We’ve said that Jesus is our example for all things, including our current question: how should we live out our mission of glorifying God? How did he do that?
One of the first things we notice is that Jesus submitted himself to the will and provision of the Father; to put it bluntly, he knew who was boss.
It seems odd to say that, doesn’t it?
Jesus is God, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit in all respects. That’s just basic trinitarian doctrine (e.g. Mt 28.19-20). His submission to the Father during his earthly ministry—and perhaps beyond (1Co 15.24)—is a thorny question, as are all questions regarding the Trinity.
Some people think this is a problem for trinitarian doctrine, but I don’t. I’ll observe that if we had invented God, we would have made him easier to understand, and we certainly wouldn’t have stymied ourselves with a doctrine we confessedly can’t explain. But if God is indeed infinite, and our brains aren’t, then we would expect him to step over our intellectual horizon every so often. Difficult doctrines like the Trinity should strengthen our confidence rather than embarrassing it.
The Scripture is quite matter of fact about Jesus’ submission to—indeed, his dependence on—the Father, even as it speaks of his equality with him, and it doesn’t seem to feel any need to explain the apparent tension. On the one hand, Jesus says that he can do nothing without the Father (Jn 5.30), and that he does exactly what the Father tells him to do (Jn 14.31; 17.4), even when he doesn’t want to (!) (Mt 26.39, 42), while he also remarks, without hesitation, that he operates on the very same plane with his Father (Jn 5.17) and that he shares the Father’s eternality (Jn 8.58).
And the apostles confirm our understanding of Jesus’ words. Paul writes that Christ was “obedient” to the Father, for which the Father has exalted him (Php 2.8-9). And the author of Hebrews applies to Christ the line from Psalm 40.8 that speaks of the Psalmist’s complete obedience to God: “I have come to do your will, O God.”
Now, there’s a lot of difficulty in understanding how Christ’s subordination to the Father worked. But for our purposes, there shouldn’t be any confusion at all on how we apply it. If even Jesus was submissive to the Father, then we certainly should be as well.
We all know that mission success requires obedience. We learn that during our school days by observing successful classrooms—and successful athletic teams. Success in sports comes when you submit to the coaches during practices, and when you submit to the rules during games. After we finish school, many of us learn it in the military, where knowing your place in the chain of command is an all-consuming lifestyle. Even those of us without military experience admire the effectiveness of highly trained military personnel, effectiveness that is possible only because they submitted themselves to difficult, confrontational, taxing, grueling discipline over an extended period of time.
That means that, like Jesus, we need to know the mission’s objective and then subordinate ourselves completely, trustingly, sacrificially to the sovereign Lord.
One exciting thing about this concept is that our Commander, unlike all human commanders, is all knowing and all powerful. He’s never the victim of a surprise attack, and his great enemy is completely outmatched on this battlefield. His forces are never overwhelmed, or even effectively deflected, and the outcome of the battle is certain from the very beginning of the war.
All coaches eventually lose a game. All generals eventually lose an engagement.
But not ours.
Not the God of heaven, the Creator of heaven and earth, the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We can follow him, safely, to hell and back.
And we can delight in watching the gates of that hell crumble before him, and us, because he is faithful even when we are not, and he is victorious in all his will.
What a delight to submit to the good, wise, and great orders of the God of all.