives.
To submit and obey are clear expressions of faith; indeed, they are true worship. We are trusting God to rule in any and every circumstance to bring about the outcome He determines – not the outcome we might prefer. It might not be what we want in the moment, but our submission opens the way for God to act.
When we submit to duly constituted authority, we are really submitting to God and His will rather than our own. In so doing we are offering God the honor He is due from our lives. Moreover, godly servant-leaders learn to submit first. In their submission to authorities above them, they reflect the character of Christ and model a submissive lifestyle for those who follow them.
It may not be comfortable, but Scripture is clear. Our obedience glorifies God; our submission – even (maybe especially) in the small things – makes God look good.
It’s what Jesus was asking of Peter along the shores of Galilee. It’s what He calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
Tasty salt and visible light submits.
Copyright © 2020 Len Crowley. All rights reserved.
Len Crowley has a broad ministry background, serving as pastor of four churches, Bible teacher, board member, and ministry director. Len is also Co-Founder of Whole in One (designing multi-ethnic collaborations), has led PLI Global (worldwide, character-based leadership training), helped direct COUNSEL & CAPITAL (a non-profit investment bank), and trained trainers as a National Instructor with Walk Thru the Bible.