John 8:42-54 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. … Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. … “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
In this section of John 8 Jesus declares himself to be the “I am” to the Jews. He calls them the children of the devil and not children of God. These truths in the text are monumental for our understanding of Christ and the gospel. As essential as they are to our faith, I would like to focus on submission in this text, because here is Jesus is the model of Christian submission to be emulated in our various stations.
In theology we often speak of Christ’s active and passive obedience; the former refers to His keeping of the law throughout His life and the later His death to save the elect. Both obedience’s are Him subordinating himself to the will of His Father. One to the law and the other to justify those who were condemned under the law, but both are manifestations of His heart and life of obedience.
Jesus makes the statement that: “I came not of my own accord, but he sent me…”. Jesus’ incarnation was an act of submission, he did not come on his own accord, that is he did not act without the agreement and activity of the other persons of the trinity. It is the Father that is named as sending Him because as the son he is under authority of the father and submits to Him. There is perfect agreement in the mission and purpose, but still the Father is over the Son and both are God same in substance equal in power and glory. In like manner the Nicene Creed states that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son. There is no conflict with trintarian formulations to acknowledge an economic as well as the ontological trinity. The economic trinity referring to the relationships of the persons with each other inside the God-head.
But even though they are equal in glory, Jesus did not come to seek his own glory, but the glory of His Father. This is an often overlooked aspect of submission; to seek the glory of the superior in authority. It may be helpful to use a military terms, because the military has well defined authority structures and enforces them for the sake of mission effectiveness. The superior authority is responsible for executing the mission (which is received by an even higher authority) and their crew is under his command to fulfill that mission by swift obedience to the commands of their superiors. That makes them sub (under) the mission and the commander of that mission. The crew must set aside all personal aspirations for the sake of the mission. If they do complete their instructions swiftly and with excellence they may be recognized by their superiors and awarded glory in the form of promotions or honors like medals. Jesus says that seeking one’s own glory amounts to nothing. Seeking the glory of the Father the Father gives glory to the Son. A soldier cannot award themselves a medal or put themselves in for one, it is the recognition of the superior that initiates the honor.
So many times in life we see men seeking glory for their own, and they miss the real opportunity to receive the real thing. The paradox of he who is first will be last and last will be first is missed on them. When men seek glory they act selfishly and against the will of the God, but according to the pattern of Lucifer. Lucifer wanted the glory that was God’s alone and discontent to revel in the glory of God he sought his own glory and fell in rebellion. Lucifer would have made a poor soldier, he is a self seeking glory hound. In fact he lead a third of the angels into a rebellion resulting in their eternal shame and judgement. If he had obeyed and given glory to God he would be the most honored of all creatures, but instead he is the most despised father of lies.
When a son of God does the will of the Father from a good heart the Father delights in him and the Father gives him glory. The true glory is that which comes from God and not from self or the recognition of men. Jesus came to do His Father’s will and give glory to the Father, these two principles are principles of submission.
How does this apply to marriage? A husband is to obey God in the leadership of his home for the glory of God, not his own glory. He can bestow glory on his wife and children as they obey and glorify him, even as the Father gives glory to the Son. Wives are to obey their husbands by doing what he wills and give glory to him as the representative of God in the home. As the Father pronounced, ”this is my son with whom I am well pleased”, so a husband should pronounce his pleasure in his obedient wife. The husband in submission to God, the wife in submission to her husband is submission to God. There is no wife seeking her own glory or doing her will apart from her husband’s, although she may have latitude on how to execute his will, she does not act contrary to his will or in such manner as might damage his glory.
One last point. Jesus suffered because of the sins of those who he came to save. Those elect are part of his own bride the eternal church, and they refused obedience, especially to honor and glorify their Lord. Suffering is required in submission. Husbands who are in submission to God will suffer for the sins of their own wife, he may not always find her a delight. Jesus never acted in a way contrary to His Father’s will, but sinful wives will. When that happens, husbands emulate Christ by instruction in righteousness, admonishing sin, demanding repentance, interceding for the Holy Spirit to do a heart work and setting an example by their own piety and repentance.
Peter tells slaves to endure suffering even when they do not deserve it as an act of submission to God. He points to Jesus’s suffering as an example of suffering for sins not committed as Christ’s own submission and then begins 1 Pe 3 with the words “Likewise wives…”. He is instructing wives that they might suffer in their submission as well. They might find the authority structure grievous or they may suffer for sins they did not commit and yet they are not to resist and rebel against authority. Peter tells wives that if their husband is in sin or as he put it “ do not obey the word” their submission is to continue. Instead of contempt they are to win their husband “without a word” and instead by their husbands seeing their “conduct “of undefiled respectfulness.
Eve wanted to be as God, she wanted to obey her own laws and receive glory that was due to God. Like Lucifer her attempt to glorify herself resulted in disobedience and shame. Like Lucifer she took another with her, Adam the covenant representative of human creation. This is the same temptation that is faced today by men and women, to seek glory that is belongs to God. We are to be sons of God who are about doing our Father’s will, giving him glory.