SUBMISSION AND OBEDIENCE: THE ESSENCE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST


            The eleventh chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians reminds us all that the essence of our relationship with Christ is submission and obedience.  Just as our Being is made manifest by conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and our Walk is by faith, so our Relationship is made manifest by submission and obedience.  Submission and obedience affect the way we live. 

            Prayer is one occasion where we consciously come before God in submission.  Thus, prayer in itself is symbolically an act of submission to Christ, our great High Priest, sympathetic to our weaknesses.  We submit in our weaknesses to Him and obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  When we submit to Him we come under His protection and receive the strength to engage in Doing, even to the point of resisting the devil so he flees from us (James 4:7).

            In approaching the Lord in prayer, particularly in the Assembly of Godís people, we are asked to demonstrate our submission.  For the male, this is an uncovered head, and for the female, this is a covered head.  Both submit to the authority of Christ by symbolically enacting their respective roles as defined in scripture (I Corinthians 11:7-12).  The female represents humanity, for she is the glory of man.  Her head must be covered, for manís glory must be veiled in Godís presence.  The male represents Christ, for he is the image and glory of God.  His head must be uncovered, for Godís glory must never be veiled.  In so enacting their respective roles for the benefit of the angelic audience, they both symbolically submit to Christ. 

            Every act of obedience in our relationship with the Lord should be preceded by a heart preparation.  Jehoshaphat, one of the few godly kings in Israelís history, obeyed God because ďhe prepared his heart to seek HimĒ (II Chronicles 19:3).  During the exile, Ezra, a descendant of the priestly line, determined in his heart to obey Godís law.  Godís expectation of His priests is that knowledge should be kept by their lips and people should seek the law from their mouth (Malachi 2:7).  He, therefore, first prepared his heart to Seek the law of the Lord, to Do it, and to Teach it (Ezra 7:10).

            Since coming to the Lordís Supper is an act of obedience, we should come to it with a prepared heart.  We do so by self-examination before the Lord.  This is necessary because the Lord holds everyone at His table accountable, and observing it unworthily has consequences (I Corinthians 11:27-29; II Chronicles 30:18-20). 

When we partake of the emblems, we are acting in obedience.  This requires knowledge and clear understanding of what we are doing.  In this chapter, although the Corinthians were involved in an act of obedience, they demonstrated lack of clear understanding.  Throughout the Scripture God spends a great deal of time explaining His mind to us.  True obedience only occurs when we do things His way.  In Israelís relationship with God, His delight was always earned when they did as He commanded them (Exodus 39:43).  To make sure they knew what they were doing, Paul explained in full detail the source and essence of the Lordís Supper (I Corinthians 11:23-26).

The Lordís Supper is centrally important to every believer because it brings us back to the cross, the price that was paid for our redemption.  Besides, it is a command from the Lord (Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:23).  Our observation is a verbal reenactment of the death of Christ for our salvation.  The regular nature of this observance must never be the ground for familiarity and contempt (I Corinthians 11:24-26).  Rather, it should be the true expression of our worship, in Spirit and in Truth.  It is what God wants of us (John 4:23,24). 

            When we see the head uncovered and covered as the issue, per se, it robs us of the meaning which these forms seek to teach us.  The meanings of these symbols (submission to the authority of Christ, and indirectly to His delegated authority) are valuable lessons toward a submissive walk with the Lord if gladly practiced.  When we submit, God deals with us directly and intimately, as the men and women in the Bible knew. This was captured beautifully in John H. Sammisí song,

            When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word,

            What a glory He sheds on our way.

            While we do His good will He abides with us still,

            And with all who will trust and obey.

                        Trust and obey for thereís no other way

                        To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

            Our confession is centered upon the fact that Christ is the essence of our Being, faith the essence of our Walk, and submission and obedience the essence of our Relationship.  In our redemption we take on His life (I Corinthians 5:7).  In our daily relationship with Him, we joyfully submit and obey.  We allow Him, the Truth, to guide us, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).                 

Along with knowledge is the need to clearly understand that our response is not a form of activity to service our relationship with Christ.  It is an act of loving response in submission and obedience.  God asked David to provide the blueprint and materials for the temple Solomon was to build.  He responded willingly far and above what he was asked to do (I Chronicles 29:2,3).

Obedience to the Lord provides a clear conscience to approach God in time of need.  ďBeloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.  And whatever we ask, we receive of Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sightĒ (I John 3:21, 22).

Dr. T. Cyprian Kia 

January 26, 2002


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